Fandango today asked a question along his provocative question theme. Today he asks about the good life. What is it? And, are we living it? I have a two-pronged answer. One part is about living for myself, the other about living in conjunction with other people. I’d argue that the good life involves both.
For myself, the answer is simple. To have everything I want, to be able to do everything I want. Straight away you see the word I. So this is subjective. What I want might not be the same as what you want. So, straight away, what the good life means to you will be different to what it means to me.
But I have to recognise that I share this planet with 7½ bn other people, plus there will be generations yet to come, so I have to temper what I want. I don’t want to consciously screw with these people, although we in the west probably do a lot of unconscious screwing. In terms of giving versus taking, I’d be happy to work out about even.
It most certainly isn’t a case of taking as much as I can out of life, although I realise that having been born in an advanced western nation (I shan’t use the word democracy, because we’re not!), I’ve been given a lot before I evem start. I’ve had medical care throughout my life, and had a decent education. All of this has been afforded to me without even thinking about it. That I am white, that I am male – much as I’d like racism and sexism not to exist, that they do exist has probably made life an easier ride for me.
There. That was easy, wasn’t it? But Fandango also goes on to ask whether we ourselves live the good life. In answering that, I’d have to look at the criteria I just spelled out.
Do I have everything I want?
Well, yeah, pretty much. It’d be nice to be in a working environment again. I’d prefer to be in the company of other people all day. That bit of cash coming in would be handy too, if only because I have learned that I am uncomfortable spending money on anything, while there’s none coming in. A car would be nice, although it’d probably cost some to get it adapted for me. More money.
I’ve also found that having the stroke has made me somewhat toxic. Racism? Fact Sexism? Fact. Hard to find work after a stroke? Fact.
Can I do everything I want?
Actually, a lot of the answer to this is yes.
There are some notable exceptions, though. I used to cycle – anything up to 100 miles – but have not cycled since the stroke. A lot of aspects I have, or at least know, a solution. I was a bike mechanic immediately before the stroke, so I have a fair idea what is possible – mostly just being able to control everything with one hand. However there is a more fundamental issue that I can’t really balance well enough on two wheels. I guess a trike might be an option, but that throws up other issues like storage. Any form of good life would, for me, definitely include two wheels.
Another big no-no is travelling. I’ve already mentioned my attitude to no money coming in. So that puts things like vacations way down the list at the moment.
Without a shadow of doubt, though, the biggest aspect is the environment. In particular, CO2 emissions. Because of it, I don’t fly. And I enjoy meat, but don’t eat much – I think there was some paella at the weekend. Again, because I would sooner we grew crops for humans than for animals. Especially in developed countries, I’d like to see some rewilding. Extreme? Well, maybe too extreme for you, but there are lots of people like me, and the number is increasing. So from this perspective alone, I don’t feel that I can behave as I choose.
And with CO2 emissions, it’s not just whether I am conscious of the predicament, but also whether other people are. Some people are. Some people comfortably put my efforts to shame. But what about Exxon? BP? The people whose very ethos is to produce CO2? And then there is Trump. And Bolsonaro. Whatever I do personally, these guys will cancel it out many times over. But I have to just do what I can, and I recognise I’m not is a position to change others. Especially now. Indeed, it is a very good question whether it is appropriate for organisations like Extinction Rebellion to disrupt people – people like you or I -in order to pressure governments into changing tack. Not only whether it is appropriate to target indiviluals, but also whether it is effective in changing policy. Maybe Fandango will ask that one next time around?
That last paragraph is interesting, because it does open up a wider question. If we’re putting a priority on future generations, how can any of us claim to be living “the good life”?