From The New York Times, "Reactions: Letters to the Editor and Online Comments from Readers"
NYT Sunday Business, June 29, 2014 pg. 5
The Path of Inherited Wealth
To the Editor:
In "Why Inheritance is Not a Problem" (Economic View, June 22) N. Gregory Mankiw explored the economic reasons for families leaving bequests to their children--and what he saw as the positive effects on society overall. The column argued that most of us gain when wealthy families pass on their wealth to future generations--that the increased capital raises future productivity, bolstering wages.
This flies in the face of reality. Nearly all of the gains from increased productivity over the past 30 yeas have gone not to working people, but to owners of capital. And as our politics become more and more responsive to money, we get a vicious cycle of concentrated wealth leading to more political power for the wealthy and thus to less effective protection for the interests of the rest of us--the very issue that Thomas Piketty's book  addresses.
Brent Kramer, PhD
Brooklyn, June 23
 Capital in the 21st Century
"A very great vision is needed and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky."
-Thasunke Witko, Crazy Horse
Robin Kimmerer, PhD Dir. of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment, SUNY.
Some friends saw Robin speak at a recent conference held by Chicago’s Center for Humans and Nature and suggested I listen to her TED Talk. I did and was struck by the quality of her vision—revolutionary in the best sense, which means evolutionary, again, in the best sense. An Honorable Harvest, and its foundational epistemology, may enable us to “find the soft green path”, as Robin says.
Robin’s work embodies the ideas on which the Tecumseh Project began: a reclaiming of human values by looking back at indigenous epistemologies and ways of life that were crushed by expansionist modernity. She is a western scientist, a botanist and part Potawatomi, yet she says, still a new student of this culture, which is part of the Anishinaabe, or the “original people.” Her First Nations name is Light Shining Through Sky Woman, an apt description of her gift. “Instead of walking forward,” says Robin, “we should first turn around and pick up what our ancestors have left behind for us, gather up the teachings, then we will be prepared to find the soft green path.” We all have ancestors whose wisdom and knowledge and values have been swept away by the now dominant ideology. We all have some place to look for a better understanding of the world.
It is this very ideology, whose vessel of implementation is capitalism that has brought us to the edge of ecological and social collapse. We can give this ideology a name: neoliberalism, which is the transubstantiation of competitive markets into metaphysics. It is revolutionary in the worse possible way: neoliberalism divides, discards and concentrates resources and power leading to fragility and collapse. In her new book Expulsions (Harvard Press 2014), Saskia Sassen, Co-Chair of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University, describes the process as an “economic cleansing”, or the expulsion of the many, whether human or nonhuman, to strengthen the few. It is evolutionary in the most painful sense: as we might overcome a disease, our immune systems are strengthened. But sometimes we don’t overcome a disease.
Over the past twenty five years of practicing, and thinking deeply about, environmental and social justice, it has become clear to me—and an ever growing many—that we cannot engineer out way out of our condition as long as we operate within the dominant ideological frame. That frame has created the World Picture and keeps us trapped, conscripted to abide by its precepts. Unfortunately, nearly all efforts to address our problems operate within this frame, whether they are “market-based” solutions or well-meaning work in the fields of social justice or ecological restoration.
The pending, and inevitable collision of the economic with the ecological signals a collapse and a dystopic future. As evidence mounts this scenario becomes increasingly likely by the day. Yet it is not—not yet—a forgone conclusion. As Robin says, adopting a new understanding of the world as a place of gifts offers us the chance to flourish as individuals and communities. Indeed, she says, plants—who are higher beings than we—teach us that all flourishing is mutual; it is never singular, never concentrated. This she learned from her elders. Unsurprisingly, we can find something very similar in Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics--eudemonia, or flourishing, is not accomplished alone, but within a polis, a community. And it can never be accomplished within a neoliberal frame, which today Aristotle might recognize as pleonexic. Pleonexia is a Greek word often translated as “greed” but better understood as an insatiability that leads to injustice. As I have written elsewhere, neoliberalism is a pleonexic and psychopathic system; it is a system that forbids satiety and externalizes anything that does not add to its progress.
And so I hope you find Robin’s talk as enlightening and hopeful as I did. Her book, Braiding Sweetgrass appears to be sold out, but a new paperback edition is due soon.
