May 062013
 
 May 6, 2013  Posted by at 6:55 pm Finance
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Dalit or Untouchable Woman of Bombay according to Indian Caste System – 1942 – Wikimedia Commons

Throughout history and throughout the world, there have been classes of untouchables. Best known perhaps (other than Elliott Ness and Wall Street bankers) are the caste that goes by the name in South Asia, a.k.a. the Dalits, but there are/were also for instance the Cagots in France, the Burakumin in Japan, and the Roma and Jewish populations in medieval Europe though the Middle East. In the US, one could include the black and native populations. Wikipedia has this definition:

Untouchability is the social-religious practice of ostracizing a minority group by segregating them from the mainstream by social custom or legal mandate. The excluded group could be one that did not accept the norms of the excluding group and historically included foreigners, house workers, nomadic tribes, law-breakers and criminals and those suffering from a contagious disease. This exclusion was a method of punishing law-breakers and also protected traditional societies against contagion from strangers and the infected.

The origin of the phenomenon may have started simply as a way to exclude criminals and diseased people from a community, but obviously that's not where it led.

Untouchability typically means none to limited access to public resources, schools, churches, temples, and having to live outside of established communities and villages. Often – but not always – there was a connection with certain occupations, especially those seen as impure, such as handling the dead (this could include executioners), and dealing with human and animal waste. In parts of Europe, dealing with money was seen as impure, from a religious point of view, which drove a lot of Jews into the field, since they were banned form most other occupations.

I could write a lot more on the interesting though often cruel and barbaric history of untouchability in a wide definition of the word, but I want to focus on what started to make me think of it, modern unemployment numbers in the western world. That is to say, we are now on the verge of casting a huge group of people, essentially our own neighbors, outside of our communities. They are no longer allowed to participate in what makes our societies tick.

This is true for people of all ages (see: Companies won't even look at resumes of the long-term unemployed), but it's an absolute "disaster that got tired of waiting to happen" among young people. Eurostat published this graph last week:

 



Youth unemployment in Greece (EL) is at about 60%, in Spain (ES) at 55.9%. Then Portugal and Italy at 38.3% and 38.4%, Ireland at 30.3%. Add a bunch of eastern European nations and you have the obvious suspects. Among the others, though, some truly stand out. How about Finland at 19.8%? That's an AAA country, EU core. Same story, only worse, for France: 26.5%. Sweden (SE), supposedly doing so well without the euro: 25.1%. Belgium at 22.3%, the UK 20.7%. They make the US look sort of OK at 16.2%, or at least they serve to somewhat hide how ugly that number really is. In comparison, the EU "hard core" gets no higher than Holland at 10.5%.

Of course there are people who will argue that some of the youth included are in school, not looking for jobs. But given such notions as A) governments' propensities to present rose-colored numbers and B) the numbers of kids enrolled in schools only to not be counted as jobless, I would be wary of overemphasizing the argument.

The numbers, let's focus on Europe for now, are certain to only get worse. How do we know? Easy as pie. It's a matter of political principle. All those unemployed young people are nobody's priority but their own. They simply don't have the political might yet to swing policy decisions in their favor. That is still with the generations of their parents and grandparents, who will vote against anyone trying to cut their wages and benefits. Who will even demand, and receive, government help in dealing with the losses on the homes they bought at irresponsibly elevated prices; they'll claim the government should have warned them.

Losses on homes is one thing the young need not worry about: purchasing a house is way out of reach for them, and for most will remain so for the rest of their lives. The lack of – conventional – political might threatens to doom the young to a life of subservient survival. What might they have will have to come from unconventional methods to change matters. For now, the situation is locked, even as it's sinking fast. What happened in Portugal over the past month is a "great" example of how Europe deals with its issues.

You may remember that in early April, Portugal's highest court declared a set of austerity measures included in the government’s 2013 budget illegal, saying they couldn't single out public workers for salary and benefits cuts. Then, before you could think: democracy works!, the EU/ECB/IMF troika paid an an "unscheduled" visit to Lisbon. The result? Portugal fires another 30,000 public workers. That's right, if you can't cut their benefits, you just fire them.

Of course this is merely the latest in a long line of troika induced measures. 50,000 public sector jobs were already lost in the past two years , and 205,000 jobs disappeared overall in 2012 alone, and 500,000 since 2008.

