There is no better metaphor for today’s world than to imagine that we have all, human beings and other living beings, embarked on the same boat. Among us, certain play their roles, having taken responsibility for their environment and the future debts left behind for future generations. Others, however, do not care, and enjoy the benefits, and act like stowaways, taking advantage of the trip without paying the fare; and content to let the boat deteriorate.
This boat is our planet.
This is a typical behaviour, at all levels. It is rooted in the logic of the dominant ideology, which is individualistic; and this individualism has its source in economic and political liberalism, populism, narcissism, Buddhism, or any other type of apologia for the “self first.”
Many people benefit from public services, without paying their fair share of the costs or doing their share of the labour that could benefit all. And there are also many stowaways in nations and territories; and even in families, some of whose members benefit from the work of others, without sharing anything related to the joint effort.
Contrary to the traditional image or to what many people try to make believe, stowaways do not emerge from the poorest or migrant classes: we know that the wealthiest are masters at not paying their fair share; whether they are professional freeloaders or billionaires without a conscience, they would like to believe that everything is owed to them.
This type of behaviour is the main cause of the current situation in the world, including the situations related to the climate, pollution, waste, public debt, injustice, material and moral misery of many people.
Even worse, many of these stowaways push their selfishness to its limit, and allow themselves to criticize the state of the world, nations and families, and public services, and forget that they are the main culprits. Sometimes, some of the stowaways even threaten to leave the boat, and forget the benefits they receive from it.
We are all tempted, in the communities to which we belong, to think that others are stowaways, that they do not pay their fair share, and that they do not partake in the joint effort; and to criticize others, broadly, for their selfish behaviour; each one of us sees the other, too often, as the culprits who survive at our expense. And the more we see others in this light, the less effort we make to be good citizens ourselves; and the less successful we are in maintaining a community.
We must, however, ask ourselves, and honestly, about our own situation: Are we sure that we are paying an honest share of our journey on this planet? Are we sure that we are doing our fair share of the work of supporting our nation, territory, or family? An honest introspection on this matter, on a permanent basis, is more than necessary.
In particular, on the eve of the European elections, this question has come up on many levels. It is clear that the British have chosen, very largely and from the outset, to be stowaways of the European Union, by refusing to contribute toward the solidarity of the continent; and they are now reaping the consequences from this, by leaving the ship; other countries, which have not thought for a moment about leaving, are even worse, such as tax havens and countries that do everything they can to reduce their contribution to the budget of the European community; such are also the companies that benefit from the advantages of the single market and refuse to pay any specific European taxes. And so many others.
Hence the importance of the idea of a genuine European budget, which can be funded by national contributions, to upgrade our common, social and environmental infrastructures; even if this means setting up a new European Parliament that only brings together the representatives of the national parliaments of countries that are willing to contribute to the costs and partake in the benefits of such specific investments.
As a family, it is time to rethink all our behaviour in the different territories and countries, and in Europe and the planet as a whole, to ensure that we can pass on to future generations something other than rusty old wrecks of distressed boats.