Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Right Livelihood?

“Right livelihood,” is one of the cornerstones of Buddhist philosophy. That’s basically how you make your living and how you produce goods and services. The primary rule is that you harm no one, and increasingly it is interpreted to mean that you cause no suffering and no harm to the environment. There's a compelling and thoughtful discussion on "Right Livelihood" on Bill Moyer's blog here that is worth the few minutes it takes to read.

And never was it more needed.  Our rampant consumerism and growing inequality between rich and poor could lead to the collapse of Western civilization according to a new NASA-funded study written up at The Guardian’s Earth Insight blog. The study looked at the factors that have caused civilizations to collapse in the past and makes a compelling argument that we may be headed in that direction.

By investigating these past cases of collapse, the project identified the common factors which explained civilizational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.

These factors can lead to collapse when they combine and generate two crucial social features: the scarcity of resources compared to the size of the population and the division of society into two classes; the Elites [the rich] and the Commoners [the poor].

These two social factors have played “a central role in the process of societal collapse,” in all such cases over the last five thousand years. Currently, these factors are seen in our own global society at high levels with "Elites" based largely in  industrialized nations increasingly consuming  the greater share of the earth's resources, leaving the workers who do the physical labour that produces the wealth allocated only enough resources to maintain life at subsistence level.
In the scenarios the researchers studied, the “elites” were the last to feel the effects of the collapse, which, at first, were only apparent to those beneath them on the social ladder.

The wealth of the Elite means that they are protected from the worst effects of the collapse until much later than the Commoners, allowing them to continue  with business as usual despite the impending catastrophe. The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the coming catastrophy. 

As Marie Antoinette is said to have remarked when told the peasants were rioting because they had no bread, "Well, let them eat cake!"

For an increasing number, there is neither bread nor cake, nor hope.

Read the entire article at The Guardian.


Ellen Hogan said...

The collapse. I swear I can smell it on the wind. I find myself wanting a) to move further away from human beings and b) to move right into the fray to "get it over with." Gah. The mystery to me is how so many can find "happiness" screwing over fellow humans. I. Don't. Get. It.

Deb said...

Nor do I dear heart. There have always been rich and poor, but we have the means to make sure no one lacks the basic necessities of life, nor should they have to "be worthy" of them. They are worthy by virtue of being here, on this planet. Let no one go hungry, or worry about hunger, or shelter, or medical care and see what creativity arises when mankind is freed from the bondage of poverty.