4. The Future

Al Gore’s latest book, The Future, is an ultra-sobering work which anyone concerned with the prospects for planet Earth should read. Gore’s dispassionate approach to the dire consequences which face our children and grandchildren literally bowled me over. The world he describes seems bent on self-destruction but also appears to be spinning out of control.

The first 201 pages offer a stiff-upper lip recitation of what is going wrong, not only in America but also in the world. Gore’s deeply felt insights of the takeover of democracy by corporate interests in America must be taken seriously. The remaining 176 pages of text  address the possible ways of dealing with the environmental calamity facing us.

Gore’s coverage of lobbyists and corporations, the growing inequality of incomes and wealth in the US, and even the counter-productive indicators of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) as well as the lack of leadership and our diminished ethical concerns are all painfully commendable. As opposed to most politicians currently in high office, Gore does not advocate growth as a cure-all. Instead he devotes enormous energy to warn us about the growth of:  population, mega-cities, joblessness, pensioners, migrations, robotics, technology, inequality, corporations, waste and of course of the increased pollution of both air and water. This is just a partial listing of a torrent of the compelling challenges facing us. These range from increases in obesity (he himself is overweight) to the depletion of topsoil on a global scale.

Although Gore is weak in proposing solutions and in particular in offering us alternatives, there is no sensible alternative to reading his book. Gore strongly urges from the first chapter  that capitalism must become sustainable and suggests that to do this the short-term perspective of those managing corporations, banks, and investment must be altered. He writes that “the only policies that will prove to be effective in restoring human influence over the shape of our economic future will be ones that address the new global economic reality on a global basis.” (p.35) Such words of wisdom are hardly instructive.

When faced with this challenge a decade ago, I wrote Dollars or Democracy, and proposed solutions which no one at that time wanted to hear! NPR (National Public Radio) executives refused to give me/or the book air-time because they explained that its radical approach would cause Republicans to further cut the already reduced funds for National Public Radio. As future blogs will explain, my proposal for an Incentive Economy was predicated on the restructuring of all corporations into cooperatives. I also presented a plan how to replace capitalism with a less competitive, less profit motivated, less corrosive and far more collaborative socio-economic system — see: http://www.fdnearth.org/essays/capitalism-cant-be-reformed-try-the-incentive-economy/

A takeover by universal cooperatives would have major consequences: it would slow  down the pace of change dramatically. (This is essential because technological advances have moved faster than either societies or individuals can safely handle- and this ranges from nuclear weapons/reactors to the introduction of robots, nanotechnology, and the computer generated age of the global internet.) The commitment of cooperatives to long-term planning as well as to the immediate surroundings of its members, would give a tremendous boost towards protecting the clearly embattled environment. Cooperatives would not put an end to growth, but would  effectively reduce both output and the growth of demands. As one can observe in cooperatives like the much vaunted John Lewis Partnership in the UK,  UPS in the US, or Mondragon in Spain, their members share in the profits and are protected in their jobs.

Perhaps Gore, a man now worth hundreds of millions of dollars, can afford to be generous about capitalism in the 21st Century. I am concerned that his wealth may cloud his otherwise sharp vision of how capitalism is perverting the course of humanity. As I pointed out in an earlier work, Towards the Millennium, (1996) capitalism was instrumental in taking us out of the feudalistic agricultural era and ushering us it into an industrial one. However, in the over-populating world of 2013 which is hurtling us unprepared into the new era of global communications and nanotechnology, capitalism is no longer the right economic system

I do not view the United States of America as a failed democracy as polymath Gore does. I recognize that it certainly is a struggling one. If the glaring inequalities forced on the American people by the corrupting force of corporate driven capitalism do continue then a systemic economic break-down seems inevitable. Perhaps that would be a first cataclysmic step towards a Braver New World.

See:

Al Gore, The Future (2013)

Yorick Blumenfeld, Towards the Millennium: Optimistic Visions for Change. (1996);  Dollars or Democracy (2004)

Joseph Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality, (2012)

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3. Quoting Teddy Roosevelt

“The Republican party is now facing a great crisis. It is to decide whether it will be, as in the days of Lincoln, the party of the plain people, the party of progress, the party of social and industrial justice; or whether it will be the party of privilege and of special interests, the heir to those who were Lincoln’s most bitter opponents, the party that represents the great interests within and without Wall Street which desire through their control over the services of the public to be kept immune from punishment when they do wrong and to be given privileges to which they are not entitled.”

Those words were uttered 101 years ago and they are just as applicable to the Republican party today as when Theodore Roosevelt uttered them. Why have the conservatives not learned from this?

