Shooting an Elephant


You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
~ Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter

Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.”
~ Maya Angelou

Life is about choices, or so we are told: we create our own heavens or hells on Earth through the choices we make, the paths we take…

There are, however, many people in the world who have no options, no choices…

I am currently taking a course about university writing and as part of our assignments; we are reading essays…beyond sentence analysis and writing our own pieces, we are also exploring critical thinking and social responsibility.

I am also exploring my relationship with the world and with people and institutions who have taken my time, skills and effort: when I have given and dedicated so much and received so little…

The past week, I finalized an essay about two essays: “No Sweat?” by Rubi Garyfalakis and “Labouring the Walmart Way” by Deenu Parmar…one about the conditions behind sweatshops’ practices and the other about business practices that emphasize profit over people and both about our responsibilities as consumers…none really talks about the impact beyond human dignity today (although Parmar’s essay touches on the fact that practices such as those known as the “Walmart business model” are setting precedents and cleaning the path towards a coming back to human slavery, by reducing, sabotaging or eliminating workers’ benefits and rights such as the right to be unionized, the right to a liveable salary and so on)

None of them speaks about the real cause of why these practices exist and are perpetuated, although Garyfalakis’ essay suggests that the problem is the actual system of things…

It was a bit disheartening to see that most of my classmates’ responses were that they would still continue shopping at those stores because they were cheap and convenient. Some even took the time to research articles that explore the possibility that these stores and practices may be “beneficial” for the economy as they provide jobs to those who are not usually employable…in Garyfalakis’ essay, she flirts with the same idea, mentioning that sweatshops have given women financial freedom and choices different from being forced to marry and bear children, something that would eventually lead to their emancipation.

It is very sad to see how short-sighted are the views and the “choices”: not being able to see that exploitation and work close to slavery can’t emancipate anybody, or that these practices are part of a bigger, more complex picture that is raping Nature and this world’s resources to benefit a few and make us all think we deserve “convenient and cheap” even if that means losing an entire planet and creating miserable lives for thousands of exploited women and children around the world…

Life is about choices…or that we are told. I have the choice to stop buying at Walmart and simplifying my life so I don’t need to buy cheap stuff and can make or create most of what I need. I also are given the “choice” to support a system that exploits people and Nature and uses whatever it wants to satisfy immediate cravings…others don’t have any choice: others can’t buy their bare essentials unless they buy the cheapest stuff available or at the only stores around as all locally owned small stores have been displaced and smashed by these giants. And yet others have no choice at all: stripped from their local economies and access to land, stripped from their education, health, safety and other human rights have no other choice but being exploited at factories and fields where they work unpaid overtime without benefits, breaks or safety of any kind…

Life is about choices even in its smallest ways: I have the choice of feeling terribly alone and hurt by peoples and institutions to whom I have dedicated time, efforts, skills or love… or the choice of walking away from them even if (because of my choice) my life becomes hard for an indefinite period of time…others may not have choices, burdened by traumas, addictions, chronic or mental illnesses and the need for somebody else to support them even if that support comes with abuse and neglect.

We can become disenchanted with all what we used to hold dear: history, entire societies, institutions, groups, people, ideas, individuals…

Opening one’s own eyes may put us right on the spotlight. Sometimes there is no going back.

Last week we also read “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell…in this early essay, Orwell shares his discovery of the terrible claws of the Empire beyond those it exploits and dominates: it is not only the oppressed who are being abused and disempowered: the empire impacts the oppressors in subtle ways, making them slaves of the expectations they have created about themselves…

We justify buying cheap and convenient because we have a lifestyle to keep and a hole to fill. We are lured by mirages and become actors of our own fate by betraying those who we should love and protect.

We have a hole inside and feel terribly alone and fill that hole with cheap stuff and busy lives. We have created that hole the day we become detached from Nature and started to believe we were different and beyond…

Orwell didn’t want to shoot that elephant: the animal was peacefully eating and its fury had already disappeared…in his heart, he knew it was wrong. But the crowd was expecting otherwise: after all, he represented the authority, he was a white man with a rifle… a crowd of exploited and oppressed people had at that time more power than Orwell’s own heart and will.

So he shot the elephant: Orwell had no other choice…

I still have one.

You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise!”
~ Maya Angelou

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About Silvia TIC

Welcome to these exercises inside the dimensions of what we are: we are what we dream and think and feel, but we are also the different characters we perform, not just the roles (mother, wife, friend), but those things we call “occupations” or “earning a life”. More than anything, we are part of a giant ecosystem and all what we do connects and impacts others (people, animals, plants, air, water...)

Posted on September 28, 2014, in Activism, Community Resilience, Empowering, Energy Descent Action Plan, Financial Independence, Friendship, Future Scenarios, Independence, Injustice, Life Changes, Life Choices, Loneliness, No Waste Living, People's Power, Resilience, Resilient Living and Choices, Right Livelihood, Simply Living, Social Justice, Sustainable Living, Truth. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Shooting an Elephant.

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