“So Doug, how do we solve this economic crisis you talk about?” D.W. Kang (Chosun Dental School) to Doug Stuber on March 9, 2009.
Four simple laws would do it: some to be implemented right away, others phased-in. 1) No one outside a company shall be allowed to own shares in that company. 2) No Fuel except for mass transportation. 3) Reduce military spending worldwide by 85% and standing armies by 80%. Former soldiers could help build solar and wind power. 4) Follow your dreams.
1) On top of no outside ownership, all workers in a company should divide profits equally, and save 25% of profits in case there is a downturn. Savings should be held and reinvested in the company as needed. Thus, robber barons like Warren Buffet, could not buy up shares and direct manufacturing plants to the cheapest possible labor, or threaten to fire executives if they didn’t do things his way. Another corollary would be a world-wide minimum wage. If a company’s profits could not afford this worldwide minimum wage, then tax money saved via less military spending could be used to supplement pay, as long as the company was making products that were not destructive to human life.
2) By abandoning personal transportation (which would mean building mass transportation to suit everyone’s needs) we would have a chance, albeit slim, to save the environment. General Motors bought and scrapped 70 transit systems in the 1930s depression, so they should be asked to rebuild all those systems and more this time around. Trains should also replace long-haul trucks as they are so much more efficient. At train stations some short-haul trucking could be allowed for a while, but only the trucking of goods that are environmentally friendly and necessary for the common good. It takes three liters of water to produce one liter of Coke. I’ve had my share of soda pop, but it is not necessary for the betterment of society. (“But wait Doug, who makes these rules, and who are you to say…”). The environment is making these rules self evident, so it’s up to whether humans want to sacrifice luxuries we can no longer afford, or whether we will gobble up the earth and leave behind a wasteland for our heirs: insects. This law would be phased in as soon as localities were ready.
3) A reduced military not only increases the chance that we won’t go around killing each other anymore, but allows governments to spend money on better projects. This reduction, once implemented, should also be capped by a 20-year freeze on military spending, after which, one would pray, further cuts could be made. A great deal of harm has been done by the US military, with the help of others, in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is time for the healing to begin. Will Iraqis and other Muslims around the world ever forgive the errors that have been made in the conquest of oil? Again, we can only pray.
4) Following one’s dreams was the only law punishable by being kicked out (ostracized) from the tribe in the culture of the “Iroquois” (Haudenosaunee). In their beliefs (I researched this culture heavily for a novel I wrote) humans who do not follow their dreams end up being a burden on society because they are always frustrated, anxious and can end up being criminals. Thus, those who did not wake up and follow what their dreams had told them to do were banished. Back then this was a death sentence. No other crime carried such a severe punishment in this noble culture. This only works if communities make sure that people feel their contribution is important, no matter what they are able to contribute. The Chief would always go to the less-intelligent Lacrosse stick maker and compliment her or his work. When was the last time your sub-group practiced inclusion?
For those uncertain of their dreams, education can be the cure. I like Mahatma Gandhi’s education ideas, which are an important part of his philosophy:
The Gandhian Program for Global Conversion
- Service for the welfare of all.
- Ecologically sound, non-alienating labor. Jobs for peace.
- Nonviolence: practice the Law of Love.
- Negotiation, conciliation, mediation (rather than legalism).
- Responsible participation in government.
- Right education/re-education – revaluation of values.
- Sharing of resources. Frugality.
“Achieving one goal fosters the achievement of each of the other goals or points in this program. (Non-achievement of any one goal is a potential hindrance to the achievement of the other goals.)” – M. Gandhi
These beliefs were taken from a book called “Gandhi’s Seven Steps to Global Change” by Guy de Mallac. Another key quote from Gandhi worth mentioning here: “Almost anything you do will seem insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” (Used by permission.)
Thus, simple steps like making sure your tires are fully inflated on your car, or practicing BMW (Bike, Mass-transit, Walk) can lower your carbon footprint while also being an example to those around you. Reducing the burden of those who work the hardest for the least pay is also a good daily practice. Just lend a worker a hand for 20 minutes, you will feel better, I promise.
Before you accuse me of being a know-it-all (or “no-it-all”), think back on your own life. Were you as happy doing a job you hated as you were when you were young and didn’t have to “work for someone else?” In theory, everyone could work for themselves. In practice, the economic meltdown may well provide this opportunity.
Maybe the layoffs will stop and companies will start hiring again. Maybe the shops and restaurants and other small companies will reopen. But if we really are at the beginning of a depression, will people turn to lend a hand to those they don’t even know, or not? My grandfather walked 14 kilometers to work in the depression. He made about 25 cents per day (400 Won), which was extremely low pay, even back then. He raised four children on that.
Yet, he knew his house was “marked” by passing hobos who used to jump off the train in Pittsford, New York. This mark told the next transient, unemployed worker that his house would serve them an evening meal. He could have gotten rid of the mark, but he left it there, and on many nights the family had a new visitor for dinner. Rice and beans, or maybe a can of tuna stretched in a salad made of greens grown in the back yard.
But what will happen if we don’t help out like this? What will happen if our PC and TV-loving society is not inclined to help strangers, but more inclined to create crime to survive? It scares me that crime is already rampant in the inner cities of my country (the US).
World War Three may be defined as a series of local scuffles. Since divisions and hatred already outweigh love and compassion, isn’t it possible that World War Three, like economic depression, has already begun too? Normally the media omits the word “depression.” Big media also stopped reporting on the real human costs of the Iraq/Afghanistan war, at least in the US.
World War Three already exists in Iraq and Afghanistan. It started on the mean streets of the US long ago, and we already have over two million people in jail. Shouldn’t all countries elect leaders who are serious about ending the CAUSES of these inhumanities? Shouldn’t we elect leaders who see capitalism for what it really is? It’s a modern version of feudalism causing slavery via the lowest possible wages it can find. Who among us is brave enough to call for an end to all this? (How’s that Dr. Kang?)
This piece first appeared in the Gwangju News: