CRISIS = OPPORTUNITY, Origins and imperatives - Let's Prehend
Let's Prehend
A Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design

CRISIS = OPPORTUNITY, Origins and imperatives

"Let not a single crisis go to waste."
—Rahm Emanuel, Chief of Staff

Problems and Solutions

Let's consider the current economic CRISIS as an OPPORTUNITY. Don't expect any final answers on such a complex subject. Nevertheless, let's use this outline to approach, discuss, and develop images of what is happening and what can be done.

Values and Management

The economic crisis offers opportunities to move from business values (BVs) to human values (HVs). This means shifting emphasis from `economic growth', toward sustainable and enriching human culture. Human values have always been important, but politics has been dominated by business management (BM) rather than more humanistic management (HM).

Examples of HM include the elegant city planning in Portland Oregon and countless other environments. But progress has been constrained.

The BMs have made lives increasingly stressful for most citizens, poor and rich. [TIME FRENZY] Fortunately, the increasing crisis increases the opportunity to transform from the current sick culture to organic social life (OSL). [Terms and references refer to sources including a Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design.]

Shifting toward human centered systems alleviates these four aspects of the crisis: ENVIRONMENT, WEALTH, CONSUMPTION, and CREDIT.

I. Ecological Crisis

The easiest crisis to handle is the continuing degradation of our supporting ecosystem, including global warming, loss of species, deforestation, damage to top soil and fresh water, pollution of the air and oceans. We have broad understanding and agreement of the ecological issues, but suffer several constraints in the transition toward sustainable culture.

An added benefit of the ECOLOGY frame is its acceptance by most citizens, even the conservatives. Ecology is a wholesome rallying cry and usually elicits enthusiasm, or at least tolerance. It offers our citizens a core concept with a firm foundation, an expansive empathy, and a deeper responsibility. ECOLOGY is ideology at its best.

Unfortunately, BM goes for the money. Hence, the more things cost, the more profit is made. We all suffer the strangely high cost of corn flakes, parking meters, health care, tax accounting, fresh fruit, and most consumer goods and services. This problem is basic and needs a special name: the Compulsion to Increase Costs, (CIC). CIC contrasts with HM. Sustainability obviously prefers the highest quality of human and social life with the least `footprint' or burden on our supporting ecosystem.

Another problem is the confusion of market costs (MCs) with objective costs (OCs). OCs can be estimated based on the amount of resources, technology and labor required. Obviously MCs are complexly manipulated by CIC, especially petroleum prices. Since business managers are obliged by their corporate charters etc. to increase profits, BMs must try to externalize costs, such as short and long term pollution.

Since BMs control much of the elected government, regulation to alleviate pollution is insufficient, especially in the Bush administration. The regulatory agencies have been increasingly dominated by BM pols rather than scientists.

ENERGY gets lots of attention, and for good reason. Fortunately, ecological solutions are already well understood and well publicized in books and media. Lester Brown's PLAN B3 and countless other sources pave the way. There is general agreement among scientist and others on how to proceed. Replacing the burning of coal and other fossil fuels with sustainable energy is easy with current technology, creates jobs, and is economical in the long run. Oil man T. Boone Pickens is putting up fields of GE wind turbines.

But notice how CIC burdens energy reform. Wind, solar, geothermal, biomass are all inherently cheap, objectively. But CIC promotes Nucular (sic) and corn ethanol with elaborate subsidies. Fortunately, continued deepening of the crisis increases the opportunity to displace BMs CIC as we convert to sustainable systems.

President Obama has already selected Dr. Chu - not a corporation man, but an academic scientist and administrator. The Obama administration is quite competent to solve the ecological problems in the short and long run.

II. Wealth

The second aspect of the crisis is the loss of gross U. S. income. Recently the U. S. consumed about a quarter of the world's resources, because `we' owned about a quarter of the world's capital. Few Americans understand or acknowledge this, and those who catch on often accept this bounty as `earned' or `deserved'. But we're loosing it. The vast resources that pour into this country from the `developing world' has been decreasing gradually for a long time and will fall at an increasing rate. Let not call it `imperialism', rather call Free International Enterprise (FIE). Domestic production can be resumed, but can never `compete' with such cheap labor and resources.

The loss of these overseas investments might be maintained for a while longer provided `our' system of world wide military bases and `our' elaborate network of overt and covert operations is able to preserve friendly governments that are free for U. S. investments. But modern technology and communications undermines the global economic system as it has been operating. Countless modes undermine FIE, such as the proliferation of "terrorism", "Islamic Socialism" "Chinese Communist Capitalism", "Chaves chauvinism", etc. Talk of `weapons of mass destruction' may increase pervasive fears, but it distracts from a clearer view of the demise of FIE. [FIE and the Loss of WEALTH]

Fortunately, the crisis will be so deep that the opportunities for the `developing world' to develop will improve, increasingly freed from the oppressive control of BMs. Their improved life need not degrade ours, but rather, our sustainable and enriching cultures will sustain and enrich theirs.

