The following is an article I’ve submitted to Spare Change News, the homeless publication in Boston. I don’t even know if they accept submissions, but I thought I’d give it a try.
Getting to the Root of the Problem
by Kim Dostaler
I wasn’t sure how to pitch the idea of writing this story for Spare Change, so I decided to just write it and have the story be the pitch.
I have awakened. I have opened my eyes, like so many others, and found myself in the midst of a collapsing system. There are more problems in every direction than we have resources for, homelessness among them. More nonprofits are popping up every day to help heed the call and help those less fortunate than themselves. These efforts are to be applauded on every level. The recent generation of college graduates has devoted itself to public service like no generation has done before. However, I’m sure we can all agree that there will never be enough funding to go around, especially when the majority is concentrated in the hands of a few, only to be given to charities when a tax break makes it worth while (and then, really, is that even helping?). And if we get a new president in from this lot running, there will be even further cuts to any sort of helping hand that the government provides.
The free market theory claims that the “invisible hand of the market” will pick the “winners and losers.” I wonder, who are the losers and why did they lose? The theory says the losers are those who haven’t worked hard enough, those who are lazy, those who think they are entitled and do nothing to better their lives. You and I both know that the majority of the time this is not true. The real losers are those that are born into poverty, abuse, neglect. The real losers are the people whose pensions were cut to give a CEO a bigger bonus. The real losers are the victims of genocide because their government has their hands in someone’s pocket. The real losers are those that get cancer because they are downstream of a toxic chemical plant. The real losers are those that got their homes foreclosed on because they were preyed upon by corporations. Corporations that are actually functioning extremely well, extremely efficiently, and extremely within the rules and loopholes of our current system.
Every one of those scenarios mentioned, and many others, can and does lead to homelessness. The homeless, in the grotesque logic of our current economic system, are the forgotten “by-products” of a well-oiled machine—the monetary system itself.
This is why I want to introduce you to an idea supported by at least a million people around the globe (but I believe that is a conservative estimate and that number of supporters would be in the 100,000,000 range if they were informed of the idea). It is the concept of a Resource-Based Economy.
A Resource-Based Economy (RBE) is a viable alternative to the root cause of so many of our societal ills, which is the monetary system. RBE is like nothing you’ve ever heard about, except maybe in a science fiction movie. It isn’t capitalism, it isn’t socialism, it isn’t communism, it isn’t fascism. It is definitely not the New World Order, which would bring us all under One World Government that keeps tabs on everyone. It isn’t an “ism” at all. It is an overhaul of our entire socioeconomic structure that brings our treatment of each other and the planet up to speed with our current technology.
Imagine for a minute that we found a new planet and wanted to colonize it, and scientists got to sort of figure out how everything would work. In Peter Joseph’s documentary Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, he imagines just that. The scientists would first take a global inventory of all the resources on the planet – where are the metals, where is the wood, where is the fresh water, where is the sand? All this information would go into a computer and be in a sort of systems database. Then they would figure out ways to harvest these materials and build systems to deliver the materials, all completely or mostly automated. And, the systems database would function within the confines of keeping the planet and it’s people healthy and sustained for as long as possible. Meaning, fossil fuels would not be used, giant swathes of forest would not be cut down, no one would frack anything. It would be wind, solar, geothermal, and every other natural energy that’s coming down the pipe these days. No areas would be exploited, no waters fished out. Food would be organic because all of the chemicals that are currently put in our food cause cancer and a lot of other nasty side effects. So, the computer system wouldn’t let those thing be used and ordered for food because it would go against a system requirement – keeping people alive and healthy.
And the reason this sort of system could work is that there would be no such thing as money.
If there’s no such thing as money, there’s no such thing as profit. If there’s no such thing as profit, there’s no reason to try to pull one over on anyone else to increase your bottom line. Everyone has access to everything. Open source everything.
You may wonder what sort of incentive this system would be based on, if not money. Personally, I think if a system housed, clothed, fed and made all of it’s abundance available to everyone (like using a boat, having a really awesome computer in your house, having a sweet cell phone, going on a trip to Hawaii, staying in a ski cabin, things like that), people would volunteer left and right to be a part of it.
