[personal profile] ewt
I've been thinking a lot the last few weeks about community and responsibility and effectiveness and improvement and interconnectedness. I've been thinking about how lucky I am that my two main career activities do actually involve making the world better, in some small way. I have also the privilege of working and playing with so many people who make the world better in a variety of different ways... and I'm not just talking about career stuff there, by a long way: people I know through social and family groups are pretty amazing, too.

I think it's very easy, though, to lose sight of what we do to improve the world, and to lose sight of what we would like to do. I think that in something this important, awareness is a good thing. So, some questions:

What do you currently do as a regular part of your life that improves the world? How does it work? What are you actually contributing?

What would you like to do to improve the world, that you don't currently participate/engage in?

Is there someone in your life, near or far, who inspires you to make improvements? What do they do that is so special? How has it affected you directly, and how has it affected you indirectly?


What do you currently do as a regular part of your life that improves the world? How does it work? What are you actually contributing?

I am, by career, a performer and a teacher of music. I could wax on about the philosophy of both of those things for quite a long time but what my contribution really boils down to, I think, is shared joy. Shared meaning, even, shared beauty. If find music that is amazing and I perform it and one person in the audience finds it moving or beautiful then I have done my job successfully. If I help one student to learn tools which give them access to greater understanding of the world or themselves (and oh, so much of what I teach is about that rather than really being about music), I have done my job successfully. I teach regularly. I performed regularly in the past and am working up to more regular performance again, of a different standard. I find it deeply satisfying that I have these two things as the mainstay of my career, as well as deeply frustrating when I don't know if I'm doing them effectively.

I try to be honest with myself and with others, slow to condemn, cautious of doing harm and quick to make amends. I try to see the best in everyone. I have no special talent in any of these but I hope that perhaps some aspects of my life can be a small example, a small shadow of what might be possible, that perhaps people who don't come into formal contact with me as a performer or teacher can still benefit from my best attempts at candid understanding and right action. My best attempts are clumsy and awkward, but better than they'd be if I gave up trying.

What would you like to do to improve the world, that you don't currently participate/engage in?

I would like to be a far more ethical consumer of the world's resources: the fact is that I put my performance and teaching first, and my health limits what else I can do. I would like to eat far more local food, I would like to be far more discerning in my choices about which animal products I will use. I would like to cook more and eat out less, buy nothing which isn't Fair Trade at the very least, and do more to support ethical business. Instead I work hard all day and come home and often find that I'm so exhausted my options are 'get a takeaway and manage to get somethign else done tonight' or 'cook and wash up, but do nothing else tonight except sleep'.

I would like to do more structured, organised volunteer work with others. I used to help with the Cub Scouts but couldn't continue when I started university; I don't know that I could do something quite that involved again but an hour or two a week toward a cause I care about would make me feel much better about my place on the planet.

I'm hoping I'll be able to improve on both of these after my degree; it depends on the performance schedule, to an extent, but also on whether I can find somewhere to live with good food growing-and-storage facilities. The time-and-space cost is the thing that is getting me on this stuff now.

I would like to make more financial contributions to worthy charities. Right now that simply isn't an option: I have other costs to cover, and I don't improve the world by going bankrupt. It is also something that I hope to resume after university, though it may have to wait longer than the others.

Is there someone in your life, near or far, who inspires you to make improvements? What do they do that is so special? How has it affected you directly, and how has it affected you indirectly?

Oh, a thousand times yes! And no, I didn't make this question up just to gush about someone I care for.

I've been inspired and helped by many, many people in my life, and for this I am very grateful. I'm not going to talk about any particular one so my answers are going to be a bit vague, but I do encourage you to think about specific people in your life who are inspiring, if that helps you.

On the whole, those who have helped me have been people who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself, people who have been honest with me when I've been too frightened or confused to even ask the right questions, people who have picked me up and dusted me off and pointed me in the right direction again when I'd fallen or lost my way. I've been lost or nearly-lost an awful lot of times, and rescued just as many, and I still think it's amazing that there are people in the world who will do that.

Those who have inspired me have shown true courage and commitment to do the right thing in the face of difficult circumstances. That courage doesn't always mean a confrontational conflict, though it can at times. Seeing other people being courageous, in any way, gives me great hope. I suppose I've seen fear as a major negative force in my life, and it's good for me to see that people with more reason to fear than I have ever had are still able to overcome their fears and do good in the world.


Heavy stuff for a Sunday afternoon, but do have a go...

Date: 2008-09-07 04:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devvie.livejournal.com
What do you currently do as a regular part of your life that improves the world? How does it work? What are you actually contributing? I work as a freelancer in the broadcasting world. Not sure "news" really helps the world. I also work temp for a men's Catholic community and they help a lot of people. I've worked for communities in a Media area, and not all are that great...no surprise there huh?