What this great Republican had (and which contemporary Tea-Party badly lacks) is an appreciation of what it means to be conservative. Conservation entails a protection of the environment- not an appeal by the likes of Rep. Eric Cantor to exploit it, nor to lease protected lands to corporations for fracking for gas, drilling for oil or stripping mountains for coal without EPA approval. Teddy Roosevelt wanted to save America for posterity not sell it for profit. Republicans are now in such a confused state that they cannot even accept such a basic concept as “the public interest.” Until this once great American political party shakes off its indebtedness to narrow corporate interests, I firmly believes there can be NO HOPE for its renewal.

See : Al Gore, The Future, (2013), pp. 92-140
Yorick Blumenfeld, Dc (2003)

2. Creating Millions of New Jobs – Enhancement through Youth Mentoring

I first came across mentoring as a ten year old refugee at a summer camp in the U.S. when a councilor took pity on me because I could hardly speak English and seemed totally lost. This young blonde mentor was to guide me through all four weeks of what would otherwise have been sheer hell. Ten years later, in the summer of my sophomore year at Harvard, I myself took to guiding teenagers in a New England summer camp and found the mentoring most rewarding.

Today I am haunted by the knowledge that this global economic crisis is hitting the younger generation particularly hard.1 Young adults around the world between the ages of 16-26 are finding it hard to find any employment while youths between 10 and 18 are struggling with difficulty to find their bearings. There are no statistics for the 10-16 year olds in terms of what they need, but the Mayor of Los Angeles has said that 600,000 youngsters in that city alone are in dire need of guidance. I believe that in terms of the social wellbeing of any society such conditions are not acceptable. In London, which has also been affected by youth-fuelled riots, Mayor Boris Johnson, a strong supporter of mentoring programs in the inner city, said on January 8th: “For many, mentoring can have a dramatic and positive effect, helping teenagers turn their backs on the lure of gangs or criminality.”

Numerous forms of mentoring exist for business, academia, health and prison reform. My proposal is to turn mentoring for the young people into a job opportunity for the slightly older ones.2 Mentoring, coaching, guidance and teaching jobs which desperately need to be created for those under 25 are currently being lost . My proposal is to create millions of entirely new jobs for those in need. As mentoring is a form of personal counseling, training and qualifications are essential.3

Our young people in the age group from 12 to 18 are bewildered by the worlds opening up before them, are in need of guidance and one-to-one contact. Parents are often too busy or absent and frequently youthful rebellion makes the new generation look elsewhere. Harassed teachers are often unavailable for such personalized attention. The peer group of these youngsters is unhelpful because they are themselves exploring and insecure with a sense of being isolated and stressed. They feel they don’t know where to turn for questions regarding their mood swings, intimacy, puberty, sex and drugs. Their issues range from the lack of part-time jobs to the future of our environment.

At the same time, those in the northern hemisphere nations finishing college or university or even high school have a different set of challenges facing them, mostly surrounding work and finding both meaning and direction. In an era when education itself is facing all kinds of cuts and challenges, I believe that a vast program of Enhancement through Mentoring would be a direct way of catering to the needs of both groups described above as well as to the needs of a society which is desperately searching for new ways to create meaningful employment.

Mentoring already plays a major role in the voluntary sectors of the U.S. and the UK. Look at the internet and there are hundreds of different mentoring groups scattered around our countries catering to all ages.4 Because by its very definition its “remit’ is so wide-ranging, mentoring has not received official recognition. This proposal suggests that to alter the status of mentoring from a voluntary into a state approved one is essential.

In my innovative approach, our young, starting at the age of about 10, would be given mentors to help them in the non-cognitive aspects of life.5 Yet few of these vital aspects are seldom, if ever, covered in school for so many youngsters faced with the challenges of belonging and identity. All children, even at the pre-adolescent stage, greatly need and seldom receive much guidance and advice from an older person. 6 They often are in search of role models.

Mentoring could be done by all those who have finished high-school (for the younger ones) or who have finished college (to help guide teenagers.) Mentors also could identify those youngsters with special scientific skills as well as those with creative ability and imagination.

Each “mentor” could be paid for this assistance on a commensurate basis including transport and hours spent mentoring. For example those mentoring 6 students for four hours at $10 (£7) per hour could earn $240 (£160) per week. Those mentoring 12 students could earn more. Even a modest program could lead to several million “mentors” being employed and sponsored by the state .

Those kids entering their second decade would see rapid improvements in their self-confidence, determination, self-control, and resilience. They would experience delayed gratification and ways to accept or overcome disappointment and failure. They would increase their attention spans and planning skills.. All too many children in the 21st Century are not getting support in crucial areas like character building.7 The time is truly ripe for a breakthrough in providing such a fundamentally essential program.