What do these numbers mean? Here's a helpful little exercise: The US is 30 times the size of Portugal. So to put them in an American perspective, it's like 900,000 public workers are fired in one fell swoop, after 1,5 million lost their jobs in the two years prior, in an economy that lost 6.15 million jobs overall in just the last year(!), and 15 million since 2008.

Not that the troika is done just yet:

Still, an I.M.F. report issued in January concluded that "Portugal’s education system remained overstaffed and relatively inefficient by international standards." It suggested "making the education system more flexible and limiting the state’s role as a supplier of education services" by eliminating 50,000 to 60,000 jobs. 15,000 public school teachers lost their jobs in the past two years.

That's right, their words, not mine: making the education system more flexible [..] by eliminating 50,000 to 60,000 jobs. Again, that would compare to firing between 1.5 and 1.8 million American teachers.

Can Portugal afford to lose all these teachers? Maybe not: about 63% of Portugal’s adult population has not completed high school. Plus, recently graduated teachers can forget about ever getting a job. And so 60,000 young and educated Portuguese emigrate every year. I don't know about you, but to me it's starting to feel like a scorched earth policy.

The European Commission, meanwhile, not only has no answer to these problems, it doesn't even have any intention of doing anything about them. Quite the opposite. The EC wants to continue with the "reforms" it has forced upon PIGSIC countries (can I buy a K?), and we all know what that means: jobs must be cut. Which in turn means that unemployment will rise. Even if they don't say it in so many words. In order to create jobs, you need to cut them first.

From the Telegraph:

[Olli Rehn, the EU's economic and monetary affairs commissioner], had no good news for Europe's growing ranks of unemployed and admitted that "mitigating" against unemployment was all that could be done under the present austerity policy that rules out public-led investment to boost jobs.

He also warned that growth across the EU would return too slowly to reduce unemployment in the short term as European economies remain dependent on exports to offset the impact of the recession and lack of investment caused by the financial and sovereign debt crisis.

"We are living through a very difficult process of adjustment and it is having an unfortunate toll on employment," he said.

"We need consistent consolidation of public finances and structural reforms to boost growth. We need to reform labour market policy to fight youth unemployment. We have to use all possible ways and means to turn the trend in the European economy and mitigate effects of current protracted recession."

And from Bloomberg:

"High unemployment points to the need for continuing the course in structural reforms," said Marco Buti, head of the commission’s economics department. "The reduction in fiscal deficits is making headway in a differentiated way."

That last bit is just meaningless weirdspeak, if you ask me. "The reduction in fiscal deficits is making headway in a differentiated way." Maybe he simply means to say that the people may be screwed, but the banks are fine.

What I do understand is that his words again come down to: "High unemployment points to the need for job cuts". And that remains a strange point of view, especially when seen from the eyes of the unemployed.

So is there any good news? Perhaps that depends on your point of view as well. For instance, I read this in the Telegraph:

"Austerity is finished. This is a decisive turn in the history of the EU project since the euro," [French finance minister Pierre Moscovici] told French TV. "We're seeing the end of austerity dogma. It's a victory of the French point of view."

First of all, that "victory" looks about as Pyrrhic as can be. Several EU nations get more time to cut their deficit to the mandated 3% maximum, but that's just because they're even more broke broker brokest than anyone was ready to admit last time around. And the EU did another round of adjusting predictions downward, a move that's devoid of any meaning if you repeat it every single time. There was also another round of "but next year we'll see the return of growth", but really, who listens anymore? As for the "French point of view", the people hate President Hollande so much after less than a year in office they long back for the good old days of Sarkozy. France is so screwed, but no-one has the guts to say it out loud.

Oh, right, and the EU was proven wrong in Italy. That must have hurt, even if they didn't say so. The return to power of Silvio Berlusconi caused yields on Italian 10 year bonds to plummet. Ergo: they should have left the midget mummy in place, so the markets spoke.

On the whole though, there is just one conclusion left for southern Europe, and I apologize in advance for repeating myself. Countries like Greece and Portugal and Italy need to get out of the Eurozone as quickly as they can. They badly need to regain of their own monetary policy. They must be able to devalue their currencies vis a vis Germany and Holland and the US. Moreover, if they don't leave, they will be swept up (and under) in the wave of bad data that will come out of the EU core. That will start a much bigger squeeze of the periphery than the one we've seen so far. It'll be like being trapped underneath a badly wounded behemoth, not something you should volunteer for.

