Tag Archives: work

PERSPECTIVE

Many years ago, while visiting Brazil, I met a man who taught me something wonderful.  He told me about a particular group of people (most would call them a tribe) who lived in the jungles of the rainforest and had lived there for many years.  They had a fascinating numbering /counting system.  It was like this:  One, Two, Three, many.

I found this humorous yet interesting and I asked the man how a group of people could maintain such a system for so long without ever counting higher than three.  The man looked back at me and with a crooked smile said “Why in the world would anyone ever need to count more than three of anything?  More than three of anything is of no use to anyone other than to be many.”  That was one of the wisest concepts I had ever heard; to this day it still is.

I asked to know more about these people:  Where did they live?  Did they still maintain that system of counting?  He said that they still lived in the jungle, but they now counted just like the rest of the world.  I was surprised by that; their numbering system had survived in spite of contact with the modern world.  I asked the man if he knew when they began to count higher than three.  He looked right at me and almost immediately replied “When they started to use money.”

That put many things into perspective.

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What we don’t know we know.

We don’t know what we need to know to live in a happy world, because it isn’t. At the same time we think we know everything worth knowing, however those things that we now know best are things that we didn’t know before we realized that we knew them all along. So we actually do know what we think we don’t know, we just have to REALIZE it. Hmm, we don’t know that we know. Did you know that?

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Wakey, Wakey; Eggs & Bakey!

March, 2011.

2011. Sometimes, I just say it and repeat it: 2011. It doesn’t feel like 2011, does it? Maybe it’s just my generation, but every time I remember that it’s 2011 I expect to look out my windows and see the world of “The Jetsons”, don’t you? Further, I would add; isn’t that what we were supposed to expect? The first science fiction movie that I can remember seeing with a foreseeable future date was the same one for most of us;”2001; A Space Odyssey” set the stage for what we all expected to find 40 years in the future. 2001, as seen from a 1968 film is an “it could happen” scenario. Now it’s 2011, so what happened? Where are all of the domed flying cars, or the Star-Trek doors that go “shshshshup” when they open or close? Where are the futuristic looking spandex-ish body suits we’re supposed to be wearing or at the very least; where are the giant circular space stations with artificial gravity? That was all supposed to be here by 2011!

I’ve heard opinions from the academic community based on the idea that the internet changed the focus of technological development. I think the argument is pretty weak; the future we had all envisioned was extremely computerized, in fact all of the great science-fiction writers included something very internet-like in their descriptions of the future, albeit these “world-net” type of systems had “supporting roles” in the story of the future and were never what made the future, the future. Nonetheless, given our nature, it could have been a possibility, but it wasn’t. Something did happen during our march towards passenger flights to Mars and tele-transportation booths, however. All you need to do is look at our own history and it is pretty hard to miss, kind of like a huge zit on the tip of someone’s nose. Something happened to all of us during the 1980’s. Humanity lost what little sanity it had left after 12,000 years of lying to ourselves about everything. What happened? Our addiction to money spread to record levels, fueled by our own greed and ignorance and it created an imbalance in the rules that govern human civilization resulting in a fracture. This fracture grew to the point where it all shattered the framework of civilization, turning it to dust and leaving us where we are today. It was money. Think about it, you’ll figure it out. During the 1980’s, the future, the space stations and pretty much everything else was pushed aside to make room for the never-before-seen excesses in the amount of MONEY that could be made if one was either beyond having a conscience or just plain stupid. Now, it’s 2011 and most of us are already making our peace with the FACT that it’s all just a stone’s throw away from going to shit. Our childhood, our education, our jobs, our lust, our dreams (of money) and goals (of money) will become an irrelevant part of a forgotten past quicker than we can possibly imagine unless we WAKE UP from whatever warm and cozy delusion we’re all either hiding in or trapped in, and get our shit together. Yes, it is that bad; so much so that even the most heartless, cold and Machiavellian jerk in the world is having trouble keeping a straight face. This is our wake up call. Don’t shake your head, or let loose a pretentious guffaw, or cringe with fear or consider yourself above this. Please read this carefully and seriously for it is all very real and it is here. We have had ample time to assimilate the situation, analyze it, talk about it and complain about it, but if we don’t consciously come to some sort of consensus to the contrary, then we will lose everything that we know. How? Because the RULES are already changing. I’m referring to the rules that govern human civilization. They become obsolete as old civilizations die and new ones absorb the old ones. This is nothing new; these rules have been periodically re-written since we became civilized. They have always been written and re-written by a small group of us, for their benefit, at the expense of everyone and of the future and it’s happening once again. Let me put this succinctly; we are about to concede to having all of the rules that govern our daily lives and those of our descendants re-written by a small handful of us. These rules would be structured so that everything favors them and concentrates all of the power, authority and wealth in the world in them, just like they are now, but on a global and therefore absolute scale. They would be cruel, unfair, inhuman and oppressive while simultaneously being absurd, laughable and ridiculous. There is every indication that these rules would also eliminate human rights and any other kind of individual rights, justice, artistic expression as well as pretty much any kind of individual expression or voice as we know them today. The words may still be used, but they would represent the rights of authority, the individual’s right to be governed, justice for and among a small elite and expressions of obedience and loyalty. These things are already occurring, and if we choose to accept them, they will become tomorrow’s laws and those who would call themselves leaders would in fact become our owners, if they haven’t already; and all of this would happen with our consent, by virtue of our indifference, ignorance or absence. It’s happened before, several times since we became civilized, and each time it was just another cycle of this thing we call civilization resetting itself after the flawed dynamics that we feed it inevitably fail. This time, however, it would be different, very different. Even with the understanding that no one can predict the future, any of the possible futures that can be calculated based on the current trajectory is vile, ugly and inhuman. Nobody seems to get this point, but we are no longer a collection of randomly placed groups of people, spread out among the various continents, with each group thinking that they are the center of the universe and if they weren’t they were at least sovereign and separate. Human civilization is no longer a regional phenomenon, growing dynamically and either absorbing or surrendering to other human civilizations as they collided. Regardless of what we want to think, we currently have a single, global human civilization and that handful of people waiting to re-write the rules to their comfortable advantage are very aware of this. This next step in the human story is one that we will all take together, whether we like it or not. If we take this step with indifference, ignorance, prepotency, self-righteousness or any other self-serving attitude or worse, if we resign our right to participate in taking that step and assign or transfer that right to someone else, then we resign our very humanity and will become whatever that small handful of people decide that we should be. Here’s a simple question: If you were one of them, what would you do with all that power? That is simple arithmetic.

