|Progressive Calendar 01.02.08||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Wed, 2 Jan 2008 07:13:19 -0800 (PST)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 01.02.08 1. Farheen Hakeem/61B 1.02 10am 2. RNC/anti-war/march 1.02 11am 3. Unions in MN/KFAI 1.02 11am 4. Anti-German hysteria 1.03 12noon/6:30pm 5. MN local food/farm 1.03 7pm 6. Chris Maser - Now we are human commodities 7. Chris Maser - "Re-learning" what we've forgotten 8. ed - A capitalist sings his scales --------1 of 8-------- From: press [at] farheenhakeem.org Subject: Farheen Hakeem/61B 1.02 10am Farheen Hakeem for House District 61B 612-395-5559 www.farheenhakeem.org For more information contact 612-395-5559 or press [at] farheenhakeem.org Press Conference: January 2, 2008 10AM Sabathani Community Center Room 218 310 East 38th Street Minneapolis, MN 55409 Farheen Hakeem has decided to enter the State House District 61B race. She will be seeking the Green Party endorsement. Two weeks ago, Neva Walker, the current State Representative, sent a letter to her constituents informing them that she has decided not to run for reelection this fall. As a result of this new development, this open seat race could possibly be the breakthrough the Green party needs in the State Legislature. Farheen ran for County Commissioner District 4 against a 16-year DFL incumbent in 2006. Of the 12 precincts in House District 61B, 8 were in the Hennepin County District 4, where Farheen received approximately 43% of the vote. "The numbers prove that I have a strong chance to win this election and, more importantly, serve the community of District 61B in a better capacity." Farheen explains. "The numbers prove that I have a strong chance to win this election and, more importantly, serve the people of District 61B in a better capacity because I understand the growing needs of our community," Hakeem explained. "There is a great potential to bring more resources to our district, and I am encouraged by the support I have received to run." Farheen Hakeem is announcing her candidacy on 10AM Wednesday January 2, 2008 at Sabathani Community Center Board Room, Room 218. For more information contact 612-395-5559 or at press [at] farheenhakeem.org --------2 of 8-------- From: Meredith Aby <awcmere [at] gmail.com> Subject: RNC/anti-war/march 1.02 11am You are invited to participate in a press conference and march at 11am this Wednesday, January 2, 2008. As you may know, the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War, a coalition of local peace and justice groups, has applied for permits for the Capitol Mall and a march route for September 1, 2008, the first day of the National Republican Convention, but has had difficulty getting a commitment from the city that such permits will be issued in a timely manner. In December, the Coalition applied for a "recurring permit" from the City of St. Paul in an effort to assure our right to obtain the permit for the large national demonstration and rally planned for September 1, 2008. This commits us to have recurring marches on January 2, March 1, May l, July l, and September 1 beginning at 11:00 am. Please join us on January 2, 2008 at 11:00 am for the press conference and the first of the permitted recurring marches. The march will begin at the State Capitol, proceed down John Ireland Drive to Kellogg Boulevard, past the Xcel Center and up Washington Street to Rice Park. We will then proceed on West Fifth Street to Seventh Street and back to the State Capitol, via Kellogg Boulevard. We realized the timing of this march is not convenient for many, but we hope to have at least 50 people participate. Thus, we urge everyone who is available to join us. Below is a copy of an article in the WAMM newsletter about why we need the permits now. Thank you for your ongoing support. - The Anti-War Committee Article in WAMM newsletter: PERMITS ARE CRUCIAL TO PEACE MOVEMENT'S RIGHT TO MARCH ON THE RNC AND STOP THE WAR! Adopted from the article by Marie Braun, from the WAMM newsletter On September 1, 2008, the first day of the Republican National Convention, the Coalition to March on the RNC and Stop the War expects to bring together tens of thousands of people from Minnesota, the Midwest, and across the country for a rally and march against the war on Iraq that will begin at the State Capitol, proceed down to and around the Xcel Energy Center and return to the State Capitol Mall. The Anti-War Committee, WAMM and the Twin Cities Peace Campaign-Focus on Iraq are both leaders in the coalition and in helping to plan this demonstration The Coalition applied for permits for the State Capitol, the march route, and Rice Park in October, 2006, because we realized it was imperative that we have permits very early in the process in order to have ample time to plan and carry out the necessary logistical work. Also, in our outreach to peace and justice organizations around the country, we found that one of the main questions was "Will you have permits?" Clearly, not having the permits is a serious obstacle to building a large, broad-based nonviolent peace demonstration. A protest involving very large numbers of people from across the country also requires serious preparation, including housing, renting stadium-type sound systems, finding parking for buses and the like, and involves a significant financial commitment. The Coalition has been informed that we cannot get the permits until at least six months prior to the RNC. Would the Republicans accept waiting until six months prior to their convention to make concrete logistical preparations? They were given assurance by the city of St. Paul that they would have ample space for all their activities several months ago. The Coalition should be provided the same assurances relative to a our rally and march route, and be guaranteed safety for those who choose to speak out against the war. Coalition members are well aware that at some previous national party conventions permits were not issued until just days before the event, and in some cases the terms of the permits were unacceptable, such as last minute changes in routes and forcing demonstrators into isolated"protest pens." The Coalition is committed to do everything possible to assure that this will not happen in St. Paul. To this end, the Coalition has met with the Mayor, city attorneys, Assistant Chief Matt Bostrom and others to ask for their assistance in getting the necessary permits now, and to ask for their assurance that demonstrators rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly will be protected during the Republican National Convention and that the Secret Service will not be allowed to come in at the last minute and infringe upon such rights. The Coalition has also engaged volunteer attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild Minnesota Chapter and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota to pursue other strategies to obtain the permits and to guarantee that we can exercise our rights of free speech and assembly in a safe environment. This will be one of largest - if not the largest - demonstration in Minnesota history because the war on Iraq, and the public disapproval of the US' continued presence in Iraq, remains the number one issue on voters' minds. The eyes of the world will be on St. Paul in September, 2008. The work that is going on now could well determine what they will see. -- Anti-War Committe (antiwarcommittee.org) Coalition to March on the RNC & End the War (protestrnc2008.org ) Colombia Action Network (colombiasolidarity.org) --------3 of 8-------- From: Andy Driscoll <andy [at] driscollgroup.com> Subject: Unions in MN/KFAI 1.02 11am TRUTH TO TELL KFAI 90.3FM Minneapolis/106.7 St. Paul Streaming @ KFAI.org A Production of CIVIC/MEDIA/MINNESOTA SPECIAL II: Wednesday, JAN 2 at 11AM LOCAL LABOR: How Are Minnesota's Unions Faring The same movement conservatism that led to the contemporary slide into blatant racism, sexism, widening economic disparity, severe educational deprivation, a moribund healthcare system, and unprecedented political corruption also trained its guns on collective bargaining over the last 60 years. Some say the movement has suffered a mortal blow by union-busing tactics and a corporate compliant administration; others insist a resurgence of organization and representation is under way in all the new sectors of the economy. Which is true? Or are we truly getting it both ways? TTT's Andy Driscoll will be joined by guest co-host and labor scholar, Tom O¹Connell to talk with seasoned labor leaders, historians and new movement organizers about the history and future of union organizing, membership, and working conditions. JOIN THE DISCUSSION. CALL 612-341-0980 during the show. GUESTS: PETER RACHLEFF Macalester College professor and labor historian JAVIER MORILLO-ALICEA President, SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Local 26 RAY WALDRON President, Minnesota AFL-CIO PHYLLIS WALKER President, AFSCME University of Minnesota Clerical Employees - Local 3800 POSSIBLE ADDITIONAL GUESTS: BERNARD BROMMER retired President, Minnesota AFL-CIO (1990 - 2001) ONLINE @ KFAI.ORG: <http://www.kfai.org/node/682> PODCASTS: All Truth to Tell episodes are available FREE through iTunes Podcasts! --------4 of 8-------- From: Stephen Feinstein <feins001 [at] umn.edu> Subject: Anti-German hysteria 1.03 12noon/6:30pm Anti-German Hysteria during the World Wars with Speaker: Paul Lutz TRACES Midwest/WWII History Museum presents. . . Anti-German Hysteria during the World Wars Speaker: Paul Lutz January 3rd, 2008 at 12PM and 6:30PM Room 326 at the Landmark Center 75 West Fifth Street, Saint Paul FREE: No admission --------5 of 8-------- From: Monique Askew <monique [at] commonrootscafe.com> Subject: MN local food/farm 1.03 7pm meet jennifer of tacheny farm (mankato) This Farm Beginnings '02 grad grows a variety of heirloom vegetables, fruit and herbs. Jennifer also directs Celeste's Dream Community Garden in St. Paul. She will talk about the farm, the community garden, her experience with the Land Stewardship Project Farm Beginnings Program, and how to eat local Minnesota grown products in the middle of January! thursday, january 3rd at 7pm common roots cafe 2558 lyndale avenue south meeting room This event is a co-sponsored by Common Roots Cafe and Land Stewardship Project Farm Beginnings Program. common roots cafe Local ° Organic ° Fair Trade 2558 Lyndale Ave S ° 612-871-2360 ° commonrootscafe.com --------6 of 8-------- Now we are human commodities Written by Chris Maser Jan Lundberg's Culture Change Editor's note: Chris Maser's observations and insights are as sharp as a laser. He truly sees the big picture through the millennia of human experience. Such as: "People themselves are increasingly seen as economic commodities. How can a commodity find security from another commodity? In this sense, the marketplace satisfies only temporarily our collective neuroses, while hiding the values that give true meaning to human life." This article is Part Two in Maser's series for Culture Change. This one starts out with a run-down of the origin of the corporation and its rise to dominant power today; this section is vital for those uninformed about corporate personhood. . Jan Lundberg * * * The corporation, it turns out, is an invention of the British Crown through the creation of the East India Company by Queen Elizabeth I in 1600, which, being the original, transnational corporation, set today's precedence for big businesses. The East India Company, "found India rich and left it poor," says author Nick Robin. The corporate structure of the East India Company was deemed necessary to allow the British to exploit their colonies in such a way that the owner of the enterprise was, for the first time, separated from responsibility for how the enterprise behaved. This conscious separation of personal responsibility from the act of looting is not surprising because "looting" is, theoretically as least, considered immoral in Christian circles. The corporation is thus a "legal fiction," that lets the investors who own the business avoid personal responsibility whenever the business dealings are unethical or even blatantly illegal, despite the fact that such unscrupulous behavior profits them enormously. A corporation, after all, has but one purpose.to make money for the owners. Economist Milton Friedman gave voice to this pinhole vision when he answered his own rhetorical question: "So the question is, do corporate executives, provided they stay within the law, have responsibilities in their business activities other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible? And my answer to that is, no they do not." In fact, the "corporate system," say analysts, "has no room for beneficence toward employees, communities, or the environment," a notion endlessly demonstrated on a daily global scale. Founders of the United States, such as Thomas Jefferson, recognized the dangers of corporate greed, which accounts for why the founding fathers believed corporate charters should be granted only to those entities willing to serve the greater public interest. Throughout most of the 19th century, therefore, states typically restricted a corporation they chartered to the ownership of one kind of business and strictly limited the amount of capital it could amass. In addition, states required stockholders to be local residents, detailed specific benefits that were due the community, and placed a 20- to 50-year limit on the life of a corporation's charter. Legislatures would withdraw a corporation's charter if it strayed from its