TED Conversations

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  • Sep 20 2013: You simply can't because we refuse to stop consuming, the whole idea of pursuit of profit (aka power) as an end in itself is Sisyphean. We need alternate system of values beyond money, right now we live in a world which doesn't reward being a good responsible citizen with resources. Until we enrich responsible forms of life and give them power over the irresponsible half of humanity, we're screwed.
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      Sep 20 2013: Bob, I agree with your sentiments, but I have to interrogate the Sisyphus reference. Why do we always assume that Sisyphus is a tragic figure? Because we orient ourselves solely toward goal achievement. This is also the problem with the economic logic that promotes "grow or die." I would like to revisit Sisyphus and suggest another conclusion: Sisyphus was a guy with a goal. He drew meaning from the process of his struggle. He found meaning in the effort of rolling a boulder up a hill, and he was rewarded each day with the opportunity to do it. Most people in the world would love to have clarity of purpose and the opportunity to pursue purpose and meaning. So long as we remember that the meaning is in the journey and not the destination, we could tap into the unlimited potential of cities by offering everyone the opportunity to manifest their potential and find meaning in the hard work of making cities better. Just a thought...
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        Sep 20 2013: This is such a vital piece of an inclusive and healthy city: "offering everyone the opportunity to manifest their potential and find meaning in the hard work of making cities better."

        Still, opportunities for such participation will not, I think, compensate for a lack of employment opportunity. The majority of people want to be able to take care of their families through their own work.
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          Sep 21 2013: That is the key, Fritzie. Let's hear from others about successful ways to provide people and families the opportunity to contribute through their own work. One idea that I like: micro-work through organizations like SamaSource that build pathways to formal employment for slum dwellers through low-skill tech-based jobs. Check out Leila Janah's Tedx talk.
        • Sep 21 2013: These low-tech jobs like micro-finance might help some, no denying that. But, you need to look at the ways to link marginalized populations to high wage, high quality jobs as well. There is a form of ethnic entrepreneurship linked to such high quality jobs that shows one piece of the puzzle: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001490/149086E.pdf#page=86
          Technology has to be put into a larger context, e.g. the role MIT played in expanding an African American middle class, i.e., http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/technology-and-dream These are two studies that show how the marginalized gain access to education and entrepreneurial platforms for high wage, high quality jobs. They show that the policy architecture has to encompass: a) higher education, b) entrepreneurial platforms, c) inclusive structures that increase the numbers of marginalized actually employed. The low tech, low wage social intervention is very popular these days as a first bridge, but you have to complement that bridge to others in higher waged, more developed sectors/skills/platforms via job ladders: http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1023&context=books
      • Sep 21 2013: Then I'll say it differently, you can't have people 'pursuing meaning' because a large segment of societies meaning IS consumption itself. Good lucky convincing millions of materialistic people to live for 'meaning'. That option has always been available if you're willing to think critically about the world and simply live for enough money and spend it only on food and shelter. Plenty of people already have that opportunity today but they've been raised incorrectly by bad parents, or are just too stupid and unintelligent to live in that way.

        I have a large family, and at least half of them would never understand what you just said. They'd take up arms against your thinking because they don't want to be told what to do.

        You need to look into the sordid history of the ford foundation, TED is a front organization to white wash corporate bs mostly.

    • Sep 21 2013: Politicize consumption by all means, but some consumption of public goods is a good thing, e.g. mass transit, alternative energy and the like. The real challenge is to figure out how to increase the procurement and consumption of these public goods. One way, emphasized by the Global Teach-In, is to support alternative banks, alternative procurement streams, alternative energy utilities that are cooperative or controlled by the public.
      • Sep 21 2013: It won't be enough, because we had those things in the past and private institutions confiscated national banks. You have to understand the M.O. of american empire, the purpose of all governments is to maintain capitalist power. What you suggest is highly socialistic and has been tried by people like allende in south america. If you think the coporations of the world and the GOp and people like obama are just going to sit there while the people take back power and make the world a more socially just place, you're a deluded fellow who's never opened a history book.



        The real problem is the whole institutional organization of the market, you basically need everyone to be permanently employed by government as a whole. Before you can even begin to think about it. Technology has already displaced too many people to go back to simple private sector models of existing. This is why millions are on disability/welfare/food stamps. There are not enough jobs and money is misallocated.

        The whole theory of needing a job to get resources in a high tech society is a farce.
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          Sep 21 2013: With all due respect Bob, I think the "real problem" is people who do not believe in change, and therefor, do not want to explore further than their own established beliefs.

          "The person who says it cannot be done, should not interrupt the person doing it"
          (Chinese Proverb)
        • Sep 23 2013: Dear Bob, I thank you for your comments. I know all about Allende. John Gerassi suggested that he arm the people directly to mitigate a coup attempt, but he was told by Allende not to do that because he would lose a key constituency he needed. Read: John Gerassi, Talking with Sartre. Gerassi suggested even here there might have been alternatives. I don't deny that there is a U.S. empire, even Niall Ferguson (who likes them more or less) at Harvard talks about Empire. It is true that that political elites might try to constrain economic democracy. Yet, in the Cleveland model discussed by Gar Alperovitz we see local elites, even Republicans, backing cooperatives.

          Therefore, given what Gerassi discussed and what the Cleveland model represents we see counter-factual arguments to the idea that the "good guys always finish last," or structuralist arguments that evolutionary change is impossible.

          The point of encroachment by elites on such alternatives is partially related to a larger argument that revolutions are necessary because reform is too weak. There are several problems with applying that argument in this context. First, Ralph Miliband argues that reformism is not gradualism and discusses revolutionary reforms. Second, any revolution that did not create alternative institutions of the kind advocated above would fail (see "The Battle of Chile" for examples), i.e. political revolution without economic revolution. Third, you need economic capital to challenge political capital, without developing alternative economic capital you will loose. There are peaceful revolutions and there is a need for a new kind of urban social movement, but that's a different question beyond the scope of this debate. The idea that it is just the market has been challenged by David Ellerman who argues that firm governance changes can be more important than market changes. No more space to pursue that hre but to point to the book, "Making Mondragon."

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