None of these things have happened yet, however, which means we have yet to make that choice which in turn means that we can still choose something else, if we so desire. If anyone might say, in response to the previous sentence, that it couldn’t be that simple, then they would have failed to realize that it is that simple. What will happen is whatever we choose, it is that simple. We will either choose to throw away what little humanity we have left or we will choose something else and either choice will be exactly that simple and take a fraction of a second to become our reality. This leaves us with a unique and difficult task: to understand that we can choose something else and then act on that knowledge. This is a tall order indeed. The circumstances and variables that are present in the world of today do not favor communication for any other purpose than to convey carefully scripted propaganda to the masses, to impose a constructed and false reality on our young, in the guise of education, or to simply give orders. There are no forums where any issue that does not favor the status quo can be shared, debated or discussed and even if there were, it is extremely difficult to find any real information to fuel these interchanges. Given these circumstances, how would we possibly even begin to contemplate a different choice than the one most of us have in some way already accepted as our only choice: to give up. I don’t know how, but I’m about to give it my best shot.

If we are going to give ourselves any chance at all at something different than what we see heading right for us, there must exist the common understanding of what exactly it is that is happening. Let’s start there.

What exactly is happening?

If you are reading this then you either have or have access to a computer with an internet connection and you probably know what a blog is and as such there exists an overwhelming probability that you have noticed that something is wrong. If so, then you would have noticed correctly, if not then you’ve definitely got too much porn in your internet diet. Something is wrong, very much so. There is a problem with one of the “rules” that governs one specific human mechanism. The problem is that we broke this rule by imposing physically impossible math into its definition and the mechanism that subsequently fractured and collapsed as a result, is called money. This is a highly summarized and abbreviated description of the problem, which has enough history, variables and details to fill a book. This is probably why I wrote one; I’m editing it and I promise to make it available as quickly as possible. This is a blog, however, and this post is already a long one, so I will write as brief an explanation as possible without losing the point, or you, along the way. For some, it may come as a surprise that civilization has rules and that one of these rules pertains to money and further still, that money is a human mechanism; nonetheless this is the fact of the matter.

