It’s All About Time

earth peace                           

Don’t follow the money – change it! More on such a tremendous undertaking later on. Meanwhile little Greta and millions of other youngsters walking in her footsteps are crying out to us. How long can our only planet be sold for the ever-increasing profit and production that are ravaging it? How long can the human family permit itself to be brutalized by violence, physical and economical? How much longer can the squanderingour wealthon machines of war and anger be tolerated, disrupting the need for genuine change in “ways we’ve always done it”?

This can no longer be a world flexing and straining for power. Surely it’s a time when ALL must gather as one to dismiss senseless pride in geographical boundaries bearing less and less significant meaning. Impose impractical traditions no longer truly relevant.

Some say we’ve sailed into a perfect storm; others may even cheer the prospect of Armageddon. Whatever you choose to call this alarming confluence of warming, planetary degradation, poverty, social turmoil, political and religious fundamentalism – it’s like nothing humanity’s ever confronted! Scientists, 15,364 of them, tell us we’ve unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years. Many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of the century. Maybe sooner. Much sooner. Homo sapien with its large brain could well trail our large bodied, reptilian predecessors back into the ethers. Presently we remain180 degrees out of whack unless present surges in nationalism can shift us back toward internationalism. Now that old threat, if we don’t learn to live together we shall most certainly learn to die together, has almost become a cliché!

Here we’ll use “Sermation” as a simple short-hand for three extremely vital aspects of human culture. Service-Information-Automation,. Service to self, others and planet. Essential and accurate data. Dynamic high-tech tools. The need to properly direct these systems now lies well beyond the Revolutionary. Change on an absolutely Evolutionary scale is now demanded! Are we even up to it? As the French President reminded our congress – there is no Planet B.

Such a gigantic undertaking. Only time, running so short, will tell. Consider the picture-perfect title Katherine Anne Porter gave her novel, “Ship of Fools.” We’re all aboard mighty S.S. Humanity foundering in Anthropocentric tempests. Many fear it’s already crumbling under crashing waves of change few of us can even fathom. Given such turbulent, uncharted seas, it matters little if you’re in First Class, the engine room, or huddled in steerage. All share this moment in time. Time, as you’ll see, the topic of this message.

It’s truly all about TIME. Dashing past more rapidly than ever. A factor ever so critical in neo-liberal, Capitalist economies. For example, the world’s wealthy and their market wizards direct their wealth, whether in yuan, kopeks, euros, bucks or bitcoin, hurtling through cyberspace in nano seconds! To the point of actually moving their machines in closer, physical proximity to the “Street” in order to gain even that split-second advantage over competitor’s deals or transactions. Technical lifeblood in a monetized world. Those same machines that allow millions of us to vote for our favorite TV dancer or entertainer within minutes. Couldn’t they be put to better use? The late journalist, Ed Morrow, might well have been describing most of today’s media when he referred to television as “a sword rusting in the scabbard.” Imagine if issues pertaining to survival were to get even half the exposure of say, Coca Cola or Geico. Indeed we do have the tools to fight for our world…

Bringing us right back to that only commodity in life of any true value. Time. What might the Shah of Iran, Steve Jobs or Howard Hughes have given for even one more year of time here on earth? Ironically in the grand scheme of things we are, each and every one of us, allocated that same invaluable twenty-four/seven miracle! Yet one has to wonder why we consider the worth of that same rations beyond estimation for some; while for so many others, their time’s considered virtually valueless?

The late television chef, Anthony Bourdain, was eating (of course) andchatting across a table in Beijing with a famed, Chinese economist. The old number cruncher asked a rhetorical question that’s passed through my own thoughts so very often. Maybe yours too.

            What, then, shall we do with people?”

No doubt a timeless enigma, but even more relevant now facing lives immersed in unemployment, underemployment, artificial intelligence and gig economics. Stirring worldwide tides of doubt on which our new “Strongmen” relish riding. Only through equitable application of Sermation values can raise all boats. Current structures of profit, overproduction and consumerist prodding continue devastating both humans and our planetary home. Despite events like the Great Recession, Occupy Wall Street and women and children currently in the streets, tremendous inequalities in the system grow in leaps and bounds. Even Picketty’swell-read  masterpiece “Capitalism in the 21st Century” doesn’t seem to have sunk in. Profit driven, market- based management has allowed amassing of enormous fortunes, while even the Greenest of New Deals continuing on these same tracks can have only limited potential. While Greenland’s ice flows into the sea.

