Personally, I think it is an excellent opportunity for reflection and taking stock of our lives as individuals, as a family, neighbourhood, community and country. When we experience death in our family, we take time out from our busy-ness to participate in the societal rituals of such an event, like mourning, memorials and funerals. What I do when I attend such events is ask myself, "Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? What am I doing? What am I supposed to do?” In the self same way, these three pending crises are an opportunity for us to consider the world we live in.
This world is a system made up of a series of systems, created by all of us which largely amount to "social agreements”. Social agreements are contracts that we create that theoretically are supposed to work for the betterment of all. More specifically, for example, is our financial system which is, by and large, a primary factor in the healthy and harmonious functioning of our economy. For all of this to work, it is necessary that the majority of the principles which form the foundation of this system are based on truth.
In 1997, there was the Briex scandal where many investors, including the BC Teachers’ Pension Fund, lost millions of dollars. It is important to note that there are two kinds of "losses”, there are paper losses and real losses – I always get upset when I read on the front page of a major newspaper when a bank or large corporation says that they lost "x” number of millions of dollars which, of course, if they really did, these businesses, like a small business losing just a few thousand dollars, would soon declare bankruptcy and cease to exist. These are actually examples of paper losses whereby, months in advance,
accountants, boards of directors (controllers) and stock exchange sales people project the potential profits to be made for the shareholders (speculators). When the situation changes, as it did with WorldCom and other such "enterprises”, the actual profits are less than those projected and seen as a loss. When the business venture is largely, if not completely, based on a series of lies, such as with Briex, where they actually "salted” the mine, including mixing gold dust into mining samples to misrepresent the actual amount of gold in the Briex mine, then you get a real and total loss. This means all monies are gone
($84 million in stocks), in a hundred billion dollar gold mine that never panned out (pardon the pun). Often charges are laid, and in this case, the chief geologist "fell” out of a helicopter at 800 feet (allegedly a suicide).
The recent and current financial meltdown in the US was predicted by many. Unfortunately, endemic in our species is a propensity to only hear what we want to: that which is comfortable and convenient. Moreover, that which results in our own personal gain, regardless, sometimes, even if we know that our choices are at least indirectly if not directly harmful to ourselves, to other people and our world. These crises are an opportunity, a wake up call, as it were, to reexamine, and for some of us, to examine for the first time, a system that we all have a part in creating and agree to by virtue of how we live.
Our current system would work well if this model that is taught in our schools, colleges and universities – and is accepted by our society – was based on truth. This system, being linear, could only work if the universe was linear. Meaning that, the earth was like a superhighway, like a monopoly game with a beginning and no ending. How that would look is all of the peoples of the earth would be clustered in one large group living beside a giant river. Beside that river, we would do all the things we do now: we would build shelters, mate and produce more humans, cut down more trees to build more shelters, catch more fish to feed more humans, mine more metal to make farm machinery and transportation devices including rails to ride
the train of life – oh yes, we would also make weapons to kill people who got in the way of this "progress”. We and all the animals that we raised, fed, killed and processed would defecate in the river. The chemicals that we created from mining, forestry, farming, factories, food production, lawns and golf courses would simply run into the river and be "washed away”. (I’ve always found that a funny word, "away”. Throw that "away”. I’ve been looking for that place for 50 years – if anyone finds it, please contact me. I could make a fortune getting "rid” of things, especially toxic chemicals like plutonium with a half-life of 5,000 years). Then back beside the river, in a place which was once truly "paradise” as recorded by the early explorers, who when they came to this country wrote, "The trees are like a wall made of giants, the forest teaming with life and fish so plentiful one only needs to lower a basket beside the ship weighted by a stone to fill it with a silvery harvest. Other than a
few half-dressed, uncultured savages who seem friendly, helpful and willing to trade, the land is rich for the taking.” In a linear system, along the river – the superhighway of life – once we have made the area uninhabitable from the accumulated toxins (we produce 1,000 new chemicals every year, last year Monsanto made almost two billion dollars on just one of their chemicals called Roundup so that we can have nice lawns), we simply move up the river. In case it isn’t completely obvious, the reason that this model of economics doesn’t work is because the earth is actually round, like a nest that we all live in. The way we conduct our business on the earth simply does
