by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
At the time of writing in the first decades of the 21st century the world is in a serious crisis far bigger than “just” an economic one. The crisis is consistent of – one – and economic one based on an unsustainable perpetual growth and – two – the fact that the system is collapsing and – three – the climate is changing and means that we all have to change and make changes.
There are many changes that we have to make and we must take many small and large steps – aside from throwing the bankers from their ivory towers, though not necessarily literally – to change the way we live, the way we work and everything else, including the way the world operates. Please note that I did not say “the way we are governed” because if we are free people than government has no place.
As far as the changing climate is concerned it is probably 90% man-made and 10% natural and the former we can do something about the latter I doubt that we can. And because we can do something about the former, that is the man-made part of climate change we must do something about it and it starts with each and everyone of us. But that is but one, though large, part of the crisis.
Our current and ongoing economic crisis – and let no one deceive us that it is over or is about to end – and the climate crisis is a greater threat to security than terrorism.
The so-called economic recovery that is being banded about is but an illusion as it is not founded on more or renewed buying power in the average person's hand and cannot be sustained. And then again we must get away from notion and concept of perpetual growth in the economy anyway as it simply is not sustainable in any way or shape.
The current economic model, however, with overproduction leading to unemployment leading to a lack of purchasing power, leading to overproduction leading to unemployment... you get the picture, I am sure, was designed this way, unfortunately, and no mere tinkering around with it will ever make it any less susceptible to a boom and bust cycle.
The modern industrialization with mechanized production and ever more mechanization today leads to a system that exploits the workers, at home and abroad, and the environment.
Where, in the pre-industrial age our needs were met by the (local) producers and craftsmen who could only make one item at a time and then, predominately, from more or less local materials, today goods, the “need” for which is often created artificially through advertising, are made from materials that come from all around the globe and the good are often made in low wage countries and then shipped around the globe to the consumer.
Mechanized factory production led also to the pool of a permanent unemployed workforce, to overproduction and to the destruction of the environment.
The wage economy was the best that ever happened to the capitalist. He no longer had to feed, house and clothe his slaves in his workshops and on hi plantations. He gave them the freedom to work for money, thus making them wage slaves, where he could then get them to pay him rent for housing and also have them buy the things they needed in the stores owned by him at inflated prices. And while this may not entirely be true anymore today, as to the rents and the stores, as most capitalist employers no longer hold the housing stock and have stores where the workers are forced to buy the wage slavery still persists.
We must reign in our wants, masquerading as needs, and look once again to having our real needs met locally and also to making (again) many more of those things that we need (and want) ourselves.
This is not something that the powers that be will wish to hear and even less see as that interferes totally with their programs. However, we must do it for our own good and especially for the good of the Planet and thus for our ultimate survival as individuals and as a species.
Living within our means
Living within our means does not just mean living with in our financial means but also and especially on an economic level and that is to say that we must change the way we make things, have products once again made so that they can be prepared and made more or less locally.
We live on a finite Planet with finite non-renewable resources – the renewable ones are a little bit a different kettle of fish – but we behave as if the Planet and those resources can grow according to our demands.
The perpetual growth economy is not sustainable on a Planet that cannot grown and whose non-renewable resources are already almost used up. Thus we must reduce our consumption and learn to make do with less and to demand products that do not have obsolescence designed in but which can be fixed when something breaks.
It once was that way and that was even still not so long ago and, for example, old wireless sets (radio receivers) that ran with valves (tubes to our American cousins) still often work to this very day and, as long as spare valves are available, can be kept running almost for ever.
They were designed to be repairable and many person acquired the DIY skills to replace valves, do a bit of necessary soldering here and there, and such, to keep them going and they did. They were a bit like the old VW Beetle in the old ad that said “it runs, and runs and runs” and, once again, it did for, once again, it could be fixed and kept running, often by the driver with a little knowledge only. And the many old East German cars of the Wartburg and Trabant models, being two-stroke engines even, that still run today, lovingly cared for and repaired by their owners also speak volumes of what can be done if industry has the right attitude and not one where not new inventions are used to sell new products but a simple trick of built-in obsolescence.
The repairability of goods created a whole sector of work of its own with repair shops for this, that and the other, and entire business collectives even existed, such as in the German Democratic Republic, geared to keeping every item working for as long as at all possible, and all those repairs were 100times cheaper than replacing the products with new ones. And it was for that very reason that they were doing a roaring trade.
