A few nice Cell phone marketing images I found:
The Value of Nothing
Image by Earthworm
Raj Patel whose book Stuff and Starved explored the consequences of our global food system, now critiques the global financial system and how it undermines democracy. The subtitle of the book is How To Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy. The correlation between the financial system and the viability of democracy is an important one to make. His witty comments on how our leaders failed to correct for their blindness makes for a humorous read, while pointing out how our democracy is undermined by such "expertise". He points out how our own blindness is instilled by the very system itself while the fallacy of price as a means to measure and therefore value the material world and its resources is more often than not a fantasy of the hopeful and the huckster. This gives him opportunity to explain how externalized costs makes the real price of a Big Mac to be 0.
A little history about how "homo economicus" came into being covers the basic thoughts that created the free market from Mills to Keynes to Greenspan plus the government intervention put into place to offset the cruelty of the market. He rounds off part one with a discussion to correct the notions introduced by the term "tragedy of the commons" and explains that the real tragedy is the theft of the commons. Not only the actual resources, but the knowledge embodied by the local people to direct the sustainable use of the commons for the benefit of their community.
In part two he describes how various communities have fought back, demanding the right to have rights which essentially came down to the right to be self-ruled. He makes the important point that this is not the same as granting people the right to own property for that merely tosses them to the power of the rich who will soon buy their property from them when it is all they have left to leverage basic human needs such as healthcare and education. He offers examples of the democratizing effects of allowing citizens to allocate their own city budgets, the power of cooperatives for economic leverage and how the Zapatistas of Mexico have devised a participatory democracy that he compares to the slow food movement.
Much of this material is covered elsewhere; some of it directly by Vandana Shiva in Earth Democracy. I find I understand more when I read Shiva’s explanation of the argument about the commons, but Patel is less inflammatory about who is to blame, so his book comes out as more of a critique of a flawed system that we have all been seduced into accepting. He puts this across by deconstructing what happens when we are offered something for free such as a cell phone or printer. He points out that if democracy is going to work we will all have to put much more effort into nurturing the process by learning how to collaborate in the allocation of resources. So, as well as being summoned for jury duty, we might think about being summoned for budget duty.
In conclusion, Patel mentions Buddhist economics as a perspective that addresses that to be human is to be subject to desire and that the source of human unhappiness is attachment. Thus a Buddhist theory of real value is not somethings "ability to satisfy a craving, a desire, a vanity, but to meet the need for well being. With this in mind, the baubles and fripperies that we’re persuaded by advertisers are indispensible for our well-being—the luxury cars, the latest phones and footwear—turn out to be ashen." He then talks about how the Buddhist monks who ordained the trees to save them from the lumber mill, were demonstrating a politics of value by showing the value of trees as sacred in another context other than that of the market. He also mentions a little known fact that the Dalai Lama has declared himself, in a lecture in India, to be a Marxist because it is a more ethical system.
Thus Patel urges us to continue to confront the inequalities in power to make the world fairer which may include direct action that challenges private property Greenpeace style, legal battles definitely and much more imagination, creativity and courage.
Vic night market photo. Main food shed
Image by atariboy
Holiday Market (Royal Oak, MI)
Image by utopiandreaming
— Sent from my Palm Pr?