III. Consumption

As the crisis continues, consumption level of the United States must decrease, perhaps by about half. [PROGRESSIVE STAGNATION, LIBERTYVILLE, etc.] Because external costs of the degradation of our supporting ECOLOGY cannot be continued, because WEALTH from overseas investments continually decreases, our LIFE STYLE will have to change. Phoney images of `economic growth', `independence', `status image', will be displaced by the reconstructing culture.

Fortunately, this will almost surely be an improvement, in spite of our common `deprivation indulgence' and our pervasive panic. Please give and take this opportunity to "look forward to great tomorrows". (Adlai Stevenson)

Before outlining the crisis opportunities for the reconstruction of organic social life (ROSL), let's survey current personal and social pathologies that will be addressed. [Chapter 4: SOCIOLOGY]

Countless studies point out increasing distress and disease in American culture. Infants may survive but about two percent are so damaged by their isolation and neglect that they withdraw into autism. Never in our evolutionary history have babies received so little attention. Imagine the growing mind trying to relate to a video screen that does not respond. All are damaged and fewer are able to function with interpersonal health. But as neighborhoods and communities revive, mothers and babies get more support.

Teens increasingly suffer mental problems, not to mention obesity, drug and alcohol addiction, and general alienation. [Mark Olfson et. al. ] Recent studies show the a quarter of teenagers suffer mental illness and few receive help. About ten percent of the children are on medication and quarter are overweight, like much of the population.

The maturing process of childhood is severely damaged by age grouping in the schools, and youths are increasingly alienated. Even the successful ones suffer this subculture. [Judith Harris] Opportunities for meaningful life and fulfillment await. [Chapter 9: EDUCATION] As the crisis deepens, youngsters will feel needed and respected and will learn cooperative and productive activities. [GARDENS]

The stable extended family that nurtured the evolution of homonotsosapiens continues to degrade. The nuclear family is inherently a transition in the breakdown of organic culture, from a complex of extended family and tribal process toward isolation and alienation. [book: BOWLING ALONE] But as the crisis worsens and communities reconstruct, people will fall into quasi family and clan roles. Already the churches and even some country clubs begin to revive a more organic social life. [HOMES]

JOBS will decrease, but not unemployment. Crisis offers opportunity to reorient toward more meaningful and supportive activities. The present "TIME FRENZY", so deleterious to personal and social health will fade as people loose their jobs. See PROGRESSIVE STAGNATION in for how this can work.

Presently, `jobs' contribute less than a quarter of personal income. Most comes from profits and investments. The new culture will still have the benefits of manufactured goods such as refrigerators and cell phones, but these will probably be manufactured locally.

Modern technology makes good living easy and cheap as well as stable and sustainable. Robots replace the ugliest jobs, but creative and productive skills and craftsmanship offers implicit rewards. One old idea by Edward Bellamy is that youngsters devote a few years to public service. That would be more than enough to provide appropriate goods and services, and it would instill a work and service ethic sorely lacking today.

ELDERS are, at present, a burden and a wasted resource. But as part of organic social life, the are treasured and well utilized.

The increasing crisis offers opportunity for the construction of wholesome ecovillages and neighborhoods. Only increasing crisis can relieve our economy from our odious building and zoning codes that have grown from BM's CIC expensive and inefficient modes.

The expensive, inefficient and destructive aspects of American LIFE STYLE will crumble if the crisis is deep enough. For example, a quarter of the world's prisoners are in the United States, that's about one percent of the population. The injustice system occupies millions of `jobs' to keep millions behind bars. Instead, these felons can be auctioned off to stable communities who bit to rehabilitate them. The few left over can be kept in cages as usual or executed.

