Hasta la victoria siempre

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Downshifting-ul castiga teren in UK

Dupa ce la 17 iulie 2008 am vazut, in postarea "Prioritatile fericirii" ca doar 4% dintre australieni considera banii si situatia financiara ca fiind definitorii pentru starea lor de fericire, rezultat asemanator cu cel pentru populatia britanica (vezi postarea din 31 demebire 2007 intitulata "Sondaj efectuat de revista Time despre fericire"), apoi ca atat romanii cat si americanii incep sa renunte la materialism (vezi "Romanii incep sa se destepte, publicat la 6 martie 2008 si "Si americanii incep sa renunte la materialism", 5 mai 2008), azi vom vedea ca fenomenul downshifting prinde aripi in Marea Britanie.
Se poate vorbi, deci, de inceputul unei respingeri pe scara larga a principalei dogme capitaliste, aceea ca banii si averea ar aduce fericirea, cu atat mai mult cu cat vom vorbi de cazul unei tari profund capitaliste.

Mai exact, in articolul sau "Downshifting in Britain--A sea-change in the pursuit of happiness", publicat la 3 noiembrie 2003, profesorul Clive Hamilton arata, bazandu-se pe rezultatele unui studiu efectuat de British Market Research Bureau ca procentul adeptilor simplitatii voluntare e in crestere continua si semnificativa in UK.

In cuvintele autorului:
"More and more Britons appear to be rejecting the norms of consumerism and aiming for more control over their lives. For this study, British Market Research Bureau (BMRB International) was commissioned to conduct a national survey to determine the extent
and nature of downshifting in the United Kingdom. Downshifters are defined as those who agree with this question:
In the last ten years have you voluntarily made a long-term change in your lifestyle, other than planned retirement, which has resulted in you earning less money?
The results show that 25 per cent of British adults aged 30-59 have downshifted over the last ten years. This is remarkably high and much higher than previous estimates. The proportion rises to 30 per cent if those stopping work to look after a baby or set up their
own businesses are included. Men and women, people in their 30s, 40s and 50s, and families with and without children are just as likely to make the life change."

Implicatiile politice ale cresterii downshiftingului
"The research reported in this paper uncovers a large class of citizens who consciously reject consumerism and material aspirations. While diverse in their reasons for downshifting, they agree that excessive pursuit of money and materialism comes at a substantial cost to their own lives and those of their families. They therefore reject the
largely unquestioned assumption of British politics that voters respond first and foremost to the ‘hip-pocket nerve’.
Downshifting takes courage as it entails a decision to resist powerful social pressures to pursue the norms of success defined by consumer society. Downshifters frequently report that they feel the weight of social pressure because of their decision. They are seen to be ‘crazy’ to reject higher incomes. Yet this study shows that downshifting is
not an unusual or isolated activity but is practised by large numbers of Britons. It may transpire that those who are the prisoners of overwork and debt, and find themselves beset by stress, ill-health and family strain, may come to be seen as the ‘crazy’ ones.
The emergence of a large class of downshifters in Britain challenges the main political parties to question their most fundamental assumptions about what makes for a better society. A preoccupation with faster economic growth and higher incomes is no longer
enough. The extent of the phenomenon calls for a redefinition of achievement, for this group has defined successful living in a way that thumbs its nose at the promises of consumerism. A change in political rhetoric in favour of family friendly policies and concern about overwork will not be enough as long as governments continue to sacrifice the things that downshifters value for higher economic growth."

Asadar, cresterea economica trebuie sa lase treptat locul altor valori, precum timpul liber, atentia sporita acordata familiei si vietii sociale, limitarea cantitatii de munca.

Efectele consumerismului
Cum se explica aversiunea crescanda a britanicilor fata de consumerism? printre altele, prin cresterea exponentiala a imprumuturilor si creditelor bancare.

"Yet there is a growing awareness that the rise of overconsumption has come with increasingly serious costs. Credit card debt has trebled in the last seven years and this has been accompanied by a sharp rise in personal bankruptcies. The national savings rate has fallen by half since 1993 (Hamilton 2003). Mortgages have also grown with
rising house prices and higher aspirations, so that on average each adult owes the equivalent of 70 per cent of their annual income, a figure that has risen from 54 per cent in 1993. Young people (who spend almost half of their income on luxuries, including going out and recreational drugs) accept that they will remain in debt for most of their lives. Contrary to popular belief, the accumulation of consumer debt is not the result of poorer households being forced to borrow to cover living expenses but of wealthier households splashing out on ‘luxuries’."

Munca in exces si limitarea timpului acordat familiei sunt alte asemenea cauze:

"The pursuit of ever-higher incomes is having a serious effect on the personal lives of many workers, including the stresses associated with debt and overwork. In recent years more and more Britons have sacrificed time spent with their families and at leisure to work longer hours in order to fund increasingly ambitious lifestyle goals. Full-time
employees in the United Kingdom work longer hours than their European counterparts, an average of 43.5 hours per week compared to the European average of 40.1. A quarter of male employees work more than 48 hours a week, substantially more than a decade
ago (Hamilton 2003).
The culture of long hours is taking a toll on relationships. Perversely, men who are the fathers of young children are more likely to work long hours than those who aren’t, so that not only do they spend less time at home but they are more tired and stressed when they are at home. One third of fathers spend more than 50 hours a week at work,
frequently eating into their weekends, compared with a quarter of men without children. There is evidence that long hours of work on the part of parents can damage both their relationships with their children and their children’s development."

Sunt adeptii downshiftingului mai fericiti decat erau inainte?
Rezultatele sondajului in cauza nu lasa loc de interpretari:

"Finally the downshifters surveyed were asked how they ‘personally feel about the lifestyle change’ they made. The possible answers centered on the trade-off between satisfaction with the change and how much they miss the loss of income.
Overall, over 90 per cent of downshifters are happy with the change in their lifestyles, with 39 per cent saying they do not miss the extra income at all. Thirty seven per cent said they miss the extra income and 15 per cent admitted that, while they are happy with the change, they have found losing the income very hard. Only six per cent are unhappy with the change. There is little difference in the pattern of feelings about the change between men and women, although women seem to be a little more happy. Older downshifters appear to have fewer concerns about the decline in their income."

