Do You Know Who Controls Your Life?

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‘Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems’

Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.
– Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher, founder of Taoism (6th century BC)

Lao-Tzu does not say that we should accept the status quo, never try to improve, keep things permanently unmoved and unmovable.

He says that we should rejoice in what we have now. That is, appreciate and enjoy the good parts of our present life and not worry over what we lack.

Our present industrial complex that effectively runs our lives in many ways uses a sophisticated advertising industry as a tool of propaganda to brainwash us into believing that we can never have enough, never have it “made,” never be entirely satisfied. It’s what keeps their bottom lines blossoming. And us forever dissatisfied with our lot in life.

Of course we must get a good education. To make our lives better as we get older? No, in order that we can make more money to spend on the products that our industries make and their advertising agents make us believe we desperately need.

More than ever before in history, I believe, we have the strongest elements of power in our society making us believe that we cannot be satisfied, that we can never be happy (unless we spend), that we can never have enough (unless we earn more), that we can never be too rich. That’s a recipe for constant and widespread dissatisfaction.

Moreover we don’t have any countervailing influences that would encourage us to believe that we have it pretty good the way it is.

By making us believe that we don’t have enough, that we can never have enough, that we should always want more, our advertisers have made us selfish, unconcerned about those who can never reach the heights of success that we strive for ourselves.We give to charities and to aggressive homeless people on the streets when they succeed in grabbing our attention and making us interested temporarily in what they have to say.

Many of us are very generous people who spend huge amounts of time helping those less fortunate than themselves. But these are a minority. We recognize them once in a while with some award, then we return to our lives of focussing on building wealth for our own future.

In North America we have built cities whose main purpose is to house as many people as possible in the smallest possible space. The lifestyle this forces our people into–particularly the disconnect from nature and the natural environment–turns many people into gerbils constantly running on their wheels but never really getting anywhere.

We don’t worry much about how some industries are destroying or fouling nature because we have little or nothing to do with nature. To us, nature is that little park down the street, and it’s well kept thank you very much.

Oddly, the people who most accept life as it is are those who have lived the longest times in big cities. They accept city life because they don’t know any other life. Lao-Tzu would never have understood that because in his time most people were involved with agriculture, which meant that they were daily in touch with the land. They depended on nature for their existence.

Some of our people who live in rural communities or on farms often want to move to the city to enjoy the benefits of city life. That’s how powerful the advertising industry has been. Young people in rural communities may want to move to a city to find some “action.” And a job which may not be available around home. They grew up to be job workers, not job creators.

We may need to accept and appreciate the environment we live in, no matter what it is, as Lau-Tzu said. But we don’t have to accept a total disconnect from nature.

Our species evolved in nature. We became what we are today because we had the ability to survive and adapt to any kinds of weather, climate and food resources. Today’s city dwellers often can’t start a fire in a wilderness area without risk of setting the forest on fire as well. They are more apt to kill another city dweller out of desperation at not knowing how to cope with their problems than a wild animal for food.

While rationalizing Lao-Tzu’s advice for life in the city today may be difficult, we can keep in mind that advertisers who constantly try to make us feel dissatisfied will never allow us to rejoice about anything.

So long as we focus on what we don’t have and what is wrong in our lives, we can’t possibly be happy. Those factors control our lives. Advertisers either focus on a need we have that has not been met or they create one–cosmetics being a prime example.

The only way we can be happy is to appreciate that which is good in our lives and to rejoice in it. We will never live in the Garden of Eden. We will always have to make the best of what we have.

To make the best of what we have, we must recognize it and celebrate it for how it can benefit us. That’s hard because someone will always be trying to tell us how wrong things are in our lives and how buying something new will help that.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to help us find some good in our lives, wherever we are.
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