“It surrounds us. It penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together”(“Star Wars…”) Although Obi Wan was speaking about the fictional force which gives the Jedi their power, there is no debating the fact that there is something binding us together as a global society. “In an electric information environment, minority groups can no longer be contained – ignored… We have become irrevocably involved with and responsible for, each other” (McLuhan).Thanks to the advances brought forth with technology, we are more connected than we have ever been before. In just a second, information can be relayed across grand continents through the use of the internet. With geological boundaries no longer constricting our range of communication, we have reached an age where simply by existing we compose a global community, where every action is significant.
But wait, how can the actions I make now have any sort of effect globally? Well, it might not seem immediately apparent, but its true. If you don’t believe me, take it from Gandhi. He said, “Whatever you do is insignificant, but it is very important that you do it” (“Mahatma Gandhi…”). He understood that although everyone feels as though their actions are insignificant, what they do is an integral part of the larger picture. An integral part of the larger, more global, community.
David Foster Wallace, in a commencement speech to the graduating seniors at Kenyon College explained what it meant to be a part of the global community.
His point was that, even in the tedious life of the working adult, there is always a choice. In the wake of monotonous routine, we have the ability to look past our own needs and consider the lives of those around us. As a part of the global community, this means that we can always consider our actions and their effect on the struggles of everyone else, even across the world.
As a class, we saw this most specifically in our collaborative essay on where the violence comes from in the food industry, which you can read here. That essay went over all the different aspects of the meat industry and how we contribute to the violence in the system simply by purchasing meat and ignoring the industry’s working conditions. As a national community, we have dropped the ball in regards to the food industry. We’ve ignored the cruelty that the animals we eat experience out of a selfish desire to eat more meat without paying more. We’re so wrapped up in our own world that we don’t take a step back to think, “this is water”, before considering the processes involved with the meat industry. Even after learning about the gritty details involved with the system, our class didn’t really respond that aggressively to the food industry. I mean, we understood that the system was horrendous, but that didn’t stop us from getting a burger once in a while. It’s not that we don’t care about the plights of the animals, its just that we’ve always kind of thought of farm animals as inferior.
Nobody wants to admit it, but it’s true. In a study done overseas, participants were asked to list emotional capacity related to different animals. The study found that omnivores listed more emotions for companion animals than for animals bred for consumption. Vegetarians were able to list the same amount of emotions for both types of animals. (Bilewicz). This study is one of the many examples of speciesism, where we value different animals differently depending on where they rank in our arbitrary hierarchy. In this hierarchy, farm animals like pigs and cows sit below companion animals like dogs and cats. But of course, conforming to the idea behind speciesism is not following in the same spirit as “This is Water.” While this may not mean denouncing the practice of meat altogether, it demands that we have some consciousness about what it is that we eat. Instead of buying from the cruel, corrupt industry, we should support local chicken farms.
And even looking past the food industry, there are a lot of times where we drop the ball as a caring community. One such example can be found in the wake of the Columbine massacre. Minutes after the shooting occurred, there were already many news articles on it. Of course, many of these reports blamed the shooting on different things, whether that be the “trenchcoat mafia,” goth culture, or bullying and abuse. Although the news media was quick to blame many different aspects of typical high school outcasts, the true root of the problem had more to do with who Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the shooters, were, rather than what groups they were a part of or what interested them. Both had numerous mental issues, further exhausted by the monotony involved with living in such a religious and repressed suburb as Littleton. And even after the truth came out, people still clung to the explanations that were given to them immediately. This leads to our neglect of the issues actually responsible for the terrible event at Columbine while simultaneously discrediting cultures that had nothing to do with the massacre.
As a global community, rather than accept the facts so that we can better address the issues in the future, we hang onto our preconceived notions. David Foster Wallace would be appalled at our steadfast selfishness. Here we have another choice to do good in the spirit of helping others, and yet we continue to perpetuate our own ignorance. This ignorance is even apparent in the way we handle ourselves on the internet, where we hide behind the mask of anonymity to push our opinions and criticisms onto others. Hidden among the “righteous” crowd, we bully those that stand in opposition. Whether or not the abuse is well deserved is irrelevant. Say the wrong word on the internet, one that might offend someone, and you’ll be inundated with vicious remarks and accusations. In the interest of political correctness, we’ve lost our capacity for compassion.
But just because there’s so much wrong with the world doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do about it. As a resident of Earth, I am a part of the global community. While the things I do may seem insignificant to me, according to Gandhi, they are absolutely necessary in the long run. And what better way to make the world a better place than by making sure that my actions are always in the interest of bettering the world as a whole. By stepping back and considering the fact that “this is water,” I can be even more conscious of the effect I have on the world around me. Like Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Bilewicz, Michal, Roland Imhoff, and Marek Drogosz. “The Humanity of What We Eat: Conceptions of Human Uniqueness among Vegetarians and Omnivores.” European Journal of Social Psychology41.2 (2011): 201-09. Wiley Online Library. Web. 21 Jan. 15.
Star Wars IV: A New Hope. Dir. George Lucas. Perf. Alec Guinness. Lucas Film Ltd, 1997.