Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

More! by Morford

Mark Morford hits a familiar refrain in this column that really resonates with me.  I like to have "nice" things about as much as anyone, but I just can't buy into this MORE!  BETTER! FASTER! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR ME LATELY!! bullshit that seems to drive our culture.  It doesn't seem healthy, and it sure doesn't seem sustainable.  Maybe I'm just slowing down a little in my older age.  Mark, too.

The Devil in the Pie Chart
by Mark Morford

It’s a thoroughly stupid, weirdly inelegant way to exist, isn’t it? Contrary to nature and time, insulting to the very dignity of the soul?

Yet here it is, the single-most toxic, fossilized, hammered-down maxim our culture – along with most of the barely civilized world – lives by, pounded into our fundamental ethos since birth.

Nope, it’s not organized religion. It’s not a sad misunderstanding of love. It’s not wisdom, loneliness or even rampant tribalism, nationalism, unhealthy worship of technology or celebrity. Oh, it’s far worse than that.

Do you know this toxic law? I bet you do: Companies will do anything to accomplish it, cities obsess over it like a dark religion, populations are viciously addicted to it – and of course, capitalism has it tattooed onto its very heart, a blood-soaked dragon of relentless, nearly unendurable pressure, sneering and cruel, only fully satiated when it’s burned everything to the ground.

Of course you know it: It is the maxim of furious, nonstop growth at all costs. It is the vast, overarching demand that everything we humans create, produce and desire must keep growing and expanding, adding to and complexifying, without stop and without fail because to pause, to slow down, to contract, to calm the hell down even for a moment, means fiscal doom, cultural irrelevance, death.

Ergo, the ruthless mantra: More product! More stores! More bodies and more customers and a fatter bottom line, expanding the brand into 127 new countries in 2014 alone! New tract developments, new buildings, roads and sprawl, bigger families, bigger workforce, larger tax base, more drilling, fracking, sucking, ripping out the planet’s guts to satisfy our insatiable need for energy because we can’t stop now and we can’t imagine any other way, even though this way leads directly – and I mean directly – to our perfect demise.

Never enough, baby.
My favorite example of the moment? Here is Apple, perhaps the most amusingly admired, debated, storied company in modern existence. Apple just announced that it sold an all-time record 51 million iPhones in the last few months – which, if I’m calculating correctly and I’m probably not, is about seven phones every second, or about 150 in the time it took you to read this paragraph.

Oh, they also sold a record 24 million iPads, 4.5 million Macs, generated $57 billion in revenue ($13 billion in net profit) and now control 42 percent of the smartphone market, up from exactly zero just seven years ago. “Astonishing” doesn’t begin to cut it.

Do you know what happened next, right after Apple’s amazing announcement? That’s right: The stock price plunged nearly 10 percent. Because Wall Street is diseased and insane. Because Wall Street is full of tiny-souled, cackling man-demons who measure human existence the way the devil measures time: in units of potential pain.

See, Wall Street, employing its trademark rule of grow-or-else nonsense, thought Apple should have sold 54 million phones, not just 51, and therefore they think the company might have peaked and might not continue its stratospheric growth into the next year. In short: Apple made billions of dollars and outpaced itself in every category, but it still wasn’t enough to feed the dumb, ravenous beast. It never really is.

But why stop with just Apple? Here is Facebook, doomed to die… eventually. Here is Google… same. There was Motorola, Microsoft, IBM. Starbucks and McDonald’s, WalMart and Coca-Cola, Ikea and Whole Foods, too. There is Spain, China, India and Africa. There’s the Catholic church, the Mongols, the invading force, the conquering heathens, spreading their dogma, their brand, their tedious seed, as if it somehow matters, as if that’s the whole point, as if that’s all there is to life and you just gotta deal with the inevitable pushback, the forthcoming ruin. Hey, it’s the nature of the system. God, what spiritual infants we are.

Worse still, these entities are followed around like rabid dogs by pious economists, politicians, prognosticators, all barking out a dire warning to any country, company or government who might wish to break the golden rule of growth and instead downsize, simplify, cut back. “Are you insane? Do you want to lose tax revenue? Wall Street support? God’s love? We’re humans. More work, more babies, more revenue, more unsustainable growth is what we do.” This is the message. This is the rule.

Humanity is going down, hard. 
Who wants some money?
You can see the absurdity, no? More importantly, you can you see the danger to all life, health, human becoming? We know such a modality is completely unsustainable. We know that the world, being a finite, delicately balanced organism, will not put up with our bulls—t for much longer (well some of us know this – the Tea Party is still in adorable denial). Hell, she’s already starting to slough us off en masse.

But even deeper still, we know that life is anything but linear. It is not a silly chart, a simplistic bar graph, a particular percentage of ownership. And we know that Wall Street, despite its endless, self-important bloviation and ravenous greed, knows absolutely nothing of life.

The deeper wisdom is: life is a looping and spiraling thing. It is pulsation and vibration, expansion and contraction, inhale and exhale in constant and eternal flux. Force it to stick to just one hard polarity – in our case, bigger and faster and more – and watch your species die. Simple, really.

But hey, whatever, right? Save it for the next generation to worry about. True capitalists abide no such smarmy, soft-focus drivel. Respect, sustainability, reducing our catastrophic footprint? Eat my profit margin, hippie. There’s piles of money to be made, right now, even in our downfall. Wall Street will go down screaming and aflame, useless clumps of dollars in their angry monkey fists.

Fondly do I remember a professor of mine back at Berkeley, a warm-hearted philosophy nut who loved discussing our bizarre American conditioning of greed, the nature of money and mad desire for incessant growth. His favorite semi-rhetorical query: How much do you think you need, really, to live healthy, comfortable and happy? A million dollars? Ten? How much land, how many resources, how many cars and homes, how much stuff?

And we, being young and eager, would measure and discuss and map it out, thinking the answer was always much more than it ever really was. Slowly, but invariably we came to the shocking, un-American realization that what you actually need to be happy is often far, far less than we’ve been trained to believe. Even more shocking? It turns out the inverse rule is even more true: The less you believe you have to have, the happier you get to be. Simple, really.

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