Choices Based On Selfish Concerns Have Led Us To The Very Brink Of Disaster by Graham Peebles

I Will Stand With The Most Vulnerable

Image by Lorie Shaull via Flickr

by Graham Peebles
Writer, Dandelion Salad
London, England
July 13, 2017

Every day we are faced with numerous choices, some relating to practical issues and others based on more complex psychological demands – how to react, what to say and do. Whilst on the face of it choices appear to have been made, in the main we react habitually; many if not all of our decisions proceed from the past, and are in fact unconscious, conditioned responses to the challenges of the day.

The world is beset with a series of unprecedented inter-related crises: the urgent need to establish peace and the environmental catastrophe are the two most pressing issues facing humanity, for in both areas there exists the potential for widespread destruction and potential annihilation. Then there is the worldwide refugee crisis, crushing poverty, hunger in a world of plenty and obscene levels of economic inequality, – the grotesque consequence of an unjust economic system that lies at the heart of many if not all our problems. In tackling these issues choices are made, the decisions we make based on these choices determine not only the present, but how the future looks, and indeed if there will be a future for mankind and the Earth at all.

Politicians make choices based on one of a number of impelling factors: ideology, self-interest, corporate dictates and occasionally what they think the electorate want them to do. Trapped in a net of ambition and conflicting concerns they are morally compromised; lacking principles and any real vision they are unable to meet the challenges of the time. Hope rests not with the current political class, who are not trusted and in many cases are despised, but with the people, with us, and with the manifestation of that inherent goodness that lies buried within everyone.

Choices based on selfish concerns and false conclusions have led us to the very brink of disaster. They have created and fuelled an economic system, Neo-Liberalism or Market Fundamentalism, which has overseen the commercialisation of every aspect of contemporary life. Financial profit is its driving motive and primary goal, no matter the consequences to people or the natural environment. Excess is encouraged, sufficiency dismissed. Selfish choices flow from the materialistic value system promoted relentlessly by powerful corporations that own everything, and yet want to possess more, to exploit every last drop, squeeze the Earth dry, strangle all goodness out of humanity, until one dark day there will be nothing left.

Competition amongst peoples, regions and nations is a cornerstone of the system; it is a crude method of motivation that has infiltrated all areas including education. It results, amongst other ills, in separation and division, inhibition and conflict. The values promoted, which are poured into the minds of everyone from childhood, seem inescapable: selfishness and a lack of compassion flow from this materialistic root. Happiness, which has largely been replaced with pleasure, is to be found, we are told, in the artefacts of life made by the corporations. The whole pack of cards rests firmly upon a foundation of insatiable desire and the endless consumption that it spawns.

Despite the surface divisions and separations that exist in our world at the heart of things humanity is one, and, consciously recognised or not, people instinctively know this to be true. It is out of recognition of this essential unity that our choices must now proceed, allowing new values to evolve, from which systemic change can occur. A kinder set of values, with what Pope Francis described in a recent ground breaking TED talk, as tenderness, at their heart. Tenderness, the pontiff stated, “is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility.”

Tenderness is a thoughtful choice of word, encompassing as it does kindness, gentleness and sensitivity to the needs and concerns of others; it is a quality that suggests a commitment to harmlessness.

A major shift in attitudes is required if we are to choose ‘tenderness’ in place of indifference, and overcome the difficulties that face us; a move away from crass destructive patterns of behaviour towards inclusive ways of living that promote cooperation, tolerance and mutual understanding and inculcate widespread social and environmental responsibility. Such attitudes flow naturally from the acknowledgement that we are brothers and sisters of one humanity and the recognition that we have a duty towards one another and indeed the Earth itself.

The choices before us are not narrow political or ideological ones as politicians would have us believe – such moribund constructs belong in the past – they are choices of values; the individual choices we all make, large and small – in what we think and say and do – will decide the path we will collectively go down. Choose to ratify the way of life offered by devotees of the neo-liberal circus by acting in accordance with their divisive doctrine and allow for the perpetuation of selfishness and greed; witness increased, potentially irreparable destruction to the ecological patterns of life of which we are an integral part, and see even greater levels of inequality, social injustice and resulting conflict.

Choose instead to see others as ourselves, – their needs as ours, the natural environment in which we live as our homeland, its well-being and integrity our responsibility, and all things are possible. As Maitreya has said, “The problems of mankind are real but solvable. The solution lies within your grasp. Take your brother’s need as the measure for your action and solve the problems of the world.” This is a profound message, made all the more beautiful by its simplicity. It purifies motives and negates choice; the only choice required is the initial one, which says: I will do all I can to meet the need or needs of another, no matter how small that need may be or what it may cost me. Having made such a choice, inclusive values such as sharing, cooperation and understanding follow quite naturally, and with every action that flows from this simple choice, the sense of brotherhood grows. It is from simple acts of ‘tenderness’ – large and small – that solutions to the challenges facing humanity will be found, not in the duplicitous rhetoric of ambitious politicians.

Graham Peebles is a freelance writer. His collected essays are at He can be reached at:


[DS added the videos]

Why the only future worth building includes everyone | Pope Francis

TED on Apr 25 2017

(Turn on subtitles, available in more than 20 languages, using the CC button in the bottom right of your screen.)

