Friday, April 12, 2013

sustainable global capitalism vs something else....

Beware... this post might be something of a political rant. Proceed with caution!

Recent news of the Royal bank bringing in offshore workers to train and then relocate jobs to India and the ensuing discussion on CBC's the Current about McJobs for university graduates has left me wondering a great deal about what our modern world has in store for us.

clip art from MS Word
I think it's safe to say that when guests on the show say this is the death blow to the middle class, they aren't wrong. In fact, given the reality that I faced (and I was very blessed to find work quickly) in terms of repaying student loans. (only 2.5 years to go, not that I'm counting or anything) and that I see my colleagues face, I can vouch for the fact that the future doesn't always feel so bright.

There seems to be something fundamentally wrong with how the system is currently working in light of the ideal that a Canadian should be able to go to school, find work, and aspire to a certain standard of living, particularly one that is meant to continue to drive our economy through consumerism.

Bear with me here: we are told that we need to be spending in order to keep the economy, thus the country, healthy. And yet, how are we meant to do this when my generation and the next generation is facing the reality of less jobs and a lower standard of living than our parents? When we are saddled with more debt, often admittedly our own fault, but also because we exist in a system that endorses and demands that we have credit cards and credit ratings from the moment that we step outside of High School.

And to top that off, while we might not pay as much as our American counterparts, educational expenses aren't always easy so we take on loans for things that maybe we shouldn't be taking out loans for: education, particularly education that doesn't lead to employment. But herein lies the biggest irony, if corporations can get away with sending our jobs abroad in the name of profit, what good is even the most mercenary approaches to schooling in our day and age?

It's one thing to call my generation apathetic and jaded, but another to tell them they have the ability to change things when every time they stand up to change things there is yet another pundit or politician willing to court their vote only to abandon them the moment they step into power.

Image from Sylvie Bedard
Currently, the Quebec Premier, having been elected on the backs of the student masses screaming out against the system that is not only saddling them with unsustainable debts (and not just in terms of education but also in terms of every social system that is corrupt, bankrupt and not working for them) but also failing to take responsibility for the unethical enrichment of the upper classes at the expense of this generation, the future middle class that will no longer exist if things continue the way they are at the moment, has betrayed pretty much every campaign promise it made to the generation of voters who elected her.

I don't think the answer is free tuition or any other simple placebo patch. I think that we need to re-examine the world in which we live because honestly the system we have doesn't work anymore.

If we think that we can trust companies in a capitalist global economy to act with integrity, we are sadly delusional! We live in a world based on greed, from the individual who consumes for pleasure to companies that feed that pleasure seeking instinct for more for its investors and top execs, to a government that will never dare to do the right things because that would actually mean admitting that the system doesn't work and the necessary changes are impossible to make without shattering things first.

We are in for hard times ahead and frankly I don't know what I'm more scared of: having to make the necessary changes or having to face my son or his children should we opt to keep our comforts instead of making said changes. All I know is that changes must be made because the system we live in is unsustainable and crumbling around us. 

The irony of it of course is that I look at the world around me and I don't even know where to begin, it all feels so vastly overwhelming. I'm trying to make small, tangible steps, but I feel a bit like I'm swimming upstream, against a strong current of not only societal expectations but also my own comfort and apathy. Therein is my biggest issue. Some of the things that I would need to do to REALLY make a difference would also require that I really look at my habits and comfortable middle class life honestly. I'm not always happy to do this and I suspect that if I, with all my sanctimonious fervor, is unwilling to look at things honestly from time to time, it's no big surprise that our government, who wants power, is unwilling to make unpopular decisions that will force us to give up our material comforts!

While I want more from my government, I find myself asking: can I really demand more of them if I haven't done more myself; if I'm unwilling to make the bigger changes myself? If for every 2 steps forward I take, I take 1 back? If I always make the cheaper choice or the more convenient choice when push comes to shove? 

Sometimes I can't help but wonder if global capitalism doesn't work ethically because it exposes our hypocrisies and feeds our greedy natures: the ego in us that wants more and only feels complete with the dream of more.

When I think about all of this in relation to my spirituality, I find myself wondering how to make the way I live my life a reflection of my higher aspirations. I know that this is vital to me, but it's something that I so often find myself missing the mark on. I do realize this is a process and not something that can be attained easily: this is a life journey, not immediate gratification. But there is always a voice in the back of my head demanding more of me; asking me if I am really even trying to live up to the ideals that I hold for myself. 

image source
Beyond saying that I want to reduce my consumerist ways, am I actually doing this? Or with my credit card debt, car, big house and love of pretty things, am I really just feeding into the system that I am so quick to condemn? The answer is yes, for the most part, yes. And that's a hard truth to face... that my middle class suburban lifestyle is very much part of the problem and that my actions right now are only surface deep. I am part of the unsustainable economy, world view, etc., and that needs to change: from reducing to eliminating my credit card debt to reducing and altering my consumer choices to eventually, slowly but surely, moving myself out of the mainstream current and living a life more on the margins of what is the norm (finding a balance between the yurt in the forest, completely off the grid, and the house I have and the reality of still needing to be plugged into the grid because that's where my life is).

All in all, I want to find an alternative to global, capitalist consumerism as a life choice because I really hate what it has come to represent, or has always represented.


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