Get off the bus (this one’s broken)

While the change of the last digit that marks some fictitious point in our history we call the “year” only takes a second, and in a sense is meaningless, the fact that it occurs during a break in our lives for those who are employed, gives rise to an opportunity for reflection.

And so it was during my break. I am sure all of us have those great moments of insight when we suddenly see things differently and the light dawns. That is what happened to me. I suddenly saw things differently and decided we are on the wrong bus (not quite the analogy to use these days when the bus or train often doesn’t turn up at all or, if it does, it may be too crowded).


A bunch of greedy overpaid crooks have wrecked our financial system (assisted with some extraordinary competence by economists, central bankers and politicians); created a financial waste land where people’s hard earned wealth has evaporated, and people who are willing to work are getting the sack by the minute and in response, we the people are obliged to come along and meekly pay the bill.


There is a great story about David Henry Thoreau, the famous 19th century American conservationist who refused to pay taxes because he maintained that his money would be used by the government to fund the American intervention in Mexico (do times really change?). He was therefore imprisoned and when in prison was visited by a friend and another famous American intellectual, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson is reported to have said to Thoreau while looking at him behind the prison bars “What on earth are you doing in there?” to which comment Thoreau responded “What on earth are you doing out there?”


Let us look at things from our perspective, and not the perspective of economists and business analysts. What has got us into this mess? The fact is that we have stood by, powerless to prevent the persistent engineering of economic and social insults that have been so successful in bringing about our traumatised state.


The system over which we had no control, but which rewarded those who controlled it and punished those who were innocent bystanders, failed. We were complicit in a system that was faulted and that has so cruelly defrauded the ordinary Joe Blow in the street who is now queuing up for the dole.


What is our response? We are trying to rebuild the system throughout the world; governments (tax payers) are pouring trillions of dollars into that system that has so grotesquely failed us. Does any of that money get to the people facing foreclosure? Not a penny of it. Where does it go after it hits the corrupt bank? In the United States where the rot started, the money is going straight back into Uncle Sam’s coffers by the way of Treasury notes.


Then there is another extraordinary twist. Politicians plead with us to get rid of whatever money we have left and take it to the super store and spend it so that people won’t lose their jobs. There we go again. We have to bail out the banks by paying taxes (would Thoreau go to jail over that?) and then we are asked to use whatever is left to help out Myers and David Jones.


And all the time, not only is nothing being done to change the system but everything is being done to sustain it, despite the persistent evidence of its faults.


However, this was not my flash of seeing things differently. The whole salvaging operation is directed to a system that has failed because it is predicated upon something that is unsustainable, and that is the consumption of the finite resources of the earth.


We have been turned into consumers and this is simply not our destiny as people. However, because we are looked upon as consumers, that part of us which is essential to our growth as individuals and not as economic beings is ignored.


The longer we persist in the belief that our survival is dependent upon consumption and spending, the further we will dig ourselves into an unsustainable hole. (And you know the old saying about when you are in a hole, stop digging!)


So, what bus should we be on? Recently I saw that there is a proposal to allocate $US90 billion to infrastructure spending in the US. For those of you who have travelled to the United States and stepped outside “downtown” (or even in “downtown” in Cleveland) you will have noticed decay of roads, bridges and public facilities. The defence budget this year in the US is over $US600 billion.


We are hooked on oil despite the knowledge that we are held to ransom by the oil producers, despite the fact that the increasing consumption of fossil fuel is destroying our environment, and despite the frightful political disasters to which our obsession with oil gives rise.


And in the meantime, the sun, the wind, the sea and the thermal heat of the earth awaits us. In Australia it is bountiful and must be saddened at our contempt for its use.


We have an illusion of a well educated society while our universities are a disgrace. We have highly educated PhDs aching to share their intelligence and wealth of specialist experience and are dependent from semester to semester on the good will of whoever is in charge to give them a contract for the next semester.


They have no job security and don’t get paid between semesters. The university assumes that they will be there next semester when they are needed to teach. Some are a little luckier and get a contract for a year. They go to the bank for a loan and get knocked back because they don’t have security of tenure.


The universities reek with mediaeval processes where the concept of developing independent minds has had to surrender to the economic rationalist dictates of economists and politicians.


There is a huge opportunity that awaits us if we have the courage to get off the bus and head off in a new direction. We could be the biggest exporter of renewable energy technology in the world, we could be the leader in developing independent minds at universities, we could become the leader in the provision of a non-fossil fuel public transport system; we could be the leader in a sensible linking of the world to new ideas and creative thoughts and options which might, just might, gradually diminish the clash of ideologies and encourage greater understanding between the people of this precious planet – the life of which is threatened.


The internet could be developed to develop a global network of communication that by passes the controlled leak or the suppression of information by governments. Once change direction, the opportunities for new ideas, innovation and the explosion of the human spirit is unimaginable.


There is so much work to do in building this new direction and departing from the old ways that have so consistently diminished us as people; there is such a demand for people to be involved in this enterprise and yet we are emptying them out on the street in a belief that sustaining the old way is the best way.


Hope drives human destiny, and we are being hoodwinked into believing that the good times will come again by putting our faith in the system that has created so much destruction of wealth and human ambition.


Families facing foreclosure; husbands going home to tell their family they don’t have a job any longer (the damage to their self belief is a price we can’t afford); people’s retirement wealth eroded or simply stolen. These are the very people who are paying the highest price for our past sins and misdirection and the people who had absolutely no say in or control over that direction.


I concluded that the most essential step for society to take at this stage is to turn our backs on the past and vote it out and to place our hope on a new destiny. The innovation that will be unleashed when people not only hope for a new direction but believe in it, will astound us.


The energy of the work force to participate in a direction in which it believes will amaze us. The extent to which we will build our future security will be extraordinary. Instead of being dependent upon China, China will be dependent upon us as will the rest of the world. We can become a world leader but we need the leadership.


Louis Coutts left law and became a successful entrepreneur. His blog examines the mistakes, follies and strokes of genius that create bigger, better businesses. Click here to find out more.


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