There were, however, many users everywhere who taught themselves the necessary skills in order to fix the things that they had themselves and things were made in such a way that fixing them was not rocket science anyway.
We must return to this sensible approach and ideally and as much as possible have products made to last at home, as close to home as at all feasible, much like it was in the age before mechanization of production.
Apply total localism (as far as possible)
When we speak here of localism, even total localism, it is something to be aimed for as, in reality, at present, for most products and goods it is not even remotely possible and even getting “Made in England” or “Made in USA”, or other home countries, is often rather difficult. But we must aim for this and not just “made in home country” but “made in home county”.
We need to return to some of the ways of old – most of them, actually – and that includes making many of the things that we need and want ourselves and also growing our own food.
While a garden with flowers and lots of lawn may look nice and provide food for the eye, the flowers especially, it does very little for us, for the wildlife and even less for the environment as a whole. Lawns, in fact, gobble up lots of water for nothing. They serve no purpose and a vegetable garden equally can look as good as does a formal garden with flowers.
Peas were not, originally and initially, grown as a food crop in Britain, for instance, but for their flowers and the fact that the, sort of, climbed and trailed. And the flowers of beans too look very gorgeous and they can create nice looking arbors that, at the same time, produce food.
In addition to that there are many flowers that are edible, either in part or in their entirety and they can be planted together with other crop plants, as many are valuable companion plants to those crops, keeping pests at bay naturally without the need for pesticides.
It is true that goods, made in local workshops, with more or less hand tools and not the large scale mechanization of factories are more expensive, take longer to make and are, in many cases, one off items in that they are not produced in production lines with templates and such like. On the other hand they are, in general, made to last, can be fixed easily, and, in addition to that, you know where the product comes from and even who made it and you are paying that worker and not some corporation.
When you buy from a (local) farmer direct – more or less – or from a (local) maker and workshop you help put food on the table for a family, and not create profit for some faceless corporation and its shareholders.
While it may be a little more expensive to buy from a local organic farmer or a maker who produces by hand and to order than food produced on a factory farm or something made in a factory, probably with slave or prison labor in China, you know what you are getting, by way of food and as far as your other items are concerned something that is made with love and something that is made to last.
The perpetual growth economy cannot continue
It just is not possible to keep growing the economy on a finite Planet whose resources are, bar the renewable ones, limited and most of them are already exhausted, at the brink of this status or not very far away from it. Thus we cannot continue with business as usual and at least we as people have to understand that even if our so-called leaders and governments do not want to.
Capitalism and the notion that the economy has to keep growing in order for people to have work and all that is a fallacy and the greatest enemy to the environment and ecosystem and human survival.
That is not too say that the way the so-called socialist and communist countries of the twentieth (and one or two of those still remain in the twenty-first century) have run their economies was any better. Those were but Stalinist state capitalist ones and many were also, instead of first and foremost producing for the domestic market, geared too export production, whether it was the USSR or the GRD or others. However, for some reason they managed to look after the people in general better.
For all of us to be able to live in harmony with each other and all other of Mother Earth's children we must change the way we live and “consume” and we will have to learn to make to do with less, but more importantly we must demand products – or make them ourselves – that last and that can be easily repaired, either by DIY or by repair shops and the latter brings about another, though not new, sector to the economy, the repair economy. We once had it and we must bring it back. In the German Democratic Republic, the so-called Communist East Germany, an entire sector of the economy was geared to repairing things and entire repair “factories” existed.
There was also a time when most people made as much as possible themselves and prided themselves of their skills of doing a great majority of things for themselves and their families (and communities). And this making things for yourself is also something that we will have to revive and not just while the crisis continues. It has to be something that remains and becomes part of our normal lives again, the way it was for the majority once upon a time.
The crisis is not just an economic one
The crisis is not just an economic one but it is a crisis also of the political system and sickness of society in general. And that means that we must change the entire system for a new one and not just replace one government for another.
In order to tackle the crisis proper the political part cannot be removed from the economic part and vice versa and both have to be considered together almost as a single entity.
The sickness of society also is part of the whole as the economic system of perpetual growth and the manufactured needs and wants and the political one is what has caused this sickness in society and has turned it into a rat race.