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the issues

Where We Stand

The world isn’t heading in the right direction. That seems clear. Any cursory look at a newspaper, or even just the world around us says we’re in the middle of a crisis. Our environment is collapsing. Politics are veering ever closer to a bloodier redux of World War II. Inequality is at levels surpassing the Great Depression. Homelessness and poverty are at critical levels. Soil erosion and agricultural collapse are almost irreversible. 1% of human beings possess 99% of the resources. Most human beings are malnourished, whether too much junk or too little of anything. Education doesn’t work, and when we look at the nature of the nine-to-five (increasingly five to nine) life seems without purpose.

The way things are going, we have about 60 years left.

 
 
 

is this our future or our past?

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Politics

some humans are more equal than others

In the West we see democracy - a principle whereby we can manage our own affairs - as the highest form of Government. As political systems go it’s certainly a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a version of equality to equals and unequals alike. Whereas in Ancient Greece democracy was a fair and intellectual pursuit (shared among the 5% of white male Athenians who could vote), today purposeful miseducation, and uninformed electorate - combined with financial persuasion - has rendered politics into a blood sport where the loudest voice wins. Populist leaders now shape the destinies of an entire country with states growing out from human characters.

From the people’s perspective, the Government is faceless and unaccountable. Decisions are made which are often unfair, and more often than not represent the interests of a vocal affluent minority. Corruption and cronyism delay any wayward progress forward, as progressive change is slowed to a crawl. The people elect strongmen in the hope that with a strong vocal direction their fate can improve. Society's demands for moral authority and character increase as the importance of the position increases.

Politics today has fallen far from the noble pursuit of the past to become a canvas for expressing displeasure. The people are ignored, unless they have money to line politicians pockets. The few rule the many, and nothing seems to ever change.

This is the way things are but not how they have to be.

 
Mass Protests like these are now common in the 21st century - but what is being offered as the alternative?

Mass Protests like these are now common in the 21st century - but what is being offered as the alternative?

Politics - I still think it’s a bunch of liars and a bunch of self-interest. It’s not about the people: it’s about themselves and their rise to power. They are voting on things based on whether they will have the support of the people when they vote next time. They don’t have the balls to say, ‘I believe in this. I don’t care what happens.
— Jay-Z
Poverty is common everywhere - but is socialism the answer?

Poverty is common everywhere - but is socialism the answer?

No society can surely be flourishing and happy of which by far the greater part of the numbers are poor and miserable.
— Adam Smith
 

Economy

artificially unequal distribution

In our ancient past human beings would trade resources to improve their life. If you have fish, and your neighbor had wool you could trade or ‘barter’ at an agreed price - like five fish for one woven sweater. Money came about as a agreed shared currency between people selling goods and services they didn’t want. So if you wanted vegetables, but didn’t want your neighbors wool, you could trade a ‘currency’ that you both - and others around you - agreed was valuable. Initially this took the forms of seashells, then to salt (In Ancient Rome soldiers were paid in salt) to gold. Gold was rare and beautiful, so became the form of coins with a range of values. But this metal was heavy, so printed paper was invented to ‘represent’ the value of gold in banks. This system evolved into ‘capitalism’ - an economic tool for managing finite resources and encouraging entrepreneurship. If you or someone you knew had an idea, you could invest the paper you’d made to help them develop, and if they made money you would too. Rich and poor have always existed as entrepreneurs (Latin for ‘bearers of risk’) worked to improve society, and were rewarded for their work.

While inequality has always existed, our modern day problems came with industrialization. The product (Adam Smith’s pin) became more important than the person. Large amounts of products could be produced in a short period. Complexity in society meant that some jobs - like bankers - who dealt with money were paid far more than vital jobs - like teachers or farmers. Complex financial tools manipulated by the clever increased the amount of wealth stockpiled by the affluent, as the poor became ever poorer. Today, through no fault of their own but an accident of birth, billions of clever and worthwhile human beings live in absolute abject poverty, as the rich become ever richer. We are now in the worst period of inequality in human history.

This is the way things are but not how they have to be.

Justice

not blind and subject to coercion

The Ancient Greek goddess Themis was traditionally depicted as blindfolded to indicate the impartiality she was supposed to convey for those she was judging. The law was supposed to be absolute and clear to protect the innocent and the guilty. If a crime was committed, then the punishment was clear (and in the past often draconian), but definitely clear. The establishment of clear transparent laws was responsible for the rise of some of humanities greatest civilizations.

Ambiguity and loopholes have crept into our current system. The guilty can now escape without punishment if they can afford enough lawyers to help them bend the law to their will. And the innocent do not receive justice, or are even killed, because they are seen as dangerous because of color, creed, or nationality. Difference has become the arbiter of justice, and Themis now peeks out from under her blindfold before casting judgment.

