I am not alone

Lynn Steger Strong recently wrote an article in the Guardian titled: Grand Illusion – How the Pandemic Exposed We are all Pretending.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/11/coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-two-in-five

“I was meant to write about perception versus reality in what I do professionally. The owner of the New York restaurant Prune, Gabrielle Hamilton, wrote an essay about this recently – describing how, for so long, so many of us have been pretending that we were or were about to “make it”. We had checked all or most of the boxes we were told to check in our professions, even as our lives remained in constant states of anxiety and fear”.

And Lynn goes on to basically dismantle the myth of American-style Capitalism and the erosion of the middle class. She’s right, of course.

As I wrote a few blogs back, the basic hard-working person is taking it on the chin and many stories are cropping up about small business owners going bankrupt. The simplest explanation is that they borrowed heavily (often using their home equity) to get a business up and operating and now, what with Big Box stores, Chinese low-cost goods, Amazon and recently Covid-19, they simply cannot keep the wolves from the door anymore. Their struggles will have been for nought.

But Lynn makes a compelling personal observation: “We’ve internalized that our suffering (failing) is our fault – that it is because we must not be working hard enough. I wanted to write about the pervasiveness of this feeling that there are no longer avenues to stability, because I wanted there to be less shame around it. I wanted to explore the ways that, in entrenched and fundamental ways, our struggles were more systemic than just us”.

Two in five Americans would have a hard time coming up with $400 in an emergency. Canadians are in the same boat.

As readers know, I am not a fan of the system we seem to have committed to. I saw all that Lynn writes about a long time ago and I see the dismal picture only getting worse and worse every year.

Of course, just as I would get convinced it was all going to collapse, it kinda would and then the ‘powers-that-be’ would prop it up again with loan forgiveness and Quantitative Easing and now ‘free money’ thrown out the Parliamentary windows. Corrupt Capitalism is resilient, I’ll give ya that! But the resilience is also a lie. It is NOT resilience, it is just postponement. This incredible hypocrisy in finances has happened now several times in the last thirty years culminating in the until-now biggest false Capitalism monetary expansion effort in history – the 2008 banking debacle.

Covid will make that fiasco look like penny-ante poker.

It is almost as if each collapse will be ‘easier’ because we all get another chance…..but the real question is: another chance at what? How many times does the system have to fail us before we tell the truth, redesign and rebuild it?

I suspect that this time may prove serious enough for others to demand change. Real Estate was too expensive, taxes were too high, our infrastructure is failing, the environment is getting toxic, the climate is heating up, tensions are rising everywhere, lies are as valid as truth and facts, leaders are corrupt, education sold out, corporations control the governments and people are getting depressed. But Lynn points out that when YOU get depressed and blame yourself, you are being falsely accused. The fault was not yours. The fault lies with the system.

And I agree.

49 thoughts on “I am not alone

  1. Three little words one longs to hear, “It’s their fault.” Feels good and lowers one’s cortisol levels. If suffering is avoided then often personal growth is slowed. Pain is a mighty teacher ask anyone who seeks growth physically, growth experientially or growth spiritually. No pain no gain in the opinion of many philosophers. Much of our society is organized around avoiding pain and suffering. With the arrival of this pandemic we hear the choruses of “It’s their fault.” As Trump says, “It is not my fault.” Of suffering humanity knows a great deal but chooses to shame, blame and point fingers. Right now with the C 19 virus deaths in our care facilities for the elderly seeking a cause. When Pogo was asked he said, It are us.”

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    • Once again, I agree and disagree. If you are born in to a rigged game and taught to play by rules that the ‘winners’ do not follow, I do not consider that it is blaming others when you continually lose. Some might. In fact, I just see that ‘blindness’ as part of the great brainwashing.
      It is to my own embarrassment that it took me so long to see it and it took me until the time I was living out here to see it so clearly. From age 11 to my forties, I was convinced that hard work, brains, honesty and a lucky break sometime was all I would need to win at this modern game of life (I had after-school and summer jobs every year since I was 11).
      I do not think that way anymore. I do not think that anyone born poor, or ugly, or unconnected or simply content to just be a good hardworking person has a snowball’s chance in Hell in this system. The system is 100% rigged and corrupted. So, to me, it IS their (1%) fault for that and it was my fault for taking so long to see it.

