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Individual Collectiveness

The key is remembering you are not alone.

Today, we’re going to put our hands up. Shrewd and cool folks amongst you - who read everything we release - will no doubt remember we took a bit of a swipe at Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in our "A Routine Check Up" blog post.

Well, Jeff Bezos appears to have read it too... as he's decided to put his hand in his vast pockets. This week the gazillionaire, who we must now refer to as a philanthropist, pledged a respectable $10 billion to tackle climate change. He announced he is launching the Bezos Earth Fund, a "global initiative that will fund scientists, activists, NGOs - any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world..."

On a personal level, I now feel a lot better about my Amazon Prime subscription. In fact I am less likely to be hesitant when shopping on Amazon in general. Now, whether three ghostly apparitions visited Jeff Bezos in the night, he had a near-miss in his private jet, or he found God is a moot point. The simple fact is we must applaud acts of altruism like this. That said, neither should we neglect or indeed belittle more modest efforts. For, whilst it’s true that great acts of kindness like Jeff Bezos's recent pledge, that of Leonardo DiCaprio or the stellar work of The Gates Foundation make a huge impact... it’s the individual acts that we as a society must do that make the most difference. Little steps, no matter how insignificant they may seem, still contribute to the climb.

There is also a hidden danger in such public acts of altruism and that is the danger of complacency. It’s easy to conclude that huge cash contributions are enough to lessen the immediate concern and so diminish our own need to act. So, while we should, and must, encourage the likes of Jeff Bezos, we can’t allow ourselves to pass the buck.

Not everyone has $10 Billion to spare.

It’s true that as a society we’re all on different parts of the board. For every Jeff Bezos with a hotel on Park Lane, there are a million of us scared to land on Pall Mall. That doesn’t mean we can’t act. It doesn’t excuse us from doing so, but acting alone can be daunting when you don’t have unlimited resources.

In a recent conversation with my partner, I was trying to find a term for the act of doing something buoyed by the hope that others are also doing the same. The closest thing I could come up with was the term ‘paying it forward’. While this does explain a little of what I was trying to say, it didn’t capture the essence. So, in the end, I coined one of my own. I chewed a few ideas around and ended up with the title of this article.

Individual Collectiveness.

Individual Collectiveness is my term to describe the phenomenon of acting alone in the belief others are doing the same. It is the belief that our individual sacrifices and actions do not occur in a vacuum. It is an antidote to the idea that there’s no point in taking action on a personal level because our individual actions do not amount to anything.

Logic tells me that we seldom act alone, even though we might be unaware of a collective movement. If everyone who chose not to act alone, because they believed their effort would be futile, actually believed that someone else - even if it was only a single other soul  - was doing the same thing, we’d be living in Utopia in a few years.

The key to Individual Collectiveness is one-part faith and two parts common sense. The faith is easy and requires us only to believe in others. The common sense element is even simpler, the act of considering acting is not unique to us. Others are, of course, having the same ideas. Plus the best bit about Individual Collectiveness is that despite the concept being this article old... it WORKS.

Here’s the thing, about twenty years ago I decided to become a vegetarian. This was long before the net and back in a time when the fourth TV channel was controversial. So, I wanted to be a vegetarian. The problem was veggie food was both expensive and far from universally available. So I had a choice, I could stay eating meat or I could attempt to change the status quo. In my reasoning, I chose to assume I was not alone... that there would be other people out in the world with the same dilemma. I reasoned that if we all took the plunge, our collective buying power would drive prices down and increase the availability of options. These many years later, I know I was right.

And finally, to the point, if you’re considering changing to plastic-free packaging, starch-based dog poo bags, eating less meat, starting an urban garden, perhaps even sleeping under a sustainable duvet; or doing anything you hope will make a difference, but you’re scared to go it alone… don’t be. Because the key to Individual Collectiveness is knowing you are never really on your own. Thanks for reading and please don’t forget to share.

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