Actual job posting in Chicago Tribune, Sunday May 11, 2014, Business ("Career Builder"), Section 2 pg. 9
Sr Assoc, Trdng Strtgy Dvlpmt 643901
Chicago, IL firstname.lastname@example.org
SUNRISE FUTURES, LLC-seeks Sr Assoc, Trdng Strtgy Dvlpmt to dlvp & implmnt prprty trdng strtgs,
incl wrk on implmntn of trdng infrstrctr, & dvlp mdls for automtd fin trdng strtgs usng fin engg tchnqs.
Min reqs: mast deg in comp sci, math, stats, engg (any) or rel + 1 yr exp in job or 1 yr exp in automtng sftwr processes, sftwr dsgn & dvlpmnt, sftwr prfmnc analy & optimiz, & cmplx data mdlng. Exp in orig rsrch,
analy & dvlpmnt of cmplx quant mdls. Exp w/Java, C++, MATLAB, R, Perl & Linux. Eff analy,
orl & writ comm & pres skls. Apply w/ JobID #1210 at email@example.com.
From Stealing Fire, True North Records 1984
The World According to Corporations
I've just been reading about Arianna Huffinton's new book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder, in today's Chicago Tribune. The article is part of the newspaper's "Blue Sky Innovation" series in which editors hope to enlighten readers about what is possible (within a certain frame), and coming next (as a result of that frame). Now I've always liked Arianna--her seeming epiphany many years ago that moved her from a self-absorbed far right myopic to a leading voice on what amounts to today's liberal-left. And she's funny. And now having reached a height of "success" she appears to be having another sort of epiphany. Good for her.
If you're a regular reader you may be thinking that Arianna's first two "success metrics" are quite foolish: wealth and power. But to "thrive", well that's something worth talking about--especially if that's where one starts, and aims to steer clear of the other two. Such a pursuit seems akin to Aristotle's eudiamonia, or human flourishing.
But what interests me most is the corporate culture that is adopting, not only Arianna's recommendations, but a panoply of ideas aimed at improving workplaces by adding nap-rooms, recreation, classes in mindfulness and so on and on and on. There is a grand movement going on within corporate culture that is trying to humanize a very anti-human environment. Look at the picture above--a company actually makes these chairs calling it a Metro-nap Energy Pod. And then ask yourself what kind of world has been built for us--by corporations--that there is a need for one of these contraptions just to find some peace. I laughed out-loud when I saw this picture, a huge guffaw, and thought AYFKM?! In reality, the chair is not about rest at all. It's about enabling continued and constant productivity, which itself is anti-human. Where is Aristotle when you need him!
That the pursuit of wealth and power and living in corporate culture requires such contraptions to treat our wounds indicates to me that there's something very wrong with what we're doing, day-to-day, year after year after year--something a metro-nap won't heal.
Thanks Arianna for your well-meaning thoughts. But I think we'll all be better off if we start, and finish, with wonder and well-being. Then I'm sure we'll have plenty of time for a nap...on a couch.
Revolution means "coming around," or "turning back", almost always towards justice, even if those aims are not met. It is an attempt to repair a tear in the social fabric. But it seems all revolutions fail; they become absorbed in themselves or reabsorbed by those towards whom the revolution had been directed. Perhaps [r]evolution is something different: a twining of strands that are compassionate enough to survive together. It is a question of values. As we look at the world with new eyes we can see these strands, these values--and begin to weave them together. It is a great and sad irony that Native American culture offers us rich and powerful threads to weave our way out of dystopic economics, and social and ecological collapse brought about by western extractive/accumulative civilization. Injunuity offers us an artful entrance into that culture.
Be in a good way with everything and everything you need will be provided you. But the moment you start taking and not giving back...taking without ceremony and without prayer, that's when it all starts falling apart, your world starts crumbling...
Learn more about Native American and Indigenous culture and work,
and the growing alliances with the Global North:
Indigenous Environmental Network
Idle No More
The Pachamama Alliance: "Connecting indigenous wisdom and modern knowledge for a just, sustainable, and thriving world."
World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, Cochabamba, Bolivia 2010
Video: Awaken the Dreamer: Changing the Dream (Part I and II, 45 min. each)
The Gospel of the Redman: A Way of Life, by Ernest Thompson Seton 1937 (pdf)
Life of Tecumseh and of his Brother The Prophet, by Benjamin Drake 1841 (pdf)
re-post from Yes! Magazine (subscribe, it's wonderful)
"Cowboys and Indians" Camp Together to Build Alliance Against Keystone XL
At the Ponca Trail of Tears Spiritual Camp, tribal members and their ranchers are learning to understand each other as never before.
by Kristin Moe, November 22, 201
Art Tanderup gives Faith Spotted Eagle a ride to Ponca Trail of Tears Spiritual Camp