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  2. I was born poor, ugly, socially shunned, not connected, not rich but choose not to accept the barriers in my path. The path ahead seemed very time consuming but time was my main transactional capital. Many people explained to me that I was wasting my time. A concept more evident to them but not to me. I ended up with enough debt that it took ten years to pay off. I was on the poverty train for years but it was not the systems fault. At anytime I could have got a labouring job and started payments on a $12,000 house in the upper Fraser Valley and followed in my parent’s footsteps. But I had seen enough of poverty, suffering and hopelessness. My parents had ten kids and the system did not do that to them. Nothing is rigged. The local convenience store owner working sixteen hours a day suffers but gets ahead. We hear of the ‘Soma’ takers, the ‘lotus Eaters’ on the path to apathy and despair. Suffering motivated me!

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    • Well, you know what I am going to say: I agree and disagree. I, too, came up the hard way and I, too, was motivated by it. But I am not talking about getting ahead financially (which is still rigged against people) but rather getting ahead in the living of a good and healthy, satisfy and interesting, rich and rewarding, relationship-rich life.
      I understand day care. I understand schools. I understand mortgages but they all separate and divide as well as do other things. That is what I am talking about. We have bought into a system that is too financial and too materialistic and not enough human and caring. And I think most people see it that way but can’t see any other way.

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  3. I see your point, possibly, if you mean that aspects of society are alienating and create divisions within society. Yes, I agree that economic inequalities appear to exist in aspects of our society. Should society provide housing, day care, health care, guaranteed annual income, free education to the extent of one’s ability. Yes, I agree that such supports are needed and in many countries they are offered but mostly not offered in Canada Are such improvements needed? Yes.

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    • We are getting closer, you and I. We may agree completely on something someday. BUT – you knew it was coming – I am NOT so sure about all those supports. They are necessary for the getting of more money – and that bugs me. It is sexist of me but I think kids should be raised by stay-at-home moms until they are fully in grade school. Give ’em tax credits. Give ’em money for the first two kids maybe. Support them in lots of ways but supporting them so they can go to work? Unh, unh. BUT our ‘system’ requires two incomes and now we are back to the problem being the system.
      Single moms are a special situation….and I have thoughts on that, too. I am not quite as sexist as that all sounds because I am fine with stay-at-home fathers doing it instead but the reality is that mothers have a tradition of it and the ya-ya sisterhood supports it better than dad’s drinking buddies. You do realize that this is a topic that has flummoxed thinkers for eons, right? I doubt we are going to solve it in the comments section. Bottom line: I think I found a better lifestyle than my previous urban-based, rat-race one.

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  4. I’ve been daydreaming about how our world might look if we had no monetary system, no counter-trade system either, but the currency was kindness. Would we define ourselves by the help we could others rather than our pay scale and assets.? Would world trade cease? Or would it grow and that growth be more sustainable?
    Bet no-one would watch that movie.

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    • I honestly do not know. It is much easier to see the flaws in an existing system than it is to imagine another new one from scratch. I do know that much of what is killing us and making us ill is the result of the current system so it is a no-brainer to say, “We need to change”. But…..change to what?
      My guess is that we will still employ ‘tokens’ (money) for the convenience of it. But I suspect that we will have to eliminate interest as a ‘given’. I also imagine that ‘kindness’, ‘in kind’ and barter would emerge larger if the ‘status of wealth’ was not so prominent. I think any system that begets inequality beyond the measure of productivity will be just as bad as the one we have now. I also think that the ‘elite’ should be eliminated (not killed – but that there should be no such thing as Royalty, etc.). The planet has to come first. I would love to TRY to design a better system but my practical nature tells me NOT to waste my time. If you were a ‘winner’ in today’s game and had the power, would you throw it all over for a possibly better system? Few would. And none who were in a position to do so would even consider it. It’s a pipe dream on a global, international, national and provincial level. It has a smidge of a chance in a small town or village. Best place to see the possibility? OTG.

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      • Well, you are right – in concept and vision – but I have been to a few of them and they do not seem to work out. Cliques, personalities loom too large. Still, a well-regulated, fair, rule-of-law version of ‘old school’ Capitalism with a greater value placed on what is really important (morals, child care, education, earth stewardship, families, working marriages, community and the like) rather than the current emphasis on greed and elitism might still have a chance. I’d write in something regarding interest rates and debt accumulation, too. But, sometimes, as they say in construction, “It’s easier and cheaper in the long run to tear the old house down and start over.”

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  5. I concur with what David says…from a young age to perhaps my mid forties, I was convinced that good hard work and climbing the corporate ladder was going to help me forward in the “system”. And although I have climbed the corporate ladder to some extent, actually, it did and does not bring me what I naively thought it would bring me…because you simply can’t beat the system where the few rich and elite take more, poor people are getting poorer every year and middle class is evaporating. So out the window went my dream since I graduated. And yes, we could try to change the system, but like David, I doubt that WE can alter the course, as the powers are way too big and they don’t see why they should change a system that is making them wealthier every quarter. And I agree that I only have myself to blame for not seeing it sooner and giving my life a different course. And you may call the alternative course OTG or a hippie commune, it is definitely NOT in the rat race. I still associate hippie commune with Woodstock kinda looks, so I think I will choose OTG as a good alternative.
    How frustrating as it seems….I don’t start anymore fights I can not win…I fought plenty of those when I was younger and more naive

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    • There is an irony inherent in our similar views, Wm. A contradiction, kinda….
      On the one hand, I decry the materialistic greed and all that seems to come with it but, on the other hand, I am also decrying inequality (to a large extent). When you look at that ‘contradiction’ it tends to look like I just want all the crap that goes with greed, too, I just don’t want to wade in the sewer to get it.
      A reader might legitimately accuse me of that.
      So – the response to the criticism that has not yet come: I do feel that the inequality issue is a critical failing of the ‘system’. But it is not that I think we should all have Rolex watches and mansions. A lot of problems would disappear if there was simply not so much garish over-consumption in just about everything. Furthermore, when I point out inequality, I mean the vast chasm of it. Inequality is inevitable. Some people will work harder, be luckier, be smarter, inherit more and all that. Trying to make us all EQUAL is to deny the reality of the human condition and Capitalism does NOT make that mistake. So E-Q-U-A-L is not the goal. The goal is to be more equal than it is today.
      If you need a fantasy number to visualize what I am saying: say the average rich person makes $500K a year (we know it is much more) and the average drugged-out doofus collects welfare to the tune of $12,000 a year. It is my opinion that the disparity perpetuates the drug-taking unproductive nature of the doofus and the greedy $500K helps sustain that disparity. Normalcy is too far out of reach for the doofus.
      Ideally, the doofus gets upwards of $30K (so as not to be homeless and be able to get a haircut and such) and the $500K a year person is limited by taxes to $240K – plenty of money for excess and extra bling.
      If we lived with a disparity ratio that could NOT exceed 8 times, then there is still incentive for the ambitious and there is ‘leg-up’ for the doofus. I KNOW that such a formula will NOT work. Too simplistic. I use that only as a concept/idea/simple-math example of ‘narrowing the gap’.

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  6. Well, I have nothing against narrowing the gap, and for sure there should be a limit to the maximum amount…if all the rich would be happy with “just enough” money to have a decent life, a nice house, buy some nice stuff (but the again not too much) and drink a good glass of wine from time to time…that should determine what we “need” as a max income. The problem is that we are bombarded (especially our kids, who spend their whole day behind laptops, ipads and mobile phones) with all kinds of new “must haves”…and the industry is pushing hard to buy new stuff every 6 months. Remember the time when we kept a mobile phone for as long as it worked, at least 5 or 6 years if you didn’t drop it too often. Now, “machine life” seems (and IS) programmed and engineered in everything we buy, so it doesn’t last as long and thus we need to buy more stuff more frequently…just to make the big guys even richer. And if your hardware lasts long, then for sure they update the software each month, so at a certain moment, the new software doesn’t run anymore on your not-sold device, and you are forced to buy a new one.
    What I have a problem with is that theoretically, I should be in the middle class, but middle class is disappearing, and it seems I am going the wrong way…as in NOT towards the rich. I pay in average 55% to 60% of taxes on everything I make, and by the time I reach retirement age, I will have paid my whole professional career for my government pension, but by that time, the government will have NO more money to pay my pension…so there goes the whole system down the drain that was based on social solidarity…and that also makes me angry. So now government is pushing us to get our own private retirement plan, for which I again have to pay, on top of all the taxes.
    I like comfort, and nice things, BUT to a certain extent…how much stuff do you need to be happy? I have 1 watch (don’t need 10, had it for over 10 years and will probably never buy another one again…might not need it any more when I go OTG), 1 computer, 1 mobile phone (3 years old) and on and on
    Butnarrowing the gap is a nice concept!

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    • I have a few watches. Never wear them anymore. Maybe ten times in fifteen years. Part of it, of course, is us just getting older and no longer hungering for social acceptance by driving the right car or wearing the latest fashions. But it is also just common sense. I really do not need anymore crap. I kinda want a specific thing now and then (tool, etc.) but a nice glass of wine with a good, tasty dinner is really all I need on any given day. I can’t even imagine the burden of ‘carrying’ multiple houses and yachts and staff and spoiled kids like the so-called elite do. What kind of hell is that?

