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"The Compact"

I'm horribly mean-spirited sometimes. I just can't help it. What can I say, I'm a sarcastic jerk. It's innate. Sometimes I can keep that aspect of my personality -- nah, forget "aspect," that is my personality -- under wraps, but it's always there, lurking, ready to lash out.

I was reading the blog this morning about The Compact, a group of Bay Area people dedicated to leading a less consumer-oriented lifestyle. Honestly, I applaud the rationale behind what they're saying. But (this is me, remember, so there's always a "but," or a "butt"....) ya know, looking over the last several blog posts from the group, I just had to laugh.

These people are in San Francisco... yet one of them is talking about jetting off to London to go to school! And soliciting donations (granted, tongue-in-cheek) and seeking scholarships to do so. I mean... aren't some of the best schools in the world in California? Ah, but it's way more cool to be a jet-setter and head to London for an education. Global warming be d@mned, I'm going to learn about conservation! And if I can get other people pay for it, so much the better!

Some of these people make their living working with dogs, and write about how working with dogs brought them to a better understanding of and appreciation for the natural world. Or something like that. There are few things more destructive to the natural world than dogs. Having lived in Oregon, I grew absolutely sick every time I read stories of how a cougar, bobcat, or bear had to be tracked down and killed because "it's stalking the neighborhood dogs." These would be neighborhoods built in what used to be forests, of course. "We want to live in the woods, but we don't want any of those nasty animals around. Just our doggies and kitties."

How can a person dedicated to "simplifying" his or her life even consider owning a dog? Dogs are high maintenance, needing to be fed, groomed, medicated, trained, and cleaned up after. Pet food is a multi-billion dollar industry ($14.7-billion, to be precise). Pet owners are pathetic pawns of the advertising industry. And, pet owners, particularly dog owners, are selfish. Their petty need for personal dominance over an animal intrudes on my desire for a life of "simplicity" every time their d@mn dog barks at me when I walk by on the sidewalk, every time their howling brute keeps me awake at night, every time I have to step out of the way on the jogging path to make way for the entangling leads of a couple (it's never just one dog anymore, it seems) of straining pit bulls.

Don't talk to me about simplifying and making do with less if you own a dog.

I'm into making do with less. I want to de-clutter my life. In fact, as soon as I finish this snippy little finger-pointing rant, I'm going to go tackle this ridiculous mess.

But don't get all holier-than-thou about the size of your eco-footprint when you're attending media soirées, jet-setting to London, walking dogs, and living in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. It makes you sound kind of silly.

As I said near the beginning of this rant, I'm a mean-spirited, sarcastic jerk. While I appreciate the concept espoused by The Compact people, I find some of their choices to be arbitrary, occasionally antithetical to the creed they espouse, and frequently laughable. Maybe I harbor some biases from having lived in Eugene, Oregon, and having known a number of "trust-fund hippies" who blathered on about organic, green, Earth-friendly, eco-conscious recycling stuff while living in the big house (with redwood siding, natch) bought with "family money" and spending their weekends smoking dope. When it comes to the concept of learning to make do with less, I lean more toward the practical populist approach of Don Aslett. While it's easy to dismiss Aslett as a glorified janitor who hawks cleaning supplies on QVC, he makes sense to me when he says things like this:
Let me tell you the bottom line of gain from dejunking and removing clutter. Everyone in this world wants to be better and better. We want to get rid of our bad habits. Whether it is eating habits, swearing habits, or clutter habits. Changing some of these habits is more difficult because they’re intangible. But junk is tangible, and when you throw out a piece of junk, you start developing a pattern that becomes a great carryover in your life. By throwing out these tangible things we hang on to, a quiet spirit will creep into your being and testify to you, “You don’t need stuff to be happy.” And when that happens, people are going to find that they can get rid of other habits they’ve been holding on to.

There are three types of junk…in you, on you, and around you. Emotional junk is inside of you. Feelings and emotions that clutter your mind. We have clutter on us and we have clutter around us, like the piles of stuff in the garage. It’s all the same thing. The biggest reason to get rid of clutter is that when you rid yourself of it, the mental and emotional stuff leaves you at the same time. That is worth it. You can’t ask for anything that is more life restoring than that.