stated mission or acted in an irresponsible manner. Although the power of modern corporations dates back to this era, it has been greatly augmented by two major legal dodges aimed at giving them unencumbered authority to serve only the self-interest of a few people. This was accomplished first by the piecemeal removal of those restrictions imposed to protect the welfare of the public from the self-serving interests of the few. The second change came in 1886, when the U.S. Supreme Court made the corporation all but invulnerable by decreeing, in a case brought by the Southern Pacific Railroad against Santa Clara County, California, that a corporation has the right of "personhood" under the 14th Amendment (originally intended to protect the rights of freed slaves) and, as such, enjoys the same constitutional protections that you or I do as individuals. This second change was reaffirmed in 1906, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, "The Corporation is a creature of the state. It is presumed to be incorporated for the benefit of the public." Within a century, the corporation had been transfigured into a "superhuman creature of the law," that is legally superior to any American citizen because the corporation has civil rights without civil responsibilities.1 When People become Commodities We, as a society, are losing sight of one another as human beings - witness the Wall-Street money chase in which numerous, large corporations discount human value as they increasingly convert people into faceless commodities that are bought and sold on a whim to improve the corporate standing in the competitive marketplace. After all, market share translates into political power, which translates into higher profit margins, both of which exacerbate the corporate disregard for people, the rampant destruction of Nature, and the squandering of natural resources. There was a time when people were valued for what they were as individuals. Although American workers have long had an enforced workweek of 40 hours, there currently is an insidious infringement into personal life due to pagers and cell phones, which allow corporations to "own" employees 24 hours a day. Businesses seem to have no moral compunctions about calling employees whenever they choose."for the good of the company." For those who would choose to live by the corporate proverb, "for the good of the company," the Families and Work Institute said that in 2001 employees are more likely to: . lose sleep . have physical and emotional health problems . make mistakes on the job . feel and express anger at employers . resent co-workers who they perceive are not pulling their weight . look for different jobs In the workplace, these feelings translate into more injuries and thus more claims for workers' compensation, increased absenteeism, higher health insurance and health-care costs, impaired job performance, and greater employee turnover - all of which are counterproductive and costly not only for employees but also for employers.2 At home, these feelings are often converted into a sense of not enough time to care for once-loved pets. About four million pets were brought each year to 1,000 shelters surveyed during 1994, 1995, and 1996, the vast majority of which were dogs. Of those, about 64 percent were killed. Only 24 percent were adopted; others were primarily lost pets that were ultimately reunited with their families. Most of the owners who gave up pets were under 30 years of age. When asked why they were giving up their pet, many said that the hours they were being required to work disallow time to adequately care for their animal.3 Moreover, if American workers want more time with and for their families, the corporate response is: "If you aren't willing to do the job the way we want, we.ll find someone who will." This attitude raises the question of what comes first today in our land of opportunity, where supposedly one is free to seek liberty and the pursuit of happiness - love or money? This question seems all the more relevant in light of the Enron debacle. The collapse of Enron highlights how some corporations are using people simply as commodities to boost company earnings. While Enron's employees were both forced to purchase and simultaneously prohibited from selling company stock in their Enron-heavy 401(k) retirement accounts, Enron executives cashed out more than $1 billion in stocks when it was near its peak in value. Regular employees, however, had to watch helplessly as their Enron stock plummeted in value and their life savings disappeared.4 Clearly, the punishing free-for-all of globalization and open markets has not invited love into its house and thus is as much about the fear of lost opportunity as it is about maximizing profit. And now, as fear enters into the monetary counting houses, one must realize that any rosy face painted on the economy is done so with far too many temporary and dead-end jobs in the service sector. The growing use of long-term, temporary workers by American businesses has created a new kind of employment discrimination, but not across the board because some people actively choose such an arrangement. Employers typically hire contingent workers, such as independent contractors and temporary workers, to fill gaps in personnel, especially to meet high seasonal demands in business. Because, technically, they are not "company employees," long-term, temporary employees or "permatemps" can work at a job for years without being entitled to paid vacations, health insurance, pensions, and other benefits (such as rights and protections under federal labor statutes) enjoyed by permanent employees who do the same work.5 Although not all corporations operate this way, the arrangement is, nevertheless, desirable from the employer's point of view because it holds down the cost of labor, which means higher profits. The result is millions of employed people in the United States who cannot afford the basic necessities of food, housing, clothing, and medical care. This problem is well depicted in the movie "Hidden in America," which shows that below the image of shining prosperity is a hidden layer of poverty with its desperate but proud parents and hungry children. There is also a kind of sweatshop alive and well in the United States - faster and faster with no time to slow down. A Gallup Poll in the summer or 1999 found that 44 percent of working Americans referred to themselves as "workaholics." Yet, 77 percent said they enjoyed their time away from work more than they did their time while working. In fact, our American quest for material wealth - the money chase - leads to profound unhappiness, emotional isolation, and higher divorce rates because we are so busy striving for income there is no time for normal, human relationships.6 Our