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      • What the world needs now is more Coxs’ and fewer watches! I have two (watches) – one ferreted away in a drawer and never used, and one of those new fangled ones that monitor your every heartbeat, footstep AND tell the time, IF you remember to plug it in!

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      • which proofs just how far we went…what have we come to if we need a watch to count our footsteps…I am pretty sure David has his 10.000 steps each day (or enough equivalent workout without the need to count). So we let ourselves be persuaded that we all need such a watch…and then another fancy one for going out…and another fancy one for some other occasion and on and on it goes. I decided 10 years ago to buy 1 decent watch tht would last me a lifetime (it is even a hand wound one, so I don’t even need a battery)

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  7. you know, even if by sheer luck I would be one of the rich…I could not live like that, because I just can NOT accept injustice, and this is precisely what is inherent to our system these days

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  8. Kory Teneycke recently opined in the time of a Pandemic that services must be cut. Starting wage at a Jamie Diamond organization is $2600 US per month and no benefits. Her name is not Bubba and she is a single working mother. This is not a street dwelling person but a proud member of the working poor. Mr. Diamond was asked, “Do you have any suggestions to help this employee of your company?” Mr. Diamond said, “I need to think about it!” Mr Diamond earns nearly $40 million dollars per year. This women does not seek equality, only a living wage.

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    • No disagreement from me…THAT is what I am talking about. One would think that earning $40M a year would require the ability to ‘think on your feet’ and do so quickly! In fact, I would offer up my own services for considerably less. The answers would be quick and half the time right – and that is close to the industry average. AND, if the coin lands up heads a few extra times, I might have the better record!

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      • Agreed on that…how smart do you have to be to earn 40M??I have to take tough decisions every day (most of the time on the spot and with a good amount of “educated gut feeling” for a LOOOOOOOT less!!

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    • In Canada in our region ( Vancouver Island ) a fair living wage (which is touted as a great thing) is just under 18.00 Canadian so about 3000.00 per month, ” A living wage is the hourly rate required for two working parents to meet the basic needs of a family of 4″, with the cost of living so much less in the US she/he is better off than our own working poor not including medical which is now “free” in BC. I do not know the medical costs in Jamie Diamonds area.

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      • Her rent is $1600. per month. Each month she is short $500 and goes further in debit. She lives in San Diego. Her only hope is that she advances enough to get a pay raise. Single mother. Gets no benefits whatsoever. Must dress in business dress.

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      • I found my cost of living comparison here https://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/personal-finance/household-finances/does-it-cost-more-to-live-in-canada-or-the-us-depends-if-you-have-kids/article4617778/
        As our dollar is worth about 74 cents and rent in Campbell River is about 1300. For 750 sq ft I’m still thinking she is not so bad off.
        Not saying this is a good thing, I made a ton of money while raising kids, it all went, they are expensive to have. It pisses me off that the richest(or second as ratings change) Jeff will not share the vast company fortune with his employees. I did a quick calculation that 50% of just his yearly income would enable all of his employees to make around 45,000.00 or about 22.50 per hour. This is a fair living wage. Will it happen! No, he needs to spar with Musk about space toys! Bozo should be his last name!

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      • Scott I agree that she would be better off living in Canada with our social support system. If she lived in Canada she would get the $550 per month Child Benefit. This benefit would lift her out of poverty. Oh Canada eh!

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      • In a sad way, that woman is living in a system that is rigged against her simply by the example you gave. There she is struggling and working in a city that keeps her trapped by charging her more to support her than she can make. AND she then goes into debt thus enslaving her to the inequitable system forever.
        In effect, your example proves my point.
        Put another way, would you work in Hell for a million dollars a day? Most would sign up and try to hang in there for a week or two without getting too burnt. But what if the cost of room and board was $1.2M a day and you hadn’t seen that in the fine print. After day one, you can’t even quit – you OWE the devil too much already (think student debt). The devil offers you a higher pay scale but you have to move closer to the heat. So, you go. NOW you are earning $3M a day!! Woohhoooooo! But you are getting crispier and crispier and your room and board also went up. You are NOW getting ahead but only at minimal rate. So, you buckle down and tell the devil, “Bring it on!”
        Reality check: no freedom. NO nature. NO goodness. Extreme stress. And, at the end, when you are a charcoal briquette being interred deep into the earth, the devil says, “Well, you beat me. Few do. Here is the money I owe you.”

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  9. Kory is the strategist who ran the campaign to get Doug Ford elected as you know. Cuts being its main feature. Recently Kory said on the CBC, more cuts to services are needed. Cuts hurt the poor the most as you have said. Ideological mootings for tax hawk reasons…knee buckling.

