Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Tiny Ray of Hope for the World?

The other day, while researching some matters related to conservation, I lost myself in the maze of Twitter's tweets and retweets. As suspected, I found innumerable ideas––some trite, others well thought, many real good, and a few brilliant.
One tweeter got my attention. In his tweet, he said, repeating the hackneyed thought: "When the last tree is cut, the last river poisoned and the last fish caught, we will discover that we can't eat money." Another tweeter answered, raising the ante a bit: "There's a simple solution: Let's stop idolizing the economy; scale down free enterprise; or else we'll all be dead soon."
So here is the thing. Most people will agree on what the first tweeter said, even though he really hadn't said anything but a nice–sounding sentence that didn't propose any solution. The responder, on the other hand, proposed a solution, which many of the world's top scholars endorse, but do not express because of its unpopularity.
Now, everyone with a clear mind knows that the pursuit of money alone, when morally unrestricted, can lead to a blind greed that recognizes no limits. As it happens, we, more than any other people in the world, idolize our free enterprise and economic systems, many times to the exclusion of other values of much greater import.
When I raised this issue with my brother–in–law O, who lives in Uruguay, a peaceful, relatively prosperous country, he said to me, "That's precisely the problem with America. All that obsession with money––you guys live and die for it––is what makes your country so much admired, but also so much disliked." After I objected ardently saying that most likely his country wasn't much different, he said categorically, "No, no! Here the economy is important, but not exceedingly so," he said. "People here don't live exclusively for money. Maybe that's why most don't have much of it, but almost all of them will tell you that they are happy because of their relatively carefree life."
To convince me, my brother–in–law said, "Why don't you come and spend time with us, and find out for yourself." With tongue–in–cheek he added, "Look, maybe you can help preserve the world's trees and clean its rivers and save it from self–destruction, by learning that there are alternatives to your kind of freedom and prosperity. Come visit us. Be our guest for as long as you like. All paid. You won't have to spend a penny.
I kind of felt embarrassed. I discovered that perhaps he and his fellow citizens were richer than I and my fellow citizens.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Food for Thought

Remember the day, when inspired by a speech given by President Dwight Eisenhower, the media and most of us aimed our collective venom guns at what he called the Military–Industrial Complex? When the president, himself a military man, warned against the collusion of these two powerful forces in our society, a complicity that eventually resulted in the Pentagon paying zillions of dollars for a lousy toilet seat? Well, it appears that yesteryear's corruption has turned our national ethos into a gigantic hydra. It poisoned our nation to the point where nobody talks about it anymore. Where most of us pay lip service to the myriad of immoral practices this hydra has unleashed upon us, the most damaging of these being the new mega collusion we may well call the Military-Industrial-Banking–Government Complex.
We have seen this expanded complex playing out its hypocritical schemes. All the way from the time of the Reagan Administration's market economy––a practice that upended the applecart by changing the old moral–based equation of "cost plus reasonable profit" into the new immoral one of "whatever the market will bear," which opened the floodgates to irresponsible greed and price gouging––aided and abetted by our country's successive administrations' utter mismanagement of our nation's resources.
And yet, We The People, keep relatively quiet, knowingly or unknowingly accepting everything that is thrown at us by Big Business, and yes, also by a government that always seems to side up with it, rarely with the middle class, almost never with the average John Does.
But, is it possible that we are not as enlightened as we think we are?
We heard that the Big Bailout of Wall Street, the auto industry, etc.––anybody but the middle class or the regular John Doe––smacked of socialism. Since when helping the richest is socialism? It is capitalism at its devious worst.
As voters, come election time, we forget our dissatisfaction and fall for the ever–repetitious slogans and promises of the candidates, whose real interest too often is self–promotion and how best to fit into that golden cage, the military-industrial-banking–government complex.
We stand by and allow big business, with government consent, to rob us clean – first by dumping on us a recession they and they alone created, then by misleading us into accepting new laws and regulations meant to help our people, but which at the end only benefit the big guys in business.
Finally, Obama, who scared everyone out of their wits with his feared populist–socialist leanings, now appears to have fallen prey to the very same evils he so eloquently denounced when he came to us in the guise of a savior.
My friends, nothing ever changes. Contrary to the old Western movie stereotype, where the hero cowboy rids the town of the robber barons who took it over, in our real world, the greedy, government–sanctioned, robber barons always win at the end of the day.