All of us must begin to recognize that in the age of the Internet with its built-in remoteness from real human contact, mentoring must gradually become an integral part of the educational systems as they have developed and are now being revolutionized. Al Gore has pointed out in his brilliantly insightful new book, The Future, “the resulting explosion of thought and communication has stimulated the emergence of a new way of thinking about the legacy of the past and the possibilities of he future.”8

The personal, one-to-one relationships in mentoring are often challenging. One recent mentor at an historic private school in England explained how some of the older boys in this establishment were upset that the new guidance being provided to the first year entrants was contrary to the historic traditions of “fagging.”(as this hazing is called.) One senior protested that, “I went through it all so why should it stop now, when it’s my turn?”

I can hear voices of Tea-Party ilk yelling, “Mentoring? Yet another instance of state intervention when we need less” and “Where’s the money for this coming from?” Paying for new endeavors is a subject which I shall deal with in blogs to come. The problems immediately at hand are to recognize the human and educational challenges faced by young people. A launch of such a program would offer vast new opportunities for coming generations. In discussions I have had on his subject it has even been suggested that national Mentor “drafts” could be considered as an approach.

Mentoring of the young has been around since the days of the ancient Greeks, but it has generally been a voluntary activity and not a community or state funded one. My hope is that this blog will help to change the public attitude. Much is being written about mentoring but very little is being done to assist those most in need: the younger generation.

Enhancement through Youth Mentoring thus represents a bold and challenging proposal to help both the young and those out of work. To succeed it will take massive public support and this can come in part through your potentially viral contacts on the Internet.

1 http://blog.euromonitor.com/2013 key-facts-about-global-youth-unemployment.html

2 http://www.state.gov/i/gyi/

3 www.mentoruk.org.uk

4 www.mentoring-uk.org.uk

5 This would include such specific aspects as: curiosity, memory, expression, persistence, competition, cooperation, efficiency, friendship, patience, endurance, failure and success, concentration, imagination ,desire, denial, inhibitions, frustration, efficiency, priorities, accepting differences, risk, respect, self-fulfillment, self-expression, harmony, commitment, sacrifice and excellence.

6 www.youthmentoring.org

7 See: How Children Succeed, Paul Tough, (2012)

8 Al Gore, The Future, (2013) p. 51

1. QE+ (The Questionable Economics of Quantitative Easing!)

QE+ is the wonderful name of the new ship of economics: Quantitative Easing.

Like all ships there is always the danger of it foundering on the rocks or hitting a glacier or simply being hit byanother ship, like the Euro.

Like all contemporary vessels of its kind, QE is dependent on the trust of the passengers in the skills of the  captain and his crew. No confidence and soon there will be no cruises.

Until recently there has not been much confidence in Capt. Oz (borne under-water) but in December he announced a truly spectacular and most imaginative way to improve the ballast on his ship.

Captain Oz had agreed with the Bank of England that interest payments created by the QE program would become temporary receipts for his Treasury with no fixed date  for any eventual return. These interest payments of £35 billion over the next year and a half could help fuel the ship of state and help to keep the  increasingly restive and poorly paid crew on-board.

Recognizing that  QE is another expression for printing money which, admittedly, is a skilled craft, paper notes are a solid means of exchange  and in the German hyper-inflation of 1923 were used as toilet paper. However such paper dollars and pounds are  far more real than the electronic blips of billions of pounds sterling  and trillions of dollars being circulated daily by traders.  No wonder those floating in that fantasy world of currencies tend to lose their sense of proportion, balance or value as revealed at the recent conference in Davos.

The exceptional opportunities raised by introducing interest on QE+  could provide the funds necessary for all kinds of public projects. The rosy prospects are tantalizing. Why cut back on the arts, on education, on aid to the voluntary sector, not to mention health care, defense, or the police, when one can use the interest payments on vast sums borrowed from interest payments  to the Bank of England?

We keep on hearing in the media about the dangers of economies falling off the cliff, or collapsing, or imploding.The implication is that the entire fictional financial construct is no sounder that. The unending economic crises one hears and reads about  are mostly unreal but the fears and frightened reactions of the people are genuine.

With a bit of flair, confidence and optimism  our prospects could improve dramatically. The equally unreal but dim prospects of recession, depression, and collapse could be reversed overnight with just the right control of new resources from QE+.   Like life, the economy is what you make it.  The true art, which  regrettably is not being practiced by either economists or politicians, is how to make the very best of  the largely fictional financial world we inhabit. The highly discreet (secret) use of “derivatives” from Quantitative Easing+ could provide the funds necessary to put an end to the recession in the UK as well as in the USA. Don’t worry about the repayment of the interest moneys borrowed, Oz and the Bank of England didn’t fix any date either.

For further reading turn to : The Future of Money , Oliver Chittenden (editor) ; Yorick Blumenfeld, Dollars or Democracy (2004) .; and Quantitative Easing  in Wikepedia.

http://www.fdnearth.org/essays/capitalism-cant-be-reformed-try-the-incentive-economy/