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A Long Steady Advance

 
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2007 2:33 pm    Post subject: A Long Steady Advance Reply with quote

For the past few years we've been inundated with paradigm shifts and tipping points.

Well, not real ones, but with pundits, bloggers and book writers telling us all about these breakthrough things in concept, and then getting the middle feeders to then claim that some new mp3 player "changes the rules".

All of this paradigm info would have been great ... back in 1999 when the paradigms really did change.

True paradigm shifts were George Bush's change from multilateral decision making to unilateral policy and the end of the last Kondrieff wave (2001).

Now what are we looking forward to? Well, get the shuffleboard kit out, because for people of all ages its as if mankind has been put on retirement. Gradually warming climates and 2% economic growth means that if we don't do too much of anything, we can basically take it easy and enjoy life.

Get a bike. Cook a meal. Don't break any paradigms while your at it. The current ones work just fine.
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brian-hansen
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Joined: 17 Mar 2006
Posts: 712
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You and I, I think, lead pretty privileged lives. Our material needs
are modest, and neither of us are lacking in most of the essentials
to continued happiness. I also agree that many many Americans
are either there with us, or could easily be if they wanted to be.

Indeed, compared to the population of previous generations, we have
more material wealth and comfort than kings, dukes and earls.
It would seem like rank ingratitude for us to be dissatisfied, as mere
citizens, with such a bounty available in this country.

There are, however, 2 areas where I think your "call to the hammock"
is misguided: our relations to those in other countries, and the alarming
trends happening within our own country.

I don't really want to go on at length about such general topics, but
just touch on a few relevant areas. I heard an update on a figure
just yesterday: as 5% of the world population, Americans consume
30% of the world's resources. Another figure, this one from about
10 years ago: people making $30,000 are, when ranked against the
entire world population, in the top quintile. They are among the
"super-rich" by world standards, right up there with Bill Gates. I suppose
the figure is $40-50,000 by now, but the implication remains: we
are living in a kind of utopia of material wealth. But there are hundreds
of millions (perhaps a billion) who live on the equivalent of a dollar a
day. It isn't always easy to know what to do about this, but playing
shuffleboard isn't likely to help.

Increasingly, foreign people do not trust the intentions of our government.
We are seen as reinvigorating our imperialist/colonialist national program,
giving lip service to expanding democracy, but backing repressive,
authoritarian, and anti-democratic regimes, in order to continue
extracting resources from an increasingly limited repository. Even
sympathetic foreign leaders find it harder to justify cooperation with
the US because we are increasingly unpopular with their populaces.
In a world where last remaining credible threat to our military hegemony
is the asymmetrical threat of terrorism against civilians, it is good to
have friends in foreign places. We've encouraged many peoples to
be our enemies.

Our trade debt continues to grow quite rapidly. We are the largest
debtor nation in the world. This is unsustainable.


On the home front, we are told that we are engaged in "the long war".
It's endless war, as sometimes slips out, a war that cannot be "won"
according to Bush Jr. himself. This larger "war on terror" (a battle
against the feeling of being afraid!) makes as much sense as wars on
poverty and drugs, etc. The metaphor of "war" is simply inapposite.
But war it is, because war is what our current administration wants.

I'm an American. I share the near-universal revulsion to the attacks
of September 2001, and the same desire for justice to be done regarding
the perpetrators of those attacks. Our current administration sold and
sold and sold the neat little package that Iraq was responsible for
our anguish and that this was where we need to attack. In a major
victory for the pr flacks, the announcement for the war was delayed,
because "you don't introduce new products in August".

The "endless" war is a prescription for the dilution of civil liberties,
and the "current phase" of the war, is a gigantic waste of our national
treasure, including the lives of our soldiers, the friendship of other
countries, and money ($180/home/week - see my other post in "Units
of measurement"). Endless war leads to the elimination of the
guarantee of habeas corpus. US citizens can be imprisoned indefinitely,
with no access to a judge or a lawyer, with no charges filed, on the
order only of the President. Patriots died for those protections.

Your home and records can be searched without warrants or notice,
your phone illegally tapped, your computer access tracked. Executive
order 51 contains secret sections that describe the unilaterally-determined
powers that the executive can assume in the event of another
domestic attack. It seems that one would be dilatory if one claimed that
we are heading toward a police state or even martial law.

Morris Berman argues persuasively ("Dark Ages America: the Final Phase
of Empire") that we are heading towards an inevitable overshoot and
collapse of our society. Military adventures abroad, a "hollowing out"
at home, destabilizing capital flows, growing disparities of wealth, and
surprisingly, the deteriorization of our communities and the respect
with which we treat each other, are the key factors he mentions.

He doesn't describe this exactly, but the image I got from reading his
book was a kind of return to Feudalism, with more and more people
devoting their working hours to make sure that rich people had whatever
they wanted. And then, buying an SUV in order to feel superior, to
fill the emptiness.

I'm not sure if you've ever heard the "new paradigm" talk from me
directly (not the kind of language I usually use), but there are many
good reasons to hold off on the shuffleboard for a little while.

Oddly enough, I find your advice to be at least partially pretty sound.
One way or another, we're going to need to reduce our level of
consumption, to find other ways to fill the emptiness within. Riding
a bike, or cooking a meal are both pretty good suggestions.

-Brian
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2007 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Americans consume 30% of the world's resources. Another figure, this one from about 10 years ago: people making $30,000 are, when ranked against the entire world population, in the top quintile.


We speak of consumption as wealth. What is consumption? Is it throughput? The idea that I can eat, snort, devour pounds of goods per day? That's never been the traditional definition of wealth...it's been more how much land, how big a castle, how many servants. So, here we are, crammed into little houses and apartments, with a tiny patch of grass, and everyone says we're rich...I'm not so sure.
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brian-hansen
Site Admin


Joined: 17 Mar 2006
Posts: 712
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2007 8:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I should've known that you would catch me on this one. Its been 10 years since I heard the stats on wealth world-wide and income. My memory on
how these two were linked in that particular presentation has gotten hazy.

I guess I was hoping the reader would see the one (income) as a proxy
for the other (wealth). And I think this is fairly reasonable.

Obviously, wealth is income that was not consumed.

The other question is a bit trickier. Kings had castles and cows, but mostly
power over other humans. We don't need to have that same power over
others that kings needed to live a full and comfortable life. I don't need
cattle in my back 40 to eat a steak. A castle, on the other hand, might
be nice...

Throughout millenia, humanity has searched for ways to accumulate
wealth as a hedge against uncertainty. Without a market, bushels of
corn are more valuable than their weight in gold. Our mechanisms for
accumulating wealth have developed to the point where wealth has
come to have an entirely different meaning.

Excess wealth has always been a burden, and attracts thieves and
pests and the wear of time. It can stunt and twist its owner, distorting
one's relation to others. I'm happy enough not to have a castle...
probably would be drafty anyway!

-Brian
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Visit the Instant Postcard Collection @ http://instant-postcard-collection.com
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Researching your dissertation? Serious collector? Just looking for something neat?
You've found the right place to add to your existing collection, or to start a new one.
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