If it becomes common knowledge how things work in other countries that do certain things far better than we do, then people will raise their standards and expect more. It will create jobs and cut away the useless, parasitic fat that has been the root cause of our current financial turmoil.
What must be pointed out is the give and take of the systems that other countries employ. Every good thing comes at a price. Unfortunately, we have been avoiding spending money on things that would end up saving us a lot of money in the long run. We’ve been going for the instant buck rather than sustained, long term gain. Get rich quick hurts everyone eventually, even those who got rich quick. They got a windfall, but nothing to sustain it.
Sustainability is not just a word for environmental practices, it is a necessity for every kind of system. We must have a sustainable economy. I would normally follow that by saying “or we will be in a lot of trouble” but the trouble is that we’re already there. The “or else” is what we’re currently experiencing.
Now we get to clean up a mess that helped a few fat cats be set for life at the expense of everyone else. If we weren’t given just enough distraction to keep us fat and content, those fat cats would be facing a serious mob. Instead, they got away with it. They named a couple of scapegoats, and got to sail away with more money than anyone could possibly use.
Of course, there are those who managed to do well enough for themselves by being in the know, and they simply kept their own heads above water by standing on the shoulders of others, keeping themselves ahead by simply not telling what they knew. Hey, it’s a free market and it’s competitive and it’s survival of the fittest, right?
Now we finally see the folly of that. Even those in the middle, who aren’t exactly crushed by the current economy but are certainly not as liquid as they were not so recently, are finding that they got used too. Unless you are one of those very, very few fat cats, there is someone else withholding information from you and standing on your shoulders while picking your pocket.
It may have paid to be somewhat complicit, but it obviously didn’t pay well enough. we can finally see the complete fallacy of the myth that everyone has an equal chance to become rich and make their own fortunes in a capitalist system. The big lie is now naked.
There is no equal footing. There are some rich families which have more than enough power and influence to be above the law and make sure they get everything they want. They also make sure that you don’t. They will hold a carrot in front of those who have the moral flexibility to step on a few heads as long as they are assured that they will get their slice. Yet even those people found themselves betrayed.
The truth is that there is no free and fair market. There is no such thing as a fair shake. There are sharks and then there are the trawlers that haul up the sharks after feeding them for a while. The sharks feed on all the other fish, and the trawlers feed on the sharks. The satisfaction of seeing the sharks get what they deserve is pretty thin compared to the fact that sharks and minnows share the same fate. We’re in the same ocean. This is why it has always been and always will be in our best interest to work together to create a sustainable economy.
A sustainable economy relies on other kinds of sustainable practices. I’m not going to go on about what we can do to save the earth. It’s not the earth that’s in trouble, it’s us.
I’m talking about setting up systems that help everyone, yet everyone has to pay for. I can hear the immediate shrieks of “Socialism!!!” but I’m talking about a hybrid form of government. A balance between capitalism and socialism where everyone really does have more or less an equal shot at financial success. The first way to accomplish this is to make sure everyone has the basic necessities guaranteed, no matter what. This means shelter, food, water, education and health care. Each of those things obviously has to be taken care of in a sustainable way as well.
It will be expensive at first, but we need to look at the long term benefits. The very first thing we need to do is change the national mindset of instant financial gratification. Get rich quick will no longer suffice. We sink or swim together. Our current economy is proof of this. There are so many people who could give us all a very well-deserved “I told you so”.
We absolutely must think long term from now on. It’s like savings. I have terrible self-discipline as I love to travel and I love gadgets and I love good food and wine. My tastes far exceed my means. I want those things now, so I go into debt to get them. The smart thing would have been to simply wait and save up and get them out of pocket when I can afford them. That way, I’ve paid once and I’ve paid less. Now, I am in the same boat as many others with two maxed-out credit cards to pay off. If I had done the smart thing and saved, I’d have no debt and have money in my pocket and in the bank. I’d still have to be more careful than I used to, but at least I wouldn’t be hurting.
We must do the same on a national level. Our entire economy reflects exactly the predicament of the average corporate suburbanite who has to have a nice house, car, watch, etc to show off. They look rich, but they aren’t. They are in a great deal of debt and have to pay a lot of money each month to keep up the illusion of wealth. It’s kind of tragically comic. People want to keep up with the Joneses, but what they don’t understand is that the Joneses are trying to keep up with the Rockefellers. The Rockefellers don’t have to keep up with anyone, as they run the game, so the effort is futile. These folks end up with a lot of shiny things, but their lives completely suck. They are stressed beyond belief and there’s no hope in sight. Yet they can’t not try to keep up. They’re like lemmings running full speed towards the end of a cliff. A line in the movie “Fight Club” said it perfectly: “What you own ends up owning you.”
Don’t mistake this as a rant against wealth. I’ll admit without reservation that I want lots of money. I want to travel the world, eat the best foods, drink the best wines, and bed the hottest women. I just happen to care enough not to do so while picking the lives of others out of the soles of my boots.
Even if you have no such qualms and would gladly eat a baby to make a buck, by now it is apparent that it’s actually more in your interest to help others than to merely look out for number one. By helping everyone keep afloat, you don’t sink either. After all, if you want a really big boat, you can’t sail the thing by yourself.
If you want to still do better than most others, that’s fine, but you have to make sure that everyone below you has enough of a foundation to not crumble beneath you. We haven’t even been doing that much. By helping them out, you ensure your own stability. You can have the fanciest, most lavish castle built of pure gold, but if the foundation of it is ignored and left to rot, the whole thing comes down. Welcome to the present. You have to keep those stones at the bottom in good repair.
This way, even if you do profit at the expense of others, at least you’re not actually harming them. It has to work for all of us or it will work for none of us.
So, it’s time to put our pride and stubbornness away and resign ourselves to working together, however grudgingly. The poor detest the rich and the rich detest the poor, but there’s really nothing else left to do if the rich want to stay rich. Shake that grimy hand, rich boy, and pick up a shovel. It’s time to put some callouses on those soft hands. Perhaps not literally, but you know what I mean.
Oh, and to the fat cats who orchestrated this whole mess: fuck you. I hope your health and happiness is inversely proportionate to your wealth.
© 2015 William Suphan
- Changing Systems
- End to Beginning