Inspiration of the Week #64

March 18, 2013 through March 24, 2013

Real Democracy: Economic Democracy

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The month of March brings us the Spring Equinox and the beginning of new growth. March is derived from the Latin word Martius and is named after Mars, the Roman God of War. In Roman culture Mars was considered the guardian of agriculture and symbolized the beginning of the season for both farming and warfare. With late March upon us and the dawning of a new yearly cycle I would like to plant in your mind some seeds of new ideas that I believe are likely to grow and make progress in our lifetime. The idea is that of Economic Democracy (See Wiki Here). This Winter I read a new book titled Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism by Richard Wolff (Website Here) and was thoroughly impressed by his critique of our economic system and the solutions he presented. With all the rhetoric and propaganda embedded in our society and culture it is easy to be ignorant of some profoundly simple questions that we should be asking ourselves, one of which goes something like this; “How can we have a true Democratic society when the structure of its economic system is designed to be non-democratic?” In his book Professor Wolff elaborates on such questions which helps to raise awareness about the depths of our economic problems yet he also gives us hope for the future by suggesting a new economic model that can be easily implemented and developed under current circumstances. This past week I came across an interview in which Bill Moyers interviews Richard Wolff about his work. It is a great interview and I hope you find the conversation as enlightening and refreshing as I do:

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. There’s hardly a sentient grown-up in this country who isn’t aware that our economy is no longer working for vast numbers of everyday people. The rich and powerful have more wealth and power than ever; everyone else keeps losing ground. Between 2009 and 2011 alone, income fell for the 99 percent, while it rose eleven percent for the top One Percent. Since the worst of the financial crisis, that top One Percent has captured the increases in income while the rest of the country has floundered. Stunning, isn’t it? The behavior of many of those One Percenters brought on the financial crisis in the first place. We turned around and rescued them, and now their wealth is skyrocketing once again. At the bottom, working people are practically flat on their back. President Obama has finally recognized they need help. In his State of the Union, he proposed an increase in the minimum wage:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to nine dollars an hour.

BILL MOYERS: But as the economist Dean Baker points out this week, “If the minimum wage had risen in step with productivity growth it would be over $16.50 an hour today.” We talk a lot about what’s happening to the middle class, but the American Dream’s really become a nightmare for the poor. Just about everyone has an opinion about the trouble we’re in – the blame game is at fever pitch in Washington, where obstinate Republicans and hapless Democrats once again play kick-the-can with the problems we face. You wish they would just stop and listen to Richard Wolff.
An attentive and systematic observer of capitalism and democracy, he taught economics for 25 years at the University of Massachusetts and has published books such as “Democracy at Work,” “Occupy the Economy,” and “Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do about It.” He’s now visiting professor at The New School University here in New York City where he’s teaching a special course on the financial crash. Welcome, Richard Wolff.

RICHARD WOLFF: Thank you, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: Last night, I watched for the second time the popular lecture that is on this DVD, “Capitalism Hits the Fan.” Tell us why you say capitalism has hit the fan?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the classic defense of capitalism as a system from much of its history has been, okay, it has this or that flaw. But it quote, unquote, “delivers the goods.’”
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, for most everybody.
RICHARD WOLFF: Right.
BILL MOYERS: That was the argument.
RICHARD WOLFF: And so you may not get the most, but it’ll trickle down to you, all the different ways
BILL MOYERS: The yachts will rise.
RICHARD WOLFF: That’s right. The ocean will lift all the boats. The reality is that for at least 30 years now, that isn’t true. For the majority of people, capitalism is not delivering the goods. It is delivering, arguably, the bads. And so we have this disparity getting wider and wider between those for whom capitalism continues to deliver the goods by all means, but a growing majority in this society which isn’t getting the benefit, is in fact, facing harder and harder times. And that’s what provokes some of us to begin to say, “It’s a systemic problem.”

BILL MOYERS: So we put together some recent headlines. The merger of American and US Airlines, giving us only four major airlines and less competition. Comcast buying NBC Universal, also reducing competition. The very wealthy getting a trivial increase in taxes while the payroll tax of working people will go from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent. Colossal salaries escalating again, many subsidized by tax breaks and loopholes. The postal service ending service on Saturday. What’s the picture you get from that montage of headlines?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, for me it is captured by the European word “austerity.” We’re basically saying that even though the widening gap between rich and poor built us up, many of the factors that plunged us into a crisis, instead of dealing with them and fixing that problem, we’re actually allowing the crisis to make the inequality worse.
The latest research from the leading two economists, Saez from the University of California in Berkeley, and Piketty in France confirms that even over the last five years of the crisis, through 2012, the inequality of wealth and income has gotten worse, as though we are determined not to deal with it. All of those headlines you talked about are more of that.
I mean, the astonishing capacity to make it harder for people to have a delivery of their mail on Saturday, to save what is in a larger picture, a trivial amount of money, but that will really impact– thousands of people will lose their jobs, everyone will lose a service that is important, particularly in smaller places around the United States that are not served by anything comparable to the Post Office.
And then as you pointed out, and I have to say a word about it, this amazing display in which we raise the top income tax on the richest people from 35 percent to 39.6 percent only for those over $450,000 a year, while for the 150 million Americans who get a weekly or a monthly check, their payroll tax went up a whopping 48 percent from 4.2 to– this is so grotesque an inequality that you’re watching a process that is sort of spinning out of control in which those at the top have no limits, don’t recognize any constraint on how far they can take it.

