Tag Archives: Wall Street

Lentils

4 Oct
lentil

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Guest blogger (also a farmer and an artist) Gerard Oosterman tells it like it is…

Stock up on lentils, the end is nigh.

It must be clear to all of us. The good times are now beginning to fade rather seriously. For far too long we have complained about the over-indulgence of the wealthy, their utter ignorance of what life ought to be about.

Some of us knew that waste was bad. We grew up with that. But, the promise of limitless and endless supply of better and bigger things is what blinded many, especially those born in the late eighties, early nineties, not ever having known to do without, to save up, to delay instant gratification.

The call of the credit card was irresistible. Spend and spend more. The lure of consumerism was calling them up endlessly from somewhere deep within their primitive and fledgling conscience. They barely had the time to grow up into savvy financial adulthood. The debt card (let’s be honest, that’s what it is) drove them on relentlessly. The era of frugality had not yet arrived.

The last few weeks world markets are again heading for seismic shifts. The financial tectonic plates are grinding against each other yet again.  Billions are being wiped off every day. On the (flat-screen) TV we watch anxious faces watching the tumbling numbers on computer screens. Nervous Wall Street floor traders are running again, shouting, throwing arms up in utter despair and wiping sweaty foreheads.

It might perhaps not be as voluntary as we would have liked, none-the-less, it is something that some of us had prayed for. Surely, wanton over the top shopping till we‘re dropping was never supposed to be the goal for most of us to strive for. Aiming for endless growth surely is hardly the stuff of any enlightened person, while millions still have to walk for miles to fill a bucket of water?

Of course, growth in girth did happen and how? With over 50% obesity here in Australia we can only watch in awe the Danes, who have put a limit on girth growth by taxing fat. But, get a load of this; The Danes just have a mere 10% of obese people. Talk about nipping it in the bud!

Here in Australia we just feel that it will all sort itself out through some kind of reliance on the magic of … wait for it…”the market”.  We are adult enough to understand kilojoules, carbon hydrates, and we are not in the business of interfering with big grown-ups. The same with pokies: we are all mature and the sport clubs all support gambling, boozing and brawling afterwards. It’s good for ‘the markets’.

But getting back to our tumbling (western) world economies, has anyone noticed the eerie emptiness of electrical, furniture/ white goods emporiums, the likes of the (euphemistically called) ‘Good Guys” or those screaming ‘get it now’ Harvey Norman shops? What happened to the shoppers?

Has the Age of Aquarius arrived again, the age of frugality, of making do? Our world politicians seem as always frozen in some kind of eternally stuck vinyl recording, in the ‘economic growth’ groove. Entire countries are being bailed out, staving off the inevitable.

The question is; if economic growth is the cause of depleting our world, damaging our world, making the future more and more unlivable, should we not accept, perchance by hook and by crook, and even welcome a stop to this manic obsession with endless growth?

Was it last night’s ABC Four Corners telling us that in the UK 1% of the population own 20 % of its wealth?

Of course, no one has to walk anywhere to get a bucket of water. We might just have to get serious about stocking up on lentil beans. Looking through the acres of rubbish food on super-markets shelving, those little lentils are rather elusive. Strange how good wholesome food is now even harder to get.

Yes, definitely time to stock up the larder. Get your lentils NOW.

Gerard blogs at  Oosterman Treats Blog

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London’s burning: Blame it on the BlackBerry

9 Aug

We live in a global culture in which the ability to consume is the primary measure of human freedom. To be a prosperous consumer is to be free. Given this reality, violence, theft, and rioting by disaffected youths stealing trainers and plasma TVs, while shocking, should not come entirely as a surprise.

The marauding gangs have been described as criminal opportunists, a description that can be as accurately applied to the News of the World phone hackers,  the Wall Street financiers who gave us the first global financial crisis, the private companies making exorbitant profits from the misery of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the sub-prime mortgage mongerers, authorities entrusted with public well-being who take bribes to work against the common good. Countries such as Australia, the UK and the US have been governed by men who are widely considered to be war criminals: make up your own list, the possibilities are endless.

We commit our crimes in accordance with our means and circumstances. The better our means and circumstances, the less likely we are to engage in the crimes of looting and arson. The London riots are complex in their genesis but without doubt unemployment, poverty and lack of hope play their part.

Of all the reports and analyses I’ve read thus far the one that grabbed my attention was the blame it on the BlackBerry explanation. BlackBerry offers its customers a private messenger service (BBM) that encrypts your messages, unlike the other social media that are available to everyone, including the authorities. It seems that many rioters are communicating via their BlackBerries, and when this is the case, police cannot find out until it’s too late where the next outbreak of violence will be. This has allegedly led to the rapid expansion of trouble spots around the country, as agitators’ communications cannot be decoded by authorities in time to prevent new outbreaks.

It seems something of a long bow. Presumably  an intercity tweet can also get things going faster than police can organize officers on the ground. The real objection to BBM is that it thwarts official surveillance, and when disaffected youth have a means of communication that excludes any possibility of the authorities cracking their codes, this is perceived as a menace in principle, if not in practice.

The mobile phone is one of the iconic symbols of consumption. BlackBerrys cost less than smartphones and BBM is both essentially cost-free and invisible to police. In order to communicate, BBM users must exchange PINs, but their conversations are private. They can spread their PINs via SMS, Twitter or other means.

There’s little doubt that the use of social media is a vital force in getting uprisings of all kinds off the ground, and its use enables rapid expansion. But to blame the London riots on the BlackBerry is like blaming the Arab Spring on Facebook. Social media is a tool available to everyone to use how they see fit. Undoubtedly there’ll be a call to ban BBM before too much longer, or distribute the facility only to those authorities deem to be worthy of their trust.

The violence and looting is awful. But blanket condemnation of the guilty is too simplistic. Yes, they have to be held accountable. Yes, they have to face the consequences of their actions. But these events don’t happen in a vacuum. Criminal behaviour is not peculiar to disaffected youth. Stealing trainers and plasma TVs is no more or less criminal and deserving of punishment than hacking phones, exploiting dead children, starting illegal wars and ruining the global economy. We don’t call for a law and order crackdown except when the crimes are perpetrated by disaffected youth. It’s a class-based demand.

Western culture worships consumerism. We measure worth by what we have and what we can afford. Everywhere we look there’s corruption and criminal behaviour. It’s the zeitgeist. Commentators have been quick to point out that these riots are not political uprisings because one of the goals is to steal stuff.  They’re wrong. These riots are absolutely political. The ultimate assessment of human worth in Western culture is what the human owns and is capable of owning. The middle class aspire to wealth. The working class aspires to what the middle class has. When a large enough group feels it has no stake in society, that group will revolt. Trainers and plasma TVs are the pathetic symbols of the revolt of the have nots against the haves. Not political? You must be dreamin.’

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