The medical system is not only spread thin, but degenerating by its own standards. A quarter of the health service jobs are wasted book keeping, and the costs of pharmaceuticals and hospitals is severely distorted by CIC. [NOTAM]

Granted much of American Culture is devoted to challenging the individual, perhaps Setting Up For a Fall, SUFF. Laws are so elaborate, ambiguous and arbitrary that everyone must be breaking them, usually without awareness. Also, most jobs are unnecessary and produce no product or service. The good life is supported by Earth's resources and modern technology, making most jobs unnecessary. Already the financial corporations, and most others, are laying off workers. The transition to sustainable culture looks more threatening and difficult than it will be. [PROGRESSIVE STAGNATION]

For example, SUBURBS are unsustainable, ecologically, economically and culturally. The are a poor environment for humans. Many suburbs are emptying and the homes empty. Even renters are evicted. The number of homeless increases. Should the suburbs be left to decay to their natural ecosystem of weeds and wild flowers? Should the half empty neighborhoods be left to the lonelies and looters? Or might they be converted to ecovillages? [HOMES]

Objections arise, especially from a shocked and insecure population made especially passive and helpless by common education and media. Highly valued and healthy individuals, societies, and cultures are not so difficult to describe. We evolved supported by an elaborate web of Organic Social Life, OSL. Granted, we came to the new world to escape the tyrannies of the old, we came to the cities of escape the dullness of the small town, we came to the suburbs to escape the stresses of the cities. But now is the time to look a bit deeper into what makes the good life.

CLASS is an ugly and embarrassing aspect of American Culture. In a `free enterprise' system, competitive edge is proportional to wealth. Thus the wealthy individuals and firms have the advantage, to the detriment of the less well endowed. The income distribution curve gets steeper and the gross income inequality index, GINI, gets higher. Increasing crisis offers opportunities to alleviate this disaster. It is possible, but not inevitable, that the new administration will be able to handle the coming crises.

The kindest consideration must be given to the wealthy who are so often degraded to helpless parasites unable to take care of themselves. They must have encouragement and opportunities for respectable and meaningful activities regardless of their depravity. The middle class, similarly disabled by the taboo of productive or creative work, also need nurturing opportunities. [ETHICS OF THE LUMPEN BOURGEOISIE, ELBY] Fortunately their main supporting institution, public education, can expect radical reform. [GARDENS]

The bottom class, the homeless, are currently forbidden to be anywhere. They may sleep in shelters or doorways, but must move to church eateries for food. Increasing crisis offers increasing opportunities to their increasing numbers. Poor people should be allowed to have poor homes, as described in LIBERTYVILLE. Many other options will evolve as the crisis opens new opportunities.

Converting a suburb into an ecovillage, a city into neighborhoods, etc., is easy and cheap. Countless knowledgeable folk are available to help. Architects, urban planners, community managers, cohousing enthusiasts are ready an waiting for chance to build a better life. Images abound everywhere, even in my a Manual of Human Ecology and Culture Design. Glance at the essays, LIBERTYVILLE for poor people, WARD PROGRAM for cities, SUSTAINABILITY for the suburbs, and several others.

IV. Credit

The CREDIT crisis is commonly thought to be the source of our troubles. Not so. Our CREDIT system grew to its absurd size in a frantic attempt to alleviate the Crises of ECOLOGY, WEALTH, and CONSUMPTION. Our managers, whatever they are called, seem to be trying to support the disastrous overuse of credit that caused this immediate mess. The CREDIT way of sustaining this strange abstract culture has collapsed. It won't work, not for long, and it will make the crisis deepen. However, sustaining the unemployed and decreasing mass distress is an easy task, as we shall explore.

Be amused at the pathetic attempts to continue an obviously unworkable system by increasing availability of credit. Replacing the FUNNY MONEY by bailing out the banks and corporations with printed money may work for a while, but proportional inflation will eventually kick in and the decline of the ecosystem, the wealth system, and the consumption level will catch up.

Much of our foreign and domestic wealth has been squandered by years of deficit spending and related trade deficit. The last convulsion of petroleum and commodity prices was the end of the Reagan Bush rip off. The insane credit expansion kept the economy going by its injection of trillions of funny money into the economy, but that has almost ended. Granted, the bailout and stimulus of lowered petroleum prices might nurse the credit economy for a while longer. But increasing debt in a debt crisis can only make the things worse.

The auto industry's successful request for bail out loans displays the incompetence of the current government and corporate management. Presumably, the Obama administration will raise the level of management, sooner or later. Obviously, current production should stop since the millions of new cars stored in fields all over the world will last for many years until proper cars are available. So many cars will not be needed, and are inappropriate for the good life. Cars will always be handy, but the car culture will whither away.

Objectors often argue that people can be convinced slowly, or never. However, people change their behavior and lifestyle easily and quickly, less because they change their minds than because they adjust to new circumstances. [Michael S. Gazzaniga]

Most, but not all folks will choose a delightful ecovillage to a suburban slum, a nice neighborhood rather than continued isolation. The children could play outside, education becomes an implicit part of the community, old folks are available to help, modern technology makes rural life cosmopolitan. The highways are no longer crowded so that travel to city amenities is quick and easy. What people think they want often follows the opportunities available to them.

Objectors might assert that such culture design is not an option in a free "open" society. But who planned the life style we now enjoy? [HOMW].

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