Learning from Tim Jackson — Episode 2 of Express Change

In 2017, Tim Jackson was the starting point. With him, I began my ‘rethinking journey’ on everything I thought I knew about economic growth. Let’s not forget: For 17 years, between 1999 and 2016, I was an advertising man, an ambassador of economic growth.

When we developed the first version of our show ‘vollehalle‘ in the summer of 2017, Kai and I had a chance to interview Tim. That conversation turned into a keystone piece of our initial performance — a fifteen minute staged ‘conversation’ between myself and the recording of Tim’s, projected on the screen next to me. Ever since, his poetic language and clarity of vision have been an inspiration. His ideas led me to finding Katherine Trebeck, and then starting my documentary film project which I am currently completing (spring/summer of 2024).

Consequently, it was a particular pleasure to interview Tim for our podcast. Here is episode 2 of Express Change:

Of the many lessons from the conversation, two stood out to me. The first one concerns the burdens we place on ourselves.

If you start thinking to yourself ‘either I publish this book and persuade this government and change this policy and create this impact — or it doesn’t happen’, then you’re not really doing yourself any favours because that is an impossible burden to carry.

Tim Jackson about the ‘subjective imperative of activism’

Everyone who stares the dire truth in the face knows the feeling: Oh my god, I must do something. But what the hell can I do?

It is absolutely over-whelming. Because it is an unanswerable question: What can one person do — facing a catastrophe that has been generations in the making, that has its grotesquely gigantic structures and rules, and which is perceived as a non-negotiable normality by almost everyone?

When Tim told us that we must not put this burden onto ourselves, it was very liberating to me. He is right, of course. We can only do honest, earnest work for the good cause — jointly with others. But no single human being can change the course of history and save humanity. We can all make mere contributions, do our best, remain humble, stay open. And not forget to breathe, as we are taking down-times.

My other take-away is closely related to the first. It this: We should not take ourselves too seriously — no matter how serious the situation the world is in.

I think of that bit of my life as being a character, in some kind of bigger drama — and it’s a useful position to take because it means I don’t have to worry too much when I get trashed by other, mainstream economists, telling me I am talking rubbish. Because that would happen in a drama.

Tim Jackson, about how his past as a playwright informs his work as an ‘accidental economist’

Tim recommends that we see ourselves not as characters in our own drama, but as characters in someone else’s story, as supporting characters. We cannot — unlike Tobey Maguire in Spiderman or Tim Robbins in Shawshank Redemption — fight our way out of this misery by ourselves. This story needs to happen with an incredible ensemble cast.

Do subscribe to Express Change on one of the many platforms we are putting it on; I truly believe it’s worth listening to — I learned an incredible amount from these conversations.

And here are Tim’s two seminal books about the kind of human economy and society that can actually exist on this planet in the long term: ‘Post Growth‘ and ‘Prosperity Without Growth


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