A problem: We are building the world together

I saw the following analogy on twitter the other week:

“We are in a giant car that holds all 7.7 billion of us. The car is speeding towards a cliff. It has 7.7 billion brake pedals and 7.7 billion accelerator pedals, one for each of us”

It was – of course – an analogy with the situation we face with climate change. 

However, I think there is definitely something in this that applies much more broadly. It is the question we all ask of: “why should I pay the cost of doing what is right if I cannot control for the decisions of others?”

(see also: the prisoner’s dilemma)

I have concluded (the conversation of why is for real life with those who are interested) that the only moral answer to this is to take responsibility for the part we do have control over. To acknowledge the tension and heartache in our own limitations, but fundamentally take ownership over the notion that,

“We are building the world together”,

and that the part you play in that must be played well, though it is just a part.

What has occupied my thoughts since I started thinking about change (see my last blog post) is that many people appear to accept this principle partially, applying it to some areas but not others. 

Many people vote, for example, to fulfil their ‘democratic duty’, though their single vote has never once changed the outcome of an election. 

And yet, the same people would not boycott a company for tax avoidance, agree with the principle of banking ethically, or change their consumption habits because of the dangers of climate breakdown. 

Has anyone noticed this in their own life? 

Or have any thoughts as to why this is? Or about the relevant differences between e.g. voting and company boycotting?

5 thoughts on “A problem: We are building the world together

  1. Alan A. Malizia: Contagious Optimism! Co-Author says:

    We are as a man who fell into a well. He knows he does not belong there yet he can’t get out on his own.
    Voting is the one chance that most have in this country to voice their opinion. Other than that, some organize for a cause. But so much is confusing. And why is this? Because no two persons are completely on the same page. The chaos that permeates the world is characteristic of this unlikeness in thought, word and action.
    The man in the well knows that something drastically has gone wrong. But his freedom, since not in his control, must come from without. We refuse to accept an orderly universe. Therefore, any concept of God is with strings attached, where man has hold of the strings. But if this is true then why can’t the man get out of the well on his own? This contradicts the disordered universe of man. He needs someone other than himself.
    I know that I digress. But the idea of “We are building the world together” does not hold. Because we are not together in any way, except for a short period when under a collective threat. The world was already built. And not by man or an event of dumb luck. Our role is to properly tend to it. But this could only be successfully accomplished in an ordered universe. Not in randomness.
    Voting or boycotting are actions that will produce some out come. But in a society where direction is determined by the swing of the pendulum, the best one can hope for is some level of stability. And the best of scenarios is when the pendulum where to rest at center under the gravitational pull of popular opinion. There we are forced to compromise.
    -Alan

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    • Rachel says:

      Thank you for this interesting thought Alan. I trust you understand the sense in which “We are building the world together” points towards a truth: that our individual choices have real collective impact even where that collective impact still does not equate to the sum total of reality.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alan A. Malizia: Contagious Optimism! Co-Author says:

        I find your writing interesting and though-provoking, Rachel. Always enjoy your posts. We will one day find out if our individual choices will intersect with that Truth or continue on a parallel track. Choice exist because of free will…which can either make saints or devils.
        A Blessed and very Merry Christmas Rachel!
        -Alan

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  2. jonolan says:

    We may be “building the world together.” in that we’re all a part of it, but we are not in it together as it were. As is natural, we each try – in various degrees – to make the world better for us and ours.

    Take your example, “Climate Change.” What has been promulgated is that it’s all CO2-based and all the White Man’s problem, especially the American White Man – despite China being the worst “offender.” Also, almost every “solution” has involved taking from those American White Men and giving to others. That’s not going to sit well with the majority, especially when the entire thing is being presented as if it’s the Revealed Truth and any dissenter is a heretic to be burned.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rachel says:

      Thank you for taking the time to comment! I understand your perspective and I think the frustration you feel is an exact illustration of the dilemma that of “building the world together” – even if I personally might dispute the perspective on climate change that you outline here.
      Thanks again!

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