We’ve come almost full circle in our sketching of time wasted. Looking back nostalgically, things really were different then – or at last seemed so. Yet even back in those innocent Fifties, longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer, wrote a book titled “The True Believer.” The gist of Hoffer’s thinking was if you run into someone with all the answers – run like hell! That includes insistence the keys to success are inevitably tied to wealth, acquisition or socio-economic status. So how about that future? Often fearsome and muddled in our minds the more we dwell on it. Paradoxically, perhaps there’s insight to be gained by simply slipping back to the future. More precisely, a couple of millennia back!

We humans have always been attracted to circles. A symbol of infinity woven into so many major religions. Let’s take a look at a particular one. The one associated with Chinese ancient, Lao Tse, who was walked the planet well over four centuries before the arrival of our Christian Messiah. Who isn’t familiar with the Taoist circle, its opposite colored halves, each containing a small segment of the other – usually black and white? Yin and Yang. The circle encompasses those halves, divided yet balanced. These two equal portions often linked to human qualities and characteristics. The lighter side Yang , for example,being male. The darker, Yin side, female. The male portion presenting left brain qualities such as competition, aggression, impatience, concrete conceptualization and analytical thought. The darker, female side, offering right brain abilities such as patience, cooperation, nurturing, emotional and wholistic thinking among others. Obviously in a state of balance, neither intended to overpower or be exclusive of the other. Might this not begin to shed some light on more desirable Sermation responses needed in addressing those same fragile, spiritual concepts of balance, so clearly out of kilter these days? Be assured our technological progress and innovation can still play an enormous role in this struggle for equilibrium within our deadly consumer culture!

Historically, even here in the U.S. we’ve sought to explore the rewarding aspects of time well spent. Take the “Cincinnati Time Store” operated by Jeremiah Warren from 1927 mto1930. It was our first use of labor-based notes and experience in “mutualism.” In other words, a sincere effort to reflect the true depth and investment value of each precious hour of life! In “Time” magazine, August 3rd, 2016, there’s an article by journalist Rena Farooher titled “What to do about the jobs that are never coming back.”  In it she expresses concern over a “rapidly emerging economic order in which automation and ever smarter artificial intelligence will make even cheap labor jobs obsolete, and give rise to a society that will be highly productive except in creating new jobs.” She goes on to quote Andy Stern, former head of Service Employees International Union who insists we must “provide Americans a universal basic income. (U.B.I.) A form of social security in which all citizens regularly receive an unconditional sum of money from government.”

Sound familiar? Democratic billionaire candidate and entrepreneur, Andrew Yang, promises each of us a $1000 monthly stipend if elected. A theme echoed to a lesser degree by some of his fellow candidates. The idea’s gaining traction as countries like Canada, Finland, New Zealand and Kenya experimentally dip their toes into that real pool of human worth. Time. Large portions of Kenya’s population are already receive “free money” over their phones. Kenyans had concluded that although helpful NGO’s (non-governmental organizations) were formidable planners and organizers, billions of dollars intended for poor communities never quite showed up! So now the funds go directly to individuals on their cell phones. Banking, commercial transactions, all taking place on that same, small instrument. You may well be reading these words on one. Eureka!! Homeless people don’t have homes? Provide one. People don’t have money? Give them some! Money grounded in time, people and planet well-being.

There’s great cause for hope as more and more towns and municipalities increasingly experiment with such notions as “time dollars,” basic trade- offs and commercial cooperatives. That nasty word, “The Commons,” is coming back into fashion despite much Libertarian hue and cry. Two ex-presidents, Obama and Carter, have come out strongly in favor of U.B.I. Mind-blowing stuff for a country still struggling with basics like healthcare and education! Yet aren’t these the very things that give rise to so many contemporary problems? A worldwide longing of citizens for nothing more than fair governance, human rights and dignity…

By now you’ve probably sensed where this is headed, and you’re likely right. The foremost and by far the best setting to continue our fair play search was born right here in San Francisco six decades ago. A forum of multi-national connectedness, established by nations grown worn and haggard by the horror and destruction of war. Under the guidance of our own Eleanor Roosevelt, they even went on to present us with the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

The United Nations? Of course! The sole entity even remotely capable of standing up to corporate power and global oligarchies, and able to furnish a community home where the vast levels of mapping out a time compensation system require. A tent under which we can gather Nobel laureates and renowned specialists in diverse fields ranging from climatology to currency, science and sociology. Along with so many other challenging activities vital to the survival, even flourishing, of the human species. The only organization capable of instituting Global Compacts allowing and balancing each society’s commercial, political and religious interests. One able to provide movement at the scale and speeds such a wide-ranging, re-valuation of our worldwide emergencies and necessary economic adjustments demand. Revaluing our precious minutes and planet. World government? Absolutely!

