‘It’s my turn’ philosophy and its corresponding tragedy on sustainability

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's n...

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Let me throw this seemingly easy and simple question: What makes today’s concerns on oil and energy?

You probably have read thousand questions with similar meaning. You might also think this is an over-rated question. I wouldn’t disagree, but still, I don’t think we have reach a clear answer for it.

I think that our extreme dependency on oil and deprivation of energy source are merely parts of the iceberg tip. The iceberg itself is nothing but our false philosophy of consumption and our ignorance on life direction. These two represent the fundamental framework most of us have worship, abide and faithfully follow in the name of welfare and happiness. I call it “It’s my turn” philosophy.

“It’s my turn” philosophy describes our desire to demand more of what we don’t have.

If someone has a new car, then we want that car too. Then, we seek for our turn to own the same car. When we see our boss lead the firm and making policies that affect us; we then foresee ourselves in that position in the future and imagine what we will do more and better from our boss. When our favorite celebrity’s latest fashion style appear in the magazine we read on happy hour drinks, we feel the urge for shopping.

“It’s my turn” philosophy is about how we all want to take, to consume and to use as many as we can; and forget that we all have to give as much. What often happen, we missed the part where things will run out as an effect of excessive consumption and the ignorance of giving back. Of course this is what makes trend is so powerful in influencing our life. This is also what drives consumption-based economy. The more people want something, the higher its sales rate will be. That’s good for the economy……

….except the part where people consume faster and faster.

This is an issue of human behavior. In the context of market economy, we consume ferociously in a way that it is no longer helping the economy, but instead, we devour all the economy. In the concept of politics and governance, we want more and more power, and instead of stability, we invite uprisings. There is a belief that it’s good to want more and more, to consume more and more. It’s great when everyone want the same thing.

Such belief bears a false basic assumption: everything is unlimited. Higher consumption will reduce the availability and increase scarcity. When our excessive demand and consumption is higher than our ability to renew the availability, we are destroying the system. Excessive demand and consumption are threats to the sustainability of any system, because it will exhaust the system.

What happen with the issue of energy scarcity is only an apparent example of this behavior. “It’s my turn” philosophy can be found in our closest communities, such as workplace or friends. It has become the zeitgeist of what we believe as the modern lifestyle. Many believes that consumptions and demands are access to welfare. Many think that by posses more, they will feel more secure and self-actualized. In such pattern, we ignore the fact that earth is enough for everyone’s needs, but not for everyone’s greed.

This is why we often fail to see our challenges in sustainability.

16 responses to “‘It’s my turn’ philosophy and its corresponding tragedy on sustainability

  1. Thank you for the reminding article. One problem is that in the history of mankind, every overrated consumption always followed by the effort to creatively create new way of production better than before. It means that consumption and production always dialectically interlink. Your argument based on the assumption, that somehow the process of production is stop (ceteris paribus), and the consumption move on. However, ceteris paribus is the most problematic aspect in social analysis.

    What do you think?

    Second is I agree with your notion concerning “my turn” philosophy. It is mindless behavior that only focus on short term gain, and in the process will destroy the purpose of entire organization. The drive behind it is revenge, and the result is often as bad as the drive behind it.

    • I see your point, Reza. I agree with your thoughts about revenge and retaliation as the drive of “it’s my turn” philosophy.

      However, I would have respond differently to your first comment.
      This piece is actually exposing the hidden assumption behind this statement :”every overrated consumption always followed by the effort to creatively create new way of production better than before”. The hidden assumption embedded in this statement is that overconsumption always in line with increasing production.
      This, my friend, is not about ceteris paribus, but presumption of positive correlation. This presumption is the center of Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’, which suppose to automatically balance the system. This presumption is what have failed in recent global financial, energy and food crisis.

      What might missed in this presumption is the anomaly of human behavior. In the last few decades, the global consumption increase the intensity of productions in various fields, in terms of quality as well quality. This seems positive, economically speaking. But, this also the reason why we are running out of oil, fertile soil, forest, potable water and fresh air.

      We thought that these resources are unlimited, till we found out that our excessive consumption and production were incredibly faster than our ability to purify water and air, or to re-grow our forests. We also suddenly remember that the process of creating carbon-based fuel (such as oil and coal) needs million years, while we’ve been emptying the global fuel deposit in less than 5 centuries. Not to mention our increasingly populations, while the earth situation does not support for more fertile soil and land to live on.

      Our consumption has enormously create a deficiency to the bigger system. So, this post is not only refusing ceteris paribus principle, but in fact emphasize that our behavior might have been in contradictory to the system capacity.

