Below is a very honest journal entry I wrote after being back in Australia for about a month. Needless to say, in many ways its nice to be back home in Kamwenge….
Rolling and rising and revelling and envying
Costing and clinging and consuming and careless
The herd moves forward fast and furious
On towards the promises of profit and of perfection
Of needs. Of wants. Of desires. Of luxury
Just that little bit more…
And I can no longer stand still in the midst of the chaos.
Despite the best of intentions I am pulled forward by the inertia of culture and expectation and cravings I cannot hope to decipher.
Toyota. Apple. Ikea. Woolworths. Nestle. Unilever. Nokia….
Food processors, Personal spas, i-everythings, treadmills, must-have beauty products…
It is in no-one. And it is in everyone. I guess that is what culture is.
But the culture of consumerism costs.
The currency that we use to pay for all of this is money, and perhaps our relationships
It costs the developing world in cheap labour. There are millions and millions across the world that live conveniently below the poverty line, so we can maintain our standard of living. It is only because of their vulnerability and lack of voice, that we can afford such affluence.
It costs the natural resource base, with its finite supply eventually doomed to fail us all. And with so many of these resources comes the chaos of greedy conflict – Sudan, Congo, Angola, Nigeria, Iraq, Kuwait…
It costs the environment its life-giving force, as we pump CO2 into the air that is slowly heating the world, heightening the struggle for survival in Africa as the land becomes tougher, harsher, drier; and creating wave after wave of refugees born from natural disasters.
It costs the planet’s wildlife their survival, as we pump tonnes of waste into our ocean and into our earth.
It costs our society the intrinsic beauty of needing each other. We stay behind closed doors, scared of losing what we have, forgetting the collection of people is more important than the collection of possessions
I’m not sure what the solution is. I have none to offer in this blog. I am part of the problem.
But I live in a place that is not governed by the law of luxury packaged as needs:
When the water goes off in my house (which it often does for weeks on end), I am pissed off and impatient and struggle to know what to do. My staff shrug their much stronger shoulders and collect their water in jerrycans.
When I spend time contracting carpenters to make wardrobes and tables and drawers to store my stuff, most of the people I know in Kamwenge fit what they own into one simple room.
When I collect up my rubbish for the week and proudly burn off what feels like so little, my neighbours find other uses for almost everything that I would consider disposable.
This is not judgement, this is an observation of my own heart and soul and culture. But when does it end?
What we consider ‘basic needs’ have been utterly corrupted by the messages we are fed, by the invisible lens of culture that covers the eyes of our spirit.
So next time you turn on the TV and watch an advertisement, or envy a friend’s <insert new piece of technology/furniture here>, or visit the shops, think.