I just read an article about the New Puritans in the Observer.
They’re the New Puritans. A generation of young, educated and opinionated people determined to sidestep the consumerist perils of modern life. [source]
Of course, the term New Puritan is tongue-in-cheek and meant to grab attention and be a little funny (which it is).
On the other hand, it does reinforce a somewhat outdated view that we live simple lives out of any sense of “duty” or “ethics”.
For me, it is pure self-interest.
When I reduce consumption, I can work fewer hours (or retire earlier), I am more free in choosing meaningful work since I am not dependent on a high income, and I have more time for other activities, family and friends.
And when I choose more Earth-friendly activities and lifestyle, this too is in pure self-interest. My human self is intimately embedded in the larger social and ecological systems, so when I act in a way that benefits these larger systems, it directly and indirectly benefits myself as well.
And there are also many many choices which are of benefit at all levels, from my human self and up.
These include eating locally produced and organic food: it is cheap since I can buy it from the farmer, it is fresh and tastes wonderful, it is good for my body, it is good for the local economy, it keeps family farms in business, and it is good for our local ecology.
When I use a bike instead of a car to get around, I get much appreciated exercise, I get to know my neighborhood and the local area much more intimately, I am connected with nature, I save large amounts of money which otherwise would go to gas and a car, and it is good for society and the Earth as precious oil is not spent and it does not pollute.
When I reduce my consumption, I can afford to choose work that is more meaningful and also benefits the larger social and ecological whole, and I can spend more time with family, friend and neighbors. At the same time, I do not use precious natural resources, nor do I fuel the currently very (socially and ecologically) destructive global economy – patterned as it is on neo-liberal ideology – and multi-national corporations.
Wherever I look, there are benefits all around when I choose according to what is good at all levels of the holarchy.
Choosing as if only one level (such as my human self, the country etc.) was the only level that mattered, the consequences will come back and bite me. Choosing as if the holarchy, including all levels, is one seamless system – which it is – I benefit myself in every possible way.
Another way to put it is to say that when my “self” is the Earth as a whole, including its social and ecological subsystems, then my choices naturally are aimed at benefiting the holarchy from the largest whole and all the way down to my human self and its parts.
Of course, I am still dependent on insight and information to make wise choices, but the direction and the intention is quite different, and the impact is likely to be quite different as well.