When I was younger, I was somehow, in a subtle way, encouraged to think that my life would continue along a path that was really more destiny than direction. That I would just live the same kind of ordinary, everyday life that I had observed people like my parental units living, and on and on it went.
People also like to tell each other that they can do or be anything that they want if only they try hard enough. If you are twelve years old and hearing that from whatever authorities you have in your life, then please allow me to enlighten you with some bad news. It is all bullshit.
Even those of us whose parents qualify as the richest of the rich have our lives planned out for us before our births. Whether it is our parental units that do the planning or people in the society we are born into is irrelevant. What really matters is that the plans are made for us and it is only a select few who really buck expectations and follow their own paths.
It also says a lot about our society that we are expected to take part in it even when it shits on us every chance it gets. Of course, collective survival is the most efficient and successful means of survival that we have. But the story of a lone citizen being discarded and forgotten about by society has become so frighteningly common that people no longer react to it.
It boggles the mind, trying to understand what goes on in the heads of the corrupt politician class that sets the rules and makes the decisions today. Their conceit that the current economic grief will pass if we all (and by “we all”, I mean the working class) swallow enough austerity not only contradicts present experience. It also flies right in the face of prior experience.
The Great Depression, as it is still called, is possibly the greatest economic downturn on record thus far. It also demonstrates a critical mistake in the way economies are structured, but the important point here is that governments did not get their countries out of the Great Depression by slashing and burning services. Far from it. In fact, in the present economic system where growth and health are linked, it is a matter of historical record that nations have exited recession status by spending their way out of it.
In order to understand that, you have to understand the Keynesian explanation of what a recession is. In a normal, healthy economy, there is a circular flow of money. What you spend becomes part of my earnings, and vice versa. But for whatever reason, such as the anticipation of tough times ahead, you might start to hoard your money, putting more and more of it away for the awaited “rainy day”. But this only makes things harder on me, and thus I will start to follow the same hoarding strategy myself.
When everyone starts to hoard, the entire society has a problem. Contrary to what a lot of people think, money does not grow when it is sitting idle in a vault. It has to circulate. But when an entire nation starts to impede the circulation of its money, that brings on severe recessions. And there is no greater example of a nation impeding the circulation of its money than what is called austerity.
Adding to the problem is that the entire world, in economic terms, has reached the absolute limit in terms of potential for growth. This had to happen sooner or later. Although it is difficult to explain to people with the stars in their eyes and hope in their hearts, anyone with a slight grasp of the facts can understand that a consumption-based economy cannot grow forever in a world with limited resources.
It used to be that recessions and depressions visited upon economies once a generation. Since the 1980s, however, they have been occurring at least once a decade. And whilst the conservative cry of “austerity, austerity, austerity” has a large share of the blame, the simple fact is that the world’s natural resources have absolutely hit their limit in terms of growth, and have even been declining during the majority or entirety of my lifetime.
Remember a little film called The Perfect Storm? If you recall the first act, you will note that the reason the doomed crew go so far out into the ocean is because in spite of going into the sea as often as can be, they are just not catching enough fish. This is not an invention by the screenwriters. This was not an unusual story in the fishing industry. Reports of declining catches began in 1975 and picked up pace ever since. In spite of the world’s population more than doubling since then, fish catches, wheat and grain production, beef and mutton production, and most importantly rainfall levels, have remained stuck at 1980s levels.
The consumption-based, growth-dependent economy that has existed since the days depicted in films like Pirates Of The Caribbean has outlived its usefulness. Yet the lords and masters of our world insist on following it. You might be tempted to ask why. The answer is pretty obvious when you consider that the same lords and masters form the richest one percent of the populace. Suffering and pain brought about by the Human society reaching the limits of available resources is only felt by this strata of that society when it has reached the kind of extremes depicted in the Mad Max films.
This, in a nutshell, is why the world no longer makes sense to me. We are bombarded with advertisements asking us to give to dirt-poor people in (seemingly) far away places. Yet people living rough in our own territories are vague, invisible shadows to us. We even are asked to vilify them, call them lazy, and so on. The fact that most of the impoverished in America, for example, are in fact working (in some cases two jobs) is just glossed over. That makes no sense to me.
One of the greatest inadequacies of the education system that I grew up with, other than the failure to account for difference, was the failure to account for change. It was as if they expected the age of the typewriter and the factory job to continue forever.
There are a couple of teachers I dealt with that I am sure are still alive (most were old and have likely died of old age). I often wonder what they would have to say about the manner in which the world has changed. The fact that it is easier to look up multiple accounts of history today than it was to look up a singular biased account must make a mockery of the teaching methods they had in those days.
When I was a boy, the biggest complaint that teachers had was class sizes. I have to admit, I am wholly in agreement with that one. Elsewhere, I have read that class sizes need to be reduced to a student to teacher ratio of 15:1 in order to deliver the kind of instruction that will benefit all children, not just the brightest or worst of the lot. In the system that I experienced, where class sizes started at 30:1 and went up from there, everyone was basically yoked to the most mediocre. The children who were already ahead of the pace were left to stagnate until those behind could catch up. The ones who needed to catch up were okay as long as they responded to standardised methodology.
Ugh, I recall the first time I heard the words “standardised tests”. I still grind my teeth at the memory. And my teeth are basically worn-down stumps. Do no get me wrong. When it comes to measurements, electrical or electronic devices, and communication protocols, standardisation is a very good thing. But the standardised tests I am speaking of now were standardised in the same sense as a Microsoft standard. That is, they were created to serve the agendas of the people responsible for creating the tests, not the needs of the children being tested.
During my boyhood, we were often “amused” with stories involving some magical parasitic beast that sucked the life out of people we were meant to identify with. Looking back on such stories now, however, I can see that such monsters were always around us, and what they tried to rip out of us was more than just our lives.
Yet we, and the society we were part of, just tolerated them. It does not make sense.