Saturday, 27 February 2010

Capitalism Generates Prosperity?

When discussing political ideologies, I often hear many people say that "capitalism generates prosperity". It might do so, but any prosperity that is generated through this system is clearly not being distributed fairly. Some political parties might talk about the importance of distributing the prosperity created by capitalism, but history has clearly demonstrated that most people who are only interested in earning millions of dollars for themselves are not really interested in sharing their wealth with other human beings. Furthermore, certain businesses have become so powerful that several governments have become little more than puppets whose strings are pulled in order to ensure that the interests of the business community take top priority. How scary!

The US has often been associated with easy money, luxurious lifestyles, and "democracy". The US might be similar to life in a holiday complex for a relatively small percentage of the population, but there are millions of US citizens who are suffering. The Hunger Report 2010, authored by the Feeding America organisation, "shows that hunger is increasing at an alarming rate in the United States". Listed below are some highly alarming statistics quoted from the same report:

* Feeding America is annually providing food to 37 million Americans, including 14 million children. This is an increase of 46 percent over 2006, when we were feeding 25 million Americans, including 9 million children, each year.
* That means one in eight Americans now rely on Feeding America for food and groceries.
* Feeding America's nationwide network of food banks is feeding 1 million more Americans each week than we did in 2006.
* Thirty-six percent of the households we serve have at least one person working.
* More than one-third of client households report having to choose between food and other basic necessities, such as rent, utilities and medical care.
* The number of children the Feeding America network serves has increased by 50 percent since 2006.

Absolutely shocking! I mean, every country could go through hard times whereby access to certain supplies might be reduced, but the incomprehensible part is this: there are 37 million Americans who are in desperate need of food in the US while individuals such as Kim Kardashian and Hugh Hefner are allowed to retain the resources that could greatly benefit their communities to themselves! Such greed leaves me reeling!

Perhaps I am so bitter towards the lies of capitalism because I also grew up believing that living well depended on getting yourself a good education and working. I have an Honours degree in Psychology together with a string of other qualifications, but the money earned until now has never been sufficient to invest it or to save for an emergency. Living in a credit economy where salaries are kept generally low so that people have to borrow money to buy various items, slavery to debt is practically inevitable. There are individuals in the US who owe thousands of dollars to one or more banks and such money was borrowed to get an education! Why put so much pressure on people? If people are not going to be paid much, there should - at least - be free education, healthcare, housing, transport...

Of course, it is far easier to live in state of denial and to continue thinking that everything is fine while we are almost constantly exposed to "talent" shows and to music videos produced by millionaires. The problem is that once celebrities such as Lady Gaga have finished singing a song, they will just continue raking in more millions of dollars whilst many other millions of people will be trying to make up their minds about whether buying certain medicines might mean the loss of a meal or two...


Saturday, 20 February 2010

A Jealous Lover Called Work

Once upon a time, work was regarded as a part of life. Besides work, many people often engaged in various activities, such as reading, writing, participating in group events, and so on.

During the past few years, it seems that work is becoming increasingly similar to a very possessive lover that will not tolerate any other rivals or interference. Indeed, with all the modern communication gadgets such as I-Phones, Blackberries, and laptops that could be utilised in free WiFi zones, it appears that it is becoming very hard for several individuals to be able to draw a line between work and the rest of their life activities. How many times has a family event been interrupted by a work-related SMS or phone call on one's mobile? For more and more people, leaving the office is no longer tantamount to finishing a day's work and to concentrating on other things. You did not manage to answer the 150 unread emails in your inbox? Don't worry! Just go home, log onto the Internet, and continue working from your bedroom! Friends and family can wait another day! Your health? Only weaklings complain about such things!

With the spectre of unemployment and the threat of competition that pervades capitalist societies, many people feel obliged to prove that they are indispensable to the company. Consequently, they tend to bite much more than they can chew. By having one's finger in so many things, the idea appears to be that of giving the impression that should they leave the company, the company's work will grind to a catastrophic halt.

The desire to feel indispensable has also fuelled a phenomenon called presenteeism. Put simply, many individuals remain in the office beyond business hours with the hope that even if they are not on top on things, they are still doing their utmost to achieve the company's objectives. Some also make it a point to show that most of the week-end was spent on work-related projects.

Over a period of time, the people who succumb to the temptation of making work the centre of their lives often realise that even though work might satisfy many of their psychological needs, such satisfaction comes at a heavy price. Spouses and friends often end up neglected, invitations to social events are turned down, and finding time to pursue other educational activities such as learning a new language are postponed to "sometime in the future". Furthermore, when people end up dedicating 12, 14, or 16 hours a day to work, there is little doubt that such strain is going to have a negative impact on one's health. I wonder how many families have broken down because of work-related pressures. How many friendships have wilted as a result of neglect. How many children have grown up with nannies since one or both parents are always at work. How many individuals have lost their lives or developed chronic illnesses as a result of work-related stress.

The question I keep asking myself is: why should one devote so much effort to increasing the wealth of some shareholders at the expense of one's own health, family, friends, personal and social development? Don't people realise that no matter how glorious one's current position might appear to be, a day will come when one will have to retire? And then what? Are the shareholders going to come to visit you in hospital and to hold your hand when you are so sick that you can barely ingest any food? Are the shareholders going to look after your loved ones?

I think that most societies should take a fresh look at the whole notion of work. Why do people work? What objectives should work allow us to achieve - as individuals and as a society? Shouldn't workers be treated with care from the cradle to the grave? Shouldn't work be more about building a better society characterised by healthy individuals rather than swelling the pockets of a relatively small number of people? The investigation continues...


Sunday, 14 February 2010

This Blog is Not Dead!

No, this blog is not dead! I have been extremely busy with so many things during the last few months, but I hope to have some more Internet time for myself in order to publish new, thought-provoking posts in the near future. :)))