Please call this blog to the attention of friends who may still think the System is ok.
The first part included a "visit" and thoughts on Williston, North Dakota based on onsite You Tube anecdotal reports describing its fracking boomtown condition and its northern geography, in a sense, its [un]desirability as a place to work and live.
Part two was a description of the late sixties satirical movie, "The Magic Christian." A dark humor look at what people will do for money starring Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. This third part refers to Williston and The Magic Christian and suggests alternatives to the mainstream culture and economics that have given rise to Williston's boom and The Magic Christian. The third part will benefit from your reading the first two parts in this series.
We all grew up with an assortment of mythologies. Every culture promotes itself. While these quaint little phrases profoundly shape our world view, values and what we do with our lives, they seldom receive critical thought.
Several well known myths are Big is better. We live in a democracy. Americans are exceptional. Its a level playing field for everyone. Work hard and you will succeed. The military is there to protect our freedom.
These mythologies do work if one believes the goal in life is to buy, sell and consume. If one's goals are to live in peace and grace with the rest of the world and planet Earth and to uplift the personal and community spiritual realm, these mythologies are either distractions or flat out in the way.
Most likely, many reading this blog have come to similar conclusions about the mainstream. Personally, I find it interesting how people arrive at their points of view and how they explain their thoughts, especially when it comes to our American culture and economy.
Disclosure - I am conservative, maybe better to say traditional, in values. By that I mean modesty in the material realm. A care for community wellbeing, care for the natural world, a care for personal responsibility and a firm belief we all have creative positive potentials far greater than we realize. I have no religious or spiritual affiliation.
The mythologies mentioned above, and there are others like them, all imply a "more stuff is better" view of the world. Most advertising is a crass repetition of messages [you could even say harassment] to psychologically push and egg on people to internalize and act on these mythologies - buy stuff and consume it - the more and faster the better. Advertising imposes values for the benefit of economic interests which are usually in conflict with our own health and well being - incompatible with a clean and healthy natural environment and social/spiritual uplift.
Certainly, one can't fault people moving to Williston to find a job if there aren't opportunities where they live. But important to keep in mind, what is the goal of work? And who defines that goal. And what is the product providing the employment?
If one can imagine a pie chart of the American [and many other] economy with the slices representing the various large sectors of the economy - manufacturing, retail, resource extraction, finance, risk management, transportation, construction, health care, recreation - to name a few; one can see that large sectors of the economy exist to repair the damage caused by other large sectors of the economy. Millions of jobs exist to repair the damage caused by millions of other jobs. What kind of mythology can explain the wisdom of that kind of economy - global market capitalism as we know it.
What kind of an economy is it that cannot exist without externalizing its costs? What we pay for a product or service rarely covers the entire environmental, social, personal or public health cost of what we are buying. Pollution, stress, lost human potential, military spending and much more are costs passed on to the natural world and everyone to pay.
Those external costs are in effect, a subsidy to the economy worth trillions. Market capitalism says let people decide what they want - give them choices and information. The choices we are given do not come with accurate information to make informed decisions. Our economy is profoundly dishonest and it cannot function with being dishonest. An economy that was honest and the price tag on its products reflected their true costs would be unrecognizable from what we have now. The "Magic of the Marketplace" is a total falsehood, deception, fraud and deceit and the people who promote it are criminal.
Our innate human weaknesses of envy, vanity and self centeredness are pumped up, amplified, expanded, enlarged and promoted as the basis of our very culture and value system and then that economic system is equated with freedom and then we are told the political system is there to protect our freedom - the freedom to buy, accumulate and consume as we choose. Further, we are told America needs and deserves the world's largest military, in effect, to protect the freeways, suburbia, hundreds of TV channels, 6 thousand square foot homes and the latest fashions and fads.
"The American Way of Life is non negotiable."
Add to that - a primary reason there is so much need to buy, sell and consume -- to grow the economy -- is to generate a level of "affluence" to both keep people pacified and distracted and also, this is a good one to contemplate, for the country to generate the wealth required to afford such a huge military to keep the supply lines open and the cash registers at full throttle. The Soviet Union went bankrupt trying to keep up with the West in military terms. Their socialist command economy [a disaster in its own right] could not produce enough wealth to afford the ships, bombers, tanks, missiles and the rest.
Most spiritual traditions, regardless of where geographically, the language or what period in history, consider a modest material lifestyle - enough but not too much - to be a core human ideal. Nearly all spiritual traditions teach too much stuff is a distraction from a life of service to the community, care for the natural world, social/personal responsibility and uplift and discovering our own positive creative potentials.
Humans have a greedy and self serving part of their character. Thats nothing new. But what is new are the ever more sophisticated technological tools and psychological techniques that have become so effective at causing people to believe having more and more stuff is the meaning of life and that the people at the top of government and business really care much about the well being of regular people and the planet. The political system is a sham and a hoax. Never have so few been so effective at dominating and defining the world views of so many others. And never have so many people allowed themselves to be defined and manipulated.
And never has there been so much consequence as people buy into these messages - climate change, accelerating species extinctions, economic disequity, all kinds of social and public health problems and lost positive human potential.
The Magic Christian movie makes a farce of so much of the culture of excess and what people will do for money. Its way more than a comedy. Symbolically at the end of the movie and all its misadventures, Guy Grand and Youngman return to the park to sleep rather than returning to Guy's penthouse and affluence. At least for that night, they have turned their backs on wealth and affluence.
Security, health and well being are essential needs in life. At some point, as affluence inflates , the curve of personal and social well being flattens out and indeed can start to descend. Ironically, many of today's social, economic and resource trends are in decline even as affluence rises.
I recently enjoyed a series of classes about mediation. Meditation is not totally new to me, I took Transcendental Meditation 25 years ago but have wanted to regain a regular practice. Meditation is well recognized as an effective way to improve mental and physical well being. Meditation can reduce stress, it can become a way to access a deeper understanding and meaning to who we are as individuals and communities.
An effective meditation practice does take some discipline and restructuring one's time to some degree. Its safe to assume, simply making the effort at a regular practice is important even if one may have a challenge focusing and "going deeper." Its like excersize, the more effort, the more benefit.
Meditation might be considered a part of declaring a greater degree of independence from the mainstream world view, culture and economy - not to "leave" that world but to put it in better perspective and not to be controlled or affected by it so much.
As we slow down, and meditation is a great tool for helping to slow down, new perspectives come into view. Meditation as a big help in learning to re sensitize and better focus one's attention. Its a healthy contrast to a popular culture that degrades the senses. Think of the benefits from gaining more enjoyment and satisfaction in life from less "investment" in the material world. What if we had as much enjoyment day to day from using half or a tenth as much energy and resources?
A modest slice of pie is still a slice of pie. What if we enjoyed that fraction of a slice just as much as an oversized piece?
That means spending a lot less money. That means having to work less to make the money and that means less stress in our own lives and less footprint on the natural world and more time for service to the community and developing our own positive capacities. More time to redefine our own goals and values to be a part of a new culture and economy that is far more friendly to people and planet.
Williston and the Magic Christian. What will people do for money? What are the goals? Is Williston so different from the rest of the country? What characters can we relate to in the Magic Christian?
There are healthy choices to be made.
Money is a useful tool, it has its place as a servant, not a goal. Meditation, yoga and other related practices can be life changing ways to resensitze, redefine and reorient towards a very different culture and economy that makes its priority to nurture and encourage the best of what humans are capable of.