Instead of impartiality before the law, many of us are now guilty for nothing more than being the ‘wrong type’ of human. Justice is now no longer fair or blind, but can be bought for a price.

This is the way things are but not how they have to be.

 
What is the balance between lawlessness and fairness? What is right; what is wrong?

What is the balance between lawlessness and fairness? What is right; what is wrong?

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly
— Martin Luther King Jr
Is there really enough food for 7.6 billion humans?

Is there really enough food for 7.6 billion humans?

Most of the seven billion people in this world suffer from malnutrition. Half do not have enough to eat and the rest of us eat too much.
— Earle Gray
 

Nutrition

GOOD HEALTH starting at $XXX/person

We have ample amounts of food, water and resources for every human being to live well. But because paper or metal value is assigned to consume them, human beings starve beside supermarkets as employees throw unpurchased meat and produce into locked dumpsters. Around the world billions are starving because the artificially finite resources of money are held by a small minority.

Human beings literally become what we eat. Food is our medicine consumed more than three times a day to help us grow, stay healthy and strong. But because health has a price, the most expensive produce is often the healthiest - broccoli, carrots, restaurant salads, lean protein is priced beyond the means of the middle classes who must turn to corn products, white breads, and hormone laden meat to stave off hunger. Increasingly resilient health is the true battleground between rich and poor. Status symbols can be faked, but health cannot. If someone has great hair or healthy skin and is free of disease, it’s because they can afford it. On our planet today we have four forms of human being - those who eat too little of anything - the emaciated; those who eat too much of the wrong thing - the poor; those who are just doing ‘okay’ - the middle classes; and the healthy - the rich. There’s also one more group - those humans who’ve never known modern civilization - they are the healthiest of them all.

This is the way things are but not how they have to be.

“Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

Leonardo DaVinci

Climate

remember - there is no planet b

Climate change is an established fact and is happening, even if some of us don’t agree with how much human beings are contributing to it. We can all agree that the climate is getting worse and that there are things we can do to help - such as reduce oil consumption, fracking, and plastic usage. Polluting the oceans, killing marine and mammalian diversity, and soil erosion sure isn’t helping either. Yet despite the number of bright minds in the rooms, the enormous resources we collectively possess and the desire to change - nothing is being done. Strong policies don’t help when private enterprise can do things cheaper and easier by cutting corners.

We’re at the verge of complete environmental collapse. Most of us have a climate change story to tell from increasing temperatures, change in landscape or environmental decay. And despite our own attempts to change things - such as using plastic bags less or recycling, the larger status quo continues to make things worse. Giving up our beloved cars, or limiting our use of consumables is a tougher sell. When halting the encroaching apocalypse becomes a matter of giving up an easy and convenient life, it seems putting our heads in the sands like ostriches is the best solution.

The only thing we can do now to halt climate change - soon becoming irreversible - is a complete societal and lifestyle shift.

This is the way things are but not how they have to be.

 
Can renewable energy supply all our electricity needs?

Can renewable energy supply all our electricity needs?

We are running the most dangerous experiment in history right now, which is to see how much carbon dioxide the atmosphere can handle before there is an environmental catastrophe.
— Elon Musk
Are some humans entitled to more equality than others?

Are some humans entitled to more equality than others?

There should exist among the citizens neither extreme poverty nor again excessive wealth, for both are productive of great evil.
— Plato
 

Poverty & Homelessness

some have so much, some have so little

Scenes like this are common today. Homelessness has become a pervasive and extreme problem in affluent Western countries. Human beings - our mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters have no place to live, not enough food to eat, and few opportunities to help them rise from abject poverty. There are now five times more homeless in Los Angeles than Mumbai India, and over 10 million home insecure children under sixteen throughout the United States. The homeless are the people that society has left behind - those in chronic and dire straits who need the care and attention that our loved ones deserved.

The reasons behind why someone may become homeless are complex. For many homelessness is a choice, a hard decision between two awful scenarios fleeing from domestic violence, or worse. For others, its the result of some bad decisions - like drug use, or joining a gang. It’s also not someone else’s problem - it’s our problem. Homelessness is very expensive - between street services, hospitalizations and policing the US spends more on managing the situation than they do on education. It’s just as costly in other countries too. As the numbers of those without a home rise, taxation will rise and services for everyone else will decline. Homelessness is an epidemic we must collectively address.

This is the way things are but not how they have to be.