The Eurozone (and probably the EU as a whole and as a mechanism) has nothing left to offer its poorer members but a world of pain. But it's up to the people themselves to make sure they get out in time. And all the countries still have europhiles in power. Italy got close, but it's already back to the days of old with the same old president and a new PM from the same old school. And if leaving half your children with the prospects of being condemned into meaningless lives, of being ostracized as modern day untouchables, is not enough to wake you up and say No Mas, you really need to wonder what is.

Brussels is not going to create jobs for Europe's young people, they're instead going to cut more jobs, they say so themselves. What they intend to do is squeeze the politically relevant – older – part of the population, but only so far. They don't want them to revolt. That leaves only the young to be squeezed more. Brussels incessantly produces positive looking economic growth numbers, and then incessantly adjusts them downward. They do this because it puts people to sleep. It works. People actually believe that things will get better, that their economies will start growing again and it'll all be fine.

People who are in power will do almost anything to hold on to it. That includes politicians, bankers, corporate executives. We can all identify those groups, and we love to rage against them. But political power in our societies is also defined by age. In that the young have very little of it, and the older have a death grip. That can work, and has worked, as long as – economical – trend lines are positive. It no longer does, however, when these lines break.

Then you don't have one society anymore, but several, starting with older haves and younger have nots. And of course everyone's parents have more than they do, but until now there was the prospect of going out and getting as much as or more than, one's parents have (a better life for my children). That prospect is now gone. But people are slow to realize and accept that. They'd rather believe otherwise, and there are scores of politicians and media willing to keep that faith alive. After all, their own livelihoods depend on it.

Unfortunately for our children, our believing it just about literally means we throw them away with the bathwater. And that can of course only spell trouble down the road. Unless we create all those millions of jobs for them. But we're not even trying: our politicians are busy only keeping us from blowing our gaskets over budget cuts and tax raises; they don't care about out children, because they're not the ones voting them in power. This is not a road to nowhere, it's a road to surefire mayhem. There will inevitable come a point where the younger generation we now leave out to dry gains the voting power and asks: What have you done for me lately? And then, what will be the answer?

But the reality is that in Europe too, "Companies won't even look at resumes of the long-term unemployed". And there are millions of long-term unemployed. Who will never have a real job. Which means that you will arrive at a point where this is no longer a problem solvable within current paradigms. So maybe we need to change those.

Our definition of work has slowly slid from doing something that is useful to yourself, your family and the society you live in, to doing something, a job, that will allow you to buy as big a car and home as possible, and consume as many products as you can whether you need them or not, in order to keep the economy growing. This change in definition has gone largely unnoticed until now, but in light of the levels of – youth – unemployment we see in ever more places, maybe we should take another look at what it means.

Maybe countries like Italy and Greece and Portugal would do better at this point in time to get out of the rat race posing as a force for the good that is the EU. Maybe they have to get back to basics, to making sure they can independently feed themselves, build shelter, and get clean water to everyone.

Maybe competing with Germany and Holland for a scarce musical chair is not the way to go; looking at those unemployment numbers, one might easily come to entertain that idea. And feeding and clothing oneself is not exactly a bad thing to begin with. Our ancestors did, that's why we're here. Maybe it's the best chance they have to engage their young people: in (re)building their societies. And even if things in the global economy do improve somewhere down the line, what exactly would they risk losing?

Better be quick though: the EU has one of its numerous edicts coming out soon that bans people who grow their own food in their gardens, in small plots and allotments, from using their own seeds. They must instead by law buy their seeds from vendors "ordained" by Brussels (yeah, there's Monsanto again…).

Any one of these countries can tell Brussels to go take a hike, and they'll pay back the debt over 50 years in a currency of their own choosing. But they're not doing it. Not so far. Coincidentally, in the graph above, if you look at Iceland, you'll notice they're doing about the best of the lot, with fast falling jobless numbers. Iceland didn't have to leave a monetary union, granted, but still.

They can either cling to our faith in a recovery that's been promised for years while everything has only gotten progressively worse, or they can do something about it. And that will soon be true for all of us. We're just still living in a theater of illusion grace to the fact that we have collectively decided to keep our debts hidden under the carpet, which today no longer works in southern Europe, and tomorrow will grind Germany, Japan and the US to a halt.

If we go there in blind faith, the future – however brutal it may be – still belongs to the young, and guess who will become the untouchables?

 


Home Forums The Untouchables of the 21st Century

This topic contains 0 replies, has 0 voices, and was last updated by  Raúl Ilargi Meijer 3 years, 11 months ago.

