Monday, 30 August 2010

We Need to Change

Without wishing to sound like a latter day “luddite”, I do wonder if modern humanity has not become too clever for its own good. Our ingenuity seems to have outstripped our moral and spiritual understanding. With the advent of efficient electronic communication and the internet, we have seen the rise and rise of the multi-national company and the increasing distancing of the providers from their consumers. We have seen the advent of laws that allow seed companies to produce plants that cannot produce seeds that germinate, so farmers in developing countries can no longer save their own seeds.

The most recent example is also perhaps the most distressing. It is the collapse of the international banking system as a consequence of greed, ingenuousness and sheer criminality. Clever individuals within the international financial system invented pieces of paper that were worthless but they managed to persuade many gullible and greedy investors and equally greedy financial advisers that they were the best thing since sliced bread. The pieces paper defied all the experience and best practices of international banking built up over generations but because, I suspect, very few wanted to lose face by crying ‘foul’, the self-destructive sale of them grew and grew. Eventually the system could no longer support the mountains of debt that underpinned these ridiculous pieces of paper.

We all know the result. Many well known businesses, including giants of the financial world, went out of business. Governments were left with no alternative than to underwrite the losses in order to save what was left of the reputation of international finance, as well as trying to reduce the impact on the people of the enormous increase in unemployment and drop in property prices resulting from the collapse. When governments decide to underwrite losses on such a scale the implications for everyone but especially ordinary people are enormous. Taxes increase, government spending on the social infrastructure has to be ruthlessly trimmed back and young and old especially, find it increasingly difficult to find work and/or to support themselves. I regret to say that despite all the fine words and hand-wringing that has taken place since the collapse, exactly the same thing is likely to happen again once economies begin to recover and a new generation of financial ‘experts’ have taken over.

Is there no way to avoid such a scenario? Indeed there is but it requires changes that cannot be imposed by government decree or financial regulation. The reasons behind this catastrophic collapse of international finance were not so much a failure of financial regulation as a failure of morality. A failure made easier because of the way in which people in general have been progressively removed from the financial and other markets. No longer are there small local stock exchanges in local cities, where the share buyer’s broker could meet stock and share sellers bound by an unwritten code of honour. Instead we have vast international exchanges in a few cities world-wide. The excuse for such centralisation? Computerisation of course; the same computerisation that makes it virtually impossible for you and I to speak direct to another human being when calling the local bank, telephone company or electricity supplier.

By our ingenuity we invented the computer and have exploited it brilliantly but have failed to see that in the process we are dehumanising our society! We began, with the industrial revolution, to separate humanity from nature and now we are separating ourselves from one another. One of the main benefits of living our earthly lives is to learn to work and live together. It is not an easy thing to do, as it necessitates us trying to understand and make allowances for each individual if we are to make life work in any tolerable way. Instead what have we done? Look at the local road into town every morning and see how many people are driving to work in their own individual transport, usually unaccompanied. Indeed with the increase in computerisation, many people don’t even drive to work; they work from their own living room. I am not criticising people for wanting to own motor cars with all the convenience and comfort resulting from ownership. Neither am I against people working from home instead of adding to atmospheric pollution by driving to the local town or city.

It is an unfortunate fact that our ingenuity has quite unintentionally, begun an inexorable process of making life on earth less tolerable, not more so as was hoped. We need to take a step back and begin using that same ingenuity to work out how we can bring people and the natural world back into harmonious relationship once more. When Alexander Pope wrote those immortal words “All are but parts of one stupendous whole, whose body nature is, and God the soul,” he was summarising the human experience far more accurately than anyone before or since. Our progressive failure to recognise the truth of his words will eventually make this Earth completely inhospitable to human life if we continue to do nothing about it. The staggering increase in stress, cancer, hypertension and obesity are the direct results of the direction our ingenuity has taken us. We MUST find an alternative.

If we begin by accepting the basic cause of our problems, it is possible to design a way of living that can combine the benefits of modern science and technology (the products of human ingenuity) with an awareness of humanity’s dual existence both as spirit and physical being. To recognise the need to devote at least as much time and effort to our spiritual and mental needs as we do our physical, would lead us on an entirely different and far more worthwhile and enjoyable path of life. We ignore the dangers of our myopic concentration on materialism at our peril. Life is meant to be lived in the knowledge of our spiritual inheritance and the fact that our mind is part of that eternal spirit and does not die along with the physical body. To deny these basic facts is to court disaster, a disaster that is busy unfolding itself even as our technical ingenuity increases. It is not too late to change but each one of us has to take that decision independently, it cannot be dictated by government decree. For most of us here on earth now, the harm has been done and we are damaged as a result. However for those recently born or still to be born it is not too late. Let us unite in designing our lives to help them, even if we ourselves continue to pay the price of our refusal to see the danger signals earlier.

No comments:

Post a Comment