Posted by: Jon | 10/12/2009

Ways of Seeing: Part Two

Let’s just suppose we have a problem. Let’s call it a drinking problem – nothing too serious because lots of other people have the same problem and it’s nothing we can’t handle. Okay, so we know it’s not doing us any good and it’s starting to do damage to our health and our careers and our families, but we enjoy it anyway.

The first problem, of course, is accepting that it is a problem in the first place. That’s usually a bigger difficulty than you might think, but let’s suppose we’ve at least agreed on that.

So they offer us a range of solutions. They say we could just give up and put ourselves through cold turkey and it won’t be very pleasant, but in the end we’ll feel much better for it. It’s not a solution that appeals to us much – but we know deep down that it’s true.

Or they tell us we could cut down a bit and only have an occasional one at meal-times and it won’t be such a problem anymore. But can we really trust ourselves to stay with it or do we think we might slip back into our old habits? Who knows? We could give it a try. 

Or else they say that we could wait a while because they’re working on this new miracle cure that will solve the problem completely and it won’t be painful at all and the best thing is we won’t even have to give up drinking because it won’t affect us anymore! Now that sounds good, doesn’t it?

So which should we choose? It can’t be that difficult to decide. There are only three options to choose from. Well, I expect you’re right, so we’ll go for number three. That’s going to suit us best, isn’t it? The best of all possible worlds – we can keep on enjoying ourselves and make ourselves better at the same time.

But how long will we have to wait for the new cure and what if it doesn’t work and what if they were only kidding us because they are partial to a tipple now and again themselves? Can our livers and our livelihoods and our loved ones afford to wait? Because it’s not just about us, is it? There are other people involved and some of them are already being damaged by our behaviour. They’re quite vulnerable, you know, and they’re not exactly in the best position to do anything about our problem for us.  

Maybe we should try to cut down a bit. So we give it our best shot with the best of intentions but sometimes we have to meet with our friends after work and, after one or two, it never seems like so much of a problem anyway and they’re much better company than you are and so what if we keep it hidden in the shed? What the fuck’s it got to do with you? It was you that drove us to it in the first place with your nagging and your whining, so fuck off and leave us alone! And maybe when we hit rock-bottom we’ll get lucky and find out that that solution isn’t working either. And maybe we won’t.

So what are we left with? Just cold turkey, eh? Giving up completely all at once. We know its going to be tough and we’ll have to say goodbye to our old familiar habits. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still enjoy some other pleasures in life. There are plenty of people who are willing to support us and we’ve got a twelve-step programme.  We might find that we quite like the relationships we can build up again with our families and all our new friends. We might find it’s not so bad to have a clear head for a change. At least we’ll have a chance to find out.

Still, it’s not just up to me, so I’ll leave it with you. But do think about it. And while you’re at it, have a think about your consumer addiction and your fossil fuel dependency and your other sustainability issues too.

(From ‘Silent Memoir’)



  1. Thanks for your comment!
    and take a look at the work of Elinor Ostrom and my friend Roberto Perez, both good on resilence.

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