Confronting Our Financial Bubble?

The financial crisis is bound to lead us to confront the bubble our society has created–For the last few weeks as bailouts and rescue packages have become the order of the day, we’ve been talking about huge numbers,numbers which most of us do not comprehend. How many of us really understand what a trillion dollar means? I just read a staggering number. In a recent article the Los Angeles Times details the breakdown of the money the United States government has committed to rescue Wall Street and the financial system, although not all of it has thus far been tapped. The number: $8.5 trillion. This $8.5 trillion includes such things as $700 billion for the Troubled Asset Relief Program or $1.8 trillion for the Commercial Paper Program which buys short-term notes from companies which use the proceeds to pay bills. I must admit I am not clear whether these are their bills or not. In fact as I read the list, I confess I do not understand it all. Like many, I have numerous questions. My questions, though, primarily revolve around the value of money, where it comes from, leads to and means. Assuming the decision makers know what they are doing–another set of questions altogether–the many trillions we are now spending–since it looks sure there shall be more in future than the $8.5 trillion of the article–will at some point have to be accounted for. Is that when we shall come face to face with the limitations of our using money, with our over reliance on its material value? Is that when the bubble we have created about its role in our society will burst?

Human Rights–Alive and Well

The UN Declaration of Human Rights is 60 years-old, no wonder we’re still have a long way to go–It’s fashionable for many to cite the absence of a more universally applied practice of human rights as an example of how troubled the world is. While there is truth in that statement, when seen in historical perspective, one comes to another conclusion. The Declaration of Human Rights guaranteeing freedom such as freedom of religion dates to December 10th 1949 and was spearheaded by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Human history is thousands of years old, and yet coming together to agree on human rights, what some of these rights are is only 60 years old! That may seem long to someone in their teens, or even twenties, but not to the rest of us. More important in terms of recorded history human rights is still in its infancy. Yes, as we practice its principles, we’re going to experience growing pains, we’re going to make mistakes, we’re going to be imperfect. The point is not how ideal is our practice, but whether it is making headway in the world, in our respective countries, in terms of its being generally accepted. Fact is it is. For one thing it is now an accepted principle, even when we disagree on what rights it actually entails. And that is a human accomplishment! We are not turning back, and though progress comes too slowly for those who are suffering from its lack, be it Tibet or Myanmar, Darfur or North Korea along with so many other places, the cause of human rights is alive and well.

A Lesson From Zimbabwe

We must find ways to deal with countries like Zimbabwe–Until a few years ago Zimbabwe was a success story. It had a certain stability and economic prosperity. It had problems, but it also had a future. In the last couple of years and certainly in the past year Zimbabwe had degenerated into a chaotic state with the economy is totally dysfunctional, unemployment the norm, food shortages and hunger an everyday occurrence, a health care system that is non-existent and now the threat of a cholera epidemic. It’s a man-made crisis, mainly the consequence of what appears to be the mental imbalance of its president Robert Mugabe. The situation is so dire that even Bishop Desmond Tutu last week suggested that if Mr. Mugabe does not step down, he should be removed “militarily”.
There has to be a better way than to allow countries to deteriorate into the level of suffering now being witness in Zimbabwe. I have no answer only the seed of an idea. The diplomatic apparatus of stable countries needs to include a plan or two for dealing with such cases. The United Nations must be empowered to create a special force. A protocol must be developed as to when this force is to be deployed. The point is that we cannot sit there lamenting the situation as we do with Congo, with Darfur, with Somalia, can no longer satisfy ourselves that the voices of celebrities sharing ugly facts is enough to act. It’s all too reminiscent of the fate of Jews in Nazi Germany. We’ve had enough genocides and crises since to accept that we must find a way to deal with governments that hurt their own citizens. If not we become accomplices in the horror and fail in the responsibility each human being has towards his and her human siblings.

Making History

By voting for Barak Obama, it is the American electorate which made history–As we talk about the election, we can’t avoid mentioning its historical significance. the idea is that as the first African American to be elected, Barak Obama made history. It may be that another perspective is far more accurate, the people who voted for him made history. Without each and every single vote the victory would not have been possible. It is an important distinction because it is We the People, though we were made up of a different group in those days, who discriminated and insisted on Jim Crow laws. It is We The People who perpetuated segregation and all its indignities. It was therefore up to We The People to undo it, and that is what happened last November 4th. For the karma believers it was a karmic debt created by The People and therefore one We had to undo. For the more traditionally minded, it was an example based on the biblical notion that the sins of the father are visited upon the sons, a principle therefore enjoining us to take responsibility to redress the wrong of our forefathers. In that context it may have taken a few generations, but it was nonetheless accomplished. Either way it speaks for the power of the collective, for the relation of the individual to the whole, and for the importance each voice does hold.