Per total deci, 90% dintre cei care au ales un trai simplu material dar bogat in restul valorilor socio-umane, sunt multumiti de decizia facuta, doar 6% spunand ca regreta perioada anterioara.

In concluzie, trebuie sa retinem doua aspecte: 1. simplitatea voluntara este un curent ce castiga teren inclusiv in tarile cu indelunga traditie materialisto-capitalista, si 2., oamenii devin mai fericiti odata ce aleg acest mod de viata. Influenta crescanda a acestui fenomen, corelata cu cresterea acceptarii si adoptarilor valorilor de stanga in numeroase tari capitaliste, ne indreptatesc sa fim optimisti pe viitor.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Consumerismul, piedica in calea socialismului

Richard D. Wolff este expert in marxism, si-a obtinut doctoratul in studii economice de la Universitatea Yale, in prezent predand la University of Massachusetts Amherst.
In articolul sau din 2004 intitulat “Ideological State Apparatuses, Consumerism, and U.S. Capitalism: Lessons for the Left”, Wolff explica modul in care clasa asupritoare din SUA, capitalista, se fereste de o revolta impotriva sistemului creand ideologia, sau mai bine zis, isteria consumului exacerbat. Astfel, in loc ca muncitorii exploatati sa-si doreasca mai putine ore de munca, sa aiba un cuvant de spus in procesul de productie, sa prefere un trai mai linistit, egalitarismul fratesc, mai mult timp liber etc. ei ajung sa-si masoare buna-starea in cantitatea de bunuri pe care le pot achizitiona. Astfel, devin indiferenti la cantitatea de munca pe care sunt obligati sa o presteze, atata timp cat salariile lor le permit sa consume in exces.

Pentru inceput, Wolff il parafrazeaza pe un alt autor marxist important, Louis Althusser, care a vorbit de nevoia sistemului capitalist de a indoctrina natiunea exploatata cu o ideologie care sa ii mentina cat mai mult la putere.

Capitalism si indoctrinare
"Althusser, like Gramsci in his Prison Notebooks sought to explain and thereby to help overcome the organized working class’s inability to transform the recurring crises of capitalism into successful transitions to communism. Like Gramsci, Althusser turned to the realm of ideology to develop, as he put it, what Marx had only initiated (1995, 20). While `Capital` had begun to show how capitalism’s forces and relations of production were reproduced, much still remained to be done. This was especially true in the realm of culture and ideology. In undertaking a theory of ideology, Althusser’s object was to explain how workers and others imagined their relationship to economy and society. He chose that object because ideology – or, more concretely, the multiple ideologies
coexisting in contradiction within any society – could operate so as to preclude a capitalist crisis from becoming a transition to communism. Althusser’s 1969 essay analyzed how such ideologies operate in capitalist society and what institutions (“apparatuses”) enable their operation. As he stressed later to his critics, a Marxist politics governed his project (1995, 253-267). Exposing how certain ideologies and their apparatuses supported the class structure of capitalist societies could make future Marxis interventions more successful in transforming capitalist crises into transitions to communism."

Care este insa ideologia impusa maselor de capitalul american?
Pentru a ajunge la aceasta explicatie, sa urmarim impreuna cu Wolff o scurta istorie a capitalismului si exploatarii din SUA:

" The basic statistics on capitalist exploitation in the United States since its civil war are stark in Marxist terms. Because real wages rose but far less than labor productivity, US capitalism enjoyed a rising rate of exploitation for the last 150 years (Resnick and Wolff 2004). In simplest terms, ever more surplus value was generated relative to the value paid in wages to productive workers. That steadily rising surplus enabled the US to achieve its ostentatious wealth and massive state wielding global military preponderance. A rising surplus relative to wages defines US workers, in Marx’s precise terms, as increasingly exploited. US capitalists devoted parts of the rising surplus appropriated from their workers to find and control cheap sources of raw materials around the world.
They distributed other parts to a growing army of managers whose task was to supervise and discipline workers into ever greater work efforts. Still other parts of appropriated surpluses funded technical changes aimed at getting more output per labor hour. All such distributions of their rising surpluses enabled US capitalists not only to accelerate that rise but simultaneously to reduce the production costs of the consumer goods they sold to workers.
Capitalists could raise their workers’ wages far more slowly than the workers raised their delivery of surplus to the capitalists because every dollar of workers wages could buy ever more of the consumer goods whose costs kept falling."

Asadar profiturile patronatului au crescut exponential, odata cu cresterea exploatarii muncitorilor. Veniturile muncitorilor au crescut, dar mult sub profiturile capitalului. Cum de nu s-a ajuns de aici la nici o miscarea sociala anti-capitalista? datorita propagandei consumeriste. Exacerband importanta consumului pentru bunastarea umana, oamenii muncii s-au multumit sa vada excusiv usoara crestere a veniturilor proprii, trecand cu vederea munca din ce in ce mai indelungata si mai intensa la care au fost supusi.
Wolff explica si mai amanuntit:

"The key success formula of US capitalism thus coupled rising surpluses for capitalists with rising standards of consumption for workers. Marx had foreseen exactly his possibility in Capital, vol. 1’s famous discussion of “relative surplus value”. The unique circumstances of the US from 1860 to 2000 enabled that possibility to be realized as nowhere else on the planet. By enabling increasingly exploited workers to enjoy rising standards of consumption, the US economy has achieved not only the most exploited working class in the world, but also to do so while encountering relatively less resistance than many capitalisms elsewhere."

Si inca:

"Of course, the reasons for US capitalism’s success – its security, its growth, and its wealth – lie only partly in its particular economic performance. For US capitalists so successfully to compensate their workers for extreme exploitation by delivering a rising level of consumption, the workers had to accept such consumption as an adequate compensation. They had to value rising consumption levels as more positive than rising exploitation was negative."

Propaganda consumerista
In ce consta propaganda consumerista si cum se realizeaza ea?
"Here Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatuses (ISA) assume their importance. Workers in the US had somehow to be interpellated systematically – in their families, schools, churches, civic and labor organizations, the mass media, and so on – as consumption oriented and driven. They had to be called to think of (identify) themselves and everyone else as free market participants striving to maximize the consumption they could achieve from work. They had to define themselves as above all “consumers” who willingly suffered the “disutility” of labor to acquire the “utilities” embodied in consumption. The neoclassical economics that so totally dominates academia, the media, and politics in the US theoretically formalizes this interpellation. The advertising that pervades every aspect of life relentlessly popularizes this interpellation. Workers in the US have been systematically subjected to/by an ideology that defined and celebrated them as consumers first and positively (and workers as secondary and negatively). Individual worth – for themselves and for others – became measurable above all by one’s achieved level of consumption.
And that level of consumption came to be understood as the appropriate reward for their individual contribution to production, i.e. for their exploitation."

Exacerband cresterea consumului personal al muncitorilor, capitalismul le distrage atentia de la exploatarea de la locul de munca, facandu-i sa vada doar cresterea salariilor:

"Only in so far as the ISAs in the US effectively defined most individuals’ subjectivity in such terms could rising real wages compensate workers for ever higher rates of exploitation. Only if the workers desired chiefly consumption from their alienated and exhausting labor (rather than a reorganization of worksites to enable them collectively to appropriate and distribute their own surpluses) would rising wages satisfy."

Ce au pierdut muncitorii americani, dupa ce au luat de buna ideologia consumului propagata de statul capitalist?
"Rising worker consumption helped to disable trade union militancy, undercut socialist and communist opposition, and mute anti-capitalist criticism from the US intelligentsia. It became the securest capitalism on the planet, a magnet for the wealth of the rich across the globe.
Yet the extreme rate of capitalist exploitation in the US entails equally impressive social costs. Levels of physical overwork, psychological stress, drug dependence and abuse, interpersonal violence, broken families, psychological depression, loneliness and isolation are also extremely high."

Nimic altceva decat supra-munca, stres, dependenta de droguri, violenta interpersonala, destramarea familiilor, depresie psihica, singuratate si izolare. Laolalta cu subminarea oricarei incercari autentice de rasturnare a capitalului.

Respingerea consumerismului, primul pas spre Revolutia egalitarista:
"Yet rising wages would hardly have sufficed if workers in the US had defined themselves and the quality of life they sought differently. Suppose workers valued most egalitarian and mutually nurturing interpersonal relationships among all gathered at a worksite, workers’ collective decision-making powers over the surpluses they produced, and individual free time for aesthetic, athletic, and cultural activities. Had such values – rather or more than personal consumption levels - been their measures of the good life, workers in the US would have rejected rising consumption as an adequate offset to rising exploitation."

Pe scurt, odata ce muncitorii vor intelege ca egalitarismul, luarea in comun a deciziilor, timpul liber etc. sunt elementele ce sporesc calitatea vietii, nu excesul de consum, ideologia capitalista pica si odata cu ea, nici sistemul nu mai are multe zile.

Fatala greseala a socialistilor americani: vrem venituri mai mari!
Atunci cand miscarile de stanga din SUA luau atitudiune impotriva capitalismului, critica lor, departe de a fi radicala si sustinand o schimbare de forma, nu doar de forma, era aceea ca egalitarismul va duce la o crestere si mai mare a cponsumului personal. Nu s-au gandit nicio clipa ca nu cresterea acestui consum este de dorit, odata ce fiecare membru al societatii dobandeste un trai decent material.

"A tragedy of anti-capitalist politics in the US for a long time is that they were rarely informed by Althusser’s ISA argument. The left in the US did not mount any sustained attack on the interpellation of individuals as consuming subjects. Indeed, the left mostly endorsed and repeated such interpellations. It presented itself and socialism
generally as the better vehicle for all individuals to achieve higher levels of consumption.
It addressed itself especially to those suffering from various discriminations that kept them from achieving even average levels of consumption. It endlessly repeated and reinvented slogans and programs with goals of “higher wages”, “family wages”, “living wages”, “minimum wages”, “comparable worth”, “guaranteed incomes” and so on. The US left thus emphasized programs that contested capitalism in just the one area, rising consumption, where capitalism could deliver enough to render the left unpersuasive and unnecessary.[...]
By contrast, notions of reorganizing the business along non-exploitative class lines remained vague, utopian, and “unrealistic” in most workers’ minds in the few instances when such notions surfaced at all."

Lectia invatata de la Richard Wolff este clara: o Revolutie autentica socialista trebuie sa rupa din radacini tot ceea ce reprezinta sau aduce aminte de burghezo-mosierism. Iar cautarea fericirii in materialism, in cresterea spre infinit a consumului si la lux este o astfel de ramasita capitalista. Consumerismul nu a sporit fericirea nicaieri in lume, insa i-a facut pe oameni sa fie mai atenti la cativa dolari in plus la salariu decat la conditiile generale ale vietii lor, la locul de munca, in familie, in societate.
Nu de imbogatire avem nevoie, ci de asigurarea unui trai decent pentru absolut fiecare om in parte, dupa care trebuie sa ne concentram atentia pe factorii dovediti ca sporind calitatea vietii: desavarsirea democratiei, sporirea timpului liber si a activitatilor din acest segment (cultura, sport, relaxare etc.), sporirea coeziunii sociale, egalitarismul.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Capitalism, consumerism, exploatare, violenta

Sue McGregor este doctor in ceea ce se numeste "consumer policy" si preda economia si stiintele educatiei la Universitatea Mount Saint Vincent, Halifax.
In articolul sau intitulat "Consumerism as a Source of Structural Violence" , McGregor explica modul in care capitalismul duce in mod firesc la consumerism, la promovarea materialismului, pe care le intretine creand un climat social ostil, degradant si violent.

Caracteristicile societatii consumeriste
"A consumer society has the following characteristics (drawn from McGregor, 2001).
Identities are built largely out of things because things have meaning. People measure their lives by money and ownership of things. People are convinced that to consume is the surest route to personal happiness, social status, and national success. Advertising, packaging, and marketing create illusory needs that are deemed real because the “economic” machine has made people feel inferior and inadequate. To keep the economic machine moving, people have to be dissatisfied with what they have, hence, with whom they are. Consequently, the meaning of one’s life is located in acquisition, ownership, and consumption.

In a consumer society, market values permeate every aspect of daily lives. Marketplaces are abstract, stripped of culture (except the culture of consumption), of social relations, and of any social-historical context. Consumers are placed at the center of the “good society” as individuals who freely and autonomously pursue choices through rational means, creating a society through the power they exercise in the market. Consequently, in a consumer society, the
is a widespread lack of moral discipline, a glorification of greed and material accumulation, an increased breakdown in family and community, a rise of lawlessness and disorder, an ascendance of racism and bigotry, a rise in the priority of national interests over the welfare of humanity, an increase in alienation and isolation. Social space is reorganized around leisure and consumption as central social pursuits and as the basis for social relationships. A consumer society needs leisure to be commercialized and the home to be mechanized in order that time an energy are freed up for shopping and producing more things to buy. Social activities and emotions are turned into economic activities through the process of commodification."

Asadar, in societatile bolnave de materialism totul se masoara in numarul de bunuri materiale detinute, lacomia creste in dauna moralitatii si familiei, legaturile sociale se subrezesc, izolarea si alienarea cresc iar individul este imbecilizat de advertising, masina de propaganda a regimului, la statutul de "leguma de canapea".
Odata cu mania consumerista, cresc orele de munca, in scopul obtinerii de tot mai multi bani pentru a satisface falsele nevoi create de publicitate. Si totusi, nimeni nu gaseste multumirea, caci advertisingul are grija sa creeze in continu nemultumire fata de obiectele deja detinute.

Un cerc vicios
Societatea de consum creaza nemultumire, pe care ne sugereaza ca o putem remedia consumamnd si mai mult.

"A consumer society is fast paced, based on round the clock living but people were not biologically designed for this pace. To compensate for the stress, as a quick fix, people believe that all problems have a material or money solution. People use spending and materialism as a way to build a new ego. People try to become new persons by buying products that support their self-image. Displaying all of the goods one has accumulated helps one gain prestige and envy, thereby living out the ideology of conspicuous consumption.
Unfortunately, this practice creates a false, temporary sense of inner peace because the religion of the market (a system of beliefs) co-opts aspects of humanity and spirituality. People eventually begin to think that things are out of whack, that their priorities are mixed up, that their moral center is being lost so . . . they spend more to cover up the fear.
To exacerbate this fear, technology has left people isolated with no sense of belonging. It has cocooned them to the extent that they are blinded to their destructive ways. Wisalo (1999) suggests that such destructive consumerism occurs because of humans’ insecurity in their hearts and minds.

Ironically, people allegedly consume to gain this security. He says that people feel they can become a new person by purchasing those products that support their self-image of whom they are, want to be, and where they want to go. Unfortunately, this approach to becoming a new person, to developing a sense of self, is unsustainable. People "under the influence of consumerism" never feel completely satisfied because owning something cannot help meet the security of heart and mind, the deeper needs of humanity. Constantly spending and accumulating only gives short-term fulfilment and relief from the need to have peace and security in life."

Consumerismul unora, cladit pe exploatarea celor multi
Avalansa de produse si mentinerea lor la un pret relativ rezonabil, in paralele cu sporirea exploziva a profiturilor capitaliste, este explicata in buna masura de exploatarea crunta la care muncitorii din lumea a treia sunt supusi de marile firma capitaliste Occidentale. McGregor foloseste in acest sens doua citate sugestive:

„We teach children capitalistic consumerism, yet tell them nothing about the lives of the workers who slave to assemble designer clothing, toys, and electronics; nor the animals that suffered to create fashion or food; nor the environmental impact of the trash we create. And, by no means do we tell them that these situations are inextricably linked (Wells, 2000).
Fox (2001) asks, “Have we mourned and asked forgiveness for the collective acts of necrophilia including slavery and genocide to native peoples that launched our economic success as a nation? Do we take responsibility for the envy we arouse when we put consumerism and the profits of multinational corporations above the human values of just wage, environmental conservation, and the celebration of life? Have we even come close to addressing the huge gulf between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in our culture and our species?”.

Capitalismul depinde de violenta, oprimare, exploatare, nedreptate pentru a cladi o relativa bunastare a unora in dauna altora:
„Consider these statistics as evidence of consumerism as structural violence, remembering that structural violence exists when institutions and policies are designed in such a way that barriers in society result in lack of adequate food, housing, health, safe and just working conditions, education, economic security, clothing, and family relationships. People affected by structural violence tend to live a life of oppression, exclusion, exploitation, marginalization, collective humiliation, stigmatization, repression, inequities, and lack of opportunities due to no fault of their own, per se. The people most affected by structural violence are women, children, and elders; those from different ethnic, racial, and religious groups; and sexual orientation:

* Nike made $9 billion in sales. After paying its bills, it had a $796 million profit. Over half a million people in the world work for Nike and they make, on average, $800.00 U.S. per year ($40 million all together).

* In 1995, the workers in a Gap factory earned 27˘ to sew a shirt that we buy for $34.00.

* Garment workers in El Salvador earn $7.20 a day but it costs them $15.38 per day for rent, 3 meagre meals, transportation to work, and child care (does not include utilities, health, education).

* In the Megatex factory in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where several lines of clothing are made for Disney, workers earn $2.15 a day while their average daily expenses are $6.12. At this wage, the workers are trapped.

* 37% of all clothes/apparel sold in Canada are made in China where they are forbidden from organizing to improve working conditions (sweatshops, child labour, prison labour).

* 80% of all the products we buy are made by women (on average aged 12-14).

* We would need four earths if everyone on earth lived the western lifestyle.

* In 1997, the UN Conference on Trade and Development reported that wages for unskilled workers had dropped by 20 to 30 percent in developing countries that had liberalized trade laws to attract manufacturing business from developed countries.

* The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that more than half of the 22,000 sewing shops in the U.S. violate minimum wage and overtime laws, and other government surveys indicate that 75 percent of U.S. garment manufacturers violate safety and health laws.

* A men’s shirt retailing for $32 in the U.S. costs $4.74 to produce in the free-trade zones in Mexico, where sweatshops are prevalent. Of that amount, 52 cents goes to production workers and another 52 cents to supervisors. That leaves close to 80% for the corporation and retailer.

* Eight cents of each $20.00 for a Gap cap goes to workers, who earn approximately $40 after 56 hours of work, in violation of Dominican law.

* The Fisher family, founders and executives of the Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy clothing chains, purchased 230,000 acres of forest land in Mendocino County, California, and have been logging old-growth redwoods, destroying struggling Coho salmon fisheries, wiping out precious wildlife habitat, and polluting public drinking water.

* Since December 1999, Wal-Mart Canada imported almost 70 tons of garments from Burma. Despite Wal-Mart claims that it broke its Burma connection in January 2000, Wal-Mart was identified in a Thai newspaper as buying garments from a factory owned by Burmese drug thug. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has condemned Burma for "widespread and systematic" violations of the prohibition on the use of forced labor. Burma has been censured
for allowing the modern-day practice of slavery.

* Based on filings that Wal-Mart made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, women are 72 percent of the company's sales staff but only one-third of them make it into management. Wal-Mart also admitted to discriminating against job applicants with disabilities.

Din aceste date nu putem trage decat o singura concluzie: consumerismul exacerbeaza lacomia, egoismul, indiferenta, facandu-ne nepasatori la suferintele celorlalti, la inegalitatile sociale si incurajand sclavia moderna.

„Consumerism is the drug that causes people to fall into moral sleep and remain silent on all kinds of public matters. As long as their little world of peace and relative prosperity is not disturbed, they are happy not to get involved. It is against this background of consumer
complacency that all kinds of moral relaxation can arise . . . .
A consumer society is one that is prepared to sacrifice its ethics on the altar of the material ‘feel-good’ factor” (Benton, 1998).”

McGregor continua: „Persons living in a consumer society live a comfortable life at the expense of impoverished labourers and fragile ecosystems in other countries. Too often, they conclude that they must arm themselves to protect their commodities and the ongoing access to them. This position justifies war and violence (Cejka, 2003). The “veil of consumerism” enables them to overlook the connections between consumerism and oppressive regimes (governments, world
financial institutions, and transnational corporations) that violate human rights, increase drug trade, and boost military spending (Sankofa, 2003).
This disregard is possible because consumerism accentuates and accelerates human fragmentation, isolation, and exclusion for the profit of the few, contributing significantly to violence (Board of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, 1994). Society has ignored the “new slavery” and the resultant disposable people through ignoring the implications of consumption decisions on third world citizens, the next generation, and those not yet born (Sankofa).”

Si consumatorii sunt trasformati in sclavi
Nu doar ca in capitalismul consumerist milioane de oameni sunt transformati in sclavi, obligati sa munceasca in exces pe salarii si conditii de munca mizere, dar chiar si cei care ar trebui sa beneficieze de munca primilor sunt transformati din punct de vedere psihic in marionete.
„From yet another perspective, McGregor (2001) suggests that consumerism is also a form of slavery to those doing the consuming. She tantalizes us with the ideas that people behave as they do in a consumer society because they are so indoctrinated into the logic of the market that they cannot “see” anything wrong with what they are doing. Because they do not critically challenge the market ideology, and what it means to live in a consumer society, they actually contribute to their own oppression (slaves of the market and capitalism) as well as the oppression of others who make the goods and of the natural ecosystem. Strong and unsustainable consumption patterns have developed and have been unchallenged over a long period of time to the point that consumerism and structural violence represent dominant forces in human social interaction, and these forces are transforming human life in powerful and destructive ways (SantiPracha Dammha Institute, 2001).”

Monday, August 11, 2008

Valorile de stanga, tot mai prezente in SUA

In ciuda renumelui sau de „capitala a capitalului” si de centru al consumerismului mondial, se pare ca tot mai multi cetateni ai SUA adopta valori si pozitii asemanatoare celor socialiste. Evident, de aici si pana la a vorbi de o miscare ideologic egalitarista in SUA mai este mult, insa rezultalele sondajului despre care vom vorbi imediat ne indreptatesc sa fim optimisti pe viitor.
Este vorba despre un raport intocmit de The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press si facut public in luna martie 2007.
Intitulat „Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007”, raportul Pew este sumarizat dupa cum urmeaza:

„Increased public support for the social safety net, signs of growing public concern about income inequality, and a diminished appetite for assertive national security policies have improved the political landscape for the Democrats as the 2008 presidential campaign gets underway.

* Atentie sporita pentru cei defavorizati, chiar cu riscul unor dezechilibre bugetare
„The study of the public's political values and attitudes by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press – the most recent in a series of such reports dating back to 1987 – finds a pattern of rising support since the mid-1990s for government action to help disadvantaged Americans. More Americans believe that the government has a responsibility to take care of people who cannot take care of themselves, and that it should help more needy people even if it means going deeper into debt. These attitudes have undergone a major change since 1994, when the Republicans won control of Congress. In particular, 54% say the government should help more needy people, even if it adds to the nation's debt, up from just 41% in 1994.”

* 73% dintre americani considera ca bogatii devin tot mai bogati iar saracii tot mai saraci
„In addition, an increasing number of Americans subscribe to the sentiment "today it's really true that the rich just get richer while the poor get poorer." Currently, 73% concur with that sentiment, up from 65% five years ago. Growing concerns about income inequality are most apparent among affluent Americans; large percentages of lower-income people have long held this opinion.”

* ateismul, in crestere inceata dar constanta
„The latest values survey, conducted Dec. 12, 2006-Jan. 9, 2007, finds a reversal of increased religiosity observed in the mid-1990s. While most Americans remain religious in both belief and practice, the percentage expressing strong religious beliefs has edged down since the 1990s. And the survey finds an increase in the relatively small percentage of the public that can be categorized as secular.
In Pew surveys since the beginning of 2006, 12% identified themselves as unaffiliated with a religious tradition. That compares with 8% in the Pew values survey in 1987. This change appears to be generational in nature, with each new generation displaying lower levels of religious commitment than the preceding one.”

* actiune afirmativa in favoarea minoritatilor
„Divides on some once-contentious issues also appear to be closing. In 1995, 58% said they favored affirmative action programs designed to help blacks, women, and other minorities get better jobs. That percentage has risen steadily since, and stands at 70% in the current poll. Gains in support for affirmative action have occurred to almost the same extent among Republicans (+8), Democrats (+10), and Independents (+14).”

* preferinta pentru pacifism
„Even as Americans express greater commitment to solving domestic problems, they voice more hesitancy about global engagement. They also are less disposed than five years ago to favor a strong military as the best way to ensure peace. In 2002, less than a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, more than six-in-ten agreed with the statement, "The best way to ensure peace is through military strength." Today, about half express similar confidence in military power.”

Raportul complet poate fi descarcat de aici.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Meditatia si cunoasterea de sine ca eliberare de impulsurile materialiste

David A. Schwerin este doctor in studiul religiei, master in economie, si autor de carti pe teme economico-politice (de pilda, Conscious Globalism: What’s wrong with the world and how to fix it (Digital Junction Press 2005).
Intr-un articol publicat in "Seeking Truth", aparitie academica ce tine de Universitatea chineza Heilongjiang, Harbin, si intitulat "The Economics of Happiness", David A. Schwerin subliniaza pertinent impotenta banilor si obiectelor in privinta sporirii fericiri, in schimb se refera la efectele negative avute de consumerism. Sa-l urmarim:

Marea iluzie: banii aduc fericirea
"Fifty years of research has shown that the connection between money and happi-ness is not as clear as most people think. Studies from around the world reveal little if any correlation between an increase in well-being and an increase in per-sonal wealth once an individual’s basic needs are met. Above a moderate level of income - the amount varies with each country’s standard of living - there are, at best, diminishing returns for higher income. Some economists believe that people with the highest well-being are not those living in the wealthiest countries but those who live in societies where institutions function effectively, mutual trust is high and corruption is low."

Cresterea PIB-ului, insotita de stagnarea fericirii dar de cresterea anxietatii si depresiei
"Personal income in the United States has climbed steadily over the past five dec-ades and the per capita GDP (gross domestic product, a measure of the nation’s output of goods and services) has tripled. Yet measures of life satisfaction in the U.S. have been virtually flat. A similar pattern can be found in Japan, Europe and many other societies. Not only have measures of well-being failed to keep pace with increases in wealth, but anxiety has risen steadily and depression rates have increased ten-fold.2 Most countries base their financial health on the level and rate of growth of their GDP. GDP, however, looks only at a country’s quantifiable out-put and, therefore, excludes quality of life considerations such as: the purity and availability of fresh water, green forests and clean air. All the money in the world will do little to compensate for an environment where the air is too polluted to breathe or the water too toxic to drink. And in countries where economic growth is rising rapidly, there is usually an equally rapid increase in hard-to-dispose-of waste as well as an unsustainable amount of resource depletion."

Cazul Coreei de Sud
"South Korea, with one of the fastest growing economies in the world, illustrates some of the problems associated with a frenzied lifestyle. The Korea Times re-ported that 25% of South Koreans suffer from anxiety due to health concerns and financial difficulties. A survey by The Anxiety Disorder Association of Korea found that affected respondents suffer from digestive disorders, dizziness and a fast, throbbing heart.6 To cope with these symptoms the respondents consumed large amounts of alcohol or became addicted to smoking cigarettes. Echoing these findings, a poll by Harris Interactive found that nearly a quarter of Americans sur-veyed described themselves as being under a great deal of stress. “Too many things to do” was the problem most cited for Americans’ stress and anxiety. The respondents had trouble sleeping and worried about having enough money to cover rapidly rising prices and unanticipated expenses."

Copiii bogatilor, inceput cu stangul in viata
"While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with increased levels of wealth, there are often decidedly negative outcomes associated with the accumulation of signifi-cant amounts of money. Adolescent members of wealthy families, for example, may feel great pressure to succeed financially. The pressure that parents place on their children, while well intended, can be quite debilitating. Children who inherit significant amounts of wealth often lack the motivation to fully engage in life and their values and priorities can easily become distorted. Furthermore, rising expec-tations frequently accompany rising income. The pressure that accompanies such expectations can psychologically offset the benefits of greater wealth."

Fericirea inseamna cunoastere de sine, eliminarea trasaturilor negative de caracter, rabdare si acceptarea de sine
Altfel spus, sursele veridice de fericire vin din interior, nu din asteptari si dorinte dependente de mediul inconjurator.

"Yet we all know that satisfying external desires brings us, at best, a fleeting sense of happiness that soon reverts to apprehension and anxiety. The purchase of a new car or similar items makes most people feel happy. But the euphoria soon subsides as attention shifts to concern about how to pay for the new automobile or worry that it might be dented or scratched.
True happiness is not possible without inner peace. Peace and contentment can only be achieved when we access the resources and follow the guidance that intuitively comes from the core of our being. Finding and connecting with the core of our being (frequently termed our higher self or soul) requires deep introspection that leads to self-knowledge. To quote Lao Tzu, “He who knows others is wise, he who knows himself is enlightened.”
In fact, all spiritual teachings have given this same message in a variety of forms throughout the ages. Who am I? What is the purpose of life? are the quintessential questions humans have asked for eons. The Greek concept of paideia ("the process of educating man into his true form, the real and genuine human nature") aims to answer these questions through a process of personal development – searching for each person’s Divine Center. Once basic economic needs are met, paideia invites us to shift attention from amassing material things to expanding self-awareness."

Eliberarea de frica, egoism si cinism
In opinia autorului, meditand la adevaratele noastre nevoi psihice, putem elimina din constinta frica, invidia, lacomia etc., toate legate de un comportament materialist, obtinand in schimb pacea sufleteasca, relaxarea, precum si o mai inchegata si prietenoasa relatie cu lumea exterioara.

"Most people realize that they are far from perfect but wonder why their imperfec-tions should preclude living a joyful life. Individuals who believe selfishness and dishonesty are an unalterable part of human nature naturally think it unfair to be penalized for attitudes and behavior that can’t be changed. People with this point of view are conscious of and identified with only one part of their nature. Psy-chologists tell us our personality is a composite of many parts or voices.
Two of the primary voices within us are the higher self or soul and the lower self or ani-mal nature (also called our shadow self). The lower self is selfish and shortsighted. This part of our personality developed in reaction to circumstances that were judged to be unfair. The seemingly logical but flawed conclusion was that meaninglessness and chaos are normal and, therefore, negativity and cynicism are perfectly justified forms of defense. Filled with fear, the lower self doesn’t trust the veracity or worth of our intuitive guidance. Our lower nature prefers to remain unaware of its destructive attitudes so that there is no pressure to make the changes that are needed to reverse course and realize our true potential. The higher self, in contrast, encourages us to reject beliefs based on fear and separation and to see the world as the connected, interdependent place that it really is. This higher part strives for integration of its separated parts and yearns to live a truthful, responsible life based on the principles of equity and sustainability."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Nostalgia egalitarismului in continua crestere

Cu toate imperfectiunile lor, se pare ca regimurile egalitariste din Europa anterioara anilor '90 sunt din ce in ce mai mult regretate de populatiile tarilor in prezent capitaliste. Daca despre Romania si Polonia am scris deja, azi vom vedea ca si poporul maghiar si cel bulgar privesc cu tot mai multa nostalgie si simpatie socialismul. Repet, desi macinate de numeroase probleme, precum aparitia unor clase privilegiate birocratice si o scadere, uneori, drastica, a democratiei populare, regimurile socialiste sunt chiar si asa preferate actualului capitalism.
Sa urmarim cazul Ungariei:

Pe saitul ziare.ro, in ziua de 27 mai 2008, putem citi un articol intitulat "Majoritatea maghiarilor regreta comunismul". Citez cateva randuri relevante:

"Se pare ca nu doar romani il regreta pe Nicolae Ceusescu. Tot mai multi maghiari au marturisit ca au trait mai bine sub dictatura regimului comunist decat acum, in capitalism. Un sondaj telefonic realizat de Pundits pe 1000 de subiecti arata ca 62% dintre respondenti au spus ca cea mai fericita perioada de timp, a vietii lor, a fost inainte de caderea comunismului si a zidului Berlinului, informeaza The Budapest Times.
Doar 14% au declarat ca sunt mai fericiti si multumiti de viata lor in perioada de dupa anii 1990.
Se pare ca persoanele in varsta si cei cu un nivel scazut de educatie privesc cu nostalgie la perioada regimului comunist. Dintre acestia 80% au declarat ca au trait bine in perioada conducerii lui Janos Kadar(foto), dictator comunist. Chiar si 55% din cei care au fost studenti sau tineri adulti, in timpul acestei perioade negre spun ca au fost mai fericiti inainte de capitalism.
Rezultatele sondajului sunt in linie cu concluziile studiilor realizate in alte tari care au facut parte a Tratatului de la Varsovia. Realizatorii au declarat ca rezultatele reflecta tendinta si nevoia unui sentiment de securitate."

Cazul Bulgariei:
Si vecinii nostri de la sud au tendinte tot mai bine inghegate spre o structura sociala egalitarista. Astfel, din numarul din 16 ianuarie 2008 al revistei Business Standard, a aparut un articol intitulat "Bulgarii si nostalgia comunismului" din care citez selectiv:

"Un sondaj publicat de agentia bulgara Mediana arata ca, la un an dupa aderarea la UE, a crescut nostalgia socialismului. Circa 38% dintre bulgari regreta vremurile dinainte de 1989 si doar 28,4% si-au exprimat preferinta pentru actualul sistem socio-economic. Potrivit sondajelor anterioare, din 2004 si 2005, doar 34%, respectiv 29% ar fi dorit revenirea la socialism.
Mai mult, 54% dintre cei chestionati doresc renationalizarea tuturor bunurilor privatizate dupa 1989, iar 40% considera ca cei care au proprietati si bunuri in valoare de peste un milion de leva (511.000 de euro) sunt “candidati la inchisoare”."

Concluzia este clara si daca vom combina aceste date cu statisticile amintite in trecutul apropiat pe blog, referitoare la aversiunea generala fata de inegalitatile de venit, avem toate motivele de a fi optimisti in viitor.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Capitalism: poluare, inegalitati, nefericire

Peter Barnes este licentiat in istorie al Universitatii Harvard, master in stiinte politice al Universitatii Georgetown, jurnalist la Newsweek The Economist, the New York Times, the Washington Post etc.
Printre altele, este si autorul cartii "Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons", ce poate fi citita in intregime, gratuit, aici.

Una din partile esentiale ale cartii este reprezentata de critica lui Peter Barnes a capitalismului, pe care il acuza de trei lucruri pe care le-am subliniat in mod repetat pe acest blog: capitalismul este indiferent si chiar ostil fata de mediul inconjurator, favorizeaza si exacerbeaza inegalitatile economico-sociale si, nu in ultimul rand, e incapabil sa sporeasca fericirea generala.

Capitalismul, inamicul mediului
In capitolul 2 al lucrarii, intitulat "A Short History of Capitalism", Peter Barnes explica modul in care consumerismul si goana dupa profit pe termen scurt , promovate de capitalism, au dus omenirea in pragul unui dezastru ecologic de proportii:

"Destruction of Nature
Humans began ravaging nature long before capitalism was a gleam in Adam Smith’s eye. Surplus capitalism, however, has exponentially enlarged the scale of that ravaging. I promised no grim numbers, but I’ll cite just one.
In 2005, a United Nations–sponsored research team reported that roughly 60 percent of the ecosystems that support life on earth are being used unsustainably. Such overuse, reported the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, increases the likelihood that abrupt, nonlinear changes will seriously affect human well-being. The potential consequences include floods, droughts, heat waves, fishery collapse, dead zones along coasts, sea level rises, and new diseases.
Thoughtful people can debate whether population or technology is more responsible than capitalism for our loss of ecosystems and biodiversity. No doubt all play a role. But most of the damage isn’t done by the numerous poor; it’s done by the far fewer rich. The United States, for example, with 5 percent of the world’s people, has dumped nearly 30 percent of our species’ cumulative carbon dioxide wastes into the atmosphere.
It’s our excess consumption, rather than the poor’s meager gleanings, that’s the larger problem, and surplus capitalism is the handmaiden of that excess.
Technology, of course, greatly magnifies our impact on the planet, but technology by itself is mere know-how. It’s the choice of technologies, and the scale at which they’re deployed, that affects the planet. Electricity, for example, can be generated in many ways. When corporations choose among them, however, their choice is driven not by “least harm to nature,” but by “most bang for the buck.” And, in doing their calculations, they count the cost of nature as zero. Hence we have lots of fossil-fuel burning and little use of solar, wind, and tidal energy. The same calculus drives corporations’ approach to agriculture, logging, and many other activities. The result is at once humbling and chilling: capitalism as we know it is devouring creation. It’s living off nature’s capital and calling it growth."

