Saturday, April 11, 2020

Where Do We Start?

You see this crisis as an opportunity?  Great!
You got a plan?  No?  Well I do.

Not too surprisingly, my previous post here was similar in nature to a lot of other posts that are showing up in progressive blogs around the globe, all saying essentially the same thing:
"This could be our best chance for a better world!"

"During lockdown, the pollution cleared and the birds were singing, showing us the environment that is possible!"

"We've had to lots of time to think about what's important.  Now we just have to make that happen!"
It's all very heartwarming and uplifting.  It gives us hope for a brighter future while we are trapped in our own homes, unable to socialize, unable to reach out and hug one another, unable to share the joy of being alive in-person with others.  A new world is possible!

Please, don't kid yourself.

Personal changes to your life will be wonderful.  They may bring you happiness and renewed purpose.  They may shine new light in your tiny corner of the world.  Don't get me wrong - that is awesome!  But how are we going to take this opportunity that you see and actually do something with it?  What are you actually going to ask your leaders to do that hasn't fallen on deaf ears before?  What do you think is really going to happen?

Whether we follow China's timetable and end the lockdown by the end of May or whether it drags on into June or July, when we do get the green light to return to normal, we will sprint for it.  The marketing might of every industry on Earth will be pulling us back into their line of thinking with every fibre of their very powerful being.  And we'll go back to the old status quo, not because all of us want to, but because we don't know how to fight that.  We don't know anything else.  The world we want hasn't been done before.  We don't know where to begin.  This is all unprecedented.

Economic catastrophes, on the other hand, are not unprecedented, and governments have been continually refining how to restore their monetary paradigm.  After the economic crisis of 2008, and for the next four years, the U.S. Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, and others started madly creating money out of thin air in order to avert total economic collapse.  Multiple trillions of dollars were printed with nothing but a prayer for the return of economic growth for decades into the future to back them.  And by their measures, it worked.  Meanwhile, the social values got worse.  Entire countries suffered austerity measures that they have yet to come out from under, millions more displaced peoples wander the globe seeking refuge from conflict and devastation, and populism has made a mockery of democracy and past advances in social justice and environmental protection.

This may be an opportunity to move forward, but all precedents point to a move backward - a loss of past gains and even deeper entrenchment in maniacally obsessive economic growth.  We are nowhere near the end of this crisis and look at what your government has already started.  The business bailouts have begun and the pitches have already started to have our economies roaring back sooner rather than later.  No-one on the news or in authority ever questions that objective as being what we all want.

On the flip side, those who long for change have no meaningful plan.  They are split between climate change activists, environmentalists, social justice seekers, spirituality practitioners, and biodiversity promoters.  Everything that they call for threatens jobs and the economy.  Yes, that is the point, but that point is lost on those that fear for their lives and understand that jobs and the economy are the keys to their survival.  I said it in my previous post, but it's worth saying it again:
The bulk of the world will never change its value system until it sees a real benefit in doing so, but the only way to see that benefit is if you are using a different value system.
I do not doubt that the scope of this pandemic, the pause effect on our lives, and all those other effects on the common person will have an impact.  At best, there will be many more who are drawn to a desire for change.  But chances are, the only real outcome will be a slightly higher proportion of the world population being distressed with the direction we're headed in.  Climate change and all the other global disasters will be back on track in no time.

Except for One Possibility...

Personally, so far, I see one chance for change.  One.

Consider what attributes any real change agent would have to have:
  • Something that did not directly threaten the status quo paradigm.
  • Something that, at face value, might even look like it would support the old status quo.
  • Something that had been tried already and shown to have success potential.
  • Something that does not immediately lower the corporate bottom line or the power of the super-wealthy.
  • Something that already has support on both ends of the political spectrum.
  • Something that could easily gain broad support from all the people.
  • Something that suited the circumstances.
And most importantly...
  • Something that could start small and had the potential of being a total game changer.
To figure out what that might be, I ask you:  What holds us back, every time?  Pandemics aside, what is our universal everyday fear?  What defeats the most progressive decisions of governments the world over?  What is the one thing you see touted on every party platform, regardless of where they lie on the political spectrum?


We must have jobs, preserve jobs, create jobs.  It's a policy with universal appeal because losing our job is the ubiquitous modern-day fear that the non-wealthy have in this country.  What if I lost my income?  What if my savings were wiped out?  What if I want to retire?  Jobs are equated with basic survival.  And so every single decisive move that any government wants to make gets weighed against the all-important job question because they know that's the deal maker or breaker.  So how might we ever escape this paradigm?

With a guaranteed basic income.