not work because all of the poisons we produce end up in the lakes and rivers which flow into the ocean and are taken up by the clouds and then descends upon us as rainfall. A Calgary Herald article, dated November 28, 2008, addresses the fact that a 1998 study had already shown that "it literally rains 2,4-D in Lethbridge.” That would make sense, since more than 20,000 kilograms of 2,4-D is supplied for grain production annually. Keeping in mind, of course, that this is only one chemical among thousands that we assault ourselves with, and all living things on the earth, every day through how we live our lives, how we produce and process our food and the millions of everyday products we manufacture and consume to make our
lives "easier” and "convenient”. As it is called now, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, discovered in 1997 by American sailor, Charles Moore, is about 500 nautical miles off the coast of California and is larger than Ontario! Moore, an oceanographer, who has made the study of this mega-dump his fulltime occupation, believes there is about 100 million tonnes circulating in the northern Pacific – or about 2.5% of all plastic items made since 1950. Fuel spills from boat fill-ups (the little bit that spills in the process of fuelling) in the US alone are more than the equivalent to two Exxon Valdez spills per year. You don’t want to know what the amount is per
year for heavy equipment, motorhomes, trucks, cars, recreational vehicles, lawnmowers and chainsaws – you get the picture. Both our cats and chickens are smart enough not to dirty the nests and beds where they sleep and bear their young. Somehow, as human beings, we have lost our grip on reality as evidenced by the crises that we continue to contribute to and even create anew. The US economy is fuelled by several primary factors: the housing market, (new) cars and trucks, and the ability to borrow trillions of dollars with nothing to back it up. So this current situation, rather than being called a crisis, should be called a "reckoning”; meaning that, we have had foisted upon ourselves, partly by the earth’s inability to carry our unsustainable lifestyle (the average north American’s per capita of consumption, in order to be sustainable for the population, would require five plus planets at our current rate) but mainly as a result of ignorance (a genuine lack of interest in what’s really going on),
and finally outright greed. Like with goldrushes of the past, people become gripped with "gold fever”. "Gold Fever is one of the most catching and dangerous ‘diseases’ that has afflicted man since the beginning of time” – this is a quote from a stocks and mutual fund company giving advice when to buy and when to sell – not much has changed, eh? Is a house built in Vancouver made with human hands out of a few trees (lumber), crushed limestone and gravel (concrete) and a bit of this and that, sold brand new 50 years ago for $10,000 really worth $1,000,000 today? What happened? Who made these decisions? Who’s profiting? And why are we agreeing to this manner of existence? Our financial system is based on, and represents, activities (production) and "stuff” (products to be consumed). In order for that to work, you need materials like wood (trees from clearcut logging), metal (steel, iron ore, copper, bauxite [aluminum] from open-pit mining), fish (from ongoing drift nets and at-sea factory fish-packing ships) and – my personal favourite – food (from factory farming consisting of feedlots where thousands of cattle stand in their own excrement, pumped full of antibiotics, eating genetically modified grain grown with ammonium nitrate – still also being used for making bombs – grain that was sprayed with roundup and other petro-chemical based herbicides and pesticides. Yum, yum – pass the beef!) Furthermore, our banking system consists of people who are licensed to legally create money from the end of a pen. One of their many powers is something called Fractional Reserve Banking.
This means that in Canada, banks can lend every dollar you deposit 22 times, or to 22 different people and businesses; which, by the way, under the auspices of assuming some degree of risk, they charge each of those 22 people interest (on your money)! Now you can see why there is cause to get upset when you hear banks whining about losing money. Not to mention the average CEO in North America who in 1960 made 36 times more than the worker on the factory floor, today makes 136 times more than the floor worker! The reckoning, then, is just a re-calibration, a reboot as it were, in the equation of how many trees, barrels of oil and fish there are, and how many people of working age are contributing to the GNP by producing "stuff” versus the elite and powerful who are driven by the greed of gold fever (disproportionately taking over 136 times their floor workers), sucking the rest of us into their cesspool of insanity. Since I was a child, I have been fascinated by the similarity of the words "affluent” and "effluent”.
