If you’re American or in a developed country, you’re probably overweight, though your grandparents and all earlier ancestors probably didn’t even know anyone overweight. You probably watch television nearly as much as you work, though your grandparents and all earlier ancestors didn’t have televisions. You may have little to no physical activity in your life, though your grandparents and all earlier ancestors were physically active every day.
My point is not to rattle off statistics, but to point out the life the system you live in created for most of us. For me, being active, fit, and interacting with people actively instead of passively observing create most of my life’s greatest reward, joy, and pleasure. They make me feel in control of my life. The opposite makes me feel confined. I can’t imagine how being obese would make me feel. I mean, I can, but I don’t like it. I would immediately change my life if I became obese. Or if I found myself watching too much television or went too long without getting my heart rate up.
I feel like most people don’t like living the way they do — driving to work every morning, sitting at a desk all day, driving home, eating processed foods, watching tv, browsing the internet, etc. I feel like people prefer playing sports, building things, interacting with others, eating home-cooked foods, and things like that.
Many people say our concerns are minor compared to the life-threatening ones of North Koreans. Maybe, but you don’t have to compare them. Every problem everywhere doesn’t have to stop you from improving your life. Nor does improving your life make things worse elsewhere. It may even help you do what you want elsewhere more effectively. If you want to work on human rights, you can do it, but that doesn’t mean you stop living in your world.
Times Square and television ads motivate much of the opposite of what I want in my life and they fill my world with things I dislike, like a community that’s mostly obese, sedentary, and watches a lot of television.
Enough about similarities between North Korea and the U.S., I’ll point out a difference between there and here you may not have thought of. Forget about changing a whole system, if North Koreans try to live differently than their system allows, even for things we’d consider innocuous, their government might put them in jail or worse.
We can do things without fear of prison or worse — things like buying less crap, getting rid of stuff, exercising more, watching less television, spending more time interacting with friends and family, cooking our own meals, and so on. We have the choice but we don’t. What’s stopping us from behaving differently from what our system suggests?
Yet few of us do. We accept our system.
We don’t have to. What better to learn from a system that so constrains people than to learn to appreciate your own freedom, to extend it, and to act on it?
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On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees