Choose Your Web Wisely

Voting, food, career, spending, success– all of these and more are political acts.

We don’t realize it while we’re doing them, but all are meaningful in terms of who they help– ourselves, our families and communities, or the world at large. The mere act of paying rent to the stranger who owns your apartment building, for example, is a behaviour that enriches someone you don’t know instead of you and your loved ones. This is the same for every dollar we spend or every minute we pay attention to something.

We all live in a web of relationships and attention that include friends, family, and co-workers, but you also choose the web you live in, and the ones you decide to help. Every time you choose one web over another, it can change your quality of life for the better.

By deciding to optimize your health by eating at home, for example, you are already deciding not to participate in the McDonald’s and Olive Gardens of the world, choose better quality food for yourself, all while increasing your own competence. By taking part in a farmer’s co-op you are enriching your own neighbourhoods instead of the Wallmarts and Carrefours of the world who would rather shut down stores than allow unions.

Every time you take part in a scheme that favours the rich, you also increase their power over the poor. This also happens every time you talk about Twilight over some other (less popular) movie. Even more important: If you are part of the attention- or capital-poor class, you’re also impoverishing yourself.

Making the choice to be healthy only benefits you and those around you. But if you choose not to care, you take part in a massive web of insurance companies, take out restaurants, and doctors who count on your apathy to profit. Then, the choice of what to do is theirs, not yours.

All acts of purposeful ignorance or negligence enrich others instead of yourself. All acts of learning empower you and those you care about. This is why you should learn to read more, be more crafty, and know how to fix your own car and bike. The sense of competence it comes with is like gold, and you will wonder why it took you so long to get it.

I know I did.



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19 responses to “Choose Your Web Wisely”

  1. Kneale Mann Avatar

    We are not victims. We are not incarcerated. We (hopefully) do not reside in a place where human rights are not respected. We are not them. We cannot blame them. We are not ruled by them. We create our own experiences by the choices we make.

    Another great piece, Julien!

  2. Thursday Bram Avatar

    Your point on the fact that focusing our attention on something like Twilight is comparable to focusing our food intake on fast food fascinates me. It rings true, and makes me wonder why we don’t think in terms of fast food-style media more. There are so many government initiatives dedicated to teaching children to value high-quality food and yet, I can’t think of similar efforts for media literacy.

    1. Julien Avatar

      Heh, thanks. I like to go seriously tangential when the opportunity presents itself.

      If you could give every movie you see a glycemic index, would it be a slow burn like a fruit or a fast burn like bread?

  3. Carolyn Winter Avatar

    Great post! It reminds me of something author Caroline Myss once said “Watch where your brain goes to feed itself” for clues to the life you are living.

    We are always at a point of choice but few seem to realize that or see the bigger picture our choices are creating moment by moment. When we empower our thinking and our choices, everyone around us changes as well, as so graphically evidenced by Nickolas Christakis in his work on social networks (i.e if you are happier if your neighbors are happy). What energy are we putting into our networks with the choices we make and what comes back to us as a result?

    I do like the idea of learning to do it yourself. There is a generation emerging that has no idea of what mashed potatoes made from scratch are or that you can actually make your ketchup, crackers, soda pop, and more. We have outsourced so many things like this that our collective brain has forgotten the original recipe. I personally am on a quest for cold flaked cereal recipes beyond granola.

    All the best,


  4. Charlie Quirk Avatar

    A mind altering perspective Julien — a timely reminder that every choice we make has a consequence. In whatever decision we make, we are voting with our feet.

    Love your description of the growing sense of competence as being akin to gold. When you think about, its even more valuable as gold is an inanimate, useless object.

    I love Warren Buffet’s take on the element:
    “Gold gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or someplace. Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head.”

    Not sure if you’ve read it, but I think you’d enjoy Matthew Crawford’s book, Shopclass as Soulcraft.

    1. Julien Avatar

      Charlie, I have read it! it influenced my thinking for sure. I love the idea of doing a physical thing which you can look at and is obvious, like fixing the wiring so that your lights work properly. great book.

  5. Derek Avatar

    That web – the web of life – is a great metaphor for growing local living economies. You’re right, when we send our money (energy) out of the community, we are silently condoning whatever is done with it afterward. And when we keep it local and in our network, our friends and family and community benefit from it.

    And the resurgence of “re-skilling” (learning old-school skills like canning or baking bread or fixing a car) in some communities has made a real difference, not only in quality of life, but in inter-generational relationships.


  6. Azzurra Camoglio Avatar

    Hi Julien, I agree.
    And I think it’s the same with banks, clothes, shoes, beverages.
    Ethical banks are for example very important, in my opinion. I want to know how my money is used, when, to support what kind of ‘investment’ etc. What do you think about it?

    1. Julien Avatar

      @Azzurra– I absolutely agree. If you’re conscious of what’s going on, you know what you’re supporting.

  7. John Reddish Avatar


    Nicely done. We do create our webs/world, but too often our choices are driven by expediency rather than purpose. Conscious choice demands we be alert and aware. And distraction is soooo easy in our society.

    Many of us choose a product/service because it is no better or worse than its competitors. Little thought is given to who’s behind the brand, what they stand for, and whether we want to be “in business” with them. Change often comes only with dissatisfaction with the brand, never going deeper.

    You present a wonderful thought piece on choice. I hope it is widely read and that more of us become alert and aware. Thanks, John

  8. Azzurra Camoglio Avatar

    @Julien: In Europe ethical banks are increasing. It’s the same in Canada? Is there an ethical bank?

  9. Tim Bursch Avatar

    Great post. Every behavior has a purpose. We can choose. We can live intentionally or we can let life happen, which is a choice too.

  10. Rufus Avatar

    The world belongs to those who can navigate by clock and fist.

    1. Julien Avatar

      @Rufus– great expression! where dies it come from?

  11. Rufus Avatar

    @julien it is the partial title of a book “The stars by clock & fist” by Henry Neely Published in the mid ’50s, I think it has been re-printed, but might be best found in a library..

  12. John Haydon Avatar

    I agree with Richard about making the (not always easy) investment in growing local living economies. It seems like the current economy is imploding in on itself and the future will belong to those who create “hyper-local” interdependent communities.

  13. Andrea Avatar

    I like the way your mind works and your ability to articulate it here. I think it is critical to keep learning but it is frustrating that I do not find that to be the norm. You mentioned a movie and that is a terrific example of where people differ. I get a little angry when I have spent time watching one that ends up being a waste of time. That is 2 hours of my life I won’t get back. Now, not everything has to be earth-shaking and just having some fun is a good thing but sometimes we get caught up in the buzz out there. How we invest our time does matter.

  14. […] eat healthier. You learn how to welcome people at home. You put yourself closer to the source and know what you’re supporting. These are all good […]

  15. Robert Wilson Avatar
    Robert Wilson

    thanks for the post

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