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 25 total)
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  • #8384

    Dalit or Untouchable Woman of Bombay according to Indian Caste System – 1942 – Wikimedia Commons Throughout history and throughout the world, there ha
    [See the full post at: The Untouchables of the 21st Century]

    #7521

    p01
    Participant

    Can’t you see, it makes perfect sense, expressed in Euros and cents:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VH5xJpjnxc

    Actually it doesn’t make any sense in any currency, but who cares about that anymore?

    #7522

    skipbreakfast
    Participant

    “Our definition of work has slowly slid from doing something that is useful to yourself, your family and the society you live in, to doing something, a job, that will allow you to buy as big a car and home as possible, and consume as many products as you can whether you need them or not, in order to keep the economy growing. This change in definition has gone largely unnoticed until now, but in light of the levels of – youth – unemployment we see in ever more places, maybe we should take another look at what it means.”

    Great reminder of where we’re at / where we are going. The above paragraph really struck a chord for me. As someone who has drifted in and out of “normal employment” my entire professional life, I most recently put my toe back in (an office job) and was aghast by how far removed “work” has become from “doing something useful for yourself or your family. It’s now just such bizarrely non-productive make-work type labour with no other purpose than to warm a seat, usually to “produce” nothing at all and certainly nothing we “need”. So the job really is just a placeholder that is supposed to allow me to keep buying more junk.

    The solution truly must be, as you suggest, that we return to labour that benefits us directly, rather than labour that benefits some unseen, unknown, unquantifiable Borg collective.

    Charles Hugh Smith just wrote an interesting essay on the state of work for the young (though it applies to all ages, in fact). Also worth a read.

    http://www.oftwominds.com/blogmay13/different-economy5-13.html

    Thanks as always for the insights, Ilargi.

    #7523

    pipefit
    Participant

    “And so 60,000 young and educated Portuguese emigrate every year. I don’t know about you, but to me it’s starting to feel like a scorched earth policy.”

    Agreed. Also, a flat or declining population is deflationary, as is an aging one.

    #7524

    steve from virginia
    Participant

    The euro = gasoline.

    ” … if leaving half your children with the prospects of being condemned into meaningless lives, of being ostracized as modern day untouchables, is not enough to wake you up and say No Mas, you really need to wonder what is.”

    Ordinary folks are throwing their children into the fire so that they might continue to drive cars.

    The euro is strongly supported from the bottom up for this reason. Love of the car = love of heroin.

    #7525

    gurusid
    Participant

    Hi Illarghi,

    We have a name for them in the UK – NEETS Not in Employment, Education or Training. (hence all the ‘make-work’ training schemes in how to tie your own shoelaces etc to ‘[strike]massage[/strike] recovery message the figures)

    This is also typical of a Systemantics type response; we have a problem with unemployment, lets make more people unemployed.

    There is also a structural problem no one is addressing, not only are there are no jobs, but there is no work to be done – not under the current system. Granted if society radically changed there might be something to do that one could maybe call work to keep oneself occupied, but even then this would be in short supply simply due to the numbers of people. We do not have a desperate need to make more stuff, or rebuild say a whole country as was often the case after the second world war, and which was achieved with a much smaller population. What is more worrying is how difficult it is to make a living of any sort, having a livelihood these days is fraught with low returns and high costs; low returns from competing with everyone else who is trying to do the same thing, and fraught with costs of ridiculous small business legislation and bureaucracy. Unless they are all tending their own cattle and crops, what exactly is there to do for all these people? Build more ‘stuff’? That’s all the feudal corporatocracy does, and you have to be a certified serf with proven loyalty to your masters, not some unemployed Ronin whose only other choice apart from banditry is sepeku (ritualistic suicide). Even if energy supplies stopped tomorrow, (which they won’t, as they will be rationed for use by the corporate military under marshal law) what are the bulk of people going to do? Project manage their garden veg plot? (if they even have a garden) co-ordinate personnel in the line for the soup kitchen? Most of the so called ‘work’ currently done as pointed out is just ‘make-work’ with made up pseudo skills to go with it. If anything ‘big’ did go down to radically change the situation, it would definitely puncture the current evolutionary equilibrium. :dry:

    L,
    Sid.

    #7527

    davefairtex
    Participant

    It occurs to me that instead of lambasting people for wanting to stay inside the eurozone, we might want to figure out why they want to stay there.