Inegalitati aberante
O alta tara a capitalismului este aceea ca favorizeaza in special si aproape in exclusivitate clasele si categoriile sociale avute. Apar astfel inegalitati monstruoase, unde cei mai bogati 5% detin mai mult decat averea adunata a celorlalti 95%. In loc sa sporeasca avutul claselor de josm defavorizate, unde o crestere baneasca ar avea efecte palpabile asupra fericirii respectivilor, capitalismul ii favorizeaza in mod obscen pe cei deja ultra-bogati, pentru care sporirea averii nu poate avea decat efecte neconcludente.

"[...] at the end of the century, the distribution of private wealth was more unequal than it had been in 1950. In cold numbers, the top 5 percent owned more than the bottom 95 percent.
Why did this happen? There are many explanations.
One is that welfare kept the poor poor; this was argued by Charles Murray in his 1984 book Losing Ground. Welfare, he contended, encouraged single mothers to remain unmarried, increased the incidence of out-of-wedlock births, and created a parasitic underclass. In other words, Murray (and others) blamed victims or particular policies for perpetuating poverty, but paid scant attention to why poverty exists in the first place. There are, of course, many roots, but my own hypothesis is this: much of what we label private wealth is taken from, or co-produced with, the commons. However, these takings from the commons are far from equal. To put it bluntly, the rich are rich because (through corporations) they get the lion’s share of common wealth; the poor are poor because they get very little. Another way to say this is that, just as water flows downhill to the sea, so money flows uphill to property. Capitalism by its very design maximizes returns to existing wealth owners. It benefits, in particular, those who own stock when a successful company is young; they can receive hundreds, even thousands of times their initial investments when the company matures. Moreover, once such stockholders accumulate wealth, they can increase it through reinvestment, pass it on to their heirs, and use their inevitable influence over politicians to gain extra advantages—witness the steady lowering of taxes on capital gains, dividends, and inheritances. On top of this, in the last few decades, has been the phenomenon called globalization.
The whole point of globalization is to increase the return to capital by enabling its owners to find the lowest costs on the planet. Hence the stagnation at the bottom alongside the surging wealth at the top. A critical piece of this analysis is that very few new shares of corporate stock are issued. As author Marjorie Kelly has pointed out, most established corporations finance growth through retained earnings and debt. They’re just as likely to buy back outstanding shares as to issue new ones. Consequently, old wealth is rarely diluted. When new money flows into the stock market, its main effect is to increase the wealth of existing stockholders and their fortunate heirs. Thus, of the total gain in marketable wealth that occurred in the United States between 1983 and 1998, more than half went to the top 1 percent.
The companies that do issue new stock are the young ones—the Microsofts, Apples, and Googles. Entertainers and athletes aside, most new multimillionaires are early stockholders in corporations like these. In these cases, however, the distribution of gains is so tilted in favor of these early stockholders that the skewed pattern of wealth distribution is replicated. New wealth joins old wealth, but the concentration remains the same. There’s no mechanism for dispensing wealth—even new wealth—more evenhandedly."

Capitalismul, incapabil de a spori fericirea
In ciuda faptul ca in anumite tari capitalismul a adus bunastare materiala, goana continua dupa profit, specifica acestui sistem social, nu a facut decat sa creeze lacomie, o permanenta nemultumire fata de lucrurile detinute deja, ascutirea competitiei, anxietate, stres si invidie.

"If thneeds were the path to happiness, most Americans would be delirious by now. But the accumulation of goods is only one means among many in the pursuit of human satisfaction. Everyone except economists seems to know this. Economists take as a given that consuming more goods makes people happier, not just when they’re poor, but at all times.
Yet this assumption is not only illogical, it’s contradicted by numerous surveys. Logically, the law of diminishing returns should apply here as elsewhere; as people acquire more goods, the marginal benefit of each additional good should decline toward zero. And research confirms this is so.
Since the early 1970s, the General Social Survey has asked Americans the same question: Taken all together, how would you say things are these days—would you say you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy? Though we’ve gotten considerably more accessorized since the question was first asked, our answers have barely changed. In 1972, 31 percent of Americans considered themselves very happy; in 2004, it was 33 percent. A noneconomist might conclude that, if happiness is our goal, we’ve wasted trillions of dollars.
Why isn’t economic growth making us happier? There are many possibilities, and they’re additive rather than exclusive. One is that, once material needs are met, happiness is based on comparative rather than absolute conditions. If your neighbors have bigger houses than you do, the fact that yours is smaller diminishes your happiness, even though your house by itself meets your needs. In the same way, more income wouldn’t make you happier if other people got even more. That’s why an affluent country can get richer without its citizens getting happier.
A second reason is that surplus capitalism foments anxiety. Millions live one paycheck, or one illness, away from disaster. When disaster strikes, the safety nets beneath them are thin. And everyone sees jobs vanishing as capital scours the planet for cheap labor.
Another reason is that surplus capitalism speeds up life and creates great stress. Humans didn’t evolve to multitask, sit in traffic jams, or work, shop, and pay bills 24/7. We need rest, relaxation, and time for companionship and creativity. Surplus capitalism can’t give us enough of those things.
Similarly, its nonstop marketing message—you’re no good without Brand X—breeds the opposites of gratitude and contentment, two widely acknowledged precursors of happiness. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the average American encounters about three thousand such messages each day. No wonder we experience envy, greed, and dissatisfaction."

Fara indoiala ca o alternativa viabila la actualul dezastru capitalist este o oranduire cladita pe egalitarism si moderatie materiala, care sa asigurere tuturor un trai decent, dar deloc opulent, sa opreasca astfel goana dupa inavutire, sa reduca numarul de ore muncite, in paralel cu o atitudine protectoare fata de mediu si de evidentiere si a preocuparilor non-materiale specifice omului.