American ration of irony, however, is that the more connected we become electronically, the more detached and isolated we become emotionally because we are losing the human elements of life: the sight of a human face, the sound of a human voice, a smile, a handshake, a touch on the shoulder, a kind word. In essence, we're losing the human dimension of scale in terms of time, space, touch, sound, and size; we are physically and emotionally losing one another and ourselves. Nothing makes this clearer than such things as home fax machines, laptop computers, cell phones, beepers, Palms, BlackBerrys, and iPods. People are now "on-line" at home; in transit to work; at work; in transit to home via cars, planes, trains, and on foot. In other words, people are virtually tethered to work. Such workaholism is not only expected by employers, it's often demanded if one wants to keep their job, which has added "24/7" to our lexicon. This kind of workaholism is especially hard on women because they are increasingly expected to work outside the home, juggle childcare, school activities for their children, and also maintain the home as though they had to nothing else to do. In addition, the 24/7 phenomenon hit the American work scene shortly after woman became a major part of the workforce. As things pile endlessly upon one another, the whole of life seems to melt down into a gigantic obligation that becomes increasingly difficult to meet because there simply is not enough time to get everything done, let alone done well. A standard greeting today is: "I'm so busy." This greeting is worn like the "red badge of courage" was in the past, as though our exhaustion is proof of our worth and our ability to withstand stress, which, in turn, is a mark of our maturity. In fact, we seem to measure our importance by how busy we are. The busier we are, the more important we feel to ourselves and, we imagine, to others, which is reminiscent of the underlying theme of the British television program "Keeping up Appearances." If we do not rest, however, we will lose our way because action without time for reflection is seldom wise. Rest nourishes our minds, bodies, and souls, which are poisoned by the hypnotic trance of perpetual motion as accomplishment and social "success." Therefore, we never truly rest, especially many who are self-employed. In the quarter century following World War II, giant corporations like Ma Bell, General Motors, General Electric, and Westinghouse were the place to be, representing, as they did, the pinnacle of what capitalism had to offer workers: extraordinary job security and a cornucopia of benefits. In fact, college graduates tripped over one another seeking life-time careers with these bedrock corporations because they could expect a comfortable house, a generously financed retirement package, lifelong health insurance, and, more often than not, a 9 to 5 job that allowed an organized man to form a healthy balance between work and family. That was the era when job security formed the underpinnings of the corporate operating principle. In 1962, Earl S. Willis, manager of employee benefits at General Electric, wrote, "Maximizing employee security is a prime company goal." Later, he wrote, "The employee who can plan his economic future with reasonable certainty is an employer's most productive asset." In recent times, however, General Electric's John F. Welch, Jr., was known as "Neutron Jack" for shedding 100,000 jobs at the company. Job security has vanished at numerous companies. Today, chief executives dump thousands of workers in the blink of an eye, hoping such moves will please securities analysts and thus investors, so their stocks will inch up 5 percent on the stock exchange. In addition, corporate managers slash away at employee benefits as though employees have suddenly ceased to be humans and have become commodities that can be forced into a more efficient mode of production with less cost to the corporation. They also phase out "defined benefit" retirement plans in favor of the far-less expensive 401(K) "do it yourself plans." Many employees of the post World War II era, until the latter part of the 1960s, were true believers in their companies. They were also exemplary employees who worked 12 and 14 hours days, six and even seven days a week, whatever it took to ensure their company's success. They did this enthusiastically because their company's success was the foundation of their job security, and hence their success as family providers. Then things changed. The corporate mind-set closed and corporate attitudes hardened. Now, despite their dedication, despite all the birthdays, bedtimes, and school events they have missed as their children grew up, many have been chopped from their company's payroll in a "merger," "re-engineering," "rightsizing," "downsizing," and "re-deployment." Bitter at the callous way they have been treated, many workers regret having been so dedicated, only to be treated like commodities that are discarded at will.7 "In a personal sense, it hurts, but in a macro sense, it is the action we've got to take to remain competitive," says Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania. "Ultimately the adjustments that the economy is making is going to set us up for the next strong period of growth." What Naroff seems to be saying between the lines is: While it hurts to be fired, it's not personal; it's business. Others contend, however, that companies may well harm themselves by firing the people who purchase their products, potentially damaging the economy in ways that cannot be rectified with quick fixes, such as tax cuts or lowering the interest rate. In other words, layoffs (especially large, continuous ones) can only hurt the economy. An economist, on the other hand, would counter with the notion that what really matters is how consumers view the situation. Some would even suggest that workers have become relatively used to being fired for the market convenience of their employer, as though that makes it "acceptable," even "okay." One could also rationalize that many of the job cuts will be less painful than they sound, in part because companies in a tight labor market have scores of unfilled jobs that are easy to eliminate. And then there is the argument that many other cuts would be spread over years, and some might not even occur.8 While this all sounds very "rational," workers and consumers act on emotions, not what passes for economic "logic," and announced layoffs can lead them to panic, because uncertainty and fear of the unknown are powerful allies when it comes to irrational thinking and the often-unwise actions it spawns. Thus, even if nothing in a person's own job changes, the fact that their company has fired people to increase the economic bottom line can, and often