      • thanks for the reply. I see your point. Can’t it be that the creative innovation, that always come around when human experiences the overrated consumption, is also an anomaly? Can’t it be with the over consumption, the human will try, and finally succeed, to create alternative energy through their use of reason and the development of scientific method? Its not always create a positive correlation pattern. Sometimes, it creates a series of contradiction that beyond the traditional paradigm to explain the ‘anomaly’ innovation.

        My point is even though it is true, that our mode of consumption today is gonna destroy the world, but it is also true, that human have the ability to maximize their use of reason to create some anomalic way to move on, and avoid the armageddon. The history have a lot of data to prove it. So, all of this is part of our contingent existence as human being.

        What do you think?

      • Yes, that’s the main agenda in this post: activate the anomaly!

        Bringing about this concern is the turning point within this crisis of excessive consumption we have now. It’s a way to break ignorance and negligence to this issue. By providing a showcase of how our state of greed today is actually create unprecedented jeopardy to the system, we hope that people will respond in unprecedented creativity and intensity. Whatever responses people may deliver, it still beneficial to ‘disrupt’ this state of excessive consumption.

        That is the anomaly many people are trying to bring about. This post and this discussion we have are only small parts of this effort. But, our discussion nevertheless will affect readers, and hopefully inspire them to see the global and local state of sustainability in a different way. And, we hope they will join us in allowing the creative anomaly to happen, whatever that may be.

  2. ignorant of the availability and not giving back…..sangar pak filosofinya, tapi filosofi ini akankah dapat berubah ya pak? karna kan sekarang kalo diliat hampir semua manusia tu pasti pengen enaknya aja ^^ ahahaha

    • Saya menduga itu akan berubah, ketika kondisi ini mencapai titik kulminasi negatifnya. Artinya, ketika sudah sangat rusak parah, maka orang akan mulai sadar bahwa mereka perlu merubah arah🙂 Gampangnya, mirip film Wall-E hehehe…..

      Tapi memang kita perlu melalui krisis ini, karena krisislah yang menjadi fondasi perubahan.

  3. How can we really turn on the anomaly? By critically thinking about our present conditions? The solution always comes to the core of philosophy, namely critical and reflective thinking concerning our present situations, especially the crises. And the problem stands still, how can we inject the subject of genuine of critical and reflective thinking in our educational system? It seems like our discussion always end in the same point. Hahaha…

    Or, can we force those institutions, and other institutions, to adopt this method in their present educational curriculum and daily activities? That’s where your role as consultant and change strategist comes in.🙂

    • I don’t think we can turn on the anomaly, though. What we can is creating an atmosphere that allows the anomaly to emerge. I’m totally agree with you that critical and reflective thinking are means to that.

      As for refining this spirit in Indonesian educational institution, that is formidable challenge. I tend to see the needs to use both alternatives you mentioned. Inspiring individuals into critical mass as well redesigning the system into a more creative one are two sides of the same coin.

      The biggest issue of our education system is that people in education are too full of themeselves, and do not care enough to listen to those outside the education system🙂

  4. Crisis is the mother of all being……ndak ada cara lain selain itu ya emangnya pak Reza & James…apakah kita benar2 tidak dapat merubah hal itu sebelum menjadi benar-benar parah?

    • Kuncinya di kata “kita” itulah, Lenny. Kita itu bukan cuma aku, Pak Reza atau dirimu. Itu sebuah satuan plural yang sangat kompleks. Artinya, kompleksitas keinginan dan kepentingan manusia yang berbeda antar satu sama lain itu membuat perbedaan tidak bisa dipungkiri. Perbedaan inilah krisis.

      Nah, dalam urusan menyikapi perbedaan inilah, perilaku manusia yang muncul dalam iri, kecemburuan dan konflik yang tidak jelas arahnya menciptakan krisis yang destruktif. Krisis sendiri tak bisa dihindari, dan dia sebenarnya netral. Krisis adalah growing pains, sesuatu yang lumrah dalam perubahan. Yang bikin tidak enak adalah krisis destruktif.

      Tapi, dalam sejarah kiat belajar bahwa manusia memang suka menyikapi perbedaan dengan membikin krisis destruktif🙂

  5. Human is a creature with unlimited desires. this thing had been written at all economic books. But, the important thing is how to manage our “desires” wisely. Destructive Crisis will occur if we are unable to manage them.

    • Yes, I agree. Desire is a drive for life. It can drive you to something constructive, and it can also drive you to self-destruction. Being wise in dealing with it is what this is all about.

  6. Ok, I understand now…. now I still learning how to manage my “desires” wisely….ahahahaha….thank you so much for this post sir ^^ ahahahaha

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