Sunday, September 13, 2009

Let Us Get On The Path To Recovery

There has been much said and written about the country's stimulus package and its recovery, but just where is the point to which we wish to recover. This is a question that has been on my mind a great deal lately. Will we return to the point that the financial institutions began to go under, or the point at which we realized that massive foreclosures were imminent, or maybe we will get to the point that we discover that life, as we currently are living it, is basically unsustainable.

That last point, for some of us, was a few years back and for a far larger number of us is still in the future. I would like to go back to the days before we began our headlong rush at the rapidly approaching drop-off of total un-sustainability. The hard part about that is understanding just when that was.

Wendell Berry's latest article in The Progressive magazine (Subscription req.) speaks of our inverted economic order where the non-necessary desires of the masses outweigh the basic necessities of life itself. A system where resources that took lifetimes to develop are used/abused and discarded in an instant, on a whim, simply because we believe that they are so abundant. To paraphrase a recent advertising slogan, "Use all you want, We'll make more". Our problem now is that our use of a resource usually leads to the abuse of or world either by acquiring, processing or disposing of the "used" resource.

For many years , man has used the resources of this earth and nature has always found a way to recycle the elements of our resources into something that is also usable. It has taken man just a few short centuries to turn our economies through complete somersaults, and all because of wanting unnecessary desires, just because we can. Along the way we have also discovered that we have limited natures ability to renew itself and that we now have to "assist" nature with very unnatural means, thereby exacerbating the downward spiral all the more.

We(Mrs Sweeper, my son and I) watched the movie Food Inc. the other evening and I came away both sad and angry at the state of American, and even worldwide, food production. There seems to be little that an ordinary citizen can do to correct the situation and it all stems from our economic decisions, which right now reflect jobs, jobs, jobs. The jobs most at stake are not the farmers or the processing plant workers, nor the fast food, drive in workers or the grocery stock guys, you can replace them any day. The jobs at the top are most at stake, those that run in the six figures(lots of 000's). These are the folks who figure out how to get the resources to the processor, to market and then discarded sooner and then move on to the next big idea.

These people are those which make up the "creative class", the thinkers and manipulators of ideas, those who will lead the world.
Above is a chart showing the five sub-groups of the "creative class". You will notice that nearly half of the class is comprised of lawyers, accountants and top level managers, those who want to get things done and those who can devise a way to do it. Aided by the 18% who can manipulate the education and training of our youth and where and how we store our information, we are now nearly three quarters to the goal of convincing the masses that this is how the economy is supposed to work. So why is the precipice of collapse always directly in front of us.

If these creative people, the lawyers and accountants, our CEO's and financiers, are the ones who got us into this mess then why are we to rely on them to get us out? What we NEED is to return to the systems that we had before the creative financing schemes and scientific advances of crop production, before stock derivatives and gene splicing of seeds. Maybe everyone does not need to own a home, since our family sizes are dropping and our house sizes are rising. An average family member does not need to have nearly 1000 sq. ft. to himself.

If we are to have a real recovery, then we will have to go back to when we taught our children that just to want something does not equate to the need for something. We will have to believe our warnings on drinking and playing the lottery, to live responsibly and sustainably.

Maybe a great fall is what will do it for us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your post is both true and compelling but I cant talk about the fallout from what you have called our "unnecessary desires" without mentioning how our desire for cheap disposable things has created a global class system which consists of those demanding and buying cheap disposable goods and those in the Third World who assemble these goods and extract the fossil fuels required to produce and transport them.

It's criminal that our economic model not only demands that cheap and disposable good be present but also demands that an impoverished global underclass produces them.

There is something we can do as ordinary citizens. We place a vote for the kind of future we want every time we walk through the check out lane. If we don't like the way a company operates or treats its people we can "vote" for another way by choosing to purchase from someone else. This is why i haven't been to Wal-Mart in 4 years. is a great resource, btw.