does, drastically change an employee's attitude about the wisdom of loyalty to the company and thus cripples the company's real wealth - the allegiance and imagination of its employees. No wonder it's called "downsizing." The end result is that a worker's dignity levels out near zero! And what does the corporation lose when employees are fired - especially older, long-term employees? The corporation loses its collective memory and its history, both accrued through years of loyal service. All of this revolves around consumption and consumerism. Consumption to the economist is the "end-all and be-all" of production. It means economic growth. Consumption is the heart and soul of capitalism itself. The rate of consumption by a populace is also the standard economic measure of human welfare. Consumption as an end it itself arose with the conceptualization of "the economy" as a macro-social entity and "economics" as a macro-social science.rather than as household management, which is the true meaning of the word economy. To this end, Adam Smith wrote: "Consumption is the sole end and purpose of all production." Because consumption and consumerism dominate social discourse and political agendas of all parties, consumerism hogs the limelight at center stage as the prime objective of Western industrialized societies, which, in the collective, are known as "consumer societies." Within these consumer societies, the purpose of consumption is: variety, distraction from daily stresses, pleasure, power, and the status that one hopes will bring with them a measure of happiness and social security. None of this comes to pass, however, because people themselves are increasingly seen as economic commodities. How can a commodity find security from another commodity? In this sense, the marketplace satisfies only temporarily our collective neuroses, while hiding the values that give true meaning to human life.9 Author James B. Twitchell puts it nicely: "Once we are fed and sheltered, our needs are and have always been cultural, not natural. Until there is some other system to codify and satisfy those needs and yearnings, commercialism [consumerism] - and the culture it carries with it - will continue not just to thrive but to triumph."10 In the final analysis, it is doubtful many people really subscribe to the economist's notion that human happiness and contentment derives solely from, or even primarily from, the consumption of goods and services. It's therefore surprising that such a notion has come to hold nearly dictatorial power over public policy and the way industrialized societies are governed. We are today so ensnared in the process of selling and buying things in the market place, that we cannot imagine human life being otherwise. Even our notion of well-being and of despair are wedded to the flow and ebb of the markets. Why is this so much a part of our lives? It is largely because people have yet to understand the notion of conscious simplicity, which is based on the realization that there are two ways to wealth: want less or work more. Put differently, true wealth lies in the scarcity of one's wants - as opposed to the abundance of one's possessions. Endnotes 1. The discussion of corporate beginnings is based on: (1) Jim Hightower. 1998. Chomp! Utne Reader. March-April: 57-61, 104, (2) Nick Robins. 2001. Loot. Resurgence 210:12-16, and (3) David C. Korten. 2001. What to Do When Corporations Rule the World. Yes! A Journal of Positive Futures. Summer:48-51. 2. Diane Stafford. 2001. Workers feeling overwhelmed. Knight Ridder Newspapers. In: Corvallis Gazette-Times, Corvallis, OR. May 21. 3. Dru Sefton. 1998. Busy owners are abandoning pets. Knight-Ridder Tribune News Service. In: Corvallis Gazette-Times, Corvallis, OR. June 7. 4. The Associated Press. 2001. Enron retirees: Collapse wiped out life savings. Corvallis Gazette-Times, Corvallis, OR. December 19. 5. Tony Pugh. 1999. Sad Ballad of the Long-Term Temp. Knight Ridder Newspapers. In: Corvallis Gazette-Times, Corvallis, OR. December 7. 6. The Editors. 2000. No time to slow down. U.S. News & World Report. June 26:14. 7. The preceding four paragraphs are based on: Steven Greenhouse. 2001. After the Downsizing, a Downward Spiral. The New York Times. April 8. 8. The preceding three paragraphs are based on: Adam Geller. 2001. Economists fear cuts will affect consumer spending. The Associated Press. In: Corvallis Gazette-Times, Corvallis, OR. February 1. 9. The preceding three paragraphs are based on: Paul Ekins. 1998. From Consumption to Satisfaction. Resurgence 191:16-19. 10. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt. 2001. Sales Pitches That Put the M (for Mega) in Madison Ave. The New York Times. January 3 * * * * * This essay is condensed from Chris Maser's 2004 book The Perpetual Consequences of Fear and Violence: Rethinking the Future. Maisonneuve Press, Washington, D.C. 373 pp. Chris has written several books that are showcased on his website, chrismaser.com. Chris lives in Corvallis, Oregon. He is a consultant on environmental land-use development, sustainable communities and forestry. * * * * * Further Reading: "The corporado's life and its antithesis" by Jan Lundberg, Culture Change e-Letter #43, Nov. 19, 2003: The image of the corporado . executive, investor, bandito of business, marauder against the public trust . obscures the interesting life of a consumer generally at rest in a social bubble. From what I observed up close, for many a corporado the relations with family and friends are so shallow that the terms "family" and "friends" are too generous. But a so-called master of the universe grins and bears it. To read the rest, go to culturechange.org/e-letter-corporado.html --------7 of 8-------- "Re-learning" what we've forgotten Written by Chris Maser Editor's note: This is Chris Maser's Part Three of his series for Culture Change. I ate this up, because ever since I read a 1987 article in Discover magazine by Jared Diamond, about hunter-gatherers' working only a few hours a day a few days a week, I've been aware that our modern way of life is not what it's cracked up to be. In Maser's article there's solid anthropological insight applicable to our current challenge as a dysfunctional society facing extinction. In his 22 maxims, he concludes with "Placing material wealth, as symbolized by the money chase, above spirituality, nature, and human well-being is the road to social impoverishment, environmental degradation, and the collapse of societies and their life-support systems." - Jan Lundberg If we all treat one another with the best principles of human relationships, it is analogous to complying with Nature's biophysical principles by taking responsibility for our own behavior. In other words, if I want to become acquainted with you, it is incumbent on