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  10. We keep hearing the terminology “the system” but there is no system in the sense that ‘common knowledge might perceive it. The ‘system’ is a metaphorical descriptive term. In the nineteenth century the economy was described as being guided by an invisible hand’. The trope was that it was operating, guiding and directing like a judicious entity. No literal ‘hand’ existed But wishful thinking did exist. The metaphorical guiding ‘hand’ these days is called the ‘market’ in common everyday language. But just as we never had any ‘invisible hand’, we do not have one ‘system’ and we never have had one ‘market’ deciding the prices of everything.There is no singular entity called the ‘market.’ Sales require buyers and sellers. Daily millions meet to exchange goods at agreed upon rates in market places all over the world. Finally capitalism has multiple meanings. When someone uses the terms capitalism, the market, the system to describe the exchange goods, one needs to expect a linguistic slight of hand. Our path forward will entail less exploitation, more empathy, and paying a living wage. But with such a huge pool of labour available world wide. Paying as little as possible seems to be the order of the day for some employers. Ironically he who tries to regulate this exchange of goods and services is metaphorically called, “Mud.”

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    • You make some good points but, in fact, they are somewhat incorrect. The system lives! Like the Frankenstein it is!
      I agree that it is a vague, amorphous, water-balloon-like blob that undulates and changes all the time but, like the balloon analogy, it is bound and has limits. It is fragile and, when burst, a lot of the water/wealth/assets get spilled. So part of the system is the thin skin of it – the balloon itself – and keeping the skin intact. That balloon-membrane is the government and it’s laws, the banks and their controls, the justice system, the monopolies, the utilities, the regulatory branches and the list goes on and on. In fact, just as the outside ‘hand’ can manipulate the water balloon so can the outside hand ‘influence’ the system. The rich and the corporate are the current outside hand. Yes, to a large extent, the sheer mass of the population can ALSO influence the BLOB but the masses do not act as ONE hand. The rich act as one by comparison.
      In economics, the rich are CAPITAL and the many-more-poor are LABOUR. If Capital and Labour are equally valued, then supply and demand influences the markets somewhat fairly. But when Capital CONTROLS labour then supply and demand are no longer the somewhat neutral, balanced invisible hand. In other words, inequality distorts everything.

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  11. ‘The rich act as one…” No capitalists are not monolithic. For example the Vancouver Stock Exchange was once described as the “Wild West.” Why use the amorphous blob metaphor? To be clear a single monolithic system does not exist. One unified system does not exist. Many, many systems exist. That is why a minimum wage in one state might be $3.00 per hour while in a different state minimum wage might be $20.00 per hour. Clearly it is not one system for jurisdictional reasons. Thus Capitalism does not ‘’act as one.” There are means to exchange goods and services that vary greatly all over the world. Your preferred means of exchange is bartering but you also need currency for some exchanges. I look forward to a ‘deep dive’ into some issues of community concern.

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    • Once again…disagree. The Rich do act as one more than the hoi polloi. And their ‘agents’ act more as one than they do (agents are money managers, bankers, accountants, etc.). The variables you mention are incidentals (like the water balloon bulging here and there). The basic ‘system’ is universal in the first world. Start with the principles. Start with the beliefs. Start with the basic tools employed. Move to the ‘controls’ (governments, banks, judicial systems). Add in the penchant to ‘world pricing’ (that gimmick is totally Capitalistic monopolizing). Why should an Albertan in Fort McMurray pay ‘world prices’ for oil that they, themselves, dug up? From OUR OWN country? The Saudis are not that stupid. 40% of the oil in the US comes from Canada and they pay about half what we do. But WE have ’embraced’ a system to keep prices relatively constant and how does the market place benefit from that? It does not. But the corporations benefit.
      The system is amorphous. The system is a blob. The system is corrupt and the system benefits capital at the expense of the so-called invisible hands playing out in the market. The system also enslaves by way of debt, brainwashing, environmental devastation, fear-mongering and promoting poor values, morals and fads. I like the give and take we have but I respectfully suggest that this topic is too big for the comment section and, if you want to pursue it further, you will have to travel to a remote island. Bring scotch.

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  12. But what happens behind the scenes between the rich? There is a system in place to prevent monopolies in sectors, but if a merger creates a too big monster, corporations are reshuffled to make it look less like a monopoly.I sometimes get the feeling that things are steered and orchestrated to bring them more money. Not enough weapons sale…let’s poke up some conflict…that will boost sales of weapons and thus generate more profit and wealth. How many crisisses have been “steered” or engineered that way in our recent history I wonder.