When you think about the ills that plague the human species, they are mostly technical. How can we get fresh water to the people of sub Saharan Africa? How can we get medicine to people that are sick? How can we get building supplies to Haiti? How can we feed those going through a drought? How can we get electricity to every person on the planet? How can we house everyone in the country? What I have recently become painfully aware of is that there are technical solutions and resources a-plenty to solve all of these problems, but not enough money (or political will) to implement them.
For instance, 3D printing is a new idea that revolutionizes the idea of ownership, and buying and selling in the market place. With 3D printing, we can literally download technical drawings of almost anything, and physically print the object. A company right in our own backyard, Z Corporation in Burlington (http://www.zcorp.com) is working with this technology.
Imagine the idea of printing yourself a house. Yes, a house. Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California‘s Information Sciences Institute has come up with a construction process, called “Contour Crafting” that can build a 2000 sq. ft. home in a day with no manual labor.
How amazing is that? But, I have a sneaking suspicion that they aren’t getting any funding from anyone connected with the housing industry, the lumber industry, the roofing industry, or any industry that benefits keeping humans in wood-built traditional houses, complete with the labor to build them.
We also have the technology to build sky gardens to plant floor upon floor of organic produce, with very little human labor needed. But you don’t see projects like that taking off, because there’s no money in it. Why would someone produce something to give to somebody for free? Sounds ludicrous, right? And people need jobs, right?
People need jobs so they can make money to buy things that should be our given right as humans on the planet – shelter, food, clothing. So the answer inevitably becomes that we must get rid of the concept of money.
Corn stock piles and rots in giant silos as children starve every day. They starve because they have no money. And the corn rots because the grower gets subsidies to produce as much corn as he can. It’s like a giant illogical puzzle where nothing makes sense, and you’re only as free as the amount of Benjamins in the bank.
Many would have us believe that there is still scarcity in this world, and that is the reason for money. There isn’t enough to go around, so we must have some way to decide how much we get.
This is a lie, and one that is being slowly revealed. There is, in fact, the possibility of absolute abundance on this planet. We have the technology to create clean energy, we have the technology to build houses for everyone without destroying the forests. We have the technology to build sky gardens growing hydroponic, organic fresh food for everyone. But there is not enough money in the entire world to pay for it.
Conundrum, isn’t it?
I am a member of The Zeitgeist Movement. The Movement promotes the idea that the resources of this planet are the inherent right of all peoples. And we are addressing the conundrum.
It’s a lofty goal. Perhaps some might say it’s a naive endeavor. And while I realize The Zeitgeist Movement will not immediately feed or house the homeless population, it is a larger solution that I would invite the homeless population and those working to end homelessness to look into. I recently listened to several internet radio broadcasts from Zeitgeist: Moving Inward that featured the system of communication created by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. Dr. Rosenberg is the founder of The Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC), a global organization whose vision is a world where all people are getting their needs met and resolving their conflicts peacefully. He gave a powerful analogy in one of the broadcasts that I’d like to share here. Imagine you are on the bank of a river and you look down and you see a baby floating down the river! It’s still alive, but barely. So, you wade in and you rescue the child and bring it to shore. Then you look down into the river and there are two more babies! You see a person on the other side of the river and you say ‘Hey! Help me rescue these babies!’ So the person starts helping you. You both wade in and rescue those babies. But you look again and there are two more! The question is, at what point does one of you go upstream and see who’s throwing the babies in?
At what point do some of us start looking for solutions to the root cause of these problems, rather than doing our best to plug the leaks and put band aids on a broken system? The Zeitgeist Movement and the concept of a Resource-Based Economy promote solutions to the root cause of the problems.
The Massachusetts Chapter of The Movement is holding it’s annual Z-Day celebration on March 10 and 11, 2012. On March 10 we will be screening Peter Joseph’s film Zeitgeist: Moving Forward at The Rebel Cafe in Pelham, MA. On March 11 members of the Zeitgeist Movement’s Massachusetts chapter will be raising awareness around Boston, flyering and talking to people. Join us? Check out Z-Day Massachusetts 2012 on http://www.eventbrite.com.
For more information on The Zeitgeist Movement, visit http://www.thezeitgeistmovement.com.