BILL MOYERS: If workers at the bottom get the increase in the minimum wage that President Obama proposed in his State of the Union message, they will still be faring less well than their counterparts did 50 years ago.

RICHARD WOLFF: That’s right.
BILL MOYERS: What does that say to you?

RICHARD WOLFF: The peak for the minimum wage in terms of its real purchasing power was 1968. It’s been basically declining with a couple of ups and downs ever since. So that if you adjust for the current price, the minimum wage was about $10.50 roughly, back in 1968 in terms of what it could buy.
And it’s $7.25 today in terms of what it can buy. So you’ve taken the folks at the bottom, the people who work hard, full-time jobs, and you’ve made their economic condition worse over a 50-year period, while wealth has accumulated at the top. What kind of a society does this? And then the arguments have come out, which are in my profession, a major staple for many careers, are arguments that, “Gee, if you raise the minimum wage, a few people who might’ve otherwise gotten a job won’t get it because the employer doesn’t want to pay the higher wage.”
Well, if that logic is really going to play in your mind, then you should keep lowering the wage. Because if you only made it four dollars an hour, just think how many more people could get a job. But a job under conditions that make life impossible.

BILL MOYERS: Who decided that workers at the bottom should fall behind?
RICHARD WOLFF: Well, in the end, it’s the society of the whole that tolerates it. But it was Congress’s decision and Congress’s power to raise the minimum wage, as has happened from time to time.
Even this time, not to be too critical of our president, but when he was running for office, he proposed a $9.50 minimum wage. Here we are in the beginning of his second term, and something has happened to make him only propose a nine dollar minimum wage. So even he is scaling down, perhaps for political reasons, what he thinks he can accomplish. When, if we just wanted to get it back to what it was in 1968, it would have to be $10 or $11 an hour.

BILL MOYERS: Many economists say, “We just can’t do that because it would be devastating.”
RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the truth of the matter is that there’s an immense economics literature, I’m a professional economics person, so I’ve read it. And the literature goes like this. On the one hand, there may be some jobs that are lost because an employer having to pay a higher minimum wage, will not hire people or will hire fewer. That will happen in some cases. But against that, you have to weigh something else. If the 15 million, that’s the estimate of the White House, the 15 million American workers whose wages will go up if we raise the minimum wage, we have to count also, the question, those people will now have a higher income.
They will spend more money. And when they spend more money on goods and services, that will create jobs for people to produce those goods and services. In order to understand the effect of raising the minimum wage, you can’t only look at what will be done by some employers in the face of a higher wage in lowering the employment. You have to look at all the other effects.
And when economists have done that, economist from a wide range of political perspectives, you know what they end up with? There’s not much effect. In other words, the two things net each other out and so there isn’t much of a change in the employment situation overall. To which my response is, “Okay, let’s assume that’s correct. At the very least though, we have transformed the lives of 15 million American working people and their families from one of impossible to get most of what America offers, to a situation where at least you’re closer to a decent minimum life.”

BILL MOYERS: Are you suggesting then that there is no economic reason why those at the bottom should not share in the gains of economic growth?

RICHARD WOLFF: Absolutely. There is no economic reason. And in fact, I would go further. We know, for example, that the lower the income of a family, the more likely it is to cut corners on the education of their children because they don’t have the resources. So here’s an unmeasurable question about the minimum wage.
How many young people who are born into a minimum wage family, that is it’s so low as we have it today, will never get the kind of educational opportunities, the kinds of educational supports, to be able to realize their own capabilities and to contribute to our society? That alone is a reason, whether you think of it in terms of the long-term benefit of the country, or you just approach it as a moral question or an ethical question. By what right do you condemn a whole generation of young people to be born into families whose financial circumstances make so much of what they need to become real citizens impossible?

BILL MOYERS: You remind me of something that President Obama said in his second inaugural address.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: We are true to our creed when a little girl born in the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American. She is free and she is equal. Not just in the eyes of God, but also in our own.
BILL MOYERS: That’s eloquent, but hardly true.

RICHARD WOLFF: That’s right. And it’s painful for some of us to hear that, because it is so obviously untrue. It is so obviously contradicted by the realities, not just of those who work at the minimum wage, but all of those who work at or even at 50% above what we call the poverty level. Because when you look at what families like that can actually afford, they have to deny huge parts of the American dream to their children and to themselves as a necessary consequence of where they are put.
And I don’t need to be an economist to put it as starkly as I know how. We can read every day that in the major cities of the United States, apartments are changing hands for $10 million, $20 million, $30 million, $40 million. People have enormous yachts that they cruise — we all see it. We all know it. We even celebrate it as a nation. How does that square with millions of people in a position where they can’t provide even the most basic services and opportunities?
We don’t have equality of opportunity. Because there is no shortcut. If you want equality of opportunity, you’re going to have to create equality of income and wealth much closer to a genuine equality than anything– we’re going in the other direction. And so I agree with you. It’s stark if our president talks about something so divergent from the reality.

BILL MOYERS: When study after study has exposed the myth that this is a land of opportunity, how does the myth keep getting perpetuated?
RICHARD WOLFF: Well, my wife is a psychotherapist. And so I ask her that question often. And here’s what she says to me. Often, people cling all the harder to an idea precisely because the reality is so different and becoming more different. In other words, I would answer the myth of equal opportunity is more attractive, more beautiful, more something people want to hold on, the more they know it’s slipping away. And they would like to believe that this president or any president who says it, might somehow bring it back.

