It’s not my fault

You first. No, I insist. After you. Go ahead. I’ll go next.

Carry on. Lead the way. I’m right behind you. Me and everyone else.

One of the most popular gifts one can give after the holiday season is blame. Blame for why you’re not carrying out (or in some cases even bothering to put together) a list of new year’s resolutions, I mean. Don’t like something about yourself or the world but don’t feel like doing anything about it? Just blame your teachers. Blame your parents. Blame society. Blame big business. Blame your grade-school bully. Blame television. Blame the government. If all these things hadn’t screwed us up so much already, we individuals might have a chance to live better lives.

That’s why I’m not putting together a list of resolutions… actually I am, but if I wasn’t I’d probably be trotting out the previous weak excuses. My resolutions aren’t that special though. I don’t have to tame an alcohol problem, rein in the gambling, quit smoking, cut down on those escort service bills or anything like that. Now that I’m a reasonably well-adjusted person, the next job should be trying to make the world a better place for everyone in it and the generations of tomorrow, even if that includes the offspring of Posh Spice and Scary Spice.

But back to those weak excuses. Can an individual change the world? What initially appears to be a good starting point is consumer advocacy-effecting change by consciously directing your patronage and discretionary cash toward the organizations you agree with and nowhere else. Close the doors on what you don’t believe in or don’t want to support. Let’s try.

Pepsi turned their backs on countless sickening human rights abuses when they conducted business in Africa, so we can’t buy from them any more. Oh wait-they’re the only beverage supplier on campus. We could just have a drink of water, but suppose we don’t agree with how the Calgary Regional Health Authority manipulated public opinion with a one-sided campaign for more fluoride in the water despite reams of scientific research warning us to cut back? Although, we can’t exactly quit drinking tap water, can we?

We really need a new pair of shoes in order to keep fit, but Nike, Reebok, Adidas (feel free to insert more multinational commodity manufacturers here) all keep profits high and expenses low by building plants in countries without minimum wage restrictions, environmental regulations or democratic protections for its citizens. What do we do, stop buying completely in the hopes of stopping the capitalist system dead it its tracks?
Now it’s time for lunch, but we don’t want to go to Max Café and support a Students’ Union who is more effective at producing self-promoting slinky toys than expanding Mac Hall or getting the U of C administration to curb tuition hikes. Not only that, the food hasn’t gotten any better and the service staff are as rude and shiftless as ever. But we still need to eat.

Slam, slam, slam. The doors close all right, but not the way we initially imagined. Once one decides not to support or be a part of things one disagrees with, its a rude shock to look around and find most institutions in society tainted in some way. Move out to the country in a log cabin and become a hermit if you don’t like it-that’s one option. The other choice: forget, overlook, desensitize, stop seeing and thinking about the things in the world that are troubling. What to do? What’s the bigger problem?

My old psyc 205 text has a picture of a man crouching on the ground with his ears covered, perfectly motionless. Supposedly he crouches there for hours. His thoughts, feelings, motives and even momentary consciousness are disrupted horribly by any stimulus from the outside world, so he keeps as still as possible. He can’t make sense of what’s going on around him and refuses to participate, because it all seems so wrong, so confusing, so unpleasant. He has what’s known as catatonic schizophrenia. In another way, so do we. But rather than choose to become hermits in the (nearly deforested) woods, we collectively push the disturbances beneath the surface, crack open an overpriced fizzy sugar water and hope the taste of a new generation gets better. I don’t feel like making new year’s resolutions to try and change the world-you go first.

Change the things you can, accept what you can’t, know the difference. Sound advice, even if it’s most likely to be seen on grandma’s crocheted pillow, white-trash mail-order commemorative plates or truckstop place mats. Most clichés actually speak some pretty good truths-they’re just overused. So I’ll try and change. I’ll at least try and go first. I won’t wait for something external to happen before I try and make an improvement in myself and the world for me and Posh and Scary’s kids.

Personal responsibility is not everything though, but it’s a start. What I will do is blame the selfish people and institutions who don’t and won’t change what’s in their power when they know it would help everyone concerned: The bank CEOs, the makers of Barbie, Lucien Bouchard, Microsoft, The Philip Morris Company and its tobacco propaganda, Cosmopolitan magazine… the list is too long and depressing to read. You know who you are. If the people on our team ever seize the reins, we’ve got your number.

Gareth Morgan can be reached at gdlmorga@ucalgary.ca.

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