How to be a Good Lemming

November 30, 2007 at 4:12 pm | Posted in communism, culture, developing economy, economy, fairness, filthy lucre, free market, global evils, God's kingdom, goods and services, human-performed, industrial evolution, justice, kingdom ethics, kingdom of God, mammon, market, MNC, multinational corporartion, per capita, poverty, real value, redundancy, socialism, trickle down, value addition, wealth distribution, world GDP | Leave a comment
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‘Tis the season to be jolly… would be quite frivolous if it were not at the same time also so profoundly real.
The Christmas season in the West is a time especially set aside for spending, purchasing, buying, gifting, and generally being very, very, jolly.

25k.jpgIn the U.S. the spending season kicks off with a bang at Thanksgiving, but all over the world, common sense will lead us to suspect that the jolliest of traditional seasons will begin soon after the annual harvest. Give a couple weeks or a month for all that excess to start getting distributed, and then them holidays, and that spending will ensue – it makes good sense.

In India we have that grand ‘festival of lights’, Diwali, that is strategically placed after the first harvest in October or November and then, in the South of India, there is a second celebration (Pongal) that comes right after the second monsoon season in mid-January and that forms the very exciting and satisfying climax to our times of splurging.

Economies and spending cycles that keep them vibrant have to be based on the presence of excess, and most times that excess is only available for a short while right after the harvest. Holidays are also timed to help to distribute all that ‘excess’ and just as efficiently as possible! Any great delay between when the excess arrives and the application of peak marketing pressure to get people to spend may result in that excess getting channeled into savings accounts – economists don’t like that at all. When we have plenty, and so much that we can even think in terms of excess, the purse strings will be at their loosest. Marketing has to strike while the iron is hottest but that is not the end of the story. We too help out by apparently just temporarily choosing to collectively forget that the upcoming year may hard and long.

Marketing the world over, is geared to maximise its hype just at these times. Spend – buy – purchase – CHARGE IT – or the ubiquitous EMI with 0% interest!

This year, the absolutely essential gadget is…

Everybody simply HAS to have this!

The teaser SAAALE! drags you out, ‘pushes’ you over that last little hump of caution, and then…inflation US

Insidiously, we also might not notice that we will really have to shell-out just a bit more this year than we did last year to get that ‘absolutely essential’ something. Economic cycles rely on the feeding frenzy to slip into the inflation mode too, for this is the one time of year that folks will be blithely unaware that the essentials just got a bit dearer. The small incremental adjustments will slip quietly into place in the corners of our subconscious even before we have time to register them, for there is so much else of an exciting nature to capture and hold our collective consciousness in thrall.

banknote-euro-usdollar.jpgValue addition is one culprit, but the yen for bigger profits is certainly another. For the corporates, turnover should increase, and so too should the return on investment, the profit margin. Balance sheets will be anxiously prepared as the financial year draws to a close. At stake is the size of the share price pie for that depends on ‘the figures’.

To the economist, inflation is a godsend. Deflation, when prices actually drop, (do you see red in the diagram above?) is an absolute disaster and must come straight out of hell. Modern economies rely on inflation to create the space in which value addition creates levels of work both in manufacturing/marketing and in services/marketing. More jobs, more earning, more spending, more money – MORE

Those little entries on corporate balance sheets called profit (net after taxes) quietly also rely on inflation. The trend is paradoxically opposed by innovation and new technologies! The whole complex process works together to keep standards of living on a slow rise that is slightly worse than what the actual inflation level would lead us to expect.

At some point people do question whether this all adds up. Of course it doesn’t, not nearly, but it sure looks good while it’s flowing along. Pension plans will be the most obvious harbingers of the bad news that eventually inflation catches up with you.banknote-rupee.jpg Other painful reminders include the cost of health-care, health insurance, and medicines. Long term savings plans and incremental investments will yield something but much less than they should when compared to the damage that inflation has quietly been inflicting.

Money and easy credit are the end of a very long road that has separated our spending from the realities of our actual contributions to life. Think about it, as it is you’re just the last stop between the ATM and the corporation that owns the store that you’re heading to with the plastique in hand!

What would happen if inflation were to stop? What would happen if our governments printed just enough notes to maintain a fixed amount of money in circulation? What would happen if value addition were to be replaced by true value? What would happen if the purchasing power of a dollar or of a rupee were to become rock steady?

Have you thought about it this year-before you start (or at least finish) spending that bonus?

What will this Christmas/Pongal bring I wonder? Is it perhaps even possible to have fun and fellowship with friends and without money? Will anyone believe that you love them anyway even though you didn’t push your plastic a few thousand more over its already strained limit?