BILL MOYERS: When you say that there’s no economic argument that people should be kept at the– should not share in the gains of economic growth, the response is, “Well, that’s what the market bears.”
RICHARD WOLFF: Well, you know, in the history of economics, which is my profession, it’s a standard play on words. Instead of talking about how the economy is shaped by the actions of consumers in one way, workers in another way, corporate executives in another way, we abstract from all of that and we create a myth or a mystique. It’s called the market.
That way you’re absolving everybody from responsibility. It isn’t that you’re doing this, making that decision in this way, it’s rather this thing called the market that makes things happen. Well, every corporate executive I know, knows that half of his or her job is to tweak, manipulate, shift, and change the market.
No corporate executive takes the market as given. That may happen in the classroom, but not in the world of real business. That’s what advertising is. You try to create the demand, if there isn’t enough of it to make money without doing that. You change everything you can. So the reference to a market, I think, is an evasion.
It’s an attempt to make abstract the real workings of the economy so nobody can question what this one or that one is doing. But let me take it another way. To say that it’s the market is another way of saying, “It’s our economic system that works that way.” That is a very dangerous defense move to take.

BILL MOYERS: Why?
RICHARD WOLFF: Because it plays into the hands of those like me who are critical of the system. If indeed it isn’t this one or that one, it isn’t this company’s strategy or that product’s maneuver, but it is the market, the totality of the system, that is producing unconscionable results, multi-million-dollar apartments next door to abject poverty, then you’re saying that the system is at fault for these results.
I agree with that. But I’m not sure that those who push this notion of “the market makes it happen,” have thought through where the logic of that defense makes them very vulnerable to a much more profound critique than they will be comfortable with.
BILL MOYERS: You graduated from Harvard.
RICHARD WOLFF: Right.
BILL MOYERS: Then Stanford.
RICHARD WOLFF: Right.
BILL MOYERS: Then Yale.
RICHARD WOLFF: That’s it.

BILL MOYERS: Was this the economy you were taught at those three elite institutions to celebrate?
RICHARD WOLFF: No. No, this is the economy that I came to understand is the reality. For me, and I learn things at all those institutions, it’s not that. I came to understand that in America, economics is a split, almost a schizophrenic kind of pursuit. And let me explain. On the one hand, there are the departments of economics in colleges and universities across America.
But side by side with them is an entire other establishment that also teaches economics. You don’t have that in other disciplines. There aren’t two history departments or two anthropology departments, or two philo– so what is this? I looked into this. It’s because there are two separate functions performed by the economics departments and then by the other ones.
And the other ones are called business schools and business departments. In fact, in most universities, in all those I’ve been at, the economics department is in one set of buildings, and across the campus in another is the business school. And there’s actually tension in the university about who teaches the basic courses to students that they’re required to take and so on.
Here’s what I discovered. The job of economics, to be blunt but honest, is to rationalize, justify, and celebrate the system. To develop abstract theories of how economics works to make it all like it’s a stable, equilibrium that meets people’s needs in an optimal way. These kinds of words are used. But that’s useless to people who want to learn how to run a business, because it’s a fantasy.
So they are shunted someplace else. If you want to learn about marketing, or promotion, or advertising, or administration, or personnel, go over there. Those people teach you how the economy actually works and how you’ll have to make decisions if you’re going to run a business. Over there, you learn about how beautiful it all is when you think abstractly about its basic principles.
BILL MOYERS: The invisible hand.
RICHARD WOLFF: Yeah.
BILL MOYERS: The market.
RICHARD WOLFF: All of that. So for me, I began to realize, “Okay, I’m an economist. I’m in that one. But I want to understand how the real economy works.” And then I discovered that I needed to reeducate myself. I had to go learn things that I was never assigned to read.
BILL MOYERS: After Harvard? After Stanford? And after Yale?
RICHARD WOLFF: It actually happened while I was there. I was already, there were a few people–
BILL MOYERS: Ah, they do produce heretics.
RICHARD WOLFF: Yes, they do.
BILL MOYERS: A few.
RICHARD WOLFF: You know, but you know, capitalism– I like to say to people, capitalism, like all systems, when it comes into being, is born a few hundred years ago in Europe and spreads around the world, like other systems before it. It has always produced those who admire and celebrate it and those who are critical of it.
I used to say to my students, “If you want to understand the family who lives down the street, suppose there’s mama, papa, two children. And one of the children thinks it’s the greatest family there ever was, and the other one is quite critical. If you want to understand the family, do you choose only one child to interview, or do you think it might be wise to interview both of them?”
For me, I began to interview the critics of capitalism, because I thought, “Let’s see what they have to say.” And that for me opened an immense door of critical insights that I found invaluable. And I’ve never forgiven my teachers for not having exposed me to that.

BILL MOYERS: But so few have done that. As you know, as you’ve written, as you have said, we’ve not had much of a debate in this country for, I don’t know, since the Great Depression over the nature of the system, the endemic crisis of capitalism that is built into the system. We have simply not had that kind of debate. Why do you think that is?
RICHARD WOLFF: Well, I think we have had it from time to time. We have had some of the greatest economists in the tradition, for example, Thorstein Veblen, at the beginning of the 20th century, a great American economist, very critical of the system. Someone who taught me, Paul Sweezy, another Harvard graduate. These are people who have been around and at various times in our history, the beginning of the 20th century, during the 1930’s, again in the 1960’s, there was intense debate.
There has been that kind of thing in our history. I mean, we as Americans, after all, we take a certain pride, which I think is justified, we criticize our school system. We just spent two years criticizing our health delivery system in this country. We criticize our energy system, our transportation system.
And we want to believe, and I think it’s true, that to criticize this system, to have an honest debate, exposes flaws, makes it possible to repair or improve them, and then our society benefits. But then how do you explain, and that’s your question, that we don’t do that for our economic system?
For 50 years, when capitalism is raised, you have two allowable responses: celebration, cheerleading. Okay, that’s very nice. But that means you have freed that system from all criticism, from all real debate. It can indulge its worst tendencies without fear of exposure and attack. Because when you begin to criticize capitalism, you’re either told that you’re ignorant and don’t understand things, or with more dark implications, you’re somehow disloyal. You’re somehow a person who doesn’t like America or something.

BILL MOYERS: That emerged, as you know, in the Cold War. That emerged when to criticize the American system was to play into the hands of the enemies of America, the Communists. And so it became disreputable and treasonous to do what you’re doing today.
RICHARD WOLFF: And for my colleagues, it became dangerous to your career. If you went in that direction, you would cut off your chances of getting a university position or being promoted and getting your works published in journals and books, the things that academics need to do for their jobs. So yes, it was shut down and shut off. And I think we’re living the results. You know, if I were–
BILL MOYERS: Of the silence? Of–
RICHARD WOLFF: Yes. Of the lack of debate. We’re living in an economic system that isn’t working. So I guess I’m a little bit like one of those folks in the 12-step programs. Before you can solve a problem, you have to admit you got one. And before we’re going to fix an economic system that’s working this way, and producing such tensions and inequalities and strains on our community, we have to face the real scope of the problem we have. And that’s with the system as a whole and at the very least, we have to open up a national debate about it. And at the most, I think we have to think long and hard about alternative systems that might work better for us.

BILL MOYERS: I was intrigued to hear you say elsewhere that this is not just about evil and greed. And yet you went on to say capitalists and the rich are determined not to bear the costs of the recent bailouts or the crisis itself. You even go so far as to suggest, as to question their patriotism, and that they may not have the country’s interest at heart. If that’s not greed, what is it?
RICHARD WOLFF: Oh, I think it isn’t greed. It’s– and let me explain why. Yes, I’m critical of corporations and the rich because they do call the shots in our society, and so that brings on them a certain amount of criticism, even though they don’t like it. So I will do that. But beyond that, let me absolve them in the following way. Bankers do what this system goads them to do.
If you talk to a banker, he or she will explain to you, “These are the things that will advance the interests of my bank. These are the problems I have to overcome. And that’s what I try to do.” And my understanding, and I’ve looked at this in great de– is that– that’s correct. They’re not telling a story. They’re doing. They’re following the rules. They do the things that advance their interests and they avoid the things that would damage their interests.
That’s what they’re hired to do as executives or as leaders of their institutions. And that’s what they do to the best of their ability. So for example, I’m not enthused about arresting these people or punishing them in this or that way. And the reason is simple, if we get, I won’t mention any names, but we get some banker and we haul him up in front of a court, and we find out he’s done some things that are not good.
And we substitute the next one. He gets arrested though, he gets fined, he gets removed. The next one is subject to the same rewards and punishments. The same inducements. The same conditions. If we don’t change the system, we’re not going to change the behavior of the people in it. So in a sense, I do absolve them even when they are greedy, because they’re doing what this system tells them to do. And if we don’t change the system, substituting a new crop will not solve our problem.

BILL MOYERS: You’re also not enthused about regulation, which is what so many liberals and others are calling for now. Is there some parallel reason for that?
RICHARD WOLFF: Yes. I find it astonishing to hear folks talk about regulation. We regulated after every one of our great panics in the 19th century. By the way, in those years, we were more honest. We didn’t refer to a “Great Recession.” We used much more colorful language, “The panic of 1857.” I mean, that describes what people felt. Anyway, after every one of our panics, crises, recessions, depressions, we have regulated. And the regulations were always defended, first by lower-level officials and eventually by the president and the highest authorities, usually on two grounds. “With this regulation, not only will we get out of the crisis we’re in, but,” and there was a pregnant pause, “we will prevent a recurrence of this terrible economic dilemma.” It never worked. The regulations never delivered on that promise. We’re in a terrible crisis now. So all the previous promises about all the previous regulations didn’t work. And they didn’t work for two reasons.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, why?
RICHARD WOLFF: Either the regulations that were passed were then undone, or they were evaded. And that’s the history of every regulation. During the Great Depression, it was decided, as it has happened again now, that banks behaved in an unfortunate way that contributed to the crisis.
So in the Great Depression, a bill was passed, a regulation called the Glass-Steagall Act, 1933 Banking Act, which basically said, “There has to be two kinds of banks, the banks that takes deposits cannot make risky investments. For that we need something separate called an investment bank. The first thing will be a commercial bank, takes deposits, and we’ll make a wall between them.”
Okay. The bill was passed. For the banks, this was trouble. This was a problem. They didn’t like this. So they spent the first 30 years, 20 to 30 years evading it in a hundred different stratagems. Meanwhile, they began to realize that with some work with politicians, they could weaken it.
And after a while, they decided that even better than evading and weakening, why don’t we just get rid of it? And so in the 1990s, they mobilized, led by some of our biggest banks, whose names everybody knows, and they finally succeeded. The Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, and President Bill Clinton signed the repeal.
BILL MOYERS: It was a bipartisan repeal.
RICHARD WOLFF: Right. It’s a joke. That allowed the banks to make risky bets with their depositor’s money. Eight years later, our financial system collapsed. It’s like a joke. This is a system that creates in the private enterprise a core mechanism and a logic that makes them do the very things that need regulation and then makes them evade or undo those regulations.

