Two Kinds of Economic Recovery
by Brian McLaren 02-10-2009
I just watched President Obama’s Indiana speech and town hall meeting from my hotel room in San Diego. I was watching on MSNBC, with Chris Matthews hosting and Pat Buchanan commenting. Pat (predictably) panned the speech, saying that people in Elkhart make RVs, and Obama’s speech failed to explain how we’d get Americans to buy RVs again. His comment, it seems to me, perfectly epitomizes an adventure in missing the point, and perfectly articulates two kinds of economic recovery.
For many people, economic recovery means “getting back to where we were a few months or years ago.” That means recovering our consumptive, greedy, unrestrained, undisciplined, irresponsible, and ecologically and socially unsustainable way of life.
I’d like to suggest another kind of recovery … drawing from the world of addiction. When an addict gets into recovery, he doesn’t want to go back and recover the “high” he had before, or even to recover the conditions he had before he began using drugs and alcohol. Instead, he wants to move forward to a new way of life — a wiser way of life that takes into account his experience of addiction. He realizes that his addiction to drugs was a symptom of other deeper issues and diseases in his life … unresolved pain or anger, the need to anesthetize painful emotions, lack of creativity in finding ways to feel happy and alive, unaddressed relational and spiritual deficits, lack of self-awareness, and so on.
Similarly, I’d like to suggest whenever we hear the word “recovery,” we as a nation see it not as a call to get back our old addictive high, but rather as a call to face our corporate and personal addictions, including the following:
1. Our addiction to carbon. Fossil fuels are an addictive substance. They give us speed … quick energy … serving as a kind of cultural amphetamine. Meanwhile, they toxify our environment and throw the ecosystem in which we live into dangerous imbalance.
2. Our addiction to weapons. Weapons are one of the most addictive substances possible. They give us a feeling of well-being and security, removing our feeling of fear and anxiety, much like a barbiturate. But like a drug, they make us lazy and slow — lazy and slow in the much more important work of relationship-building, justice, and peace-making, lazy in seeking the common good. And they plunge us into an addictive cycle, because if everyone in the world is getting more and more weapons, we aren’t safer … especially when increasing numbers of those weapons are nuclear, biological, and chemical.
3. Our addiction to fear. Religious leaders, media leaders, and political leaders have all discovered that you can raise quick votes, dollars, and members through the hallucinogenic stimulant of fear. By making straights afraid of gays, conservatives afraid of progressives, Christians and Jews afraid of Muslims, citizens afraid of immigrants, and vice versa, these leaders get a quick organizational high — crack for their unity and morale. But the more fear you pump into your system, the more fear you have, and pretty soon, you go from being stimulated to paranoid, seeing things that aren’t there and missing things that are. And soon after that, you move from paranoia to paralysis, leaving you in greater danger than ever.
4. Our addiction to stuff. Jesus said that a person’s life doesn’t consist in the abundance of her possessions. An economy that measures growth by the number of durable goods (resources) extracted from the environment and turned into non-durable goods that are bought, used, and then thrown away into a landfill … that economy “succeeds” by turning goods into trash, and calling it success. That’s not success. We need to imagine moving beyond an extractive, consumptive economy to a sustainable economy, and beyond a sustainable economy to a regenerative economy. I believe that in God’s world, if billions can be made destroying the planet and exploiting people addictively, trillions can be made caring for the planet wisely and caring for people justly.
5. Our addiction to a single bottom line. During the president’s town hall meeting, a man from Indiana told how he started a solar-powered attic fan company, and how he chose not to ship manufacturing overseas, but instead, to provide good employment for his neighbors. That meant, he said, that he had a little less cash in his pocket … but wouldn’t you agree that being a good neighbor has a value that can’t be measured in dollars? The single bottom line of financial profit is addictive, and like an addiction, it destroys families and communities. We need to rediscover a triple bottom line — financial sustainability, social sustainability, and economic sustainability. So we need a recovery of family values, and we also need a recovery of community values, and neighborly values, and ethical business values.
6. Our addiction to easy answers. “Government is the problem.” “Just throw money at the problem.” We can’t afford our addiction to these kinds of easy ideological slogans and facile reactive fantasies in a complex, real world. Ideology is, in many ways, a drug that substitutes the quick high of unthinking reaction for the hard work of acquiring wisdom.
So … maybe we can sabotage our addictive tendencies by letting the word “recovery” have a meaning that wakes us up rather than drugs us into the comfortable, dreamy, half-awareness in which we have lived for too long. That’s my hope and prayer. (For more on this, see my book Everything Must Change.)