    Is it the freedom to travel within the zone?
    The ability to escape your current (lame) economy?
    The ability to move your money to someplace safe? (ex Cyprus)
    Having the Germans manage your Central Bank, ensuring your savings doesn’t vanish in a flurry of printing?
    The protection of being under the protection of such a big state, in a region that’s had a long history of war?
    US size-envy?

    What is it about the eurozone that keeps people from just chucking it all out?

    I’m not advocating a position, I’m really curious – and since I don’t live there, my speculations are even less informed than they usually are.

    #7528

    Hi Gurusid

    No more work to do! That is what I have been thinking recently as well. Isn’t it wonderful that we have got to the stage of industrial civilisation where we don’t need to work all the time in order to live a reasonable lifestyle. So from here, we could encourage a two or three day week and have more people in work. Lots more leisure along with a gently declining economy to suit our resource problems. We could couple that with family planning so that we are well below replacement rate and then we’re set to not destroy the world. This is a total anathema to those in power. There’s no profit in it and their corporate powerbase would wither. So, here in the UK, if you are not in work, you are the scapegoat for society, even when there is, as Sid points out, no more work to do. Additionally, if you are poor, you are not, by definition, metabolising much resources, and you are not allocating those precious resources as new Land Rovers and personal swimming pools. It is the very wealthy who mis-allocate our resources, and that should be made clear. I am in direct opposition to our current UK government in my thinking.

    I don’t think we should:
    -chase growth, it’s raising the stakes for collapse.
    -subjugate the poor, they don’t need it.
    -support big business over small, they don’t need it.
    -support the uber wealthy, they don’t need it either.
    -destabilise other countries for your own ends.
    -obfuscate the problems we face.

    I think those people who say we need the current wealth gap, the current banking system and growth in order to run our society just do not have any imagination.

    There’s the easy, elective way to change now, or the hard way later.

    If only I were king!
    Although with my policies, it would be a dangerous occupation!

    James

    #7529

    Hi Dave,

    I naturally wanted be close to the eurozone and join the Euro, it seemed obvious to me.

    I thought people who didn’t want to get close to Europe were isolationist or xenophobic, both of which I didn’t want to identify with. I also thought that the single currency would be good for trade and finally, I thought that being within Europe might average out the left / right policy divide and provide more consensus and fewer expensive u turns. It might also undermine nationalism.

    I think, on reflection, I was wrong on most counts, which shows that you cannot rely on your instincts.

    I think people are still relying on their instincts and their received knowledge from politicians and pundits who predict doom on European split-up. They are not yet using their critical faculties.

    But then I do think most people have a lot in their lives to think about so it’s a lot to expect them to think critically and from first principles.

    That’s why people don’t chuck out the Euro in my opinion.

    James

    #7530

    Dave,

    None of the above.

    I think more than anything Europeans want the Euro(zone) because there hasn’t been anything they’ve read or heard about it that wasn’t single-mindedly in favor. In that sense, euro euro euro equals grow grow grow: it’s a religion. Or a brainwash if you will.

    It’s all been the same one dimension all the time. And they had no reason to doubt it, until now, or rather a few years ago. To this day, ALL governments in EU nations are pro-Euro, no questions asked. Nigel Farage’s election win last week in the UK is a good sign, in that at least there’s a discussion available. So was Beppe Grillo’s in Italy of course, but the europhiles (who hate each other in any other respect) have closed ranks there for now.

    There’s never been any dialogue on the merits of the euro. It was introduced and declared sacred. We’re 13 years ahead, and only now are there questions, but they’re still not truly tolerated. Both Farage and Grillo are ostracized and labeled dangerous excentrics. To wit: there are no clauses in Euro legislation that allow for any one member nation to get out. That’s no coincidence.

    My worry is that this particular scheme makes another inter-European war inevitable. Various interests are simply too different.

    #7531

    p01
    Participant

    Why, oh, why?
    Because it`s a bubble, just like housing. :whistle:

    Euros buy (!steal!) stuff, burn gasoline (see SfV’s comment), make people delusional into thinking they are a new&improved species, unlike anything ever before; they don’t steal from others & their children and their own children, they spread democracy and build a better world; debt is just the way this “scorched earth on credit” enlightenment works; I’ll bet even G-d wants Euro, not liras (pesetas, etc), that`s small potatoes:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3DpbQlZMos

    This species has amused itself to death.
    –Roger Waters

    #7532

    skipbreakfast
    Participant

    Dave

    Great question. My guess is based in part on living in Europe in my early 20s and also my current experience in New Zealand. I believe there is a strong collective memory in countries like NZ or Spain of being “poor”. North Americans have trouble relating to this mind set because even while we may have been poor as individuals/families, we lived in a world of “modern progress” and affluence. Not so for a traditionally sidelined country who sold barrels of oranges or mutton to richer countries. The eurozone gave everyone credit. Which they could use to buy range rovers and pretend they were not farmers but rather a new and respectable knowledge economy. Going back to being sheep farmers terrifies them. So credit is what they want no matter what.