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    • There is a thin, varying and occasionally broken line behind conspiracy theories, theories and facts. Not hard to take a fact, mull it over into a theory and then see someone make an exaggerated Conspiracy You Tube out of it.
      Fact: China is progressing and stepping on some toes. Theory: China wants to take over the world! Conspiracy theory that emerges: China caused C-19.
      Fact: It is absolutely true that the Military Industrial complex profits from conflict. Theory: the MIC encourages/ inflames conflict. Conspiracy theory: The MIC started (name any conflict).
      Which is true?
      Don’t forget: conflict is natural. Viruses are natural. Certain principles, motives, thoughts are inherent in the human condition. That is why we invented the police.
      If I were an arms maker, is it not possible that I was innocent and merely profiting when humans, taking their natural instincts, result in a series of events that require my guns?
      I mean…isn’t that the premise of glass makers?
      Do I think there are conspiracies? Of course there are. Gazillions. Do they pan out? I doubt it. Too hard, too complicated, requires too many evil players. Do some pan out? I am sure some do but I will never be able to see the really sneaky, evil ones.
      But I can clearly see the ones that are plain to see because the perps do it ‘legally’ or like the gas companies and utility companies do. They simply sit around a really big fancy table and call the shots (like Saudia Arabia, Russia and the US does with oil).
      They are ‘all in on it’ but it is a conspiracy out in the open and there is no one to say. “Hey! You bastards are conspiring against the consumer!”
      Bottom line: the deepest and darkest conspiracies are so entrenched they are now common place and in the open.
      Best example: the absolutely democracy-destroying ‘party’ system in modern democracies. What a farce!

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  13. The quotation “If wishes were horses then beggars would ride.” Clearly this quotation is a metaphor. If I wish for a unified theory of Capitalism and assert that the world has a unified theory of Capitalism, this is an empty assertion. It is without evidence to support it. I might claim in my opinion that a unified theory of Capitalism exists but wishing it does not make it so. The world has various forms and methods of exchanging goods and services the names of such exchanges are varied.
    Would you call North Korea a capitalist economy. Yes, they do buy and sell goods. They use cheep labour and so do we. I suggest that you might be on a slippery slope when speak in favour of regulations as a virtue of Capitalism given that you have said in the past ‘’that you hate the regulators!’’ I suggest that many are caught up in an idealistic vision of Capitalism that is a tired and old conceptual fame work that has been left behind. Harper in 2008 put his aid package too high up on the “food chain.’’ General Motors took the money, acted in bad faith and shut down plants. Do you agree with corporate welfare? Grind the poor and pay high corporate salaries? Capitalism in its many distinct iterations has many faces some of whom are flawed and ugly.

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    • Firstly, you partly misinterpret the old saying. It means literally that wishing is NOT a factor in getting. Ironically, many popular ‘spiritual’ speakers believe otherwise. They think that everything starts with an idea or a wish and things progress from there. If you wish for a unified theory that will not make it happen. So, in that sense you are in keeping with the old saying. But, if you wish for and work for a unified theory (like Adam Smith) then it CAN happen. Will it? Well, as I said: too many people in control of too much are doing well with the system they have devised and, regardless of how great your system is, they are not likely to change horses so you can ride.
      Regarding my dislike of regulators. You again misunderstand. I dislike the regulators because they DO NOT REGULATE!! We pay them. We write laws for them to use. We pay experts to set the standards and, almost every time, we are disappointed when we see another oil spill, a bunch of starving school children, a rash of mass shootings. I hate the regulators because they are so fallible. They are so ivory-tower, out-of-touch, fallible and flawed. Usually cruelty and stupidity lurk around them, too. I also hate that that a small guy pooping in a lake can be had up, thrown to the ground (shot in the US) and fined for everything he is worth but the gold mine upstream just dumped 100 tons of arsenic into that same stream and might suffer (if detected) the SAME fine!
      Here’s a thought: all regulations should be common sense and context driven. Instead, we have uniform rules so that neither a rich man nor a poor one can sleep under a bridge. Duh!

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  14. Hell of a conversation. I have very little to add other then I realized very early how to avoid the system. Don’t buy a car especially taking out a loan this is the first trap, don’t buy accommodation (house or apartment) especially needing a mortgage, these are all traps of the system and I did avoid them until into my thirties. I am dismayed at how fragile our economy actually is today. The Vancouver aquarium may have to close forever, city of Vancouver going broke (how can that be possible)? I do think we are moving closer to a guaranteed income although if we do not put a lid on percentage of income towards rental the landlords will keep trying to take more and more.
    I recently read an alternative economic model called “Donut Economics” a book by Kate Raworth she is also on youtube. Basically moving from a growth economy to a sustainable one. I would like to hear Dave’s opinion on this option.

