Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Awful Truth or The Beautiful Truth?

This is most definitely one of my "non-tango" posts, so please, by all means, feel free to click on past.

I'm sitting here in the early morning dark, reading the "news" as I often do.

Reading and pondering.

For many years now, actually decades, I've wondered about a society's (our society, Western society, or perhaps more accurately, Western civilization) ability to manifest continued/sustained economic growth, resulting in an ever-increasing standard of living, in concert with an ever-increasing level of population.

The population math is simple. 5th grade level. Or it should be. The most recent Crude Birth Rate data for the U.S. available is for 2007. Birth rate of 14.2. Death rate of 8.3. That makes the net increase 5.9. The rates are "per thousand" and the U.S. population is just over 300,000,000. That's three hundred million for the decimally challenged.

The knee-jerk result is pretty much a net increase of 5,000 heartbeats per day. Let me re-phrase. 5,000 new hearts beating per day.

The quick-and-dirty analysis/conclusion I'm about to make is simplistic - that this 5,000 new beating hearts will advance like a wave through the years, eventually turning 18, and wanting/needing a job. Actually, of the 6,128.92 folks who will die today, not all of them had jobs - many are retired and/or permanently unemployed. So that advancing (daily) wave of munchkins/rugrats/young'uns is closer to the daily birthrate figure of 11,671.23. Per day.

The real figure is probably somewhere around 8,000 or 10,000. Ten thousand teenagers turning eighteen today, needing a job this summer, or going off to college next fall, enlisting in their favored branch of the U.S. Military/Industrial/PetroChemical Complex, joining the Peace Corps or a commune, or just being lazy/un-motivated and deciding to live with Mom and Dad for a few more years until they figure it out, or lightning strikes.

10,000 doing their thing to increase their standard of living. Following the formula of The American Dream.

Let's say half of those actually need to be put to work, the other half are doing college or one of the other options.

So that's 5,000/day. Every day. New jobs. New jobs, that as a society, that we need to "create", out of thin air, that didn't exist yesterday. New paper delivery boys/girls, new lawn mower men/women, new babysitters, new burger flippers, new WalMart stockers, new positions, new businesses, new widgets and gadgets and chochkees and whatchamacallits to be invented and manufactured and offered up for sale and/or to separate us from our money, new whatever. New shit to buy with absolutely no redeeming social value. Can't have new jobs for new people without someone somewhere buying some useless shit they are assembling or making or packaging or selling or otherwise offering up to masses. Oh, I forgot, all those types of jobs have been long out-sourced overseas or across the Rio Grande.

Or else they go to the unemployment and/or welfare rolls. Can an eighteen year old kid get unemployment if they've never been employed before? I think not. So the unemployment figures are skewed from the get-go.

They are saying, "they" being the BLS, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that as of Jan 2011, there are 15,000,000 people unemployed, and only 6,643,000 of those actually "want" jobs.

As I understand it, the self-employed, the under-employed, and those who have given up and are no longer seeking employment are not in those figures. I would say the real figure is closer to 20 or 25 or 30 million. I would offer the great big sucking noise of our economy as evidence.

Not as many worker-bees in the economy, not as much cash in the economy. Or, more accurately, not as much credit in the economy. We weren't living in a cash-based economy, we've been living in a credit-based-live-beyond-your-means-on-borrowed-money economy. Y'all know what I think on that subject.

5,000 new jobs per day.

150,000 new jobs per month.

1,825,000 new jobs per year.

Just to account for population growth.

So, get on with the ponderage Alex. Or is it ponderments? Ponderifications?

I'm sitting here, reading this article, and wondering if a society/civilization/economy can reach a tipping point, a critical mass, where simply no more new jobs can be created. No more new inventions, widgets, trinkets, treasure, fashions can be thought up to separate the masses from their greenbacks. No new services, no new entertainment, no new sports, no new holidays - a critical mass of we've done all we can do to grow the economy, to create new jobs.

We've done it all. Or have we? Is it all/ways about growth and ever higher and higher standards of living? How much more comfortable and luxurious can we human beings "need" to get? Human doings. Maybe we need to do less and be more.

I've gotten to the point that I laugh (okay, maybe not laugh out loud, but at least crack a grin) when I hear the politicians, even our savior Mr. Obama, talk of "creating" jobs and new industry to compete in the world market. I don't discriminate - Blue, Red, tannic acid tea color, even Green - most either don't get it, or won't admit it if they do. When they talk of "growth" and "jobs". Will we have grown "enough" when there is a Rite-Aid or Walgreens Pharmacy or Starbucks on every single corner of every single neighborhood in the land? Is this truly our goal as a society? Is this what is most important to us?

The tipping point is upon us. It is here. We just refuse to see it. We refuse to believe that it could be true - that we've actually been on the wrong path for a long, long time. We're too busy. We've got too much to do. We've got the economic growth engine to be attended to, to be tuned and re-tuned and tweaked and souped-up. The problem is, the problems are, too big to solve. We can't agree on the solutions due to political and philosophical discord. We can't even agree to disagree, we just bitch and moan and disagree all the time while the ship is on fire and sinking. It's just no use even trying.

If this is the case, then it is an awful truth. But I refuse to believe it. The beautiful truth to me is that we can come together, acknowledge the problems that face us like adults, discuss the solutions intelligently and rationally and with civility and compassion and respect and honor.

As I see it, we should be honoring our children, and their children, and many generations into the future, our neighbors, and the planet, and every living creature and ecosystem upon it.

That is the beauty of it. We have before us a beautiful opportunity. An opportunity to change the world for the better for many, many generations to come. To change the way we perceive and approach things with an emphasis on sustainability. Not an emphasis. Sustainability is the way. The only way. Our demise is at the end of this continued path of unsustainable life.

To me, the ultimate form of life, the ultimate standard of living, the highest we can achieve as homo sapiens sapiens, is the sustainable one that honors the planet and future generations.

Even if it means having less in the material sense, making the same amount of money year after year until the day I die, and having more, much more in the life/spiritual/musical/dance/experiential/relationships sense. Family. Friends. Knowing.

Growth yes. But not material/economic growth. Spiritual and intellectual and sentient growth. Growth of mindfulness and awareness. Truth. Beautiful Truth.

Beautiful Truth.

A Facebook friend of mine says we don't have it in us.

I hope he's wrong.

1 comment:

Christine--RHP said...

yeah, it leaves me with a pain in my midsection a few miles deep....

I remember when I first read 'The Last hours of Ancient Sunlight" by Thom Hartmann and felt like an empty shell of dread/doom for weeks.

I guess I'm waiting to get a glimpse of the beautiful side of the tip. And embracing and creating all the beauty I can in the meantime.