I used to enjoy picking up litter because I was doing something so great for our environment; picking up trash so it could go in its place. Then I learned that the litter is the result of a deeper problem. The real problem is how we produce stuff and our addiction to having things. Our consumer mentality is so selfish we don’t seem to notice or care that all the stuff and packaging we buy is the reason why we have trash. All the cheap plastic stuff we buy every week for fun or retail therapy results in trash. Every time we buy a bottled drink, coffee to go, or pre-washed veggies in plastic containers we are choosing pollution. Every time we buy something mass-produced in a factory which inevitably creates waste we are creating trash.
Now I pack snacks in reusable bags or containers and bring a water bottle. When I do get a drink to go I choose a drink that can be in a paper cup because unlike plastic the paper cup will actually degrade. Often I bring the cup home and use it repeatedly until I can recycle it. I bring my own produce bags to the store and choose fruits and vegetables that are package free. More and more of what I buy is in bulk and reusable bags. I also stopped the unhealthy habit of retail therapy which was much harder and rooted more in the decision to get out of debt than environmental reasons. When shopping for goods I first look at thrift stores and my local Buy Nothing Group. My monthly trash bin is a lot lighter these days, but what about non material consumption?
If we want to get rid of the litter we need to start with the root of the problem and stop creating so much trash. It’s a lot like racism. We need to pull out the root of hate, which is fear, to end racism. Lately I have begun to look at my own fears in the forms of stereotypes.
I used to consume a lot of media and noticed the harmful stereotypes back in High School watching “girl power” tv shows where women had to look sexy if they wanted to be the hero, good girls were submissive and bad girls were rebels. If the show was “progressive” enough to have Black, Mexican, Asian or Native American characters they were usually the bad girls or the poor girls that needed to be saved by the white protagonist.
Then I noticed in movies how often thugs, criminals and villains were almost always Black drug dealers, Mexican car thieves, Asian gangsters, abusive Indian husbands, drunk Native Americans or all rolled into one terrible person and not coincidentally the only token non-white. Just recently I realized how “Trans” people were often portrayed as sick twisted individuals who wanted to dress up as their opposite gender to molest children or become serial killers.
Why are humans inclined to be so afraid of what is different? Why do we hold so many prejudices against those who are different? Why does it take so long to realize we are holding onto fear?
I admit to falling for these stereotypes. I used to cross the street if I saw a group of men hanging out because I assumed they were dangerous. Unless they were standing around in suits they must be up to no good. I would avoid eye contact with anyone dressed in drag because for some reason I felt uncomfortable around them. It wasn’t until a few year ago when I started examining my ideas about people was I able to see how these media controlled images were creating a fear of those who are different in my mind.
Growing up in a diverse family of different colors and accepting of different sexual orientations I often felt immune to such fears, but I was wrong. Even I held unrealized prejudices. I have to check myself all the time now to understand the reason someone makes me uncomfortable. Is it because of societal expectations or my intuition? Sometimes it is my intuition telling me to be aware, but more and more I comprehend that they are not making me uncomfortable, but I’m projecting fear onto them.
Throw in some white privilege and more than likely I make them uncomfortable based on their own fears. In the racist, violent environment that is America their fears are much more justified and much more real than mine.
These days I’m less likely to cross the street and more inclined to smile and nod or say a simple “Hello”. I refuse to live in fear based on a stereotype.
So what kind of litter are you producing? What fears of those who are different do you hold? Analyze those fears, think about what you consume, both material and through your thoughts. Check yourself.
My inspiration for this post can be found on one of my favorite blogs: http://www.ototsy.com/2015-is-the-new-60s
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