me to determine how I must treat you in order to allow, even encourage, you to reciprocate in kind. Thus, for me to receive the best service, it is my responsibility to initiate a good relationship with the person serving me. Likewise, to have an adequate supply of quality resources in the form of services from Nature to run our cities, we must take care of the land in a way that perpetuates the natural capital we require for a quality life. Here, the bottom line is that, by treating one another - as well as the land - with respect, we are uniting the two disparate entities into a single, self-reinforcing feedback loop of complementary services that can be perpetrated through time. To bring this about, however, we need to view one another and ourselves differently, which necessitates a brief, generalized visit to the hunter-gatherers of olden times. If you are wondering why we need to visit the hunter-gatherers, the answer is simple: to understand what we have forgotten - how to live in harmony with one another and the land. What the hunter-gatherers knew The hunting-gathering peoples of the world - Australian aborigines, African Bushman, and similar groups - represent not only the oldest but also perhaps the most successfully adapted human beings. Virtually all of humanity lived by hunting and gathering before about 12,000 years ago. Hunters and gatherers represent the opposite pole of the densely packed, harried urban life most people of today experience. Yet the life philosophy of those same hunter-gatherers may hold the answer to a central question plaguing humanity at it enters the 21st century: Can people live harmoniously with one another and Nature? Until 1500 AD, hunter-gatherers occupied fully one-third of the world, including all of Australia, most of North America, and large tracts of land in South America, Africa, and northeast Asia, where they lived in small groups without the overarching disciplinary umbrella of a state or other centralized authority. They lived without standing armies or bureaucratic systems, and they exchanged goods and services without recourse to economic markets or taxation. With relatively simple technology, such as wood, bone, stone, fibers, and fire, they were able to meet their material requirements with a modest expenditure of energy and had the time to enjoy that which they possessed materially, socially, and spiritually. Although their material wants may have been few and finite and their technical skills relatively simple and unchanging, their technology was, on the whole, adequate to fulfill their needs, a circumstance that says the hunting-gathering peoples were the original affluent societies. Clearly, they were free of the industrial shackles in which we find ourselves as prisoners at hard labor caught seeming forever between the perpetual disparity of unlimited wants and insufficient means. Evidence indicates that these peoples lived surprisingly well together, despite the lack of a rigid social structure, solving their problems among themselves, largely without courts and without a particular propensity for violence. They also demonstrated a remarkable ability to thrive for long periods, sometimes thousands of years, in harmony with their environment. They were environmentally and socially harmonious and thus sustainable because they were egalitarian, and they were egalitarian because they were socially and environmentally harmonious. They intuitively understood the reciprocal, indissoluble connection between their social life and the sustainability of their environment. Sharing was the core value of social interaction among hunter-gatherers, with a strong emphasis on the importance of generalized reciprocity, which means the unconditional giving of something without any expectation of immediate return. The combination of generalized reciprocity and an absence of private ownership of land has led many anthropologists to consider the hunter-gatherer way of life as a "primitive communism," in the true sense of "communism," wherein property is owned in common by all members of a classless community. Even today, there are no possessive pronouns in aboriginal languages. The people's personal identity is defined by what they give to the community: "I am because we are, and since we are, therefore I am" is a good example of the "self-in-community" foundation that gives rise to the saying in Zulu, umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu: "It is through others that one attains selfhood." (1) Hunter-gatherer peoples lived with few material possessions for hundreds of thousands of years and enjoyed lives that were in many ways richer, freer, and more fulfilling than ours. These nomadic peoples were (and are) economical in every aspect of their lives, except in telling stories. Stories passed the time during travel, archived the people's history, and passed it forward as the children's cultural inheritance. (2) These peoples so structured their lives that they wanted little, required little, and found what they needed at their disposal in their immediate surroundings. They were comfortable precisely because they achieved a balance between what they needed and/or wanted by being satisfied with little. There are, after all, two ways to wealth - working harder or wanting less. The !Kung Bushmen of southern Africa, for example, spent only twelve to nineteen hours a week getting food because their work was social and cooperative, which means they obtained their particular food items with the least possible expenditure of energy. Thus, they had abundant time for eating, drinking, playing, and general socializing. In addition to which, young people were not expected to work until well into their twenties and no one was expected to work after age forty or so. (3) Like the hunter-gatherers of old, the sense of place for the self-sufficient, nomadic Bedouins ("desert dwellers" in Arabic) is a seasonal journey. With respect to socializing, however, Bedouins have long had specific meeting places. In the desert of Sinai, an acacia tree still serves as a landmark and meeting place that offers shelter and social contact to travelers. The "makhad" (which means "the meeting place around the acacia tree") is a traditional Bedouin meeting place, where, according to their customs of friendship and hospitality, all who pass through the desert are welcomed. In fact, there is a particular acacia tree in the Sinai desert at the oasis garden of Ein-Khudra (an oasis mentioned in the Bible) that has been cultivated continuously by the same Bedouin family for over a thousand years. These "oasis gardens" are remarkably fertile and filled with abundance, which reflects the Bedouin's love of and respect for their desert home. The makhads are a socially recognized commons in that they help to