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Our Crisis is Not Economic

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Message Stephen C. Rose
The best way to understand the current economic crisis is to see that it is not economic. It is political, but even that designation is inadequate. It is a seismic evolutionary fissure that has yet to be fully identified. This post, and links to a few other exploratory posts on this blog, will seek to outline what I believe to be the prominent features of our situation and the likely avenues for a move into the future.The reason the current crisis is not economic is that our economy is by any measure unsustainable.

We cannot survive by hallowing indebtedness ad infinitum, both as a government panacea and an individual or family lifestyle or as a prominent feature of much business. A culture of indebtedness is not sustainable.

We cannot survive by palliative tweaks to our current structures under the label of "green". Current advertisements for companies that claim to be going green may lull us into believing that we can survive by moving this way and that among existing options such as various fuels.

Even if we could prop up the current system, it would not accomplish the best purpose of an economic system which is to make it possible for all within it to achieve a measure of relief from poverty, illness and ignorance. At its best our global system can be described as an amalgamation of capitalism (widely understood) and philanthropy, defined not in the amazingly narrow manner of a recent New York Times Magazine, but as the sum total of activities we engage in under the label not-for-profit. Including educational and medical institutions as well as the plethora of associations and NGOs and governmentl agencies that are non-profit (sic).

Our current system is a faltering machine whose product is benign genocide -- which I define as the sum total of global deaths that result from the way the system is set up. Any honest redoing of our global economy must at least recognize why the current mechanisms fail. Or else we shall be condemned to self-delusion. believing than incremental tweaks are a real solution and celebrating achievements whose celebration is in itself a cause for tears.

The answer to the conundrum created by acknowledging that our present economic system is unsustainable, is an integral politics which is providentially the potential of an Obama candidacy.

Such a politics can communicate that the solution to our problems is not merely a matter of moving beyond religious, racial, gender and cultural barriers, but by creating a culture of integral communication of the elements needed to conquer problems and of integral projects which exemplify such behavior in action.

If Barack Obama is elected, he will be a leader fit for these times. He will, I believe, propose not that we compete to bring our economy back but that we move to a post-oil, post capitalist-philanthropic, post-debt-enslaved, post-consumer culture based on a reclamation of key values that have been sliced and diced in our Balkanized intellectual environment.

The primacy of the individual. This is not conservative or liberal, it is simply the truth.

The primacy of public space as a measure of cultural attainment.

The creation of new human settlements based on a wedding of high technology and values implicit in Christopher Alexander's pattern language. These I envision as experimental nodes where groups live independent of the need to drive cars.

The understanding that being green involves doing so on a scale that requires what the New Testament calls new wine skins. In other words, it makes sense to build something green and integral from bottom to top that can be home and workplace and cultural space for from 5-10.000.

There is clearly more to all this. But, for the moment, this is enough to get the ball rolling.
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Born in NYC, attended Oberlin & Trinity Schools, then Exeter and Williams (Phi Beta Kappa 1958). Worked with the Reverend James Robinson, finished Union Theological Seminary in NYC (1961). Joined Student Interracial Ministry in Nashville. Founded (more...)
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