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    • As anyone who reads me knows, I am all for sustainability and worse, I am for living minimally and without vast quantities of stuff. That statement alone (if multiplied by billions doing that) would kill 75% of commerce. More, actually.
      But sustainable is another blob word. Sustainable as measured against what? What we consumed in the time of Jesus? Just before the Industrial revolution? 1950?
      And who gets the biggest slice of the new sustainable pie? And would equality result from sustainability?
      Put another way: we eliminate oil from our economy and thus move towards fixing climate change. The world cools down. We are all happy because climate stabilization is part of sustainability…well, except maybe for Norway, Russia and northern Canada. They want the world to be healthy and sustainable but they also wanna be warm in winter. So, they cut down trees. They cut so many trees that our C02 goes up and we now have to try and balance that whole climate thing again. So then we all plant trees all the time. Does that mean the silvaculturalist gets rich? Grows powerful? Wants a big yacht at the very least?
      I am onside in principle and I am onside personally. I even live half-onside. But I do not see how such a Utopian sustainable world can work without limits and one of the limits is population. That is what China tried with the one-child policy. Didn’t work. Are we saying that – to be sustainable – we have to kill enough people that the remaining ones make no appreciable effect on the planet? Remember, the small tribes of the indigenous peoples often came and went from village site to village site seasonally. They had to because they ruined the place they were in and had to go somewhere else for awhile.
      Sustainability is easy for me. I have limited funds, limited years left on the planet and I live remote. But my sustainability is NOT anyone else’s. How would my style work for a dozen Chinese living in a small 400 sft apartment in a tall, mind-numbing tower that is jammed tight in a city of them?

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  15. Please Dave you have a blog that’s rolling along and suddenly…? Sorry I wasted my time and I guess your time too given the tone of your response to the term sustainable. It beggars belief!

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    • Guilty, I guess. Sorry to beggar your belief. But I am just saying that the word sustainability is currently undefinable. I am ONSIDE with the idea/principle. More than onside, I am practising it as I can. But with 7 billion plus people on the planet, it is a pipe dream.
      I hope I am wrong, but I do not see how we can be sustainable when we, ourselves, are so numerous. If we all consume less and consume minimally, we will move in that direction but even then, how does one measure it? How do we know when the magic balance has been achieved? There are no metrics save for C02 ppm and that kind of thing. What about coral reefs dying out? What about the disappearing fish. Microplastics?
      I say, “Preach sustainability. Please. Preach it hard, preach it often and practice it all the time. Good on ya. Good on me. Please also let me know on a regular basis how we are doing.”

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  16. Sustainability should be in each one of us and in our actions, but it also has its limitations, for sure on a global scale. But we definitely should be against the overconsumption, because this is what’s keeping this big animal (rich people) alive that is killing us all (and causing burnouts on a large scale) and killing our planet

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  17. Sustainability will in my opinion never work on a country scale or even global scale, because again there is no money to push this from government side. To give you an example from Belgium…some 10 or 15 years ago, our government decided that it was time and a good idea to push people to put solar panels. So they gave a premium of 400€ per Mwh generated. So some individuals did this, but a LOT of big companies put their roof full of solar panels, hugely sponsored by the government. Five years later, the government saw that they could never afford this (big gap in their budget), so they simply invented an additional tax, to be paid by the working guy (often without solar panels on his roof), so we got to pay for a bright idea from the government, and in 95% of the cases, the big and rich companies still benefit from this, and all the individual hard working people now pay a tax to support their idea. Now it’s even worse, the premium does not exist any more for new panels, so full investment to be paid by the owner, and all the surplus that you generate, you HAVE to give for FREE to the electricity company AND you have to pay a penalty because you generate too much electricity. So not only have they stopeed the incentives, they punish you if you want to be sustainable…and the geovernment relies heavily on individuals putting solaar panels, because our nuclear powerplants are end of life, do not generate enough power to keep the lights on in winter time (risks of blackouts become bigger every year), we have NO oil and NO natural resources, and the government has NO money, NO plan and NO long-term vision. So if they can not even tackle this problem, how can you expect the government to set up a long term plan for a sustainable economy or future.