GOLD > Coins > Bills of exchange > CREDIT Þ Transactions

Can Religion Help the Environment?

September 14, 2007 at 10:17 am | Posted in environment, God's kingdom, gospel, Jesus, kingdom ethics, mammon, poaching, semi-nomadic, timber mafia, toxic waste | 4 Comments

Chatting with a friend at Greenpeace recently I said “As with most people I don’t worry too much about the ‘ecological crisis’. After all the present situation is one that has been created by so many of our industrial and agricultural activities over the last couple of hundred years. So what difference will my little consciousness make?” He made one comment: “You claim to be a follower of Jesus, have you never thought of how God views what we are doing to His world – and you an amateur conservationist”.

In Africa and the few areas of Asia that still have some forests, native tribes practice a type of semi-nomadic lifestyle supported by hunting, gathering, and ‘slash and burn’ agriculture. They have done so for millennia. The forests were not much affected. Climate change was something that happened slowly over tens of thousands of years. Plenty of time for native species to adapt or move on.

Nowadays, many of these tribes are shifting to the slums that surround all cities. The forests have been taken over by agricultural ‘developers’ following close on the heels of the poaching and timber mafias. The few remaining forests are being decimated.

In fact, the whole world’s population is shifting to the slums of our cities. The human race has lost touch with the land that gives us life. Everywhere, businesses accumulate land and exploit the land for the maximum output at the least possible investment.

We don’t worry about the long term results on the land as long as our supermarkets are well stocked and prices remain affordable. The land has become invisible.The same could be said for many of the staples of ‘civilisation’, electrical energy, gas (petrol), building materials, steel, and so on are not areas of concern, and unless prices rise we just don’t think about it at all.

The one environmental issue that we do get a bit concerned about is pollution and that is only because we do have to feel the consequences in our landfills, in the air we breathe and in the water that we drink. The easy way out is what we always prefer and you would be surprised at how much toxic waste gets exported to the third world for disposal. That’s the stuff that’s too nasty to dump anywhere near ‘civilised’ people.

The results of our selfishness are the steady destruction of the ecological balance of the world. Down the road we will pay a heavier price as pollution, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and global warming take hold. The GW skeptics are wrong!

That process has already started. Take the lowly mosquito; a silent and versatile vector for various nasty diseases, this tiny insect is working its way ever northward as winters get milder. The result now is a few cases of West Nile Virus attacks sporadically here and there. Unfortunately, these will be followed by Japanese Encephalitis, Dengue, Malaria, Chikungunya, Ebola, … and other little horrors for which there are no known cures.

Starting with God’s word, the creation imperatives lay out the present situation rather too well. Gen 1:28 “Multiply…subdue it and have dominion”. We have, in our fallenness, persevered pridefully to rape and pillage without a care for the condition of the very lands and the oceans that give us life.

The issue for me today is how to start obeying God’s commandments in the light of what history and science teach. But, neither history nor science are very encouraging for they leave me with a sense that our best intentions can cause more harm than good. Interventions on behalf of nature very often backfire resulting in unforeseeable bad consequences. Human interventions in anything are disaster-prone!

Today, what effect will it have if I take Jesus’s teachings on being in God’s kingdom to heart and start living as a citizen of the kingdom of God?

Some of these basic gospel teachings are:

1. To identify with the have-nots.

2. To not accumulate wealth or possessions.

3. To freely share whatever I have.

4. To be more concerned about others welfare than my own.

5. To not build up buffer stocks against whatever may happen tomorrow.

6. To consume only what is absolutely necessary for today.

7. To use all of the talents that God has given me to the best of my ability.

8. To love and accept responsibility for all mankind without discrimination while ignoring worldly and genetically determined imperatives.

9. To personally stand for justice and to support systems and laws that promote justice in its narrowest and broadest senses.

10. To pay taxes and to demand accountability from the leadership on behalf of God’s kingdom.

Jesus’s teaching of these principles automatically brought him into conflict with both the politicos and the religious. There is no ‘mammon’ to be had for anyone in God’s kingdom, it won’t even trickle down! Therefore, there is a big element of risk involved, especially if a growing proportion of Jesus’s followers start taking His kingdom teachings seriously.

The most important environmental principles are to shun exploitation, or excess, in any form. By redefining what is really necessary and differentiating it from what the market drives me to desire, I will be able to reduce consumption and automatically the environment will benefit, as will the humans of this world! So, for our environment, if I can live by the principles of the kingdom, the results will be at least neutral (we won’t make matters any worse) but more probably I will give the world of nature some breathing space and maybe help to see something of a recovery.

[Slightly modified from a comment made on OST – follow the title link – and first published in October of 2006]

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