Monday, February 08, 2010

The Underlying Principle of What I've Been Posting

So, I've realized in hindsight I probably should have started with this post, before posting my first and second posts on dealing with the current state of things. Overall, what I've been trying to do is give people ideas to deal with all the bad stuff that is currently going on. However, there is an underlying principle to the two previous posts (and some posts that are yet to be written). This is the idea of trying to generate positive change on different levels.

So, what do I mean by generating positive change? It's really just trying to improve stuff on three main levels. The first level is self-improvement, which is making changes that help one cope with all the negativity that is going on. The second level is helping those around you, by which I mean the people who you interact with on a regular basis and are important to you. This could be friends, family, or co-workers. The third level is improving things for everyone, including future generations.

The important take-away is that you focus on yourself first. It is much easier to make positive change for others if you have your own life under control. To quote Gandhi, "We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.", and "My life is my message".

There are three other things to take into account. The first is that small positive changes may not seem to be worthwhile on their own, but the cumulative effect can be great. Several small changes are far more realistic than a single drastic change. The second thing is the contagious nature of actions. If your life becomes more positive, others will be positively affected. In this sense, the value of your positive actions stretches well beyond your own life. The third thing is that a large group of people making a bunch of small positive changes may make the large societal problem that currently seem insurmountable into something that can be addressed.

Tomorrow, I will talk about social isolation and our divided society, and what can be done about it (wow, I'm feeling inspired now!).

Friday, February 05, 2010

One thing you can do to save money that you may not have thought of

This is the second post in my attempt to give people ideas about what they can do to help out in these hard times. If you haven't already, you should read yesterday's post. Since most people are struggling with financial issues, I figured you might be interested in helping yourself out. So, here it is: Go DIY. This seems kind of vague, but the trick is in figuring out where it make sense to DIY, and find places to save money by doing stuff yourself. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
  • Grow a garden to save money on groceries
  • Do your own oil changes
  • Cook meals rather than buying prepackaged meals or eating out
  • Do your own home repair (if possible)
  • Mend worn out clothing to make it last longer
There is a bit more to this. First, you can also trade goods and services with others, to extend the power of what you can make or do. Second, it is worthwhile to learn some skills. It could be worthwhile to cook a friend dinner in exchange for them teaching you how to change the oil in your car. Third, there are countless ways that DIY could be applied that I haven't thought of. If you have good DIY suggestions, please post them in the comments.

I will have yet another post either tomorrow or Monday, depending on when I feel like it.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Two things you can do to help the economy

So, I've been frustrated by what has been going on in our country recently. There are so many different problems that are all interrelated that affect pretty much everyone. I've decided to try to come up with things that you can do to help address these. To simplify this, I'm going to keep it simple, and only suggest things that are easy to do.

To begin, I'm going to address the economy. Here are the two things you can do to help the economy, as it affects regular people (not the super-rich).

1. Try to utilize local businesses over corporations, and buy stuff made locally or domestically rather than stuff made overseas. Use farmer's markets, locally owned restaurants, mom and pop shops, or even buy stuff from people on craigslist.

2. Use a local bank or a credit union if you're not already. Avoid the major banks at all costs.

The rationale behind these suggestions is to keep money in the community. Studies have found that money spent at local businesses has a greater impact on the local economy than money spent at a corporate chain. This is because local businesses spend more money locally than major corporations. Major corporations are legally bound to be profit-driven. Because of this, corporations are by definition trying to get as much money out of the community for as little value as possible (i.e. turn a big profit). On top of that, they must keep overhead (spending) down. Where does the money go? Proportionately, far less goes back to regular people than it goes to the super-rich and to people in countries where jobs have been outsourced to. I know this is a generalization, but statistically it describes the situation accurately in a simplified form (so there are lots of details being glossed over, and some exceptions, but it works as a general rule).

As far as the bank thing, local banks and credit unions support the communities they are in, by providing loans to the people and small businesses in that community. This is made possible by the deposits of the people in the community. The major banks, the ones bailed out by the government, use deposits as a way to invest in complicated financial devices (that aren't very different than gambling), and do unethical things to make money, such as pushing bad loans to make money in fees and then reselling those loans as complicated financial devices.

These are relatively simple, but if a significant group of people begin to do them, it could help the bad economic situation that we see everyday in a real way.