I won’t go into too much detail about the “rules” we have for civilization as there are enough details involved to form a new branch of Social Anthropology on the subject. For the purpose of this post, it’s enough to point out there are very broad and general rules that we impose on ourselves. These are the rules that establish the validity and make real things like “sovereign countries”, “economics” and the premises for “acceptable behavior”. Time has shown us that we’re terrible at writing rules for large groups of people but we’re seasoned experts at writing rules that benefit the one(s) writing the rules. In the same way, we put a lot of emphasis on enforcing the rules that we write but we’re terrible at following them. One of these rules established the use of money as unit of representation of the value of wealth. Wealth, which had always been FOOD, until we forgot as much, was much too tedious to carry around in the course of trading for other types of food. This is what the “people in charge” did. Call them nations or empires or kingdoms, these were the first small group of people who got to write the rules for all of us. They traded FOOD with each other because food was the first and the most important thing to ever be valuable to us. Before we developed agriculture, we would walk around looking for food and usually starved to death. Agriculture allowed for us to MAKE food instead of FINDING food, nothing else in our history has ever been so valuable. Food defined the wealth of a nation or empire and therefore its power. Food was too valuable to risk losing to the elements or to human error, so we wrote a rule that said that there would be money, and that money would represent wealth and that money would be used in transactions as the representation of wealth and value, to facilitate trade. So what happened with this rule? The best description that explains WHY this happened can be found in a passage from Aristotle’s Second Book of Politics which warns us that “…money is not wealth; it is merely the representation of wealth.”[sic] It very well may turn out that this passage may be the wisest thing ever written by one of the wisest humans that we know of and remember, just as it may very well turn out that not heeding his words would one day cause the failure of the very rules he was trying to help establish. We confused money with wealth, that’s what started this whole thing. It’s hard to pinpoint when we became thusly confused; but it’s been a while. The first concisely documented historical records which clearly indicate the widespread existence of this confusion are from 11th century Europe, but it may have been earlier. It is another and much simpler matter entirely to piece together how this confusion occurred; in fact the result of this confusion is how gold became gold. Gold is the most recent thing that we selected to be used as money and represent wealth. The wealth that gold represented was, and had always been food. We selected gold to be used as our money because it was a soft metal and easily malleable into coins and such. This made it much easier to trade and conduct business; it was much more convenient to transact a business deal where 50,000 bushels of barley were traded for 5,000 barrels of cow’s milk by using gold as money to represent the barley and the milk instead of hauling all that barley and milk to the place selected for the business of the trade to take place only to sit around and risk being lost to any number of things while the deal was negotiated and finally consummated. Are you still with me? Let’s go back to our confusion over money and wealth. Once again, the only math required to figure this out was simple arithmetic. Here we are, sometime after selecting gold to be our money. Gold was actually a good choice for the role of money, we took to the concept of using gold like fish to water, and then, for just a moment, we lost our minds, or at least acted as if we had, and suddenly forgot that gold only represented wealth, and while we were at it, we forgot what made up the wealth that was represented by money-gold. What we handled daily was gold, what we transacted was gold and what we paid for things with was gold. After a while we forgot the whole representation of wealth thing; what we knew was gold and that whatever could be bought and sold occurred through the use of gold and then, suddenly and in an instant, gold not only became the instrument through which we traded wealth, it became wealth by definition and as such became the thing considered valuable above all else. Gold became gold, taking the place of food as that which was valued above all else as by doing so, became wealth and the measure of wealth. As early as the renaissance, there were fiefdoms, kingdoms and nations who measured their wealth in gold. At this point we had promoted gold from the role of money to that of wealth itself. In time, we took this initial “confusion” and did what we do best; we turned it into a nightmare. Think of it. Gold became wealth AND it was that which represented wealth: we had actually done it; we warped the rules of civilization and perverted the rules of money by doing so. By making wealth that much more accessible and portable (which food wasn’t) we also restructured the function of wealth, which we adjusted to allow for the introduction of individuals into the equation. Where originally wealth was that which was valuable and represented the negotiating power of a nation or kingdom it suddenly became the measure of individual success. The concept of wealthy people became part of our norm and then we turned it into the only reason for incentive and motivation, making money the most desired and coveted thing in the entire world. We then took it one step further; by the end of the 20th century, humans measured practically everything in money. We have million dollar smiles, billion dollar babies, two-dollar haircuts, hundred thousand dollar boobs and there isn’t anything that we couldn’t measure with money at this point. Whether we admit it or not, money is the ultimate inspiration, the main motivation, the principal purpose for all actions and ultimately the only thing that matters to almost everyone. It would not be inaccurate to state that we have taken the concept to the point that we measure humanity in money: a person is worth only as much as the money they have. This is what we have done. Now, let’s focus in on the problem.

The problem lies with us. We can fool ourselves, and lie to ourselves and create false realities for ourselves (which we’ve become pretty good at), but we can’t fool PHYSICS or MATHEMATICS, which is exactly what we attempted to do and how we created this problem. This part is actually the simplest to explain and therefore the shortest. You should be able to do the math rather easily, if not, please let me know so I can clear it up. Don’t forget, this is not an opinion that follows, it is a list of historical facts and they happened like this, in chronological order.

