Friday, December 16, 2011

Global suckishness revisited

A group of awesome bloggers, Lydia Kang, DL Hammons, Creepy Query Girl and Nicole Ducleroir, had a great idea for a blogfest.

This is your chance to do some major catching up, and re-post a favorite blog post of your own that NEEDS to see the light of day one more time.

On December 16, re-post your favorite/most informative/most life-changing announcement/most ANYTHING blog post you want to re-share with the world.

Don't let a great post fade away into the ever-expanding blogosphere without one more shout-out!

Well, I can't pretend to post anything life-changing, or even especially informative, but this one, originally posted October 23, 2010, rather spookily foreshadowed the Wall Street protests a year later.

The Global Suckishness Index

I guess it's just coincidence, but there's been a bit of a trend in some of the recent blog posts I've been following. For example (and ignoring the many blogs dedicated entirely to rants about the state of the world) there's Sam's and Lettucehead's sad experiences in today's employment market, and David talking about the perils of the New York subway.

Anyway, it sparked some thoughts about the general suckishness of the world at large, and why this might be so.

And I came to a startling realisation.

There's a lot of natural danger and hardship out there, and disasters regularly hit the headlines - hurricanes, floods, droughts. But in reality those are minor blips and there is more than enough wealth and resourcefulness in the world to deal with them. Nature really accounts for only a tiny proportion of hardship.

The only logical conclusion is that the vast proportion (I'd guess maybe 95%) of human misery is entirely man-made!

Worse, much of the man-made misery is deliberate, and all of it is avoidable.

Some of it is down to religion - "my belief is better than your belief, and you'd better believe it!" - but most is caused by people wanting to get more out of the system than they are willing to put in.

And that's almost always expressed in terms of money.

Money is the root of all evil?

Here's a little thought experiment.

What if I suggested that money is unnecessary?

What would happen if we all woke up tomorrow in a world without money?

Chaos! Mayhem! Everyone suddenly penniless and starving!

But wait. Why should that be? Did the sun fail to rise on this penniless world? Did crops stop growing?

Stop and think for a moment. What if everyone simply carried on as they did yesterday? You got up, went in to work and did whatever you do. You went to the store and took from the shelves exactly what you would have done before. The shelves are still stocked because the people who stock them turned up as normal. The delivery trucks arrived, fully loaded, as normal because all the factories and warehouses kept working.

It gets better. You walk out of the store a lot quicker because you didn't have to line up to pay. OK, spare a thought for all those cashiers who suddenly don't have anything to do. Aren't they in trouble? Out of a job? But why would they be in trouble? In a world without money they don't need a job. Every other part of their life could carry on as normal. But then they could pitch in and help unload the trucks and stack the shelves and then everyone could go home early.

And think of all those millions of people working in banks across the globe. A whole industry, suddenly redundant. But nobody need go hungry because nothing important has stopped happening. And all those spare pairs of hands that could be turned to doing something genuinely productive.

When you look at it like that, the whole concept of money is nothing more than a vast and unnecessary drain on the planet.

OK, there's one glaring hole in this scenario. Everyone wouldn't just carry on as before. How many milliseconds would we be into the new day before somebody, somewhere, said to themselves "why should he get fillet steak while I'm making do with a Kraft dinner?" Human nature would kick in PDQ, and we'd all start taking more out of the system than it can sustain. That is why everything would descend into chaos and mayhem.

The truth is that there is more than enough food and water, space and energy for us all to live comfortable lives. But human nature compels us to want more, and to take it unless something stops us. Money may have its problems, but it's the most effective mechanism we have for putting a throttle on what we take from the world.

For me, the most frightening thing that global capitalism has unleashed on the world is a new and insidious form of life, and this is where the endemic global suckishness comes from. All the big corporations and financial institutions have taken on a life of their own and they are out of control. They've become self-serving and self-perpetuating, all-powerful, and utterly divorced from any moral or social conscience.

I don't think we're going to change human nature in a hurry, we probably can't do without money as a means of regulating access to resources, so as far as I see it the answer must lie in changing how we manage the flow of money. What we need are financial and corporate mechanisms that put the welfare of the general population back into the frame as the most important shareholder.

I don't pretend to have answers, this is only a rant after all, but I'm happy to accept any suggestions...written on the back of $20 bills.


  1. I missed this post the first time around, but I'm glad I didn't miss it this time. I gotta agree - misery is man-made, and I think it's fueled by WANT. We want, want, want all the time. I think if we channeled all that energy into focusing what we NEED, the world would be a better place.

    Fascinating scenario! Great post.

  2. This is a fascinating "what if" post. Wow, I really enjoyed reading it, it really made me think.

    Thanks so much for joining the Blogfest!

  3. Oh, I remember this. I even remember leaving a comment on it back then, too. You're right -- it is eerily prophetic, considering all we've seen happening in the news this year. Rather apropos, actually. Great post, Ian!

  4. Jennifer, "misery is man-made" must be the biggest and saddest insight I've ever had. On the other hand, that fact suggests that the remedy could be within our hands too.

    Lydia, thanks for hosting it!

    David, that's what brought it to mind. The "Occupy" protests made me think, "Wow, someone heard me!" :)

  5. Yep, perfect timing for this repost! Crazy world, for sure.

  6. Great re-post. Money is not the root of all happiness and agreed - a lot of misery is man-made.

  7. This is a lot of thinking to do at 6:30am. This post reminds me of my father, right after he's given away yet another chunk of his money to someone who needs it (and he's not a wealthy person). If anyone questions him about it, he looks at that person in bewilderment and says, "It's only money." I wonder what the world would be like if all of us had that attitude. Nice re-post, and nice to meet you!