Brian McLaren (brianmclaren.net) is a speaker and author, most recently of Everything Must Change and Finding Our Way Again.Uncategorized | Tags: Addiction, Barack Obama, Chris Matthews, Fossil fuel, Indiana, Pat Buchanan, Sustainability, United States | Comment (0)
Aloha beloved Friend:
I just received these links to some amazing footage of our humpback whales behavior on Inauguration Day. The ceremony and filming of the whales took place at City of Refuge, also known as Ho’nau nau State Park in South Kona.
~Just minutes before a traditional Hawaiian blessing to honor Barak Obama’s Inauguration, a pod of joyful whales began gathering by the temple where the event was taking place. People at the gathering who have lived on the Big Island their whole lives, have never seen anything like what took place on this special day. This happy pod of whales began with 3 white belly breaches, followed by spyhopping, slapping their fins and tails and a new behavior we have never seen before that we nicknamed the full body slap… for a full 30 minutes! The voice you will hear in the background is Haleaka Iolani Pule Dooley, known locally as “Aunty Aka” and you can hear the excitement in her voice as the whales celebrate wildly in front of her and those gathering for the special blessing~
This link shows our whales again but with more footage of the Hawaii’an ceremony itself.
President Obama Seeks Russia Deal to Slash Nuclear Weapons Wednesday 04 February 2009 » by: Tim Reid, The Times UK photo A spokesman has stated that President Barack Obama will seek an agreement with Russia to significantly reduce the two countries’ nuclear weapons stockpiles. (Photo: Senior Airman Javier Cruz Jr. / af.mil) The radical new treaty would reduce the number of nuclear warheads to 1,000 each. Washington – President Obama will convene the most ambitious arms reduction talks with Russia for a generation, aiming to slash each country’s stockpile of nuclear weapons by 80 per cent. The radical treaty would cut the number of nuclear warheads to 1,000 each, The Times has learnt. Key to the initiative is a review of the Bush Administration’s plan for a US missile defence shield in Eastern Europe, a project fiercely opposed by Moscow. Mr Obama is to establish a non-proliferation office at the White House to oversee the talks, expected to be headed by Gary Samore, a non-proliferation negotiator in the Clinton Administration. The talks will be driven by Hillary Clinton‘s State Department. No final decision on the defence shield has been taken by Mr Obama. Yet merely delaying the placement of US missiles in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic – which if deployed would cost the US $4 billion annually – removes what has been a major impediment to Russian co-operation on arms reduction. Any agreement would put pressure on Britain, which has 160 nuclear warheads, and other nuclear powers to reduce their stockpiles. Mr Obama has pledged to put nuclear weapons reduction at the heart of his presidency and his first move will be to reopen talks with Moscow to replace the 1991 US-Soviet Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start), which expires in December. Under that pact, the two countries have cut their respective stockpiles from roughly 10,000 to 5,000. “We are going to re-engage Russia in a more traditional, legally binding arms reduction process,” an official from the Administration said. “We are prepared to engage in a broader dialogue with the Russians over issues of concern to them. Nobody would be surprised if the number reduced to the 1,000 mark for the post-Start treaty.” Efforts to revive the Start talks were fitful under Mr Bush and complicated by his insistence on building a missile defence shield. “If Obama proceeds down this route, this will be a major departure,” one Republican said. “But there will be trouble in Congress.” The plan is also complicated by the nuclear ambitions of Iran, which launched its first satellite into space yesterday, and North Korea, which is preparing to test a long-range ballistic missile capable of striking the US. Mr Obama views the reduction of arms by the US and Russia as critical to efforts to persuade countries such as Iran not to develop the Bomb. » IN ACCORDANCE WITH TITLE 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107, THIS MATERIAL IS DISTRIBUTED WITHOUT PROFIT TO THOSE WHO HAVE EXPRESSED A PRIOR INTEREST IN RECEIVING THE INCLUDED INFORMATION FOR RESEARCH AND EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES. TRUTHOUT HAS NO AFFILIATION WHATSOEVER WITH THE ORIGINATOR OF THIS ARTICLE NOR IS TRUTHOUT ENDORSED OR SPONSORED BY THE ORIGINATOR. “VIEW SOURCE ARTICLE” LINKS ARE PROVIDED AS A CONVENIENCE TO OUR READERS AND ALLOW FOR VERIFICATION OF AUTHENTICITY. HOWEVER, AS ORIGINATING PAGES ARE OFTEN UPDATED BY THEIR ORIGINATING HOST SITES, THE VERSIONS POSTED ON TO MAY NOT MATCH THE VERSIONS OUR READERS VIEW WHEN CLICKING THE “VIEW SOURCE ARTICLE” LINKS. Comments This is a moderated forum. It may take a little while for comments to go live.