sustain the nomadic lifestyle - acting as a fixed point around which the nomadic journey revolves. (4) Hunter-gatherers also had much personal freedom. There were, among the !Kung Bushmen and the Hadza of Tanzania, for instance, either no leaders or only temporary leaders with severely limited authority. These societies had personal equality in that everyone belonged to the same social class and had gender equality. Their technologies and social systems, including their economies of having enough or a sense of "enoughness," allowed them to live sustainably for tens of thousands of years. One of the reasons they were sustainable was their lack of connection between what an individual produced and that person's economic security, so acquisition of things to ensure personal survival and material comfort was not an issue. In the beginning, nomadic hunters and gatherers, who have represented humanity for most of its existence, probably saw the world simply as "habitat" that fulfilled all of their life's requirements, a view that allowed the people to understand themselves as part of a seamless community. For example, the Apache word "Shi-Ni," is used for "land" and "mind," an indication of how closely the people were united to the land. With the advent of herding, agriculture, and progressive settlement, however, humanity created the concept of "wilderness," and so the distinctions between "tame" (equals "controlled") and "wild" (equals "uncontrolled") plants and animals began to emerge in the human psyche. Along with the notion of tame and wild plants and animals came the perceived need to not only "control" space but also to "own" it through boundaries in the form of corrals, pastures, fields, and villages. In this way, the uncontrolled land or "wilderness" of the hunter-gatherers came to be viewed in the minds of settled folk as "unproductive," "free" for the taking, and/or as a threat to their existence. Agriculture, therefore, brought with it both a sedentary way of life and a permanent change in the flow of living. Whereas the daily life of a hunter-gatherer was a seamless whole, a farmer's life became divided into "home" and "work." While a hunter-gatherer had intrinsic value as a human being with respect to the community, a farmer's sense of self-worth became extrinsic, both personally and with respect to the community as symbolized by, and permanently attached to "productivity" - a measure based primarily on how hard a person worked and thus produced in good or services. In addition, the sedentary life of a farmer changed the notion of "property." To the hunter-gatherers, mobile property, that which one could carry with them (such as one's hunting knife or gathering basket) could be owned, but fixed property (such as land) was to be shared equally through rights of use, but could not be personally owned to the exclusion of others and the detriment of future generations. This was such an important concept, that it eventually had a word of special coinage, "usufruct." According to the 1999 Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, "usufruct," is a noun in Roman and Civil Law. Usufruct means that one has the right to enjoy all the advantages derivable from the use of something that belongs to another person provided the substance of the thing being used is neither destroyed nor injured. So the dawn of agriculture, which ultimately gave birth to civilizations, created powerful, albeit unconscious, biases in the human psyche. For the first time, humans clearly saw themselves as distinct from and - in their reasoning at least - superior to the rest of Nature. They therefore began to consider themselves as masters of, but not as members of, Nature's biophysical community of life. To people who lived a sedentary life, like farmers, land was a commodity to be bought, owned, and sold. Thus, when hunter-gatherer cultures, such as the American Indians, "sold" their land to the invaders (in this case Europeans), they were really selling the right to "use" their land, not to "own" it outright as fixed property, something the Europeans did not understand. The European's difficulty in comprehending the difference probably arose because, once a sedentary and settled life style is embraced, it is almost impossible to return to a nomadic way of life, especially the thinking that accompanies it. We, as individuals, may therefore despair when we contemplate the failure of so many earlier human societies to recognize their pending environmental problems, as well as their failure to resolve them - especially when we see our local, national, and global society committing the same kinds of mistakes on an even larger scale and faster time track. But the current environmental crisis is much more complex than earlier ones because modern society is qualitatively different than previous kinds of human communities. Old problems are occurring in new contexts and new problems are being created, both as short-term solutions to old problems and as fundamentally new concepts. Pollution of the world's oceans, depletion of the ozone layer, production of enormous numbers and amounts of untested chemical compounds that find their way into the environment, and the potential human exacerbation of global climate change were simply not issues in olden times. But they are the issues of today. There are lessons we, as a society today, can re-learn from the people who once lived - and the few who still live - a hunter-gatherer way of life. I say, "relearn" because, as writer Carlo Levi once said, "the future has an ancient heart." What we must "re-learn" 1. Life's experiences are personal and intimate. 2. Sharing life's experiences by working together and taking care of one another along the way is the price of sustainability. 3. Cooperation and coordination, when coupled with sharing and caring, precludes the perceived need to compete, except in play - and perhaps in story telling. 4. The art of living lies in how we practice relationship - beginning with ourselves - because practicing relationship is all we humans ever do in life. 5. Leisure is affording the necessary amount of time to fully engage each thought we have, each decision we make, each task we perform, and each person with whom we converse in order to fulfill a relationship's total capacity for a quality experience. 6. Simplicity in living and dying depends on and seeks things small, sublime, and sustainable. 7. There is more beauty and peace in the world than ugliness and cruelty. 8. Any fool can complicate life, but it requires a certain genius to make and keep things simple. 9. For a group of people to be socially functional, they must be equally informed about what is going on within the group; in other words, there must be no secrets that are actually or potentially detrimental to any member of the group. 10. Separating work from social life is not necessary for economic production - and may even be a serious social mistake. 11. By consciously limiting our "wants," we can have enough to comfortably fulfill our necessities as well as some of our most ardent desires - and leave more for other people to do the same. 12. Simplicity is the key to contentment, adaptability, and survival as a culture; beyond some point, complexity becomes a decided disadvantage with respect to cultural longevity, just as it is to the evolutionary longevity of a species. 13. The notion of scarcity is largely an economic construct to foster competitive consumerism and thereby increase profits, but is not necessarily an inherent part of human nature. (We need to overcome our fear of economically contrived scarcity and marvel instead at the incredible abundance and resilience of the Earth.) 14. Linking individual well-being strictly to individual production is the road to competition, which in turn leads inevitably to social inequality, poverty, and environmental degradation. 15. Self-centeredness and acquisitiveness are not inherent traits of our species, but rather acquired traits based on a sense of fear and insecurity within our social setting that fosters the perceived need of individual and collective competition, expressed as the need to impress others. 16. Inequality based on gender and/or social class is a behavior based on fear disguised as "social privilege." 17. Mobile property, that which one can carry with them, can be owned, whereas fixed property - such as land, which may be borrowed - is to be shared equally through rights of generational use, but can not be personally owned to the detriment of future generations. 18. Placing material wealth, as symbolized by the money chase, above spirituality, nature, and human well-being is the road to social impoverishment, environmental degradation, and the collapse of societies and their life-support systems. (3) So, where are we today? We are the exact antithesis of the hunter-gatherers in many respects: (1) who we are, (2) how we obtain resources, (3) what we own, (4) our connection with Nature, and (5) who benefits and who pays. I am, however, going to focus on our connection with Nature, because, in a sense, the others are embodied in the characteristics of that relationship. The hunter-gatherers knew themselves to be an inseparable part of Nature and therefore did their best to honor Nature by blending in with the seasonal cycles of birth and death, of hunter, gatherer, and hunted. Through their spirituality and myths, they sought to understand the "Nature Gods," appease them, and serve them so they might continue to be generous in the future. We city folks, on the other hand, have all but lost our conscious connection with Nature, in part because a number of modern religions, such as Christianity and Judaism, consider humanity to be separate from and above all other life on Planet Earth. In addition, we live in protective "boxes" of one sort or another wherein our daily necessities are transported - including our experience of the outer world via television. Consequently, we rarely experience the night sky, the seasonal flights of migrating geese, or the wide-open spaces that are as yet uncluttered by the trappings of humanity. And those city folks who do hunt, normally do so with high-powered rifles that make their game into the abstractions of sport and trophies. The hunter-gatherers lived lightly upon the land, honoring its cycles, being patience with Nature's pace, taking only what they needed, and thereby allowing the land to renew itself before they took from it again. In this way, generations passed through the millennia, each tending to be at least as well off as the preceding one. Because we have a propensity to see Nature as a commodity to be competitively exploited for our immediate benefit, we are, at best, short-changing the generations of the future by passing forward unpaid environmental bills and, at worst, blatantly stealing their inheritance and thus setting all generations on a course toward environmental bankruptcy. The first is irresponsible, the latter unconscionable. While the hunter-gatherers lived an effective life, we are focused almost totally on efficiency. And they are not the same thing! Endnotes 1. Barbara Nussbaum. 2003. Ubuntu. Resurgence 221:13. 2. Sally Pomme Clayton. 2003. Thread of Life. Resurgences 221:29. 3. The foregoing discussion of hunter-gatherers is taken from: (1) the Foreword, Introduction, and first eight chapters of the 1998 book "Limited wants, unlimited means" edited by John Gowdy and published by Island Press, Washington, D.C. The authors are as follows: Foreword by Richard B. Lee, Introduction by John Gowdy, Chapter 1 by Marshall Sahlins, Chapter 2 by Richard B. Lee, Chapter 3 by Lorna Marshall, Chapter 4 by James Woodburn, Chapter 5 by Nurit Bird-David, Chapter 6 by Eleanor Leacock, Chapter 7 by Richard B. Lee, and Chapter 8 by Ernest S. Burch, Jr.; (2) Rebecca Adamson. People who are Indigenous to the Earth. 1997. YES! A Journal of Positive Futures, Winter:26-27; (3) Gus diZerega. 1997. Re-thinking the Obvious: Modernity and Living Respectfully with Nature. Trumpeter 14:184-193; (4) Richard K. Nelson. 1983. Make Prayers to the Raven: A Koyukon View of the Northern Forest. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL. pp. 214-215; (5) Stephanie Mills. 2001. Words for the Wild. Resurgence 208:38-40; and (6) Roderick Frazier Nash. 2003. Wild World. Resurgence 216:36-38. 4. The foregoing discussion about the nomadic Bedouins is based on: Will Cretney. 2000. A Nomadic Journey. Resurgence 203:24-25. * * * * * This essay is condensed from Chris Maser's 2004 book The Perpetual Consequences of Fear and Violence: Rethinking the Future. Maisonneuve Press, Washington, D.C. 373 pp. Chris has written several books that are showcased on his website, chrismaser.com. Chris lives in Corvallis, Oregon. He is a consultant on environmental land-use development, sustainable communities and forestry. Further Reading: "Ancient innovations for present conventions toward extinction" by Jan Lundberg, Culture Change Letter #161, June 10, 2007: culturechange.org --------8 of 8-------- A capitalist sings his scales Do-re-mi for mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi; mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi bridge (ppp): [the inward spiritual part] mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi reprise (ffff): [the socko crecendo] mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi mi -------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8 impeach bush & cheney impeach bush & cheney impeach bush & cheney impeach bush & cheney
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