BILL MOYERS: You probably saw the recent story that Facebook, which made more than one billion dollars in profits last year, didn’t pay taxes on that profit. And actually got a $429 million rebate from you and me and all those other taxpayers out there. GE, Verizon, Boeing, 27 other corporations made a combined $205 billion in profits between 2008 and 2011 and 26 paid no federal corporate income tax. What will ultimately happen, Richard if the big winners from capitalism opt out of participating in the strengthening, nurturing, and financial support of a fair and functioning society?
RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the worst example I just learned about a few days ago. And I got it actually from Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont. That during the very years 2009, ’10, ’11, that the federal government was basically bailing out the biggest banks in the United States, they were busily establishing or operating subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands, in the Caribbean, in order to evade taxes.
And it’s a wonderful vignette in which the very government pouring money to salvage these private capitalist institutions is discovering its own revenue from them being undone by their evasion of the regulations about income tax by moving to Cayman Islands where the corporate tax is zero instead of paying their corporate tax in New York or wherever they’re based.

BILL MOYERS: Your assumption that runs through your books, through your teaching, through this very interesting DVD, is that democracy, theoretically if not practically, but you hope practically, acts as a brake, B-R-A-K-E, a brake on private power and greed. And it’s clear that that brake doesn’t work anymore. That it’s not slowing down the growth of power to the capitalist class.
RICHARD WOLFF: Right. And I think it’s very poetic here in the United States. In the 1930s, when we after all had a crisis even worse than the one we had now by most measures, higher unemployment, and greater incidents of poverty and so on, we did still have a political system that allowed pressure from below to be articulated politically.
We had the greatest unionizing drive in the history of the United States, the CIO. We had strong socialist and communist parties that work with the CIO, that mobilized tens of millions of people into unions who had never been in unions before. And they went to the power structure at the time, President Roosevelt as its emblem.
And they said, “You have to do something for us. You just have to. Because if you don’t, then the system itself will become our problem. And you don’t want that. And many of us in the union movement don’t want it either.” Although some of the Socialists and Communists might have been quite happy to go that direction. And I think Roosevelt was a genius politician at that time.
He understood the issue. He went to the rich and the corporations of America, the top, who had become very wealthy at that time, and he basically said to them, “You must give me, the president, the money to meet at least the basic demands of the massive people to be massively helped in an economic crisis. Because if you don’t, then the goose that lays your golden egg will disappear.”
And he split the corporations and the rich. Half of them were not persuaded. And I believe they represent the right wing of the Republican Party to this day. But the other half were. And they made the deal. And so we had this amazing thing. Politics, the threat of the mass of people from below to politically act to change the system led us to see something we’ve almost unimaginable today.
A president, who in the depths of the Depression, creates the Social Security System, giving every American who’s worked a lifetime of 65 years a check for the rest of their life every month. He created unemployment compensation to give those millions of unemployed a check every week. And then to top it off, he created and filled 12.5 million federal jobs because he said, “The private sector either can’t or won’t do it.”
So in the midst of a terrible depression, when every level of government says, “There’s no money,” Mr. Roosevelt proved there is the money. It’s just a question of whether you have the political will and support to go get it. And when people listen to me explain this history, and it’s always amazing to me how many Americans kind of never got that part–
BILL MOYERS: Don’t know it.
RICHARD WOLFF: But when I do that, and they say, “Well, that’s a very risky thing for a politician to do, support the mass of people by taxing the rich, unthinkable.” And then I remind them, Roosevelt is the most popular and successful president in American history. Nobody had ever been elected four times in a row before that.
And it was so upsetting to the Republicans that after Mr. Roosevelt died, they pushed that law through that gives us a term limit of two presidential terms. So it wasn’t the end of his political career, it made him the most powerful popular president we’ve ever had. There must be a lesson here somewhere.
BILL MOYERS: Well, it was one of the few times in history in which the political elite and a few financial elite formed an alliance for the people.
RICHARD WOLFF: Right.