Education

capping the limitless potential of a child

A young child is a tabula rasa (Latin: Blank Slate) onto which we can impress and mold humanity. A human being without education or language is not all that different from our ape ancestors - education is what makes us human. There is no intellectual or genetic difference between a human being today or two thousand years ago. Every generation stands upon the shoulders of the giants of the past as we pass the knowledge to prepare our children to become our future.

That is the ideal. The reality today is quite different. Millions of children around the world remain uneducated and illiterate. Millions more are poorly educated. Even in the developing world education is sub-standard. Children are exposed to stressors at young ages to fulfill standardized testing requirements, bringing home mountains of homework. Our youth are taught to learn without thinking, and that fun and education are mutually opposed. After pigeonholing into careers through ‘one-size-fits-all’ standardized education, our children - now young adults - party for four years before locking themselves into lifelong careers to pay significant borrowed debt they can never escape. Education has become a means of training subserviant unthinking employees, not a aspirational means to make honest, upstanding human beings.

Poor education and upbringing effects us all. From the loss of common courtesy, to poor financial management, and countless other examples, when we fail to properly educate our youth, the fabric of our society is all the poorer. And with declining birth rates in the West offset by booming populations in the developing world, the future of our species looks set to regress.

This is the way things are but not how they have to be.

 
Why does education matter? Out of sight, out of mind.

Why does education matter? Out of sight, out of mind.

You can rule ignorance; you can manipulate the illiterate; you can do whatever you want when a people are uneducated, so that goes in line with corrupt business and corrupt politics.
— will.i.am
Is employment a human right? Aren’t there hundreds of ways able bodied people like those above could help society with?

Is employment a human right? Aren’t there hundreds of ways able bodied people like those above could help society with?

I do not believe we can repair the basic fabric of society until people who are willing to work have work. Work organizes life. It gives structure and discipline to life.
— Bill Clinton
 

Employment

able and willing to work but there are no jobs

Gainful employment is critical to the fabric of society, the economic linchpin to secure food, water, shelter and sustainment. Many today who want to work can’t find work, and the work that is available is somewhat ridiculous.

Jobs today are so often detached from purpose. Retail jobs work like coin operated slot machines where humans disguised as automatons move when customers enter the store. Service jobs that involve making drinks, or serving overpriced unhealthy food to ungrateful customers. And business professions that involve pushing papers, or finding ways to trick and beguile consumers to buy mass produced plastic made in China. Economic growth in our modern society is wholly dependent on consumption - if we no longer buy and reuse our entire way of life will come crashing down. There are many things we need help with in society - repairing roads, cleaning streets, rendering aid to the even less fortunate - but unfortunately only those positions in which manpower is leveraged to make more money for the business owner are useful.

It’s not enough to create jobs, we need to redefine utility and bring back meaningfulness.

This is the way things are but not how they have to be.

Society

loneliness and isolation

We live in an increasingly isolated world. Individualism, spurred by the utility of money to purchase time, resources and people has created a world of the self lived mostly online and detached from reality. Consumerism has taken over leisure times, previously spent in the delight of each others company, meaning we must do things in our increasingly sparse leisure time. Consumption of substances, imbibing alcohol, escapist tourism, and gluttony are all instant quick fixes to placate boredom. Our inability to look within at our own nature causes us to look outside of ourselves for the cure that already exists within us.

Whether through gendered expectations, cultural programming, or wading through the miasma of social media we’ve created lives for ourselves that are unhappy and isolated. We live in our screens, on our phones or in our heads. Loneliness has overtaken heart disease as the leading cause of death among seniors, and a source of individual malcontent. We look to screens to fulfill our intrinsic need for each other, as we shape our own persona upon the invisible scaffolds of expectation. Thinner, better looking, richer. We aren’t happy until we are all these things and more.

We could all do with more great friends. Today we are lucky if we have even one. Consumerism has made interaction with each other as utiliatarian, not borne from love. We no longer love each other, because we no longer love ourselves.

This is the way things are but not how they have to be.

 
Do some people choose homelessness or addiction?

Do some people choose homelessness or addiction?

To love our neighbor as ourselves is such a truth for regulating human society, that by that alone one might determine all the cases in social morality.
— John Locke
 

"
SAVING OUR PLANET, LIFTING PEOPLE OUT OF POVERTY, ADVANCING ECONOMIC GROWTH... THESE ARE ONE AND THE SAME FIGHT. WE MUST CONNECT THE DOTS BETWEEN CLIMATE CHANGE, WATER SCARCITY, ENERGY SHORTAGES, GLOBAL HEALTH, FOOD SECURITY AND WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT. SOLUTIONS TO ONE PROBLEM MUST BE SOLUTIONS FOR ALL.

/  BAN KI MOON /

 

that solution is

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