First World Guilt and Change

I absolutely disgust myself. I really do. When I reflect upon the sheer amount of resources I use from our finite reserves, and the pain I unintentionally inflict on others, I feel guilt. First World Guilt.


When I reflect upon all the clothes I have, I think of the people who haven’t been lucky enough to be born into my circumstance and who work in terrible conditions and make my clothes for a dollar a day. That dollar is a matter of life and death. I hate the idea of fashion and the throw-away culture that goes with it. When I go to the kitchen and eat, sometimes when I’m not even hungry, I just can’t believe how lucky I am to so easily get food into my system (it also blows my mind how far some food actually travels to reach my mouth, sometimes it’s half way across Earth for my two minutes of eating.. what??) I think of all the stuff I own – my incredible mobile phone technology, my tissues, my favourite ring, my bike, my mattress, my shower. And all of this stuff… stuff surrounding my life… these objects… The average person living in a country like Australia uses 135 litres of water a day. A person living in a developing country uses barely ten. 135 VS 10. The amount of water we use to flush our toilets once is uses about the same amount as what some people use for washing, cleaning, cooking and drinking in one day. And theirs isn’t nearly as clean as our toilet water. And we’re just flushing it down.
One in 5 kids in Zambia won’t make it to their fifth birthday. Communities all over the world are watching people around them dying every day – their mothers, sons, best friends.
I really take things to heart, I am actually a very emotional person. I cry deeply when I learn about an injustice. Speaking of recent injustices I have learnt about: I cried like a baby in Vietnam when I witnessed first-hand the triple-amputees, people with blown-off faces, agent orange victims. The sex slaves and tortured elephants in Thailand. The violent murders of babies by the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. The poor rural villager in Laos who was telling me as a kid he shared one blanket between his family of 8. I do feel like when I came back to Australia and tried sharing my experience with people, only a few people really listened and shared my grief. I feel like a lot of people preferred to disconnect when I moved away from my fun and happy tales.
That’s why I love that I am in a class with people who have genuine concern over what we as a global community are doing, and where our society is heading. I feel happy to know we’re not alone in wishing for a revolution, and that institutions like RMIT are committed to providing the education and means of changing behaviours and systems of humanity.
Before commencing this class I was sceptical of Twitter’s short, flippant publishing style and purposefully avoided it, and when Soumitri told us to make an account I did so a little bit begrudgingly [ haha 😉 ] But if I reflect on my time using Twitter, Soumitri has been correct in saying it is a good way of reaching out and sharing information/thoughts to people. I have indeed learnt about a range of topics and discovered quite a few things I didn’t know about through the Twitter newsfeed. I guess one’s experience is based quite largely on the type of people one ‘follows’, in this case the awesome people in ChangeAAA!
I really care about what goes on on Earth. I care about the people, the environment, and all the beautiful animals which I am in complete awe of. The First World Guilt comes from hurting what I care about. To combat it, I have protested in Melbourne’s CBD for issues from equal rights to saving the Kimberlys, signed petitions and wrote letters to governments, re-vegetated parts of Phillip Island and killed weeds ruining central Victoria’s ecosystem, and cut down on consumption of resources (including meat) and minimised my overall consumerist ways. For our ‘Give Up’ project, I am leaning very strongly towards giving up the large amounts of disposable products I encounter. Paper plates, polystyrene cups, plastic bags. I feel willing to carry my own reusable cutlery set and a plate around. I feel willing to bring my own reusable cup when I go to a party, and say no to the flimsy plastic ones that I would usually use for half a night (or even less if I forget which one is mine on the table in the sea of other plastic cups… which, BAM, are landfill).
I’m not sure how some food shops would react if I requested to have my food put on my own plate (health and safety issues?) but it would be interesting to report on any issues that arise and question why there aren’t procedures put in place for people who choose not to waste resources.

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