“.. beauty, which is what is meant by art, using the word in its widest sense, is, I contend, no mere accident to human life, which people can take or leave as they choose, but a positive necessity of life, if we are to live as nature meant us to; that is, unless we are content to be less than [human].”(William Morris, 1880)
The other day, I heard a very strange statement. It was not quite an argument, but more of a fascinated nod at a controversial stand; a hermeneutic proposed to account for what it would really, really take for social justice to come about. Not the practical steps to build a more just world, but the purported really, real meaning of the justice-talk that the justice-minded engage in.
The claim was that this talk is meaningless unless those who voice it are willing to experience immiseration at a scale proportionate with global inequality; that, unless someone in Seattle is willing to live like someone in Bangladesh, all talk of Justice is false.
This idea falls apart quite quickly when you remember that some people have a lot while others have very little not because there’s not enough to go around. Scarcity is artificial. Scarcity is political. And more than this, living in scarcity—living ascetically—is not exactly a universal good. There may be times when we need to die more to ourselves, but that has less to do with the world out there and more to do with what we bring to it.
In opposition to this buy nothing, consume less, deny more, strip further sort of ethic based on guilt, I much prefer to share more, enjoy with, connect to, spiral out—a kind of revolutionary morality based on a deep love of life’s abundance.
At least, that’s the general idea.