A 'long-lost" tape recording of a public lecture given by economist E.F. Schumacher at my community, the Findhorn Foundation, almost 35 years ago now (in October) was recently restored, and was the basis for a programme on BBC 4 yesterday celebrating Schumacher's perspectives on the 'good society' and in part at least as inspiration for the current UK prime minister's take on the 'Big Society'. Schumacher, whose book entitled 'Small is Beautiful - Economics as if People Mattered' made a ripple some forty years ago - helping to give form to and land the environmental movement - spoke at a conference that was titled 'One Earth: The World Crisis And the Wholeness of Life'. The talk, and the theme of the conference, couldn't be more timely.
Although I was at the community at that time, I wasn't at the talk. I don't recall the reason; it was most likely, as is my wont at the occasion of these things, that I was busy 'behind the scenes', helping with the work department needs of the host community. I'm sorry to have missed it - he was "on fire", as someone remarked - and especially as he died suddenly of a heart attack only months after his appearance here, and so his voice was silenced, in person. But thanks to the written word, and electronic technology, his talk has been captured on CD; which I have just listened to, along with various commentators on his talk, and his life, especially in relation to celebrations there will be this summer on the occasion of his birth centenary.
His ideas, then, were ahead of his time. And I would like to comment on further ideas for our time, in the same vein. The vein of living in a way that honours people, not 'the system'. Man, not the Machine.
Simply put: We are at a crossroads. We can go down - into further chaos, starvation, environmental pollution - or up, into a sunlit highlands. And the key is the elimination of 'money' as the motivator of Man, and ingenuity.
To paraphrase Einstein: You can't discover the answer(s) to the problems that the current paradigm throws up on the same level as the current paradigm. You have to think bigger. And when you do, you discover the beauty of simplicity. That Small, indeed, is Beautiful.
The (current paradigm) need for constant growth is harmful to the environment, and puts into serious question finite resources? Simple. Eliminate the need for constant growth. Settle for sustainability. How? Eliminate money.
The huge gap between the very wealthy and the very poor is increasing almost geometrically, creating a harmful social environment (and with the elimination of a buffering middle class). What to do? Simple. Eliminate money.
Technology is throwing people out of work, and so they have no choice but to go on the dole? Wrong. The answer? Decouple 'income' from a 'job'. How? Simple. Same answer as above.*
I could go on. The point is, that all these problems are built in to the system based on 'money'; on the idea of motivating people to make contributions to society based on the opportunity for personal material gain. On something called 'wealth creation'. Which is simply an idea; a concept. Not a hard-and-fast, physical law.
We are already as wealthy as we will ever be.
It is, in its essence, the ability of the mind, to create. And all that is needed to activate that inbuilt wealth is a motive.
Traditionally, Man has used the motive of personal gain, in a world of scarcity.
How about using the motive of social gain, in a world of (relative) abundance. With more than simply a materialist's idea of 'secular humanism' as a motivator. (Communism tried that. Been there. Done that. Of no more real value than the capitalist's thirsting for accumulation - 'wealth creation', for itself/regardless of the consequences to others.)
How about the motivator of sharing the creation of goods and services, and the giving of the best of our human ingenuity to one another, out of gratitude to our Creator for life with meaning.
And if we do - when we do - there are no losers.
There are only winners.
The human race.
Spiritual beings having a human experience. And learning how to move out of one paradigm - getting increasingly uncomfortable and untenable - to another.
A higher one.
Where we begin to get - really get - that We Are All One.
And so, as you do unto others, so do you do unto yourself.
It's time for that environment that E. F. Schumacher was trying to help us dream into, those 35 years ago. The environment of looking at economics 'as if people mattered'.
Not as if 'I matter, and to hell with anybody else'. The paradigm that says, and teaches, that 'if my actions affect you detrimentally: tough. That's life. Nothing matters- really - but Me.'
But what if You are...they.
Together, on the stage of life. Playing different roles, is all. Now a prince, now a pauper. Now a male, now a female. Now of one race, now another.
In order to come back to Unity; the better for the experience.
The more whole; in yourself.
Because You and the Whole are One. And we ARE - have been indivuated - in order to come to recognise that. And as a consequence, take a great leap in spiritual evolution - for the Whole.
For the All That Is.
Blessed be Its name.
How can it work, practicallY?
Various individuals and groups have given this matter (the 'Great Turning', in the words of David Korten and Joanna Macy) serious consideration, and have come up with some good answers. It is, really, - simplified to its essence - simply a matter of earning credits for services to the social order, which you can 'spend' as you wish. Some of the schemes that have been dreamt up use the concept of an energy-based 'money' system (rather than human labor/'man hours'): how much 'energy' you contribute to the collective. But since our energy sources are very likely to change, as we tune into our new paradigm more and more (one waiting in the wings, eg, is radiant energy from the universe), I personally wouldn't get too hung up on precise sources, and measurements. Each of the various One Earth communities may well pioneer their own credit system, and put their own value on what they contribute to the Whole. It's not something to get hung up on. Keep to the basic motivator - gratitude to our Creator for life with meaning - and 'it' will work out.
'It': Life on Earth. In the new paradigm.
Just waiting to be birthed.
It's our collective call.
And may we honour individuals like E. F. Schumacher when we do, for their contribution to the consciousness-raising that helped it come into being, on the physical, from the realm of Ideas.
From which cometh our help.
* So you're not doing things for the money; you're contributing your best in service to the system. Which thereby runs on heart energy.