    #7533

    Nassim
    Participant

    Dave,

    In the 1960’s I spent many summers at an apartment on the roof of a building in downtown Sitges (a little outside Barcelona) which my parents rented from the owners of the 5-storied building. These people were extremely thrifty and hard-working. The ground-floor was a chicken shop of theirs – where they sold chickens from their farm which was only a few kilometres away. The husband looked after the chicken farm and his wife slaughtered the chickens, skinned and gutted them, wrapped them and sold them from the shop. Their son and daughter helped out on evenings and weekends as they went to school during the week. Their kids were around my age and I am sure they never saw the beach during the high-season. I spent every moment either at the beach or going out with a gang of 10+ French/Catalan kids aged between 16 and 20.

    Judging by current property prices in that area of Spain, I am sure that this Spanish family should have ended up as multimillionaires – without expanding their business into property and so on, but simply based on the assets they had in the 1960’s and how that area developed. I suspect the kids of this couple now have grownup kids and I doubt very much if they want their own progeny to go through what they went through themselves. It must be their worst nightmare. I am sure there are a great many Spaniards in a similar situation.

    Sitges has been referred to as the Saint-Tropez of Spain,[1] with property prices approaching those of the most expensive European cities, the main reason for this being the setting by the sea and the surrounding Parc Natural del Garraf. Proximity to Barcelona International Airport is also a major advantage.

    #7534

    davefairtex
    Participant

    Thanks for all the replies. I guess we are one hundred blind men all trying to describe the elephant by touch – but what other way can we find wisdom in this world except through sharing personal experience?

    Today I was reminded of this in my class. After a long discussion (where I got to learn new words like “unemployed” and “fired”) my teacher finally asked me, “if there are so many people not working in America, why does everyone want to go there?”

    On the one hand, statistics. Perhaps 15% actual unemployed/underemployed in the US versus 0.5% unemployed in my current country of residence. On the other hand, my friend, who landed at JFK with about $500 a year ago, found a job working under the table at a restaurant in about two weeks. For quite some time, he lived in an “apartment” (about 100 sq ft) for perhaps $250/month. Did you know you could find such a place in Queens for $250/month? I certainly didn’t. Now he’s about to enroll at a junior college. This is not an unusual story – its actually a common one. My teacher knowing this asked me, “is everyone in America lazy?”

    An interesting question, especially coming from Asia where the unemployment rate might be 0.5%, but the hours are long and – to put it bluntly, if you don’t work (and your family isn’t there to rescue your ass), you don’t eat. What could I tell her? Americans are habituated to serving the machine? Debt sucks up any excess wealth?

    How do you explain such a situation to someone who would, most likely, do well in such an environment if parachuted in by some accident of fate?

    Unfortunately, my vocabulary failed me. I could not explain. Then again, I’m not even sure if it were all in English I could have explained.

    What does this have to do with the Euro? I’m not sure. I get the sense that the Europeans don’t particularly want to go back to status quo ante – cold war, nationalism, wars of 1914, 1939, and the poverty of the periphery that somehow got magically fixed by credit and the harmonization of the continent that somehow made it more acceptable for a guy in Germany to buy a beach house in Spain whereby both sides felt they gained.

    There’s something in the eurozone that we shouldn’t lose, I feel. How can we keep the good stuff and toss out the stuff that clearly doesn’t work? Is it even possible?

    #7535

    pipefit
    Participant

    skip said, “Going back to being sheep farmers terrifies them. So credit is what they want no matter what.”

    That’s gotta be a large part of it. I’ve worked a mix of white and blue collar jobs over the last several decades. For 10 years I’ve been trying to get a small farming operation going on a small Appalachian property I own. It is brutally hard work to farm that kind of hilly ground. I like to get my hands dirty, but this isn’t for most folks.

    Regarding the comments on ‘no work to do’, I doubt that. If there’s an abundance of everything, the cost of living should be going through the floorboards, not through the roof (the actual case). It is possible we’ve reached the stage where far more entrepreneurial spirit and talent is required, but it shouldn’t be that hard to rekindle, once the present welfare edifice fails.