BILL MOYERS: And yet, Richard, it still took the war the create the spending that pulled us out of the depression, right?
RICHARD WOLFF: Right. Because they were always large groups of corporations and the rich who were angry at all of this, like they are today, who didn’t want to pay higher taxes, much higher than corporations pay today, who didn’t want to pay high personal income tax rates, much higher than they are today. But they had to. Right, people don’t remember in 1943, President Roosevelt proposed a top income tax bracket of 100 percent.
BILL MOYERS: Yeah.
RICHARD WOLFF: His bill that he sent to the Congress, a proposal, was that anyone who earns over $25,000, which would be roughly $350,000 a year now, in current dollars, would have to give every nickel of it, beyond the $25,000, to the government, 100 percent. That’s maximum income. The President of the United States, with massive popular support. And when the Republicans said, “No, we can’t do that.” They fought. And the compromise was a 94 percent top rate.
RICHARD WOLFF: Compared to the 39 percent, and .6 percent that we have today. I mean, you can see there that that– that was a lesson. That I believe the corporations and the rich in America have learned. They saw that they were forced between two choices. A real revolutionary possibility, or a compromise. They voted for the compromise. They gave the mass of people real support, far better than anything they’re getting now.
And they did that because politics was a real possibility to undo their economic system. After the war, I think our history is the history of a destruction of the Communist and Socialist parties first and foremost, and of the labor movement shortly thereafter. So that we now have a crisis without the mechanism of pressure from below. And that may look to those on top as an advantage because they don’t have that problem.
They don’t have a C.I.O. They don’t have Socialists and Communists, the way they do in Europe. But I think it’s a Pyrrhic victory, because what you’re teaching the mass of the American people is that politics, debate, and struggle, is a dead end. And if you think people are just going to sink into resignation, that’s wishful thinking. They’re going to find other ways to protest against the system like this, because the pressures are building in that direction. I think this is a capitalism that I would say has lost its sense of its social conditions, its social limits. It’s killing the mass support without which it cannot survive.
So it is creating tensions and hostilities that will take left wing, right wing, a variety of forms. But it’s producing its own undoing and doesn’t imagine it because it focuses so much on making more money in a normal way of business that it somehow occludes from itself. It doesn’t see the larger social conditions and what its behavior is doing to them.

BILL MOYERS: For a moment, wasn’t there kind of quirky or eccentric symbiosis between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street? That, ’cause in their own different ways, they were reacting to the colossus that was coming apart all around them. And upending their lives.
RICHARD WOLFF: Absolutely. I think in country after country going through this crisis, you’re seeing more or less the same thing. A upsurge of right wing agony and hostility and opposition to what’s happening in this capitalist system and a left wing one. But only difference from country to country is the balance between the two.
And I think the Tea Party comes first because being a right wing party in this country’s much easier, much more socially acceptable to form, and there’s the old roots of it, anyway, in the John Birch societies and all the rest in American history. So we have a Tea Party resurgence.
Then echoed a couple years later by the Occupy Wall Street, which is a left wing response to all of this. And I don’t think we’ve seen the end of either of these. I think these were the first explosions of this process, the first reflections and signs of a society coming apart because capitalism can’t deliver the kind of society and results that people want. And I think we’re going to see more of it and there may be difficult forms of it. But it is part of a system that has come, I think, closer and closer to its historical if not end, then a severe crisis.

BILL MOYERS: But there is no agitation here. People seem not to know what to do here.
RICHARD WOLFF: I think Americans are a little bit like deer caught in the proverbial headlights. They thought that they were in a society that kind of guaranteed that each generation lives better than the one before.
That the American dream gets better and better and is available. They promised when they got married to one another to provide the American dream to each other. And then they promised their children to provide it to them, that the children would have a good education, that children would have the opportunity. They can’t quite believe that it’s not there anymore.
You know, for 30 years, as the wages in America stopped rising since the 1970s, Americans reacted by doing two things. Because they couldn’t give up the idea that they were going to get the American dream. How do you buy the American dream, which becomes ever more expensive, if your wages don’t go up, per worker, per hour? Which they haven’t since the ’70s.
The first thing you do is send more and more people out to work. The women went out in vast numbers. Older people came out of retirement. Teenagers did more and more work. Here’s a statistic. The OECD, leading agency gathering data on the world’s developed economy shows that the average number of hours worked per year by an American worker is larger than that of any other developed country on this planet.
We work ourselves like crazy. That’s what you do if the wages per worker don’t go up. You send out more people from the family in order to be able to get that American dream. But of course if you do that, everybody’s physically exhausted.
The stresses in your family become more powerful. What’s happened to American families is a well-known result over the last 30 years. But the other interesting thing, to hold onto the American dream that Americans did when their wages didn’t go up anymore, was to borrow money like it’s going out of style.
You cannot keep borrowing more and more if your underlying wage is not going up. Because in the end, it’s the wage that enables you to pay off what you’ve borrowed. And it was only a matter of time, and 2007 happened to be that time, when you couldn’t do it anymore. You couldn’t borrow anymore because you couldn’t pay it back.
And so you stopped your mortgage or you stopped your credit card payment or you couldn’t make your car payments. And this is a situation that explodes the expectations of a good life. And I think Americans are stunned. And they haven’t yet kind of gotten their heads and their arms around the reality they face. And so what– we see people in shock, if you like. I mean, I’m stretching the metaphor, but–
BILL MOYERS: That’s all right.
RICHARD WOLFF: The American dream that they thought they could access, that they were told they could access, if they just worked hard or went to school or both of the– it’s not there. A whole generation of young people is learning that in order to get the education, without which the American dream is not possible, you have to borrow so much money that your whole situation is put in a terrible vice.
Then you discover, at the end of your four years and you have your bachelor’s degree, that the job you had thought you were then entitled to and the income you thought would go with it, they’re not there. And yet you have the debt, the effects of this on our society, not just for the young people confronting it daily, but for the parents who helped them, who led them to expect something, that is producing a kind of stasis, immobility, shock.
But beware, if my psychiatrist wife is right, as she usually is, what happens after that period of stasis, of shock, is a boiling over of anger, as you kind of confront what has happened. And that you were deceived and betrayed in your expectations, your hopes. And then the question is, where does that go?