What would you like to do to improve the world, that you don't currently participate/engage in? I would like to work with the elderly.

Is there someone in your life, near or far, who inspires you to make improvements? What do they do that is so special? How has it affected you directly, and how has it affected you indirectly? This is lame, but my Mom and Dad are my inspiration simply because they are so kind. Growing up (they divorced when I was 9)...but growing up they took in friends of my siblings who either were neglected mentally or physically. They inspire me to be a more loving and caring person. They are also very successful...but the work field never really counted as a place they considered as part of being a good person.

I have to add my paternal Grandmother to the last question. She was a wonderful person but also was a protege in violin and gave me my love of music just by hearing her play, which is priceless!

Date: 2008-09-07 11:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ewtikins.livejournal.com
Thanks for your response, it's interesting to see what makes other people tick.

The work with the men's Catholic community sounds fascinating, and your parents sound like very amazing people: I think a lot of people have sympathy for those suffering from neglect, but it takes a special sort of person to actively do something about it.

Date: 2008-09-07 11:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] devvie.livejournal.com
Thank you ewtie and I love the way your mind thinks. You constantly make us think. Aside from these questions. I just happened to find a men's community filled with the genuine article. People who are kind and true. As for my Mom and Dad, they are very amazing people. Some kids who go through divorce become bitter no matter the age. I have been lucky enough to see my parents as people....no doubt they have their flaws, but they are just so kind and brilliant. I'm constantly amazed as they and I grow older. I was also gifted by a Grandmother who not only adored me, but was as talented as they come. After she won this extrodenary violin from David Rockerfeller, she used it to play for the Henry Street development and spread her knowledge to others who never would have had the opportunity to be exposed or learn the beauty of music.

Thank you for being so kind to me during my own time of struggle. You're the best.

Date: 2008-09-07 07:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com
What do you currently do as a regular part of your life that improves the world? How does it work? What are you actually contributing?

The union activism, definitely. Helping people keep/improve their jobs is v important. It's hard sometimes but so worthwhile - I can actually *see* my positive contribution before my eyes! Also: vegetarianism (great from an environmental perspective); commitment to reducing energy usage; writing grumpy emails to MPs through writetothem - sometimes! Some involvement with the radical history group.

What would you like to do to improve the world, that you don't currently participate/engage in?

Bloody hell, I can't even start to list them all! I'd like to be able to get back into doing duty advisor voluntary work at county courts again. I'd also love to work for FRU, but my work hours make that impossible :-( I'd like to engage in more front-line activism - am considering going to next year's Riga Pride, and maybe future Climate Camp-like things. I regret that my job makes protesting in Parliament Square virtually impossible. I intend once I have moved to; grow own veg; put up wind turbine; create pump system to re-use 'waste' water from eg washing machine to flush toilets; care for animals; contribute to animal sanctuaries; rationalise charity donations; re-subscribe to Amnesty, Greenpeace, HRW, Red Pepper & lots more; organise LGBT history seminar/s

That's just a few things for starters anyway.

Is there someone in your life, near or far, who inspires you to make improvements? What do they do that is so special? How has it affected you directly, and how has it affected you indirectly?

[livejournal.com profile] moonsquirrel is an amazing influence in so many ways - I admire his dedication and energy, almost without equal. [livejournal.com profile] alextiefling inspired me not to join my union but to become a shop steward - his beief in the 'calling' of the work is very impressive. [livejournal.com profile] julietk does an amazing amount, and I don't know how *genuflects in her general direction* Funnily enough, my mother, though very different form me politically, has been a charity worker, volunteer and human rights activist for as long as I can remember, and her belief in the importance of fairness has definitely helped shape me.

Date: 2008-09-07 10:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ewtikins.livejournal.com
Thanks for your response. :)

Bloody hell, I can't even start to list them all!

Heh. Me too, I think I should have phrased this better. Maybe '3 things you don't do but would like to, and reasons you aren't doing them, and when you think you'll be able to change this' would have been saner in some ways.

Er, do you mean [livejournal.com profile] m00nsquirrel?

Date: 2008-09-08 07:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com
Oops! Yes I do, I always forget the zeroes...

*blush*

BTW, we have bottles and jars for you, if you'd like to stop by some time on your way from Greenwich? No rush for that, we will probably find more while packing too, just not sure how soon you need them.

Date: 2008-09-08 09:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] battlekitty.livejournal.com
You may be aware of this already but: be careful with wind turbines. They are very, very site specific and built up areas don't tend to have a very good wind resource to start off with. I personally don't think it's a good thing to put one up on ethical grounds in a location they're not going to be effective - it's a waste of money and sets a bad example (ie: you won't get your money back on it, and people tend to notice perceived "failures" more than successes).

