Ask the hero of my novel, The Doom Healer, which I am posting here for free, one chapter at a time.
Bill will tell you, there is one problem, and it has three fatal symptoms.
But even if it didn’t have fatal symptoms, this problem is still the cause of uncounted misery. It can be fixed. You can fix it for yourself, right now, and then you can be a focal point for others, showing them by example how to create contentment.
This necessary change has inspired all my writing, since 1972.
What’s the problem? It is a global culture that values and reinforces the worst in human nature: greed, fear and intolerance of difference, aggressiveness. The cliché, “Human nature being what it is…” implies that, basically, humans are nasty creatures.
All those negatives are genuine parts of human nature, but so are generosity, compassion, cooperation, decency. We don’t need to change the way people ARE, but the way they are VIEWED. I explain this in detail in How to Change the World, an essay I wrote in 1998, which is even more apt and relevant today. Please take the time to read it. Doing so may change your life, for the better.
We are heading for disaster, have already suffered many disasters, because humanity is suffering from a cancer. This cancer is the global economy. It can only stay healthy by growing, and we have long exceeded the limits.
Catastrophe is not at the SPLAT, but at the OOPS. The oops is long past us. Now, our duty is to delay and soften the consequences, and to offer a compassionate response to those who are suffering, now. Terrorism, war (which is terrorism by a state), environmental disasters of many kinds, and economic meltdowns like in Greece, are direct consequences of our cancer. When you see a destitute homeless person, a refugee, a victim of violence, think “There but for the grace of God go I,” and act. You will be improving two lives: that person’s through your action, and your own through your spiritual growth.
You see, everything around you is illusion. All that matters is what you take with you when you die, and what you leave behind in the hearts of others. What is that? This is best expressed through a quote from my award-winning novel, Ascending Spiral:
Lessons learnt, gained wisdom ⎯ or the opposite: hate, bitterness, blame and the like. So, you either advance in spiritual development, or go backward, or of course a bit of each.
Look after the heart, the Love, and you can let go of everything else.
What are the three symptoms of our global cancer?
The worst is, we are now in the 6th extinction event of planet Earth. If things keep going as they are, this will be at least as bad as the worst ever, the one that ended the Permian period, some 250 million years ago. It was so bad that it took 10 million years before complex life started evolving again. You can check it out in many places, for example at the National Geographic.
It doesn’t matter how many billions of dollars you accumulate. You can’t escape this in underground shelters, artificial dome cities or anywhere else on Earth. It’s fatal. The only hope is PREVENTION.
The second worst symptom is climate change. Vested interests have confused the issue, but the facts are clear. Climate change has happened, is worsening, and is due to human action. It can be slowed to some extent through human action. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to read up on the evidence, and take action, NOW. Several pages and posts right here address this issue, and you can browse in past issues of my newsletter Bobbing Around. It covers many other topics you may find interesting.
The third symptom is global economic collapse. Unlike species extinction and climate change, it is unlikely to lead to the extinction of humanity by itself, but it is the first that’s likely to strike us. You see, the global economy is based on an illusion, and relies on an idiot measure, the GDP. Back to the Doom Healer. Toward the end of the book, Bill prepared a speech for the National Press Club of Australia. He wrote:
Humanity’s enemy, the cause of our problems, is… the global economy. This is a device for turning nature into pollution, in order to increase the number of zeros in certain computers. Does that make sense?
The problem arises because we’ve had unrestrained growth in a limited system. I’m not saying anything new. We’ve exceeded the limits. I’m not the first to say that either.
We’re facing disaster — have already experienced disaster — because for hundreds of years, each generation has stolen from its future.
We are that future.
To save something for ourselves, and to give us a chance of having descendants, we need to make BIG changes. NOW.
OK, what’s wrong with the economy?
First, it’s assessed on an idiot measure: the GDP. This is a composite measure of money changing hands. It includes good things like food, shelter, entertainment, and bad things like repairing smashed cars, the cost of keeping criminals in jail, the medical costs of cancer caused by pollution, and so on. It doesn’t include a great many costs economists mislabel externalities. Plastic waste in the ocean kills marine life and birds. That’s not in the GDP, but is a very real cost; one of the threats to our existence as a species. Unravel the web of life, and we’ll fall through the hole.
Alternatives have been proposed, and even implemented. One example is the King of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness. There is a vigorous Degrowth movement with very sensible recommendations. One of Canberra’s sons is Professor Constanza of ANU. He advocates a measure termed Genuine Progress Indicator. It includes monetary equivalents for externalities, and excludes social costs. Interestingly, while GDP has skyrocketed in the past 40 years, GPI has stagnated since 1976. Think of the implications.
A wonderful set of ideas is the Thai King’s ‘Sufficiency Economy Philosophy.’ There is a book on it from two Macquarie University academics: Avery and Bergsteiner. This is basically Buddhist economics. If it were applied globally, many of our problems would disappear.
Also worth considering is the kind of resource tax Alaska imposes on oil companies, but on a wider range of resources, as described by Peter Barnes.
We need major, urgent effort to develop and apply such ideas.
Currently, the rich are stealing from the poor. Consumption is consuming the future. Instead, we need to live simply, so we can simply live.
Ted Trainer in Sydney has been doing it for years. His group’s environmental footprint is one-tenth of that of the average Australian, and they live a good life.
During the global economic meltdown in 2009, many countries rewarded the criminals with big payouts. Iceland put them in jail. Think about that.
My next point is the link between work and pay. There is stigma against the unemployed. Actually, they do no harm. The harm is done at the opposite end of the economic pyramid: by people who don’t work, but live off their wealth, often inherited. People admire the jet set, while despising the dole bludger.
Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha are among those who preached against greed and avarice. Listen to Pope Francis. Life is not about money, power or status. All that matters is what you take with you when you die.
To buy us time so we can work toward survival, we must redistribute wealth. Money is an illusion: entries in computers. A bank creates “money” by lending money it doesn’t have, then charging interest on the illusion. Obama in America and Rudd in Australia turned the economy around by making gifts to business, financed with nothing. Of course, this was the Keynesian economics that ended the Great Depression.
If money had real value, such smoke and mirrors tricks would be impossible. Well, we now need another smoke and mirrors trick: taking the zeros from those who have too many, and using them for projects with real economic benefits.
Will some people suffer?
No. The 1% will have sufficient to carry on the way they have, although I hope they’ll stop squandering our common wealth. All wealth, ALL WEALTH, comes from nature. No one owns nature. We are not apart from it, but a part of it…
Corporations will suffer, but corporations are not people. To prove this, I ask you: how many corporations have broken laws? And how many have served jail sentences?
To survive, we need to get rid of our wants, in order to satisfy our needs. We need to live in moderation, when too much is as bad as too little.
I now go full circle. By following Bill’s advice, not only can we improve our chances of survival, but we can build a life of contentment, regardless of our circumstances.
OK, finished, but I have just one addendum. This is an essay. I was asked to write about “What current issues are important to you? How often do modern social or global issues are addressed in some way in your stories no matter what era or genera you write?”
My fiction is different. These ideas are behind my writing, but rarely flown as a flag. I believe that, first of all, fiction needs to be entertaining. Check it out. You may find mine to be so.
Other blogs in this round
You might notice, I am the only thorn among the roses. 🙂