This all adds up to recognition of time’s tremendous value, including those activities perhaps never considered work in our actual day to day lives. Most definitely a matter of re-examining and adjusting the almost religious attributes presently assigned to capitalism – a fairly late comer in our human story. Over-consumption, over-population, all dragged into the impending glare of diminished time.

What actions or activities would constitute such “Compensable Activities”? What issues might even be considered worthy of “bonuses”? Perhaps such mundane things as caring for a sick friend or relative. Re-cycling? Ecologically refurbishing or solarizing homes? Purposeful re-use, living lightly. Even determined efforts at self-care! Surely joyful enterprises like planting a tree, growing a garden, care of our fellow creatures surely will qualify. Courageous efforts to cut back on commercial acquisitions, despite the frantic urgings of a consumer culture, definitely warrant recognition as well. Lifestyles reversing so many current trends. Participation inpublic activities and social organizations surely warrant increased notice. Generally speaking, the overall aim must be to minimize material gain in favor of rewarding all efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of ourselves, others, and our planetary home. Fair distribution of resources, a human goal from the Greeks, to the Enlightenment to Pope Francis, must finally prevail.

The vast scale and planning to re-direct Sermation levels for all is truly phenomenal undertaking, and time is short. Capturing quality of life issues never thought of as vital for the entire human family finally made possible, and just in time, by our growing A.I. tool kits. Label it a machine-induced spiritual awakening if you like. Clearly a worldwide war is being waged for our human spirit, yet what theology doesn’t solemnly pronounce “The least shall be first”? All the while encouraging limitless procreation as we humans multiply at speeds far beyond the planet’s ability to support us. Religion, at its core, claims must be vested in creation’s robe of worth and dignity vested in all of us. Securing the backing of world religions can surely be made more palatable through emphasis and resurrection of the humanistic “Golden Rule” threaded through each and every one of them. Yet so easily ignored – until now! Equally essential,the   burying of centuries of blood and treasure spilled over the altar of endless wars. Phenomenally cheaper to say the least! Choosing life, always more rewarding and surely cost effective.

One crucial difference in all this. Unlike the proverbial frog, we can actually reach the stove’s temperature knobs. But as one cynic remarked, “Here we stand, the power of the universe at our fingertips, lashed to a bow and arrow mentality!” Do the math. How many hospitals can be built for one aircraft carrier? One super bomber? Less than five per cent of the U.S “defense” budget would feed the world’s starving for one year. Imagine how many Malala’s could be schooled, cities refurbished, roads built for the cost of just two years’ war preparation? Presently the ticket for two year’s relative peace runs over two trillion dollars! Aren’t we told we simply don’t have the money for real peace resources? Really? Time is what’s short. Remember Bobby Kennedy’s inspiring words? “Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

My old granny constantly reminded me that necessity’s the mother of invention. She might have added this. Invention, of and by itself, isn’t necessarily a good thing without sane motivation! Who can doubt that the way ahead is fraught with danger, requiring great sacrifice? For some more than others, as is usually the case. There are so many challenges calling for amazing degrees of cooperation and organization. Perhaps like me, you often tug against life’s commands and constraints. Do it your way and all that. It might help to reflect on that enormous gap between regimentation and discipline. Put that issue to any kind of team member. They well understand it’s only through the latter that talent really flourishes!

T.S. Eliot in his poem “The Hollow Men” declared “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.” It’s said Eliot later regretted those words. Surely, we can avoid either! Take a more current author. American writer Amy Poehler says it well. “Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quit our voice because we are worried it’s not perfect?” So as we sit here in our imperfect and unbalanced world, let’s wrap up on a note of optimism.

Since my youth your writer has suffered the curse of idealism. Those familiar with this malady will surely sympathize. Much like Dr King with his humanistic yearnings, we all have our dreams. I dreamed  humankind would one day fulfill our true potential as the aristocracy of species. Live out our roles as stewards of this beautiful, blue island drifting in space and our fellow creatures. Clearly, we do have the tools to do the job. By the way, another word almost important as Time. Hope…

William H. White is a retired U.S. Air Force member, Human Services Counselor.




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