A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you, says His Holiness Pope Francis in this searing TED Talk delivered directly from Vatican City. In a hopeful message to people of all faiths, to those who have power as well as those who don’t, the spiritual leader provides illuminating commentary on the world as we currently find it and calls for equality, solidarity and tenderness to prevail. “Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the ‘other’ is not a statistic, or a number,” he says. “We all need each other.”



Going Local: the solution-multiplier

Local Futures on Jan 23, 2017

A short introduction to localization. Learn more at

from the archives:

Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky: Requiem for the American Dream, Part 2

Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky: Requiem for the American Dream, Part 1 + Ralph Nader Interviews Noam Chomsky

The Poison of Commercialization Where Everything Is Regarded As A Commodity by Graham Peebles + Kate Tempest: Tunnel Vision

Jayati Ghosh: Imperialism in the 21st Century: Capitalism, Globalization, Privatization

Helena Norberg-Hodge: The Right to Fresh, Healthy Food is a Fundamental Human Right

Chris Hedges: Voices of Hope in a Time of Crisis

Peak Moment: Cecile Andrews on Community, Simplicity, Joy and Social Change

14 thoughts on “Choices Based On Selfish Concerns Have Led Us To The Very Brink Of Disaster by Graham Peebles

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  3. I think that property and hierarchy both began 10,000 years ago. For 200,000 years before that, humans were hunter-gatherers, living in cooperative egalitarian (non-hierarchical) tribes, sharing everything of importance. Their lives were not perfect — there were still fights among them — so I am not saying we should go back to being hunter-gatherers. But we can try to combine the best of their culture with the best of ours, in creating the new culture we need that has never existed before.

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  6. Yes, there needs to be, and there will be systemic change, and I consistently advocate for this, but a shift in attitudes must also take place – in many people this is well under way – the article focusses on that. The two will take place in parallel, but lasting change always comes from the people, we must demand it, we must choose to act with compassion, to be honest, to always do ‘the right thing’, in so doing we add to the wind of change that is sweeping round the world.
    I have written many essays discussing the times we are living through and calling for fundamental socio-economic change, you may find the final section of this piece of interest.
    And this one –

  7. All these statements are true and brilliant. But each one of them should end with “and therefore we must discuss how to end capitalism.” None of them do, and I can’t understand why.

    • I too struggle with the enormity of concentrated wealth, and the wanton waste ‘hereditary’ venture capital tends to produce and proliferate.

      Truthfully, the core problem is not money per se ~ it is money pursued solely as an end unto itself, corrupted and contaminated by ignorant self-interest & unwarranted privilege; rather than acknowledged as a universal energetic medium to be respected as the most effective means ~ through intelligent, judicious accounting and proportionate distribution as a sensible investment in communities, habitats & education ~ to create a more ecological and creative civilization.

      • Well, I disagree with you.

        First of all, the enormity of concentrated wealth is not an accident. Piketty says it is inherent in our present form of capitalism, and he supports this thesis with lots of data, and with an explanation about the rate of return on investments being greater than the rate of growth of the general economy. I would make a stronger statement: Any system of private property increases inequality. Here is my reasoning: If we don’t share, then we trade, and that benefits both traders — but if more greatly benefits the trader in the stronger bargaining position, thus making his position stronger still, and increasing inequality.

        I would say, furthermore, that the misuse of concentrated wealth is not accidental, but is inevitable. Power corrupts, as the Stanford Prison Experiment proved in 1971. And separate property creates separate lives, and teaches unconcern. I can’t care about you while I’m competing against you.

        Or perhaps I can. Perhaps it is possible to be unselfish, despite an economic system that punishes unselfishness and rewards selfishness. Perhaps it is possible to swim upstream against a very strong river current. Perhaps it is possible to run up the down escalator. But why would anyone want to, when the up escalator is right next to it?

        But all this is hard for most people to see, because we’ve been immersed in the propaganda of private property for 10,000 years. We all live in the Matrix.

    • On weekends, I walk around in a t-shirt that begins: “Love’s infinite possibilities are beyond our control.” Every “ism” must end, because they all are theoretical frameworks that condition our imagining of possibilities.

      I agree absolutely with Graham’s thesis: selfishness is ruining us. I think that it encapsulates the problem. I wish that people would have the courage to phrase so baldly the universal solution: LOVE EACH OTHER! Which is to say: with every choice, seek to create conditions under which power is turned to the support of marvelous relationships.

      • I agree with “love each other,” but I think that is not enough.

        The truth is simple, but the errors that obscure the truth are many and complex, and the most common ones vary from one era to another. The visionaries, seers, prophets speak in response to the most common errors of each age, but their messages only are useful for that age, because the errors of that age are replaced by new errors. I think this is why the Tao begins (in some translations) with the words, “the Tao that can be written is not the true Tao.”

        In our present age, the most common errors are hierarchy and property. Most people find it difficult to imagine a world without those institutions. It’s like the proverbial fish not being aware of the water. And so when someone says “love each other,” most people hear it as “love each other, within the context and limitations of the institutions that you are accustomed to. For instance, love each other within the limitations of a world shaped by hierarchy and property.”

        And so what is at least as important as “love each other,” and perhaps more important, is to make people aware of the limitations to which they are blind, the limitations that subvert all their efforts to love each other.

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