BILL MOYERS: I’m struck by the fact that you give a fairly dire– not fairly, a dire analysis of what’s happened to us in the last several years. But at the end of both your book and of your lecture, you don’t wind up cynical or pessimistic. You–
RICHARD WOLFF: Not at all.
BILL MOYERS: You sound like you’re saying, “Let’s take to the barricades.”
RICHARD WOLFF: Yeah. I think there’s a wonderful tradition here in the United States of people feeling that they have a right, even if they don’t exercise it a lot, to intervene, to control. There is that democratic impulse. And I put a lot of stock in the hope that if this is explained, if the conditions are presented, that the American people can and will find ways to push for the kinds of changes that can get us out of this dilemma. Even if the political leaders who’ve inherited this situation seem stymied and unable to do so.

BILL MOYERS: Richard, I want you to come back in a few weeks. Before you come back, I want to alert our of readers of our website, have them submit some questions. You’ve opened so much of it, I know they’ll have some questions.
RICHARD WOLFF: Well, I’ll–
BILL MOYERS: But I’ll bring them here and we’ll deal with this. ‘Cause I know you have some alternatives, that you’ve given a lot of thought to the critique, but you’ve also given a lot of thought to the correcting of our system. And will you do that?
RICHARD WOLFF: I would love to, because one of the things that has happened to me in the last two years is as we’ve developed the criticism and people see the process of how we got here, the most insistent questions is, “What do we do? Where do we go? If regulation isn’t the solution and if punishing this one– if it is a systemic process, how can we conceive and talk about an alternative system?”
BILL MOYERS: Richard Wolff, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. The DVD is “Capitalism Hits the Fan.” And the book is “Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.” Thank you for being with me.
RICHARD WOLFF: Thank you, Bill, for the opportunity.

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Inspiration of the Week #63

March 11, 2013 through March 17, 2013

History, Science, and the Cosmic Religion:

This past week I came across the History Channel documentary “History of the World in 2 Hours.” It was remarkable to learn and see the interconnectedness of the universe, our planet, and our species. As one scientist in the film so eloquently put it, “We are all star dust.” By coincidence, this week also happened to be the birth week of Albert Einstein, another scientist who understood the relativity of the universe and the interconnectedness of nature. Einstein being a scientist yet also understanding the powerful role that religion has played in the history of world advocated a belief in what he called a “Cosmic Religion.” An evolved view of the world that I think developed from the counterbalancing aspects of his character, his scientific brilliance and his strong sense of spirituality. As he once explained:

“The world needs new moral impulses which, I’m afraid, won’t come from the churches, heavily compromised as they have been throughout the centuries. Perhaps those impulses must come from scientists in the tradition of Galileo, Kepler and Newton. In spite of failures and persecutions, these men devoted their lives to proving that the universe is a single entity, in which, I believe, a humanized God has no place. The genuine scientist is not moved by praise or blame, nor does he preach. He unveils the universe and people come eagerly, without being pushed, to behold a new revelation: the order, the harmony, the magnificence of creation! And as man becomes conscious of the stupendous laws that govern the universe in perfect harmony, he begins to realize how small he is. He sees the pettiness of human existence, with its ambitions and intrigues, its ‘I am better than thou’ creed. This is the beginning of cosmic religion within him; fellowship and human service become his moral code. And without such moral foundations, we are hopelessly doomed.”
-Albert Einstein (Einstein and the Poet p.66 1943)

No matter what you believe in, I hope you will enjoy watching the documentary and see the beauty in the harmony of nature and life.

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Inspiration of the Week #62

February 11, 2013 through February 17, 2013

Abolition and Emancipation

This week as we recognize the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday it is important we praise his role in advancing civil rights by helping to abolish slavery. However, it is foolish to think that he did so single handily on his own accord. Just as it is with any social movement or cause, they require years of people working together in solidarity. With progress being made incrementally through a body of work created by the many but initiated by a few. PBS’s American Experience documentary “The Abolitionist” does a tremendous job of shedding light on the effort put forth by many of those involved in passing the 13th Amendment of the Constitution during the time of Lincoln. As it is highlighted in the film, the president himself remarked that he had been “only an instrument in the anti-slavery struggle,” and that “the logic and moral power of (William Lloyd) Garrison and the anti-slavery people had done it all.” You can watch the full video below.

History teaches us many lessons as we strive towards progress. Numerous parallels can be drawn from today’s society to any point in time of history because it is human nature that rarely changes. As it is commonly remarked “history repeats itself,” but I would expand on the idea by pointing out that human behaviors are being repeated, just under different sets of circumstances. Fortunately, for those of us who heed the instructions of past experience, we know that there are also many enduring solutions to the struggles of evolution. For instance, to be a catalyst for change it is important to always remain optimistic, in-order to combat the obstinate nature of ignorance. As you will see in this documentary, it required the fearless actions of a few leaders to unite the masses and galvanize the Abolitionist movement. It was their unwavering belief in equality that allowed them to uproot the institution of slavery, which at that time was so ingrained in society its elimination seemed impossible.

Watch The Abolitionists Extended Preview on PBS. See more from American Experience.

 

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Inspiration of the Week #61

December 31, 2012 through January 6, 2013

“The things we love, we have to learn to leave alone.”

2012 was a challenging year of work and of progress. I was unable to keep up with post and updates for this site due to an increased work load but the experiences proved to be valuable and have given me new perspectives on life. Early last year I read the Tao Te Ching, a book that I recommend for everyone to read, and was able to apply many of its principles to the different challenges I faced. I can honestly say that this “way of living” helped me get through all of the highs and lows with my spirit intact. This is why I would like to share with you the essence of living with the ‘Tao’ by posting this beautiful presentation from Dr. Wayne Dyer:

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

with Dr. Wayne Dyer.

