What’s Love Got to Do With It?

How to Save the World 3
My What You Can Do (to Save the World) list

How do I put this delicately? Most of the activists I know just don’t have much of a personal life. Just as work/life balance is such a big deal in the corporate workplace, so is the challenge for the attention of activists between their public causes and private passions. And the greater these private passions, one might expect, the less time left for activism.

To the extent activism is Let-Self-Change activity, and is a family affair, it might actually be enhanced by love. But if that love manifests itself in indulgence of someone who is complacent or acquisitive, it can be exhausting and leave no time for progressive pursuits. There are only so many hours in a day.

Once again it comes down, I think, to doing what we must, then what’s easy, and then what’s fun. Finding and pursuing love is an imperative for the vast majority of us. It’s hard to make love last, and when we find it we dedicate an inordinate amount of time and energy to nurturing it. When we lose it, we become preoccupied with its absence and rediscovering it. It is a lifelong imperative.

How can philosophical or political passion compete with that? If we have to spend much of our waking hours as wage slaves, in a job unrelated to our real passion, and then we dedicate an additional block of time to those we love, how much time can be left? My guess would be that for many, the cost of putting activism first is putting both job and family second, and sometimes losing both in the process. And for even more, the risk of that happening is too great, so activism gets relegated to the back burner, and becomes one of those ‘do when I have have time’ tasks that never get done.

My observations about love:

  • Most people are capable of loving a lot of different people in their lives, and would if it were socially acceptable to do so. We are not by nature monogamous, IMO.
  • Most people have great difficulty making love last, perhaps for the same reason. It’s great while it lasts, but it often doesn’t. 
  • Most people don’t have any real conscious choice about whom they fall in love with. It’s chemistry. 

All of this would seem to mitigate against us having many cycles left over to make the world a better place, beyond Let-Self-Change and our own small circles of loved ones. That’s just the way we are, obsessed with the personal needs of the moment.

And this is, perhaps, the Achilles’ heel in my idea to create a world of self-sufficient intentional communities of people of like minds that we love. In pre-civilization times we were limited in our choice of who to love to those in our tribe. But now we have such vast choice, and so many perfect, idealized, larger-than-life models to dream about, that (in every sense of the word) we are no longer willing to settle. So even a polyamory community of self-selected people is likely to leave us unsatisfied, restless to know what we’re missing. We’ve let the genie out of the bottle and s/he won’t go back in.

In his book, The Upside of Down, Thomas Homer-Dixon says the determinant of whether we will rise to the occasion and overcome panarchy (the cascading crises that result when a whole series of related systems become overextended and collapse) through catagenesis (building resilience and healthy renewal following collapse) is whether we have the moral and existential values needed to care enough, to transcend our utilitarian preoccupations. Homer-Dixon sees the majority of the world sliding into automatic behaviours, becoming less than human, mere consumers. He may have a point, though I think the growing anomie of our society is more complex (a consequence of learned helplessness etc.) than this. But in any case our moral and existentialvalues cannot compete for our time with the needs of the moment.

We are who we are.

Category: Let-Self-Change
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3 Responses to What’s Love Got to Do With It?

  1. David Parkinson says:

    I think you’re right to suspect that there is more going on below the surface of mad consumerism and anomie than meets the eye… I certainly hope there is, or we’re sunk. I’m eager (but nervous) to see what directions these submerged social forces go off in, once people start to figure out that they’ve been sold a bill of goods. I have to hope that many people will discover that they really needed more autonomy, meaningful employment, and a social network, and that trading these in for shiny things was a lousy deal. Maybe we’ll get to see if that’s right or not. (On the other hand, someone with reasonably believable promises of more shiny objects might persuade the public to engage in ever more destructive behaviour.)On a lighter note: I hope like hell that you haven’t implanted a Tina Turner earworm in my head for the rest of the day…

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    Heh…the only cure is to play something else you like better twice in a row now. I think you’re right about the anomie; it’s just going to take a long time for people to realize that no one is in control and they are much more in charge of their own life and destiny than they’ve been led (by those with an agenda) to believe.

  3. Jon Husband says:

    Having the experience of being loved, and feeling and giving love to someone else unreservedly, is critical for the development of any individual, let alone hordes of us struggling to move forward somehow together.

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