Grey water systems can be bought commercially now, I think... You would have loved the conference I was at a few weeks back. If you find yourself in the middle of Wales, go to CAT :)

Date: 2008-09-08 07:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] friend-of-tofu.livejournal.com
Yes, I agree with you. I'm only considering it if I can find a suitable product at an affordable price (I don't mind an investment, if it's going to recoup its cost - something that solar panels apparently rarely do). Thanks for the suggestions, I shall try and have a peek at that site when i have time. Any further suggestions are definitely welcome!

Date: 2008-09-08 10:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] battlekitty.livejournal.com
What do you currently do as a regular part of your life that improves the world? How does it work? What are you actually contributing?

Ack - absolutely nothing, except maybe my CAT membership :/ And whittering on about renewables at times. I guess at the membership conference I gave people a much better idea of some political concepts. The odd thing is that one of the people I was talking to was a nominated member of the green party... (He annoyed a lot of people by not quite being with it. I mean, really - a speech to try to get an idea of what form of carbon "tax" would be better without considering fuel poverty nor beign able to properly explain 2 of the options to a room full of people who a) generally have a clue and b) are interested in the topic?? That's special!)

What would you like to do to improve the world, that you don't currently participate/engage in?

Use my degree :) In terms of a single step right now: contact the guy who offered me a potential job during the CAT conference...! (Well, it was a "Ah - we're looking for an engineer at the moment... what do you think of biomass?" Being able to say I had been involved in a project from exactly the right angle is a rare treat for me!)

Also: get myself a house, possibly/ideally building it myself, and growing my own veg and learning how to preserve them and all that. I'll believe that if it happens...!

Is there someone in your life, near or far, who inspires you to make improvements? What do they do that is so special? How has it affected you directly, and how has it affected you indirectly?

Not really. I have some fantastic people around me and in my life, but I don't find it so much of an inspiration directly. My grandma has always been a fantastic example of giving back to a community - she volunteered with Meals on Wheels up until she got put in a home. The best bit was her dragging us around doing deliveries as it helped "the old people" to have some young people to talk to etc... she was older than many of the people she delivered to seemed! It's not really something I'd be any good at, though. (Bah - people!) (She turned 95 a few weeks back)

Actually, there is one person who has made me think a lot more about food and where it comes from and how to cut down that impact and things like "social disaster planning"... [livejournal.com profile] ewtikins, take a bow! :)

Date: 2008-09-08 01:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tijntje.livejournal.com
What do you currently do as a regular part of your life that improves the world? How does it work? What are you actually contributing?

I suppose it all depends on how you want to look at things. One could say that by doing my job okay, I relieve people of having to do tedious and repetitive work under abysmal working conditions, and I make people happy because their veggies and fruits at the supermarket look bright and sparkly. It might even sound like I do improve the world.

On the other hand, I could also point out that by doing my job okay, I make people (who usually live in already weak economies) unemployed, and I contribute to the growing problem of people rejecting perfectly good and tasty produce just because there's a minor, purely aesthetic defect, making me sound like I'm amongst the most despicable creatures to roam this earth.

I'm not quite sure which side to pick. Maybe I'll just go and pretend that my karma is neutral in this.

Other than that, I do small maintenance on the apartment building I'm living in on a voluntary basis, so that the other people living there have working lights in the hallway, a working heating system and a door that actually keeps out the baddies. But since I have a personal interest in that as well (it's also my lights, and my heating, and my door), and since I'm not doing it out of the goodness of my heart but because noone else will do it, I'll ignore this as well.

So no, unfortunately, I don't do good. I try not to do bad though. It's a start :-/

Date: 2008-09-08 09:19 pm (UTC)
karen2205: Me with proper sized mug of coffee (Default)
From: [personal profile] karen2205
What do you currently do as a regular part of your life that improves the world? How does it work? What are you actually contributing?

What I do at work counts as world improving in my mind - getting appropriate education for kids means that there will be fewer people dependent on the state and they will be less likely to end up in the criminal justice system.

What would you like to do to improve the world, that you don't currently participate/engage in?

When I have my head in the clouds, I'd like to be a dictator for a few days and set in motion lots of improvements to the world like proper access to health care and education in the third world, changes to tax systems to make environmentally friendly stuff less highly taxed and probably various other things.

More practically, I'm not really sure - I'd like to get involved in sitting on my local town council or similar and contribute to the community in that way. I imagine I will get reinvolved in Guiding when I have children.

I want to learn more first aid at some point.

Is there someone in your life, near or far, who inspires you to make improvements? What do they do that is so special? How has it affected you directly, and how has it affected you indirectly?

M = person who ran Guides when I was a Guide was inspiring in terms of contributing to the community. I suppose she was inspiring because she led by example, but there was always the element of 'this is the done thing' + 'this is something you *should* do' that worked well for me but may well not have worked for others.

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