The Great Depression of 1928, if you research it well, you will find, was created by an elite few who, at that time, had enough influence in the banking system to instruct the Federal Reserve to simply "shrink” the money supply. This means that the banks called in loans and didn’t issue new ones, thus cutting off funds for factory and farm owners alike. This created millions of unemployed people who ended up working on mega projects (like the Hoover Dam) for as little as a bowl of soup per day; thereby, filling the coffers of the ruling class of America. The difference with this current financial meltdown is that it is more than just Gold Rush Fever, sub prime mortgage rates, speculation and greed. This time, we have gone too far.
After many years of Reaganomics, its continuation by the Bush Administration and their Margaret Thatcher-like destructive socio-economic policies, we are beginning to discover the lies. The lies we have been told and the lies that we all have been retelling. The lies of how many trees, fish, minerals and barrels of oil are left have lead to a completely over-inflated stock market, like a stinking, bloated whale carcass poisoned by toxins that needs to be towed out to sea and slit open with the hope that it will be devoured by many small sea creatures, lest it float back to haunt us.Where do we go from here? Again, we need to recognize we are all a part of the "system”, which is very entrenched in our western society. It is painfully
slow expecting governments to change things for us, especially considering the lion’s share of their election funds come from large corporations and banks. It is much easier and quicker for all of us to change as individuals. We can start right now by reducing and eliminating our personal debt (According to CBC Marketplace, we have now reached the point where the average Canadian family owes more than it earns. The average Canadian household has $80,000 in debt. In 1984, Canadians owed about $187 billion in personal debt. In 2006, we had reached more than $801 billion. As of 2000, the average student would graduate from post secondary education owing more than $20,000.00). This means, for instance, that rather than getting new carpets and furniture or going on a trip, we put that money towards paying off our mortgage. The average Canadian who purchases a house for $300,000.00 will pay almost $1 million for that house because of interest charges by the time it is paid off (that does not include taxes, insurance and upkeep).
Get rid of all credit cards except for one – no department store cards. Get rid of all points and air miles cards – studies have shown that they do not work in your favour (unless one spends large amounts of money and pays it off each month), and they are designed to create incentives to spend more money. This also means buying nothing on credit unless it is absolutely necessary (like in an emergency). Take better care of the things that we own, like our car – maintain it well and keep it longer (according to Canadian Driver, a compact car costs about $6,000.00 per year to operate, a mini van costs $12,000.00 per year). The good news is Canadians cut their Christmas spending this year from the usual $900.00+ down to just $822.00! What I am suggesting is that we have a personal reckoning with ourselves and those close to us and ask, what kind of game are we playing? How many things do we have on the go that likely are not as important or "valuable” as we have been lead to believe? If we were on our death bed tomorrow, and we were looking back on our life, what would our reflections be? What would we regret? How might have we better used our time, energy and money; after all the only thing that we really have is time. And time is the one thing that we cannot buy, which means time is the most valuable treasure we possess.
And the only time that you really have is the Now. The past is gone, "it’s too late”, the future is something we can only hope for as there are no guarantees that there will be one for us. So how can we now "spend” the heartbeats and breaths we have left? When people are interviewed at the end of their lives, and asked about their regrets, none of them say, "I wish I had spent more hours at the office.” All of them say, "I wish I had spent more time with friends and family.”
Let us all use this point in time as a "reckoning” with ourselves and those around us to re-evaluate what really matters, since none of us knows how much more "time” we have. Let’s start now. What do we value most in life? Good health, close meaningful relationships, being of service to those around us and our community… or more "stuff”?
Dirk Becker is an organic farmer, agricultural advocate and public speaker who is okay with people getting mad at him… if it facilitates people reassessing their own lives.
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