  8. Hi Botanist, nice to meet you.

    Couldn't agree more with the comment 'misery is man-made'. I do believe that the LOVE of money is the root of all evil, not money itself. Either way,we need a 'perfect' administrator to govern all before the world can truly live in peace and as one. Until then...

    Just a thought. I enjoy your comments.Timely re-post. I'll be back.

  9. I find that during this time of year people get caught up worrying about the commercialism of Christmas and forget the "small" picture...which is the joy of the season is carried around in your heart, not your wallet. If we want to change the world, it has to be done in the grass, not the green towers.

    A great, thought-provoking post!

  10. I think you need to write a dystopian novel!

  11. Lyn and Alison, yes it's a crazy world and so sad that so much of it is self-inflicted.

    Sarah, nice to meet you, too, and sorry to make you think so early :) Your father sounds like a kind and generous man.

    Farawayeyes, you're right. Money itself has never been the root of all evil. I'd say even the love of money is slightly off, because money is simply the messenger. The root problem is people wanting to get more than they give, which is usually mediated by money.

    DL Hammons, I think the power to change lies within all of us. The bad news is that it likely has to change in all of us.

    Laura, I think I have one in the works. Look under the "Words and pictures" tab at the top - does Electrons' Breath fit the bill?

  12. Wow, this is sure a thought-provoking post. I have wondered what a world without money would be like but with greed in all forms, it would actually be horrible.

  13. I never thought of money in that light before....a control on how much we take from the world.

  14. Greetings Ian,
    A highly profound article with an ironic ending. And indeed, poignant timing for a repost. Strangely enough, I wasn't aware of this Deja Vu Blogfest. When I, coincidentally reposted on Friday, I really had no idea. Perhaps there is a meaning to it all.
    I like to think, in my utopian mind, that we can change this world for the better. The 'wee folks' from my garden tell me so.
    Thanks for sharing such an excellent and thoughtful repost, Ian.
    In peace for the holiday season and beyond,

  15. And don't forget the issues of entitlement among the people. "Why should I have to work? Society owes it to me to take care of me."

  16. Thought provoking post. While reading, I kept wondering why anyone would want to get out of bed. What would their purpose be? If currency no longer existed, then I'm assuming everything would be free. At first, people might take more than their fair share, but eventually someone, probably the government would oversee the distribution process. Essentially, we would become a communist country. Great post. I enjoyed the spirit of debate it evokes.

  17. Clarissa, Delores, we certainly need something to limit the effects of greed. Money has many faults, but we wouldn't last long without it.

    Gary, when I read your post I thought it was an amazing coincidence. You joined in without even meaning to!

    Donna, that's a good point, and another reason why my thought experiment wouldn't work.

    Andrea, certainly someone would have to take control but that's not a path I'd like to tread. Even in communism, greed kept a select few in rather more than their fair share of comfort. I'm more for recognising the faults of the system we have and trying to find a better way that doesn't ignore human nature.

  18. What a thought-provoking post.

    I'm the type of individual that often plays with these kinds of scenarios in my head - the "what ifs" - I sometimes laugh out loud at how I would implement one of my "save humanity" ideas.

    Great Do-Over post!


  19. If we could all live with the concept of giving more than we take ... it would work. A marriage counselor once told me that a marriage is NOT 50/50 ... it is 80/20 - where each partner gives 80% and takes 20%.

    I'm a new follower visiting from the DejaVu blogfest. Nice to meet you.

  20. Jenny, those kind of "what ifs" are fun, aren't they?

    Jennifer, thanks!

    Margo, hello and welcome. That 80/20 rule is a wonderful thought!

    I'm working my way slowly through the blogfest entries, but holy moley what a lot there are - nearly 200! I'm losing track of where I got up to so I'll likely miss some, but I hope I can at least check back on those who've been kind enough to visit and comment. Just give me time :)

  21. New follower here - nice to meet you and thanks for visiting my blog! You've got such great points here. A system like this could definitely work, but human nature always ruins everything. I mean, that's why countries go to war. If everyone could just believe whatever the heck they wanted to believe in without forcing others to... if everyone could just be content with what they have instead of demanding and fighting for more land, more money, more more more... But we're humans. It's what we do. Sigh. Great food for thought here!

  22. Great post! It's a shame that we have to have money. But, you're spot on with the reality of human nature.
    But, this type of serious talk makes my head hurt.
    Penis, lighting farts, Anthony Weiner, boobs.
    There now.
    I feel better.

  23. There was a time when man just bartered and that worked well. I guess there were kings and emperors though. So much for that idea.
    Sometimes though, suckage is all in the mind.
    After all, I'm aspiring to be a royal food taster!

  24. Julie, you nailed it: we're humans, it's what we do. I guess I shouldn't knock it too much, because those traits also likely got us the advances we enjoy in modern life. We just need to learn to control them better.

    Al, sorry to hurt your head. I'm afraid this blog is a bit light in the penis/fart/boob department, but I'm glad to welcome you as a follower.

    Alex, some suckage is certainly in the mind. It's what I keep reminding myself at work whenever things take a turn for the worse. But there's no harm aspiring for things to be so much better :)


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