    #7536

    skipbreakfast
    Participant

    pipefit post=7253 wrote: Regarding the comments on ‘no work to do’, I doubt that. If there’s an abundance of everything, the cost of living should be going through the floorboards, not through the roof (the actual case). It is possible we’ve reached the stage where far more entrepreneurial spirit and talent is required, but it shouldn’t be that hard to rekindle, once the present welfare edifice fails.

    I am also in total, diametric, polar opposition to the argument that we no longer have work to do. On the contrary, we have avoided real productive work so long now that there is more work (as in true sweat-on-the-brow labour) than we will ever be able to accomplish in our lifetime. And as long as we just exhaust ourselves pushing needless paper around, that real work will remain un-finished (let alone started).

    We will begin the work when we’re really good and hungry. But obviously the best time to do the work is when you’re well fed, not when you’re sick and starving. There is so much to do we won’t be able to do it in time. Credit has borrowed against the future of this labour. We have squandered hundreds of years of future wealth in order to play Xbox. I thought I enjoyed it. I finished all fifteen levels of Halo 2 one summer.

    Now, in both body and spirit, I long for the physical, mental and communal satisfaction of the real work we abandoned a long time ago. I know I’d be happier building a barn AND being able to eat. Question is, going forward, how many of us will be able to do both, once the real work starts.

    #7537

    jal
    Participant

    Skip,

    Reading your post brought an image of saving during the years of plenty and spending during the years of scarcity.

    Dammmm!
    Somebody stole all the surplus grain from the granaries.

    #7539

    Let me clarify what I meant when I agreed that there was not enough work to do. What I mean is that within the current system, there is not enough work to do which is necessary to the functioning of society, that is why there are unemployed people. This creates a market where labour can be mistreated and played off against each other. Stigmatising un- and under-employment is a part of this.

    I would argue that any movement of money within the current system causes it to flow towards the bankers. The system is designed this way. In my opinion and within the current system, one should only work as much as one needs to for your economic safety and a good standard of living. Anything more is destructive. The politicians tell you to “strive” and “get on”. I thnk you’ll perpetuate a broken system by participating.

    Now, if you are thinking of transforming society to be more fit for the future, with economic sustainability (no macro growth) and rescource sustainability (if possible). Then there is flippin’ unlimited work to do. But if you do it within the current system – e.g. carbon trading, “sustainable growth” etc, you’ll be doing more harm than good, these schemes are rooted in the current growth paradigm.

    I agree, it’s always possible to be entrepreneurial and create work within the current paradigm, I just am not sure that that would be a good thing to do.

    It’s the “higher you get – further you fall” argument.

    That should polarise you!

    James

    #7541

    skipbreakfast
    Participant

    I see what you’re saying James. I guess I was distinguishing “work that needs to be done” from “employment”. In respect of employment, you’re right. Employment, as we’ve come to understand it in our lifetime, is contracting. There is not enough of the current kind of employment to go around. So I agree with you on that. I just have trouble calling most of it “real work”–not over the past 25 years. Rather it was just credit-conjured make-believe jobs. Maybe it’s arguable that the only reason there’s less “employment” now is because there’s simply less credit to go around now (i.e., deflation).

    #7542

    gurusid
    Participant

    Hi Skip & others,

    I am also in total, diametric, polar opposition to the argument that we no longer have work to do. On the contrary, we have avoided real productive work so long now that there is more work (as in true sweat-on-the-brow labour) than we will ever be able to accomplish in our lifetime. And as long as we just exhaust ourselves pushing needless paper around, that real work will remain un-finished (let alone started).

    Under the ‘current’ system where one does not have access to the ‘resources’ to make ones own livelihood but has to work effectively as a wage slave in every sense of that phrase. You might want to meet Peter the Carpenter – listen out for his ‘ally cat’ analogy.

    Now, in both body and spirit, I long for the physical, mental and communal satisfaction of the real work we abandoned a long time ago. I know I’d be happier building a barn AND being able to eat. Question is, going forward, how many of us will be able to do both, once the real work starts.

    So what’s stopping you? Got a garden? Go grow some veg. No land/not enough land? Go beg borrow or steal – as in guerrillagardening. I’m sure you will find plenty of real work fighting off nature and inquisitive humans…

    As for the cost of living (a.k.a. energy)/prices going through the roof, well actually some are still going through the floor such as laptops, while prices for actual essentials such as food are being or are about to be restored to their historical norms:

    Good luck farming your 0.2 hectares:

    :whistle:

    L,
    Sid.

