Wednesday, 3 September 2008

The opium of our society

What about the general presentation of my thoughts on the way societies politics is seen nowadays.... I needed a retreat, away from everything, and my books and notebooks to understand the general picture. I tried to get the picture. Our world has evolved and it is what it is nowadays. US of A are is the country that has, from economics point of view, the best competitive country and yet, is one of the worst to live in. Yet, all the countries wish to have such an economy. The example I m always given is China, which has a great economic growth, to sustain a quasi-dictatorial country. And in this last sentence lies the infrastructure of the end of our society nowadays : Economic Growth. It is what all governments promise their inhabitants.

This is not going to be a small article, but I ask you to bear with me.
Economic growth is the calculation of the potential output in products and services of a country. To vulgarize the meaning, it is the augmentation of the cake that exist for a whole country. The biggest achievers for this growth are big companies, since they can produce more than an independent, that is why countries try to attract them. To achieve this growth, companies don't go 50 ways about it, they create a product, try to manifacture it the easy way, so it can be produced in large quantity, and don't try to vary it to much. We get loads of the same product, everywhere.

For this product to be economically rentable for companies, it has to have a demand, thus a creation for consumers for the companies. We are in a consumerist society, because without consumers, these companies can't survive. Companies create wishes from us, they advertise they product, or create, more viciously a wish for these products by making them unattainable for us, but only for a certain part of society ( the richer). Because it is in our nature to want what we can't have. And then they make it attainable, so we do get what we dreamt of having, to finally discover (or not if we are that blind) that it doesn't fulfill us as much as we thought it would.

Of course, this system creates also a simulution of production and services. Industries or businesses that have no sense ecept in our system e.g. advertising. Which our society still "needs" because these industries are creating output, therefor growth.

So where does that leads us.

Well companies are competing to get more clients. But countries are actualy the main competitors. SInce economic growth is what countries wish, they have to offer companies and corporations enough so these companies are willing to produce in their country. Countries have to compete to be the one that offers the more than the neighbouring country, whatever the cost, since it will give them the growth they want.

The other form of competition that exists is the competition of the workers in the system. Companies and corporation are seen as the first employers in this world, therefor we are to be fit to be engaged by these companies. Even a shopkeeper has to be competitive to another shopkeeper, not for it's client, but for it s retailers.

All in all, our standards have to be lower down as human or as a society, so corporations are willing to work with us.

Are corporation thus evil ?

No, it is a clear answer, corporations have no will to corrupt the world and make them theirs. BUT, corporations abide by only one rule, be profitable to attract shareholders, so they can invest more money to create more money for them, whatever the costs ! And this is where lies the evil, which cannot be blame on corporations, since they only do what they are meant to do. So shareholders are evil because they are too demanding ? No again, shareholders, just like corporations, are not people making choices. Shareholders nowadays are funds, investments of thousands and millions of people who want more money, not knowing exactly where and how it is invested. They just know that it is investements which are bringing money, so they can spend more. All in all, no one in this system makes an ethical choice, no one is actually guilty, everybody is suppose to do what they do, in this system.

So is society suffering from that system in the end ?

1) To be more competitive, countries have to take back rights to the workers, companies, to make more profit too. A recent example is the draw back on working hours in France. Because France want to augmnent it's growth, they decided to erase the law on the 35 hours work a week. They want people to work more, so companies can make more money. They make more money too, but they don't make time to spend that, if there is actualy a need to make time to spend money. If you look at the evolution of music for example, songs are getting shorter by the years. Our leisure time is shrinking, and so are our hobbies. Books are getting shorter. The production of popular art is not worked on, bands have to produces album every year to satisfy the production companies. Nothing takes time anymore, except work.... And have less time in our life to know what we want to be.

2) Education is getting more pragmatic. Our society asks today that education prepares us for work. Education use to be to bring knowledge to the people, but not anymore. The sole purpose of education nowadays is to prepare us to this system of competition. Knowledge is back at the rank of leisure. Education nowadays just represent a skill on paper so we can get a job later on. An example is the secondary school certificate in UK. A school kids have to select from 2 to 7 subjects at their end of secundary school to pass, so they are prepared to go to universities. I think the general choice is of four, practical, subjects. Which means that they have no general knowledge. I came across this years of english students who had no idea who the Tudors were, who didn't know that there prime minister wasn't directly elected, and such basics lacks. How can we have a democracy that doesn't bring an education that prepares to make civic choices ?

3) We are living beyong our basic needs, and even beyong our wishes of life, without knowing it...

4) Inequality in distributions and of chances. Since countries have to be competitivie, their can't ask as much from the companies, or from the people, to help for everybody in the society to developp. Countries have to invest in what is good for the companies, and cannot be asked to let people sustain other people as much. The companies profit from the competition, and lower the wages because people will compete on their wages too. So people which don't have the skill on paper will receive a lower wage, and cannot help to the education of their kids. Also, people with lot of money are the one receiving more money from their investment in the corportations, a sum of money which is not taxed as a revenue, so not as much. A clear example of this lack of social elevation is the US of A, which has the lowest rate of social elevation in the western world.
Education system getting privatised too, only rich people come out of the good universtities, and do donation so there kids are the only one to get into it...

All in all, we have today no time for self-development, self reflection, time for ourselves, the understanding of what is making time. Spirituality and philosophy are no use in this pragmatic society, so why spend time on them. And yet, we hide to ourselves, but we do need it.

What is the problem exactly then ?

I call it the Economic Growth Myth, the dogma on which our society is build on today. It is the infrastructure on which our society has created itself the last century. The corporations, the marketing system, the consumerist mind, are suprastructures, institutions which are reliant on this dogma. The worst part of this myth is while religions promised us heaven, this dogma doesn't give us any promess for the end. We want economic growth, without knowing where it leads us...

But is there some truth behind it ?

Just like religion has a truth behind itself, economic growth sustain some truth :
Production is a way for every human to self-fulfill itself. We do need to produce so we know we've lead a useful life, a life where we did something, where we created something. What the infrastuctures of this economic growth didn't give us is the individual choice to know what to produce, and in final, what we want to be.

Is there a solution ?

Well, there are some. A revision of our social system, try to promote social trust. If everybody is ready to understand that we can evolve as a society, not as an economy, we could give way to changes in our society. Promote social trust, so people would be ready to install a universal welfare system, so everybody has the same chances in life. Promote independent workers, real creators of productions, which are the substances of our culture. And give perspectives to our life to know what we want, need and should have, for everybody.
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