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    • Thanks, Wm. Sorry to hear that Belgium screwed that up. One of the few ways sustainabilty can be achieved and, as you pointed out, mostly for the individual in the forest, is by way of solar panels. For us, they have been a miracle. But, for sustainability to mean anything on a global scale it has to mean much more than employing solar panels. Sustainability is a word that does (as 123 implied) touch a visceral button in me. I see it as another word ‘co-opted’ by industry and corporations for marketing purposes and it irritates me. I guess that irritation came out in ‘tone’. Read NATURAL CAPITALISM published by the Rocky Mountain Institute, Amory Lovins. The poster boy for Sustainability is Ray Anderson who owned Interface Corp. The story is brilliant (not the one on their webpage but rather the one told by Lovins). Ray Anderson was truly a leader and brilliant man. But that is in making carpet. While Ray was revolutionizing carpets, we (the collective we) were spilling oil, burning coal, polluting rivers, poisoning oceans and generally causing environmental havoc. Sustainability to be truly sustainable has to touch on every aspect of life and we do not even do that with our own sewage (one of the easiest ways to step toward sustainability). We do not grow our own food. My reaction was off-putting for 123 but sustainability is ‘hot button’ word for me. THEY (the ubiquitous ‘they’) have made the word almost meaningless and, back in the 90’s, it was my new-found religion.

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      • ‘’Green washing” is disingenuous and as you correctly stated is little more than ‘virtue signalling’ when used by big business. ‘’This coffee cup contains 12% of Post consumer recycled wood pulp”! Superficially virtuous but the entire coffee cup is destined for the landfill. Yes, the term sustainable has been co-opted by some but the ‘concept’ although somewhat aspirational is a good one. A modest goal might be to recycle paper, plastics, tins and green waste. Many communities have companies that send used clothing overseas for reuse thus avoiding the landfill. Rather than paint, oil, gas down the drain it goes to recycling depots in some communities. It is just literally a drop in the bucket but why contaminate groundwater if other options exist? Okay these efforts seem feeble, impotent, and largely inconsequential but these effort are worth encouraging. Incrementalism is the path forward. Bit by bit. Some folks call environmentalists names and claim that Canada’s emissions are so low that they are not worth worrying about. But conversely some people are noticing that with this ‘Covid-19 shut down’ the sky seems clearer and more stars are visible. So what Is the big deal with incremental improvements…? Does it matter to you?

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      • It matters a great deal to me. I can see the pollution and garbage piling up. Makes me crazy. I see the results of that garbage killing fish and wildlife. The irony is that all things are made from the earth’s resources and so, theoretically, all those things can and should be either re-used or broken back down into base constituents for new manufacturing. That’s what Ray Anderson did at Interface. He pulled his raw materials from the dump! We really do NOT NEED to have landfills filled with raw materials in poisonous forms. We really DO NEED to have proper recycling plants.
        Ain’t gonna happen because we are so profit oriented. Who (in this system) is going to invest billions to break down plastics when oil (from which plastics are made) is currently trading around US$30.00 a barrel?
        Incremental? I cannot disagree since that is what I am doing (although not perfectly). But do I think it is anything but a drop of pure water in an already polluted ocean? Sadly, no I do not.
        Glad you are back

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      • Green waste is a pet peeve of mine. When we lived on boats, we macerated our poop and pumped it in the sea. Well, in Vancouver’s poisoned-with-pollution and dead False Creak to be more accurate. But, lo and behold….after a few years of live-aboards pooping in the soup, fish started to return to the poisoned basin. Then ducks. Then we started to see generations of geese being reared. WOW! Our poop helped re-invigorate False Creek! For centuries the Chinese have fertilized their gardens with ‘night soil’ (a euphemism for poop) and there are plenty of them, so it can’t be all bad. But, what do we do? We pipe it all to one place, mix in a whole bunch of Chlorine and then spew the toxic mess a mile offshore, killing everything nearby. We call that sewage treatment. In truth, nature – by way of ultra violet rays, naturally occurring chlorine and sodium (salt) is the very best disinfectant. Wanna do something good for the environment? Go somewhere remote and poop in the sea. Better yet – go somewhere remote and poop in your own garden.
        Yes, I know what steps to take to do that properly. But, for social stigma reasons, I do not do it. Well, that and marital relations, too.

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  18. So the recycling depot In my town has many stations: green waste, volatiles, paper, mattresses(for remanufacturing) furniture, glass, plastics, metals, re-useables for sale. It is a nonprofit ‘Recycling Society’ and Is self supporting. Has community pick-up weekly and is open seven days a week for drop off. It does not collect garbage. It is not run by the municipality. It pays wages to its workers. It makes money. Recently the community was asked to vote yes if they wanted a municipally run garbage service. The community said, “No!” It started over forty years ago and was for a time an object of derision but in time a dump evolved into a recycling depot, with a very small amount going to a landfill.

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