Is Self Help Selfish?

One of the good things about being older is that it gives you a clearer perspective on social trends and how fashions change since your childhood. I can remember when we all wore tight trousers and then fashion created bell bottoms and flares followed by the extreme of loon pants. I remember looking at them with disdain thinking that I would never wear such things. Yet within a year, without even realising it, I was walking around with material flapping around my calves. Things change, society changes, often we do not realise it, we simply comply like sheep. This is never so much as it is in our attitude to society and those around us. One of the biggest and continual changes that I have observed is our attitude to what is good for us.

Trend Gurus
This weeks podcast came from an article that Ed was reading in the Guardian. In the article “Self-help works for us as individuals – but as a society we’re failing”- Gabby Hinsliff was having a good kick at the trends that drive our behaviour and people that create these trends. Well worth a read.

Trend of the moment
Currently the world seems to have gone mad on avocados because they are supposed to be magically health giving. In a short while they will be replaced with yet another superfood. As poorer countries feed the need of westerners that are destroying their own environment that cannot be replaced once this fashion comes to an end

According to News Week,
‘Global demand for avocados is fuelling deforestation in central Mexico due to the high price the fruits fetch. In the mountains of Michoacan, the state that produces the majority of Mexico’s avocados, farmers have illegally destroyed swathes of forests, cutting down pine and fir trees in order to plant more lucrative avocado trees instead’

The same is also true in other countries.

The selfish soul
One of the points that Gabby makes is that these fashions, trends and drives are all a bit ego centred and involve high levels of selfishness that are based around “I”, “me” and “my” and fail to take into account the bigger picture and how “my” action might effect other people. She identifies the drive towards self development as the same as what I just described with avocados. If my need to be as healthy and fit as I want to be is it ever ok that others should suffer to fulfil this? Often when we follow the latest trend, due to a lack of awareness, we feed the disintegration of social cohesion.

For the human race to survive we need to learn to share and look after each other. Are the things that we have for “me” or for “us”. Has society become so egocentric that the concepts of “we” and “us” have become devalued in favour of “me” and “mine”?

Maggie Thatcher famously told us that society and community does not exist and opened the door to the Yuppy culture. The young people that have now grown into the adult managers, politicians and leaders and often, sadly, have brought these values to the workplace. In many organisations the workers are no longer people they are functions and the workplace is no longer a community, it has become a process.

We recently did a podcast on Hygge, the Scandinavian appreciation of the cosy comfort and society, family and friends and the values of mutual support. When our latest fad for food or new piece of technology takes us away from communication with friends and family with those around us, we are participating the destruction of community and society that Maggie Thatcher identified.

When our drive to have things overshadows the needs of those who have nothing we have lost the point of humanity. It can never be right to go to bed on a full stomach while those next door have empty bellies.

If we all look after each other we will all be ok

With this simple philosophy we could solve the worlds problems in an instant.

“Us” not “me” – “We” not “them”

To change things requires a shift in our thinking and feeling. It requires Mindfulness. We need the current popularity of Mindfulness not to become another fad but a shift in human consciousness that takes us closer to being a true family of being. As Mitch Albom put it in his book “the five people you meet in heaven”…

Strangers are just family that we have yet to get to know

So, back to where we started. Perhaps we don’t just need individual self help perhaps we need social self help. Maybe consider re-inflating society. That might start with you saying ‘Hi’ to your neighbours and spreading out from there to get involved in your community and the people around you.

Take care and be happy

Sean X

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