A great unraveling

Posted August 4th, 2011 in Blog, Featured 3 Comments »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

Breathtaking! I’m sitting here watching the closing minutes of the Wall Street stock exchange as the Dow falls, falls, and now takes a nose-dive far beyond 500 points – one of the greatest crashes EVER!

I guess the markets were not impressed by what the Tea Party, Congressional pseudo-leaders, and Obama accomplished this past week, not impressed with measures Europe is taking to contain the banking crisis. Also not impressed that any of the steps taken to salvage our US economy since the collapse in 2008 are working, are likely to work, or that the political system has any prospects of doing anything helpful in days to come.

We’re on this ride that I like to call ‘The Great Unraveling.’ The economic system that has been the rock bed of the US economy for a generation is no longer working, right alongside the political system that is no longer working. Now I hear a CEO from a large financial institution on MSNBC saying that the problem is that we can no longer afford ‘entitlements.’ Say, what?!?!! What in the world is he talking about?!?!

Entitlements. Sheesh. Please, everyone – THESE ARE NOT ENTITLEMENTS! THESE ARE PROGRAMS I HAVE PAID INTO ALL MY LIFE SO THAT IN MY LATER YEARS I GET A LITTLE SOMETHING BACK!!! They are investments, savings, from my income!!! I am not ‘entitled.’ This is my money, yours, ours!!!

Okay, you and I know the immediate causes of the crisis, and they do not include Social Security or Medicare: the mortgage fiasco, the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the unleashing of the banks into risky investments, the creation of complex financial instruments that no one really understands but which made some people very wealthy, the Bush tax cuts, the 3-5 current wars – and on and on. The crisis is caused by the very same people who now want to blame you and me for wanting to get Social Security checks and Medicare in our old age.

Look, this is all part of the greater unraveling. This era of growth economics and wealth generation, the logic of the capitalist system, is reaching its inevitable wall of limits. Endless consumption of resources and goods, ever rising standards of living and more and more energy intensive technologies and conveniences, all crashing into that wall. The transition from production capital to financial capital, the voracious greed of the latter, the creation of more and more fake ways to create paper wealth – it’s all collapsing. And as so many predicted 2 years or more ago, the attempts to fix it, to salvage this system, are bringing about greater and greater collapses and a faster and faster pace.

Even now, the discourse on TV is about the politics of it, not the systemic nature of the crisis – actually, multiple crises, one upon the other. We have ravaged the economy the way we have ravaged the planet. We are still letting financial institutions, investors, and corporate boards and CEOs run the show, and they are lying to you and me about the real nature of the crisis. We are in the death throes of an old economic logic that for one brief moment on the planet built this incredible consumer society in Western nations that all the world wants to emulate. It was always impossible, but now we have reached that wall of impossibility and are crashing smack into it.

Source: US Drought Monitor, August 2 2011

Look at Texas, for crying out loud. It is burning to a crisp. It is running out of water. The aridification underway is such a powerful force that when that tropical storm Don made a direct hit this past week, with the hopes of bringing some needed downpours, it literally broke up and evaporated when it hit that parched land. The heat in the south is becoming apocalyptic, if you like that kind of language. It is most definitely the end times coming for a whole lot of people who live down there. How are we doing responding to this disaster?

Eric Cantor?!?! Really??! This guy is holding up our governance for the sake of his millions and the millions of those who provide money for his campaigns? Tea Party freshmen who seem to be enjoying doing this demolition? Self-proclaimed Christians who are happily engaged in bringing about greater and greater suffering to the unemployed, the poor, the elderly, our kids?

On days like this, the pathology of the culture is glaring. No institution I know of, including religious institutions, are proffering any ideas or actions or leadership commensurate with the crises we are now facing.

What do we do? Well, here’s one way to think about this:

how are your neighbors? how are your friends and families doing? how about the folks in your parishes and other faith communities? Is everyone okay? Do we know? How are you doing? Is anyone asking? Are we helping one another, or are we feeling left to our own resources? Are we pulling together? Are we letting the political discourse separate us from one another?

I ask these questions because I really believe this is where our capacity to address the unraveling needs to begin – right where we are and in the communities in which we exist and subsist. Because how we get through these increasingly difficult times depends on how we take care of one another, how we pull together, how we build community.

I collaborate with a number of different groups and networks, both personal and work-related, and in every single one the question of community arises – the need for it, the longing for it. It is clear that we have to start getting serious about this. We have to know who our neighbors are, where the needs are, who is suffering, and how to build resilience and support right in the places where we live and work. For a couple of generations now, we have been led to believe that our lives can be built upon consuming to meet our needs, having our separate lives and investments and savings and then storing up in barns for the future.

Right. The barns are burning down, and the consumer society has broken up our families and communities so that we are separated out from one another. What that economy built actually helped destroy the very thing we need now to get through this era and start to build a different world, a resilient, ultimately sustainable, whole, and healthy human community living within the limits of a resilient, whole, and healthy eco-community.

This economic model that formed us cannot do that for us. Dismantling it is essential. Since we cannot dismantle it systemically yet, we can begin the process of dismantling it in our own lives and among our relationships and our communities. We can as much as possible remove the market as mediator of our lives and relationships and replace it with the real thing.

This is not only the path through crisis, it is also the path back to wholeness and even joy. It is a path of healing and regeneration of life in its essence and its fullness.

I see no other way…

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3 Responses

  1. Dave Gardner

    Excellent observations, Margaret. I wrote some similar comments, perhaps not as eloquently, two days ago:

    http://www.growthbusters.org/2011/08/great-news-economic-recovery-stalls/

    Dave Gardner
    Filmmaker

  2. hombredelatierra

    A lot of bailout money went to CEOs (they preach Social Darwinism for the poor but when they screw up they expect to get a golden handshake: now THAT’S “Entitilement”!). More $$$ was simply sucked down the black hole of re-investment in the financial market (which was part of the problem in the first place!). This wasted money could have used to rebuild the “real” economy of goods, commodities and services, and – most importantly – build sustainable green-energy infrastructure. Wasted.. just wasted.. flushed..

    The ancient Greeks believed that the essence of human life was found in society, in our nexus of relation with other..

  3. Margaret

    The ancient Greeks would not do well in our culture.

    Thank you both for the work you do!