Our Search For Meaning

In a world that some mornings seems to have gone mad, it is all too easy to give up hope.  I once gave a talk at Oxford University and a man in the front row asked, after I was finished talking about co-operatives, “But Mr Webb I liked much of what you said but surely you must realize that capitalist corporations have already won.  They dominate the world.  Why do you not just give up and go home?”  I responded that,  “I had five children and that when I went home I might have had to explain to them why I did nothing while inequality exploded, their environment was destroyed and democracy and freedom were undermined.  That would be much harder than speaking truth to power.”

My thinking on this was shaped by Viktor Frankl in his wonderful book “Man’s Search for Meaning.”  Frankl was a psychiatrist from Vienna who lost his whole family when he and they were sent to the Nazi death camps.  He lost his life’s work when his manuscript and notes for a book he was writing was taken from him and destroyed.  He endured years of torture and humiliation but emerged a loving, compassionate human being while some others  emerged filled with hatred and revenge.  He grew as a human being because he never lost sight of the knowledge that while others may take away your freedom and do horrible things to you they can never take away your freedom to respond in a way consistent with your values and beliefs –  to think as your values shape your thoughts. Only you can choose to love or hate.

It is a book about the capacity of the human spirit for decency, compassion and love.  A book to keep by your bedside.

The Sane Society by Eric Fromm

Published in 1955 this book still has a lot of relevant thinking.  For example:  “Exploitation as it developed in the nineteenth century was essentially different.  The worker, or rather his labor, (became) a commodity to be bought by the owner of capital… .   Exploitation was not personal anymore, it had become anonymous as it were.  It was now the law of the market that condemned a man to work for starvation wages rather than the intention or greed of any individual person.”   This is different from slavery and from a feudal relationship between an aristocrat and his vassal and yet is really more the same than different.

An further on: “The fact remains the same, that a man, a living human being, ceases to be an end in himself and becomes the means for the economic interests of another man, or of himself, or of an impersonal giant, the economic machine.”  Fromm’s point is that to be used this way erodes a person’s mental health.

An Economy for the 1%

“The Oxfam report An Economy for the 1%, shows that the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population has fallen by a trillion dollars since 2010, a drop of 38 percent. This has occurred despite the global population increasing by around 400 million people during that period. Meanwhile, the wealth of the richest 62 has increased by more than half a trillion dollars to $1.76tr. The report also shows how women are disproportionately affected by inequality – of the current ‘62’, 53 are men and just nine are women.”  https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2016-01-18/62-people-own-same-half-world-reveals-oxfam-davos-report

This is the opening paragraph describing Oxfam’s newest report on inequality released for the DAVOS meetings .  It is this performance by the global capitalist economy that fuels the unrest that is opening the door to the politics of lies, fear, hatred, violence and revenge.  Elders are told their pensions are no longer secure and there will soon be too many of them to care for.  Young people are told to forget stable careers, having pensions and benefits, paying off huge student loans or owning a home.  Parents see a bleak future for their children and grandchildren. This is not the output of a functional economy but a faltering one.

Is this the climate that could allow millions of good people who are desperate for change to be manipulated by the politics of lies, fear, hatred, violence and revenge to vote for a billionaire who does not pay taxes, cannot seem to tell the truth and who is a self-confessed sexual predator?   Is this what causes angry and bewildered people to elect a leader who will cut government services, lower taxes on corporations and the rich, and allow destruction of the environment their grandchildren will inherit?

From Corporate Globalization to Global Co-operation suggests an alternative.  There are practical steps young people and elders can take.  Many people took steps to shift to an alternative during the Standing Rock demonstrations in North Dakota.  More about that in a later post.  In the meantime read the Oxfam’s report, An Economy for the 1%.  Then think about how we can create a new economy individually and in groups.

What You Pay for Capitalism

A Book on what it costs to prop up Capitalism?
What does it cost to prop up an increasingly unstable post capitalist economic system? The 2008 crisis cost an estimated $20+ Trillion USD globally. And this was just a slightly bigger than normal blip. There are a lot of insights in Joyce Nelson’s book Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism, from Watershed Sentinel Books. https://watershedsentinel.ca/beyond-banksters/

Nelson sheds light on a law suit that is slowly moving through the Canada’s court system that would require the Bank of Canada to return to financing federal, provincial and local governments as it did prior to 1974. Since then our governments have borrowed at significantly higher interest rates from our big banks – much to their profit.

The cost to citizens of Canada has been in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
And what do we get for this shift? Stagnating incomes of middle class Canadians, growing income inequality and of course a decreasing ability for government to serve Canadians. We cannot afford to educate children, pay rising healthcare costs, look after the elderly or protect our environment. The purpose of the banks, who are the recipients of the higher interest rates on government borrowing, is to provide people with financial services or build a healthy economy but to maximize the returns to their shareholders.

This is a clearly written, well researched book. If you want a short introduction to help you decide this is a book you want to read try Ed Finn’s review at: http://behindthenumbers.ca/2017/01/16/beyond-banksters-eye-opening-expose-ravenous-financial-system/

This is a book that should be on every university student’s curriculum so they can better understand why their future will not likely allow them to pay down their student debt or find a career. Remember, when it comes to those who run Canada, the bankers come first.