There is a graffiti piece in Finsbury Park that reads “Poor is cool”.
“Poor is definitely not cool”, Charlie responded when she saw this. “Rich and privileged people say that because they’ve never truly felt the pain of being poor.”
When experiencing privilege, I have felt it’s very hard to cede it. What I understand of Charlie’s argument is that if people experience true destitution—and they can go back to their familiar comfort—they will.
Poor people think rich is cool. Rich means comfort, quality of life, pools of options.
“Let’s just get a taxi, for once”, sometimes Charlie suggests. I reject her proposal. “But it’s so much cooler to cycle!”, I say.
We cycle everywhere but sometimes it’s harder than usual. Maybe it’s raining or maybe it’s late or maybe we’re too tired. It requires extra strength to cycle then.
“Every time we cycle, do you wish we were in a car instead?”, I ask Charlie. Because I don’t. I try not to, that is. It’s a conscious endeavour to change my dreams.
To be in a car means to drill into the earth, pull out oil, process, distribute, and finally burn. Every single one of these processes is severely detrimental to everyone: the people who do it, the people who are around, the people who use it, and even the non-people beings, plants included—and that’s true at present but also for the far future; CO2 remains out by default.
To cycle, on the other hand, means to operate an elegant machine while at the same time becoming stronger and healthier (at least on our cycle-to-commute level). Cycling is antifragile while [fossil fuel] car driving is not only fragile but also unsustainable in an insanely short-term timeframe.
So, this is why cycling is cooler. But why does it matter what’s cooler? Because what we dream while we are free to dream anything is the process which defines our desires. If we don’t control this process, we don’t control our lives.
In other words, if we dream for elite luxuries, then we celebrate people who have material wealth. Inevitably, then, we want to become like them. These role models that we admire and aspire to—as we stroll around, when we are thinking without a filter—define who we want to be. If we change these stories, we change our desires.
And if we change our desires, we change the world. So, that’s how we change the world. One thought at a time.
Addendum: I’m writing a book on democracy, which explores ideas like this one. If interested, read more here.