The United States values the almighty dollar and its capitalist system more than it does its citizens—or even human life, for that matter.
This statement doesn’t even seem arguable at this point. I am trying not to be affected by it, but it is causing me such anger and anxiety. It’s forcing me to ride the waves of my emotions over which I have seemingly no control.
Here’s a prime example: the recent lawsuit the NRA filed against the state of Florida one day after they introduced a law to raise the minimum age of a person purchasing a gun to 21. Even after 7,000 shoes were left on the front lawn of the Capitol last week to represent the number of children’s lives lost since Sandy Hook due to gun violence, the NRA took steps to fight even modest gun control legislation. Why? Money, of course.
Frankly, I think “capitalism” is a dirty word. In my life, I want to be valued, but I never want to be successful at the expense of another person. I never want to make money off of someone.
But how do we survive and get paid without buying in or giving up? How can I be my own successful person while standing with integrity in my values and morals? When almost everyone around me seems to be saying, “Screw anyone who gets in the way of me making money!”?
I have been feeling helpless in this fight, as I observe an entire society that refuses to pay workers a living wage, encourages poverty, and separates us by class and race. It is also hard to fight back when we seemingly have no power, at least in the way they define it.
But we have more power than we think. Instead of giving up like the system is relying on me to do, I am turning my anger into purpose. My hope is to create an action plan through which we can fight back and regain our power back from a system that doesn’t value our lives.
Here are my ideas thus far:
1. Value each other’s lives.
Sounds simple, but this is about seeing the value in everyone you meet—your waiter, your cashier, your office’s janitor. Their job is valid; they are valuable members of society. Treat them as such! No one’s here to serve you because you are you. We are all paid to do a job, and that person’s quality of life matters just as much as yours.
I’ve worked in the service industry, and honestly, the difference between a good day and a bad one is often a “thank you” and a smile—the simple reassurance that the simple job you’re doing is worth something. It didn’t matter why I had the job or what I was saving my money for. It mattered that someone looked me in the eye and acknowledged my humanity. In doing this, I was no longer a machine working minimum wage; I was a person.
2. Money isn’t the be-all and end-all.
Money helps, yes, but putting money before your health, family, partner, neighbors, and friends is a problem. Other things have meaning and value in our lives besides money—often much more value. Love, connection, passion, faith, inspiration, and creativity all matter! It is when we connect with these values that we feel fulfilled. It doesn’t matter what I do to make money; what matters is that I come home, kiss my partner, and paint. That is what life is about: the moments between the money. When we lose a loved one, we tend to realize that, but we need not wait for that kind of wake up call—trust me.
3. Stop buying sh*t.
Stop with the trends. You don’t need the latest *fill in the blank* to be an important member of society. Stop with the disposable, the convenient, the single-serve, single-use everything. Buy in bulk, make your own food, carry a reusable cup, and refuse things that can’t be recycled. Carrying a reusable coffee cup, for example, can save 30 cups a month from ending up in a landfill (and that’s if you drink a beverage once a day—never mind if you drink three cups of coffee like most of us!). Mason jars are not only hipster and cool, but they can be used to store almost anything, they don’t leak, they are recyclable, and they aren’t made of plastic. It’s okay to be an eco-friendly hipster or whatever the world is trying to shame us for doing at the moment. It’s okay to trade clothing, to sew up holes, to fix a broken cell phone instead of buying a new one. It’s okay! You don’t have to be “cool.” In this society, “coolness” is just a gimmick used to get you to spend more money—in fact, it’s just a way of creating a sense of shame that we are then encouraged to fix by buying a bunch of crap.
4. When you do buy things, spend your money at small businesses.
It may cost a bit more and the return policy may not be as lax, but shopping at small businesses is a micro-investment in human life—and your own community! We all have dreams, and many of us want to own our own businesses, or sell our products, or provide a unique service. I want to get paid in full for what I do and not be forced to work for an agency that only offers me a portion of what the client pays (unfortunately, that is my current situation). And in supporting others in their dreams, hopefully that will result in good karma that will help me when it’s time for me to start my own. So stop shopping where the CEO makes a million times more than the cashier in an average year. Support your community!
5. Educate yourself.
Read about what you are curious about, and don’t take any one piece of information at face value. And while getting educated, don’t preach unless you understand what and why you are preaching! Don’t give your opinion unless it’s informed and you understand why someone might disagree. There is always some truth behind what people are saying, so the key is to try to understand that truth and conscientiously evaluate it relative to other things you know to be true. Don’t allow yourself to be intimidated by those who are loud and uneducated.
Know more! Be louder!
Author: Emily Ameara Mclennan
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Travis May