    #7543

    SteveB
    Participant

    A big part of the puzzle, IMO, is that the paradigm in question isn’t a growth paradigm, but rather an exchange-(and, therefore, money)-is-necessary paradigm.

    The belief about the necessity of growth is an outgrowth (sorry) of that underlying belief. We just don’t see it that way because we view money as being as much a given for our lives as air or water.

    No other species uses exchange/money (transfer, yes, but not exchange in the sense of ‘if I give you so much, you need to give me so much in return’). They don’t have beliefs; they just live (and die—maybe that’s the other paradigm in play: death is bad).

    #7544

    skipbreakfast
    Participant

    gurusid post=7261 wrote:

    Now, in both body and spirit, I long for the physical, mental and communal satisfaction of the real work we abandoned a long time ago. I know I’d be happier building a barn AND being able to eat. Question is, going forward, how many of us will be able to do both, once the real work starts.

    So what’s stopping you? Got a garden? Go grow some veg. No land/not enough land? Go beg borrow or steal…
    L,
    Sid.

    Hi Sid,

    Many things are stopping me, and the rest of us, from starting the real work. There aren’t many barn raisings these days unless you’re a Mennonite. As you suggest above, wage slavery is the dominant force in industrialized societies. The “real work” will have to be systemic, I reckon–as in all of our societies have to re-conceive of roads, power delivery, food growing. Not just me as an individual worker.

    But your point is well taken–we as individuals have to begin to form communities and make changes despite the resistance at the systemic/societal/governmental level. And to that end, I am doing some of that “real work”. Moving to a country with a better growing climate, better access to fishing and fresh water, moving to a more rural community, connecting with other and sharing ideas and inspiration, raising chickens, making do with less, training up with new skills, gardening. I’m doing all these things now as part of real work. Haven’t built a barn yet. I’m terrible with a saw and hammer. I have been entirely shaped by my knowledge economy training. Fortunately people around me are excellent builders and they’re patient too! I have a lot of “work” to do, aye.

    #7546

    gurusid
    Participant

    Hi Skip,

    Barnstormin! Which country did you move to? Also for those interested, here is an example of what you can do in your own back yard (if you have one)

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0Bx5lxN1pdGX3UTdwNktwNVY0RW8/edit?usp=sharing

    L,
    Sid.

    #7549

    XYZ
    Participant

    Hello,

    In response to Skip who wrote, “Going back to being sheep farmers terrifies them. So credit is what they want no matter what.”

    I agree that people are afraid of “going back”, but I do not think they are consciously thinking about credit.

    This is simply speculation by me sitting here in France and talking to neighbours, reading the press, etc., but my impression is that people from recently poorer countries in the EU are convinced that they must “modernise” and that such a process is possible only by joining, associating with, perhaps even “merging” with the richer EU countries. Exiting the euro is seen as throwing away any chance of making “progress”.

    People are not thinking in economic terms, they are thinking politically and even culturally. The Union is seen as the only way forward.

    To my mind, that is why we have seen, over the past six years, so little inclination to re-evaluate the situation. The EU is still seen as the only way forward.

    It will be interesting to see how long that lasts.

    Ciao,
    XYZ

    #7550

    skipbreakfast
    Participant

    XYZ post=7268 wrote: Hello,

    In response to Skip who wrote, “Going back to being sheep farmers terrifies them. So credit is what they want no matter what.”

    I agree that people are afraid of “going back”, but I do not think they are consciously thinking about credit.

    This is simply speculation by me sitting here in France and talking to neighbours, reading the press, etc., but my impression is that people from recently poorer countries in the EU are convinced that they must “modernise” and that such a process is possible only by joining, associating with, perhaps even “merging” with the richer EU countries. Exiting the euro is seen as throwing away any chance of making “progress”.

    You’re right XYZ–they’re not consciously thinking about credit. But they recognize that the Euro allowed them to buy more stuff and join the globalization cult of consumerist progress. Which is all because of “credit” even if they haven’t made this implicit connection.

    Your question about “how long can this last” is really, really pressing. Credit is so seductive. How long does it take a heroin addict to quit the junk after hitting rock bottom? Sometimes they never quit. They just die. So who knows how long Europe will continue jonesing for a fix. Until the bitter end is a real possibility, I reckon.

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