Maybe, after I get rid of some of the junk, I can learn to be less of a sarcastic, opinionated jerk.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 4th, 2008 10:05 pm (UTC)
Great quote about decluttering . . .

Sorry the SF Compact site was so irritating. I know what you are talking about: hypocrites embracing a cause so they can have yet another reason to feel superior to others. It reminds me painfully of my evangelical brother, The Teflon Prince, and his religion. Though his ultimate salvation is not mine to judge, his actions tell me that the best part of Christianity for him is being So Much Better Than The Rest of Us.

As for dogs . . . a whole other post. I haven't really ever thought of petkeeping as environmentally unsound; I'll have to ponder that a little more.

And seriously, I don't think of you as a sarcastic jerk. Opinionated, yes . . . but who isn't?
Jan. 5th, 2008 12:48 am (UTC)
Please don't apologize. I found The Compact site more amusing than irritating. They're young, they're idealistic, and, as many of us are when it comes to our causes, their views are somewhat susceptible to selective tunnel-vision.

There was this GREAT television commercial running a few years back advertising SUVs. Two young wilderness-trekker guys are hitch-hiking while discussing their desires to put the modern world behind them and "live off the grid." Then the guy in the new SUV picks them up, and smiles knowingly as the young guys settle comfortably into the back seat and consider reassessing their goals. I laughed out loud each time I saw that ad, because it's so true.

You hit a certain age, and biking to work in the rain and doing all your shopping at thrift stores, assuming you have a choice, starts to lose its appeal.

And apparently, when the opportunity to move to London to pursue further education arises, the definition of what constitutes a sustainable lifestyle becomes open to interpretation.

Like pure communism, there are underpinnings of wisdom in The Compact. Like real-world communism, exceptions and rationalization eventually become the norm, standards become arbitrary, and idealism gives way to practicality. The key to success here, I suppose, is to find a balance between idealism and what-really-works.

Cripes, I'm starting to sound like a congressman! Somebody stop me!

As for the pet ownership thing: other household members are vegetarian and seriously into recycling, yet... how many d@mn cats do we have now? How many little tins of canned meat do the buggers consume every night? Not to mention the "hobby" of feeding neighborhood strays four nights a week. Yet the metal cans are "too stinky" to recycle, so they go in the trash (even if I pull them out and rinse them, as I used to do, it generates "stinky" complaints). How can a "vegetarian" rationalize feeding canned meat to pets? But people, no matter how "eco-conscious" they claim to be, think nothing of allowing fish populations to be decimated and dolphins to drown in nets in order to feed their "kitties."

These would be the same kitties who wage a ceaseless war of attrition on the local birds -- above-mentioned cat owner is a former trip leader for the Audobon Society, but obviously cats take precedence over "my friends the birds."

Almost makes me want to cry sometimes, so I try not to think about it. Besides, being anti-dog and anti-cat is a far more inflammatory stance than almost any other "politically incorrect" position one could take on any issue, so I mostly keep my trap shut about it, both publicly and privately. Obviously I'm making an exception here, but hardly anybody reads this stuff anyway.

Okay... back to the grind. I'm actually sorting through junk today! Yay, me! Inspired by The Compact!
Jan. 5th, 2008 02:33 pm (UTC)
You hit a certain age, and biking to work in the rain and doing all your shopping at thrift stores, assuming you have a choice, starts to lose its appeal.
Yep, I hit that age. After 30 years of bikeless life I buy a bike to go shopping with. In the -freezing- rain. You hit that age when you not only know but feel that you need to move if you want to survive.

Oh, I am 200% in agreement with the pet peeve.
I bet the first and loudest protestors when, in 10 years time -approximately- tuna are extinct will be the pet owners protesting that they can't feed their beloved pussies with fresh canned tuna.

Edited at 2008-01-05 05:34 pm (UTC)
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