Saturday, February 9, 2013

Getting the Message?

Many Americans Believe Recession Is Permanent (Live Science). See also The New Reality Of 'Economic Recovery' For American Workers (Testosterone Pit):
That’s the good news. The bad news: a stunning 54% of those who’d been laid off and were lucky enough to find a job, now make less money than before. Less money in nominal terms, not even adjusted for inflation. A third of them got whacked by a pay cut of 11% to 30%. Another third reported that their pay had been slashed by over 30%. Ouch!  
This new reality—finally finding a job but at much lower pay, or hanging on to a job but with a cut in pay—has sucked optimism out of the system. “Not only does the public not see signs of economic recovery now, they don’t see it in the near future either,” finds the report. And 32% of the people expect it to get even worse. A worrisome deterioration from 2010, when only 27% expected it to get worse. 
Full recovery anytime soon? Only 12% expect it in the “near future”; 25% expect it to take 6-10 years, and 29% think that the economy will “never” fully recover. Mainstream-media optimism hasn’t quite sunk in yet, apparently.  
They put their pessimistic finger where it hurts: GDP doesn’t measure anything but spending as a whole and is useless for individuals. Per-capita GDP, while still inadequate, would be a better measure. Alas, it’s well below the pre-recession peak, and thus silenced to death.  
So, 60% of the people believe that there is a “new normal,” a tough new reality where workers have to take jobs below their skill level, at lower pay, and with less job security—because they’re lucky to even find a job.


  1. I believe the only real, workable solution for real people (those who aren't blessed with the kinds of connections that allow nepotism to be their salvation) is to opt out of the current system to the extent possible.

    Form new, intentional, resilient, and self-contained (to the extent possible and wise) communities. Produce much of what you need in these communities, and barter for the rest, and use cash for the rest - cash generated by communal, cooperative enterprises.

    There is no need to make oneself sick, slaving away in the current system, and losing the greatest wealth of all: meaningful connections to each other and the natural world. And time. How much time do we waste doing work we don't find meaningful, in order to survive? Imagine spending that time not just surviving, but doing meaningful work that enables your survival, and helps you and your neighbors to thrive?

    Get out of "This Ugly Civilization," as Ralph Borsodi advises us to do!

  2. I'm always a bit skeptical of being able to withdraw from society at any level. I'm not quite sure how to do that.

    I'll have to check out Borsodi. What's amazing to me is that he was criticising society as far back as the 1930's, a time many of us look at as a relatively golden age (Depression excepted). I'm reminded of a story - when Glenn Murcutt won the Pritzker Prize a few years ago, there was an intervirew with him. He grew up in New Zealand because his father wanted to flee Britain (they were Australian by birth) to escape what he called "the ugly side of life." That phrease has stuck with me ever since Maybe they were devotees. Certainly that had an effect on Murcutt's work. It's probably hard to flee that while staying in America.

    I found this perceptive quote on Ran's site:

    December 15-17. Ralph Borsodi was a big social thinker and back-to-the-land guru in the early 20th century. Greg recommends his book This Ugly Civilization, and here's a Ralph Borsodi interview (both at the Soil and Health Library).

    Notice that the interview is from 1974, that Borsodi had already been saying this stuff for 50 years, and that people who have never heard of Borsodi are coming up with the same ideas now and thinking they're new: that our civilization is unsustainable, that we have to go back to the land, that we should build communities instead of trying to be self-sufficient in isolation, that we should shift to solar and wind energy, that "instead of waiting for a crash to drive us to a better way of living, we should... develop that sort of living before the coming collapse takes place."

    It makes me think there's nothing new under the sun, and never will be: that in 100, 1000, 10,000 years, there will still be repressive systems muddling along, going through "crashes" and "recoveries" that are just shifts between suffocating central control and the random violence of gang rule, while a few people in every generation fight the ruling system and get crushed, or build alternatives that eventually get sucked back in.

    I don't think repressive systems are made by shadowy elites. The prey defines the ecosystem, not the predator, and in this case the prey is human inattention: the vast majority of people go through life on autopilot. If you manage to stay off autopilot, you have a good chance to thrive in any age. Then, whatever you build, the people who come after you will mess it up. To try to build Utopia, a system in which everyone can be on autopilot and still thrive, is foolishness. But if everyone is paying attention, Utopia is inevitable.

    Is this possible? I like to think so, but I could be wrong. For a darker view, check out Jacques Ellul on propaganda, or Peter Wessel Zapffe's The Last Messiah.


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