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Banks and investment firms like Bank of America and AIG are very responsible for the current economic disaster. So are all the politicians who proposed or voted for the unjustified and botched bailout of these irresponsible and predatory corporations (George Bush, Obama, McCain, and 74 of 100 U.S. Senators voted for the bailouts). The politicians are also responsible for the wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, encouraging bad economic practices, and the trend towards corrupt subsidies and private-profit/public-expense contracts. We can and should protest again big business, speculative investors, economists, and politicians. But at the end of the day, it's a show. We have little if any direct control over politics and big-business. Our demonstrations will likely have few if any tangible consequences.
However, we can take responsibility and control of ourselves. And we-the-people are very responsible. Too many of us still believe the propaganda of the unbounded-growth model of capitalism. Too many of us held and still hold bank accounts with the likes of Bank of America (who make speculative investments with OUR money). Too many of us still think that the stock market is a legitimate business and good indicator of economic health. Too many of us over-consume, purchasing products that are not appropriate for any real need, that are manufactured under cruel working conditions with inadequate pay, and that are unnecessarily harmful to the environment. Too many of us support chain businesses and restaurants that totally deny human creativity. And most of us still have no idea what environmentalism means (hint: it's not about buying more shit in a "Green" package).
Over the past year, I've become increasingly mindful of and concerned with my personal responsibility. Here are some ideas that I am integrating into my own life. None of these ideas have easy answers and require critical thought and mindfulness. They are perpetual works in progress.
Closing my accounts with for-profit banks and finding better alternatives.
Asking myself if a product will actually make my life better before buying it. Trying a product out in person first is really important.
Being mindful of how my actions and purchasing decisions affect myself, other people, and the environment.
Refusing to "throw my vote away" by voting for politicians that I don't have faith in and don't agree with (ei, big ticket Republican and Democrat candidates).
Fighting alienation, being open to people, and building a community of good friends.
Buying used products whenever it makes sense to do so, which is often.