lunedì, gennaio 19, 2009

Planarchism, because we need another 'ism'

It certainly is a shocking time to be young, working, and thinking about yourself as the future head of a family. Our household is like a little island of prosperity right at the moment - I just got a promotion and a 7% raise, the F-word is getting more for part-time work than most teachers get full-time in this country - in a sea of financial turmoil. Only a couple of months ago the world's economic problems were so abstract, and then in November and December, I guess in the lead-up to results season, stores started closing all over the place here and lots of people got fired, and I know it's really only a matter of time until the sea sweeps over our own personal Tahiti. And swamps us? I don't think so. We've been thinking too aggressively about our next move, and we're ready whenever it comes now, I think. And though Belgium isn't my favourite country in the world, I suppose, it's a helluva place to get fired. Hey. A girl can dream. Or start showing up at work naked and babbling.

This week the news pieces I'm following at work are all about shutdowns and bankruptcies, except for one rather overwhelming brief about a man who fell into some industrial machinery and was minced up so quickly and completely his colleagues had no idea where he'd got to. It's been that way for awhile at work. All doom and gloom. And the multinationals are the worst - the companies whose operations relied on high levels of credit and liquidity - those are the ones dwindling and shutting down and going bankrupt the fastest. It's broken. The financial and economic system is broken. That's been clear to me since I started writing about it, since I understood the frenetic and brainless rhythm at which decisions are made and administrators are rewarded by shareholders. Our way of doing things, financially, economically, is broken,and it was never a frightfully good idea, and frankly it's amazing it's worked in the chaotic, shaky way it has for so long, although it's worth remembering that bankruptcies and struggles were common enough at the so-called best of times.

And throwing public money at something broken so badly has no chance of fixing it, at least in the way it's been done, but that's not the point anyways. More situations like Belgium's - where I know I'll still be solvent if I lose my job, where I'm not scared of the future like an American, a Brit, a Canadian, or most non-European participants in our economy who'll get two weeks pay and a slap on the ass if they get fired, and who fucking well know it - might make more people less nervous about spending money and cashing up the gears of our economy. But the powers-that-be in America, Britain, and here in Europe too have decided reassuring consumers is ass-backwards, and it's best to reassure banks and business instead - bribing them, they suggest to the public, to not fire all us plebs out here; bribing them to keep the economy afloat.

But it's bullshit, isn't it? The banks and businesses can't keep our economy afloat, and they're the ones who torpedoed it in the first place, and they're the ones who'd like us plebs to cost rather less as employees, or who'd like us to stop being employees in favor of some nice cheap Asians. The fact is every major government initiative to deal with the crisis in the Western world has centered around bolstering institutions in such a way that inflation doesn't run wild (which would probably be the effect of directly reassuring us plebs by improving unemployment insurance or welfare programmes) and investors know they can get their money back. That is: every major government initiative to deal with the crisis in the Western world has centred around wealth protection. Which leaves us poor motherfuckers who aren't wealthy rather in the lurch.

But enough with the woe-is-us. Wealth protection has got to be such a big issue not just because of the super-rich, because of the more direct participants in the broken economic system, but because governments and large businesses too incompetent and short-term to do it themselves have successfully pushed us plebs to plan for our retirement by sinking our savings into the stock market, and not to rely on government pensions or work pensions. So if wealth isn't protected, a generation of baby boomers will have to suck straight from the tit of the public purse in their useless twilight years, and considering the shoddiness of the governments we're saddled with these days that's sure to be utterly cocked up in a way that will have dire social consequences.

Well, I'm not writing anything you don't already know. But I do lean on the point that it's time to think of alternative models, or at least supporting structures to the existing model that will ease us into something new. George Monbiot, otherwise known as the only reason not to use the Guarniad as toilet paper, has put together an interesting article about the possibilities of local currencies, for example, and negative interest, with references forward to Switzerland's WIR system* and to The Future of Money, a book that's been recommended to me before but which, despite its evident popularity, is fucking impossible to buy for less than a 100 euros, which is fascinating. The examples are worth looking at in detail. In a more general sense, anything groups of people can do independently to deal with the situation is worth looking at in detail. I'm not an anarchist by persuasion - I've never really thought of identifying myself that way. But increasingly I feel we're living in anarchic circumstances and we have to think of new, local, or at least small-scale methods or programmes to deal with that. Not bringing anarchy on or accelerating it - no need for that, apparently - but planning what to do with it. So I guess I'd like to promote planarchy. The word is already being used for blogging software but I think I can call dibs on it as a sociopolitical persuasion.

*Can somebody please tell me why most people don't know fuck-all about why Switzerland works? Talk to a Swiss person and they won't shut up about it. It's not like it's some big secret. And why, why, for fuck's sake, WHY do Americans defend their shitty two-party system, which is one of the principal tools perpetuating our untenable economic system by being so fucking static by design, by saying 'Oh, well if we had multiple parties we'd be a mess like Italy and that's no fucking good is it', when a) just north of Italy, Switzerland has been ticking along for ages with not only multiple parties, but a fucking rotating presidency, and b) the Americans, or at least their institutions, were the ones who fucked post-war Italy up in the first place? I tell you, shit like that is why I sometimes fucking hate those bastards for sewing Canadian flags onto their backpacks. No. No. Own your suck. We have our own suck already. Pretending to be us won't make it go away.

2 commenti:

Baywatch ha detto...

still, congrats on the raise. seems like not so long ago you weren't sure they were even going to keep you on.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

That may have been wishful thinking. I get a bit stressed and then start mooning over what they'd have to pay me out if they sacked me.