One Big Scheme.

I cannot help but wonder, if everything we have been taught about a successful life is nothing but a big scheme. It seems that only a few and, most often, other people profit from it, not us.

The perfect life, money and success is dangled in front of our noses and we make decisions to achieve this goal. We follow this scheme not knowing, that a goal like this is never achievable, because, you’ve guessed it, at the end of any achievement is yet a bigger carrot and a higher goal. At this new level, the view might be grander and the life more comfortable, but also the wants, needs, toys, responsibilities, chains are bigger. Some stay at this level, understanding, that it will get worse and that they might not be able to handle more. Bigger means stress. Some feel stress more than others, some thrive on stress, most go on not to disappoint.

Everyone wants to be the good kid, the one everyone loves and even looks up to, the one telling stories of success. We want the approval and do much for it. This goes on and on, until we run out of time, get sick, or until we wake up. Waking up from a pre-set life, we find ourselves in a hamster wheel, trapped, bills are keeping us moving, round and round, without an end in sight.

I have met very wealthy people, who craved simplicity. This might have been an act, designed for me, their landscape designer, but their eyes always lit up, when I suggested re-creating their childhood gardens. None of them wanted a success garden; they wanted plants reminding them of their grandmothers, home countries or other childhood memories. It seems, once we finally amassed all this money we thought we needed, that what makes us really feel whole and happy is a memory of emotional security.

The saying ‘Money Can’t Buy Happiness’ is true in so far, as happiness is born from self-confidence not financial security. Yesterday, we returned to Playa Santispac and met again,Carlos, the owner of a restaurant on the beach, who told us about illness in the family and the money troubles that had put him in and the next moment he was singing to himself while sweeping his restaurant and watering plants.

How much do we need? How much money is enough? What will make us feel secure? When will we feel complete?

If you ask banks and businesses, it’s  never enough. The world economy is based on constant growth. Any signs of a slow down can tip the balance and can lead to a crisis. If consumers feel insecure about their future, they start saving and slow down spending, and that hurts the economy, which is dependent on growing demand.

In capitalism, markets are not regulated and consumers are trained to want more, in socialism with its controlled markets, economists try to calculate consumer needs in five-year plans and notoriously fall short. The fall of the Eastern Block and its socialist countries created growth for two decades. Capitalism had won the race and with it gained millions of new consumers. The world population grows steadily as well and with it grows demand. Industrialized agriculture aims to feed the growing world population, but renders the soils infertile, without fertilization and pesticides crops would dwindle. Industries supply goods at high costs to our living environment and the planet.

Where will this all end, I am asking myself. Will it help to reduce now and find an economic model, which will actually be valid in the future? A model, which will give us a future? Can we imagine a future without growth or maybe with a different kind of growth?

Sweden burns all its trash and while doing so, harvesting the heat created to use for heating. The ‘Blue Economy’ (link here to an interview of it’s inventor Gunter Pauli and a Telsa World talk about ‘Blue Economy link here) is a model, in which every single thing is either reused and recycled, byproducts or trash of one manufacturing plant are used in another one close by.

Until now, our manufacturing and production of goods focuses on products, conventional or environmentally sound products alike, they are produced far away from where they are being consumed. The rules of the game are profitability and monetary gain for the producers and this is what needs to be changed.

Like with our life, profits and gains are not everything, because the most important human need is not part of the calculation. What if, we would include in that profit calculation governmental subsidies, carbon foot print and how far a product travels, production pollution and trash produced to make the product, labor law violations and so on.

What I am suggesting is, that a product can harm people not only by harmful ingredients, or how it’s made, it can harm the worker, the environment, the consumer. If we are honest, this is all enbodied in the product and should be oart of profit calculations.

Bhutan recently decided, as the first country in the world, that the happiness of its citizens is more valuable than the country’s GDP. The government sent surveyors out around the country to talk to the citizens about their needs and wants. They found out, that people want sanitary homes, healthy food, good education, a meaningful job and a strong community.

I wonder, if this result only reflects Bhutan, Third World Countries or the entire world. Would we be able to be happy with that or did the ‘Big Scheme’ get to us? Many of us feel empty, hollow really, because of the ‘Big Scheme’, we feel in our bones that something is not right and it all doesn’t make sense. We know that the way we live, produce and consume could invigorate us and our planet, instead of depleting it and us. Just because we invented this kind of production some hundred-fifty years ago, doesn’t mean its right and that we have continue on this path. We are constantly reinventing, perfecting and throw flawed things out, why not reinvent the rules of the game of economies. I understand resistance to change, because change does not always bring progress. If we accept the fact that we outmaneuvered ourselves, backed ourselves in a corner with this ‘constant growth economy’, we can imagine, innovate and improve this model and come up with an economy that is sustainable and just. Native peoples all over the planet lived for thousands of years without harming their environment. We could too, if we would have the heart to be brave enough.

 

The headline picture was taken in near Stuttgart in Baden Würtenberg, where the Staufer ruled the lands for hundreds of years from cone hill top castles.