1945

World War II was over. The Allies had won. The U.S. assumed the mantle of “head honcho” in the world. Time was not wasted; all of the countries in the world were summoned to a meeting held in New Hampshire, at the Bretton-Woods Hotel. The Bretton-Woods agreements established the world’s first global money policy. Among other things, the agreements:

  1. Fixed the price of Gold in U.S. Dollars. (Don’t forget, gold was already the official currency of the world and had been for a while, in fact all of this occurred after the “great confusion” when gold was confused with wealth, and won.)
  2. Established the U.S. Dollar as the official reserve currency of the world and by doing so, tied the currency of every country in the world to the U.S. Dollar.
  3. Extended the “gold-standard” to the U.S. Dollar by making it the definitive global currency.

AUGUST 15, 1971

The events leading up to this date are probably completely lost at this point, but at some time, someone had to have figured out that there were now more people in the world than there was enough gold to sustain the role of money. In order to have value, wealth, must have a singular and inarguable characteristic: It must be limited in supply. Another way of saying this is that in order to have value, a thing must be either unique or exist in an exhaustible supply. This is what makes a valuable thing valuable. You don’t need to be an economist to know this. This being the case, it seems that nobody bothered to ask the question: “How will our national or global economy continue to grow with a finite supply of gold and an infinitely growing number of people?” We would decide soon enough. In a speech made just before the markets opened on August 15, 1971, President Richard M. Nixon announced his decision to, among other things, impose a 90-day wage and price freeze, put a 10% import surcharge in place and sever the link between the U.S. dollar and gold by ending the convertibility of paper dollars to gold. These decisions would later be known as Nixon Shock and even today, in the light of everything that has happened, still receive much too little attention. It is extremely convenient that no one has pointed the following out in simple, concise and understandable English, but these actions, taken without consulting anyone (not the U.S. Congress, or the U.N. or anyone else in the world) had the following effects:

1. These decisions were a shot to the back of the head to the Bretton-Woods Agreements, killing them instantly. To this date, however, not one of the Bretton-Woods Agreements have been amended. Most of the countries in the world made public choices to not participate anymore, but the U.S. was not one of them. Technically, the agreements remain in place, with gold as the official currency of the world and the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency.

2. These decisions created fiat money, also known as inorganic money or un-backed money. Simply put, it is money that has the value that the issuing government declares, because they say so. These acts started a domino-like tumble towards worthless paper money by allowing the Federal Reserve to print worthless fiat dollars and introduce them into circulation. This is the same type of money used in the recent Wall Street “Bailout”, as well as other “bailouts”, like the 1987 stock market crash. The Fed simply printed money and pumped into circulation: worthless money; fiat money. The dollar and subsequently gold, became value-less because they were no longer backed by anything.

JANUARY 2008

It took some time, but eventually, the math catches up. This is the point where the amount of fiat currency, or inorganic currency or whatever you choose to call it, exceeded 50% of all the currency in circulation. Immediately, upon hitting the 50% mark, everything in the world that had value (starting with real estate) lost half of its value. The “Sub-Prime mortgage crisis” was only one view of what actually occurred and it was a pretty cheesy story actually. What really happened was simple math. The second that more than half of all the money in circulation consisted of worthless money, everything that was considered valuable lost half of its worth. It’s pretty straightforward math. From there, it’s been downhill, to where we are today.

At present, it’s anyone’s guess as to how much “real” currency is left in circulation; the fact is that it doesn’t really matter. The math is fractured and has permanently and irrevocably broken. We will not be able to fix what we did to money and value, but we can simply redefine it and move forward before we let the specter of what we have done dominate us. We let so many things that simply do not exist dictate our very real lives. Things like credit and recessions and especially debt. Debt does not exist, it is a faulty calculation based on a systemically flawed mechanism which has been exploited. If we don’t wake up and make some choices, we will all be slaves to debt and through this debt; our very humanity will be forfeit, in perpetuity. It is very important to pause at this point and re-iterate how impacting the role of debt is to our future. The debt; this enormous amoeba-like monster which threatens the very quality of life for everyone is not even real, yet it will be used as the springboard for launching the excuses that will consume virtually all conversations over the next two years and set the stage for the re-writing of the rules: rules in which debt is a major character.

In closing, most of you who might be reading this may be asking: “So, what do we do now?” There is no single or simple answer to that question. The first thing we must do is to TELL EVERYBODY. Repost this in your blogs, share with others via e-mail, bring it up in community meetings and discussion groups and take it home with you, no matter where you live. Distribute this information as widely and freely as possible. This is not an American problem; it is a human problem that affects the entire world, regardless of what country you live in. We also have the responsibility of remembering those things that have never worked and therefore become useless. Protesting leads to violence and violence is simply unacceptable, under any circumstances. Activism leads to having a target painted on the forehead of the activists, grass roots movements, like all movements, are doomed to obscurity and fighting within a system that is already severely flawed is useless.

There you have it, the simple truth and a simple explanation. The rest is up to all of us.

We can do better!

Frank Vidal

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