I am convinced, more than ever, that a guaranteed basic income (GBI) would be humanity's foot in the door that leads to the change we all want.  Free survival removes the survival imperative of having a job.  It is our best, most pragmatic, most realistic shot at turning this massive cruise ship around.  I see it as a first step towards restoring human values and literally changing our world.  Describing that process would take more time than I have in a single blog post.  I already posted a case for how a GBI might work in Canada, and what the benefits would be.  That article also addresses some of the common objections.  Note that a GBI does not replace jobs - it simply begins to change our relationship with them.  Perhaps in a later post, I will attempt to extract more from my second book-in-progress so that the pathway can be more comprehensively laid out.

Meanwhile, to all of you who have been reading my posts and others, cheering on the visionary writers, and spreading your hopeful optimism - to all of you who can truly see this tragic pandemic for the huge opportunity that it is - where are you going to start?

Let's throw our collective weight behind something that might actually achieve that brave new world.  Demand a federal guaranteed basic income.  That's where I think we should start.  And start now.

That's my idea.  I'd like very much to hear others...


  1. I know something is wrong with our way of existing, and change can happen by steps, even small ones. I don’t have the brain to tease apart the tangle we’re in as humans on this planet. But my learning (and leaning) as a biologist tells me that our numbers are unsustainable. Unlike other living beings, we protect ourselves from something natural— death— allowing lifespans which require years of supportive care for daily needs. And we grow our population exponentially, because we can. Bees have declined, forests have declined, songbirds have declined... it’s our turn according to Nature. We have to accept that we are part of all life on Earth, and not so exceptional that we don’t have to follow the same rules. We know Nature’s rules*, but will we choose to live (and die) by them? That would require a change in values that is unlikely to happen, and so our species’ future is set on a destructive course.

    *or do we? Many ‘educated’ people hardly know how a fish breathes or a tree reproduces.

    1. There are many who would agree with you that world population is at the core of humanity's difficulties right now. They describe our allocation of focus even on things like fossil fuel usage as using our water to top up the fish tank while the house burns around us.

      There are some interesting relevancies to the pandemic here. For example, the variable epidemiologists focus on is R0 - how many people are infected by an infected person. When R0 drops below 1, the pandemic is fading. Population growth has a similar variable, and (sexual reproduction being what it is) that number has to drop below 2 in order to have a similar effect. In other words, when the world average 'family' is having fewer than two children on average, the population will start to decrease. Many believe that this is directly correlated with rates of education, women's rights, and poverty eradication.

      Of course, as you point out, population is also affected by pandemics and longevity. In relation to my line of research, lifespan is a number-based value. A longer life is a better life - more is always worth more. I'd like to see a return of more human values, where quality of life has greater precedence. I think we are seeing more of that as the options to end one's life with dignity and medical assistance expand. As for pandemics, there is no question that population and frailty play a part in their spread, and vice versa.

      The first recorded person to propose a heliocentric model for our galaxy (where the Earth revolves around the sun) was an ancient Greek astronomer named Aristarchus - about 1,800 years before Copernicus. Some paradigms take a huge amount of time for Homo sapiens to accept. Eventually, we will realize that while we are special (just like the Earth is special), life on this planet does not revolve around us.

      You feel that the change in values is unlikely to happen. That may be so, but unlikely things do happen. My second book is devoted to actions that we can take that might nudge us in the right direction. Even if they don't work for society, I can say with some certainty that they can work for individuals, and we can each enjoy a higher quality of life without suffering that destructive course in our personal existence.

      That is my hope and my mission.

  2. Thanks for the well written post Andrew. We need to seize this opportunity - whether GBI is the mechanism to begin this change, I can't say, but it certainly would help.

    1. The Basic Income concept kept showing up in my research and pursuit of other options. I was almost convinced that it was by far the best first step - to remove society from being held hostage by their jobs.

      Then the pandemic tossed aside the detritus and made it really clear to many that this was a viable and powerful solution. It's relevance to the crisis that we're in makes it an even more ideal option, and the momentum that it is gaining is worth backing, in my opinion. This is one singular profound change, supported across the political spectrum, that we might actually be able to implement in our lifetimes.

      Let's make some noise, people.

  3. I think think the idea of a GBI is brilliant! I think it is long over due and its a new change that is needed as we shouldn't keep repeating what's been been done over and over again expecting a different result..that's insanity in it's finest form.

    Perhaps if the politicians (which are elected to serve us)can think outside the box,have the courage to grasp a new idea then we have hope to have the changes that humanity needs to have happen.

    Imagine too, that with this new way of living, they would even have the courage to change the structure of how we will be taxed in the future? A fair tax system for all, regardless of incomes, regardless of it making millions of dollars or income at the poverty line the amount would be equal ie:10 percent across the board, a figure sample. No more loop holes for anyone, this includes all corporations.

    The government's job I was taught was to govern, not to own businesses, not to take perks from companies so that same company would benefit and have major taxation breaks.

    Someone who makes millions of dollars, awesome good for you, now pay your fair portion just like everyone else.

    Now is the time to reset, restart and reinvent a plan for humanity for all to benefit. We may not get another chance.


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