12:26min – In the “Tao,” there’s a very famous line, the 40th verse of the “Tao” says, “returning is the motion of the Tao” so that all of us came from a divine spiritual essence — invisible. Everything in the world of form emanated from something that is formless. There was a split second when you went from non-being to being. And what Lao-Tzu was trying to teach was to be able to return to that place from which you came and live your life from the spiritual perspective and become a god-realized being.

13:12min – Eliot, once said, “we shall not cease from exploration. “And at the end of all of our exploring “will be to arrive where we started and to know the place for the first time… for the first time.” What I’m asking you to do, and what Lao-Tzu seemed to be saying, was learn to die while you’re alive, because you will ultimately return. All of us have a return trip, a round-trip ticket when we came in, didn’t we? But if you could learn to die while you’re alive — and there’s a great story.

14:06min – To die while we are alive gives us the only opportunity we will ever have to get outside of this package that houses us temporarily. There’s an ancient parable that repeated generation after generation by the spiritual masters of india which illustrates this point. Listen to this wonderful story.

“A traveler from india went to africa to acquire some local products and animals, and while in the jungle, he saw thousands of beautiful multicolored talking parrots.

“He decided to capture a talking parrot and take it back as his pet.”

“At home, he kept his parrot in a cage, and he fed him and he gave him wonderful seeds and honey and played music for his pet.”

“And generally, he treated him very well.”

“When it was time for the man to return to africa two years later, he asked his parrot if there was any message that he could deliver to the parrot’s friends who were back in the jungle.”

“Well, the parrot told his master to say that he was very happy in his cage and that he was enjoying each day and to convey his love.”

“Well, when the traveler arrived back in africa, he delivered the message to the parrots back in the jungle.”

“Just as he finished his story, a parrot with tears welling up in his eyes fell over dead.”

“The man was alarmed, and he decided that the parrot must have been very close to the parrot in the cage and that this was probably the reason for the sadness and for his demise.”

“When the traveler returned to india, he told his pet what had happened.”

“As he finished his story,  the pet parrot’s eyes welled up with tears and he kneeled over dead in his cage.”

“The man was astounded, but he figured that his pet died from the despair of hearing of the death of his close friend back in the jungle.”

“The trader opened up the cage and tossed the dead bird outside onto the trash heap.
Immediately, the pet parrot flew up to a branch on the tree outside.”

“The trader said to him, ‘so, you’re not dead after all.”

“Why did you do that? You tricked me!”

And the parrot responded, “‘because that bird back in africa sent me a very important message’”,

“What was the message? the trader wanted to know.”

“‘He told me that if you want to escape from your cage, you must die while you are alive’”

“We must indeed die while we are alive. In order to be able to look back at our waking consciousness and see ourselves trapped in our cage, which in our case is our body, and then we will see how unnecessary it is to remain caged isn’t that a great story?”

19:05min – What I would like to do now is to look at some of the key thoughts that I would like you to think about and consider changing as you become a person who becomes more god-realized — that is, someone who has died but stayed alive and returned and went back on that return trip. The first of these thoughts to change is to change the idea that “I can’t trust in my own nature” ” did it ever occur to you that you have a nature, that that nature is so profound and is always calling you? You know it. No one else can know it. No one else can impose it on you. No one else can tell you what it is that you feel in here that you know is why you’re here and what you’re doing here. There’s no one else can explain that or explore that with you. You can’t share it.
Everything in the universe has a nature. Your dog has a nature. A crocodile has a nature. A duck has a nature. A crow has a nature. Everything has its nature. Everything has a dharma, including you.
But what we’ve learned and we’ve grown up to believe is that “I can’t trust ” my nature — to trust in your nature, to know that you came from a divine place of well-being and to trust in it. Listen to this — verse 38 of the “Tao,” a few lines. “The great master follows his own nature “and not the trappings of life.
“A truly good man is not aware of his goodness and is therefore good” Think about yourself, the first moment of life, the very first moment, that speck when you went from nowhere, n-o-w-h-e-r-e, to now here, n-o-w h-e-r-e. From nowhere to now here. Same thing — just a little question of spacing.

22:28min – But while you’re in that — and why wouldn’t you believe, even maybe for a second, that “not only was my physiology all handled for me, but everything else that I needed — if I could just stop interfering with it and stop other people from doing it” and that’s a big part of understanding “change your thoughts, ” it’s a big part of that, the idea that “I have a nature that I can trust, not something that I have to be afraid of.”

23:21min – We take on an ego — e-g-o. And we edge out and we say we’ll take over. And we have an ego, and this ego, what this ego does is it takes on a set of beliefs, and these beliefs are that “I am what I have, that I am what I do, that I am what other people think of me.” So we’re raised to believe that “the more stuff I accumulate, the more things that I get, this is who I am. The more that people like me, this is what I’ll get,” and on and on it goes.

26:42min – So, what we have to do is learn how to take this ego of ours, this part of us that believes that who we are is what we have and what we do and what other people think of us. But remember, if you grow up believing that you are what you do, then when you don’t, you aren’t. And if you believe that you are what you have, when it’s gone, you aren’t. And if you believe that you are what other people think of you, your reputation, which we raise people to believe, “I have to be concerned with what other people think of me.” Take this ego and re-train it.

And one of the ways that you do to retrain it is first you take this idea that the ego has of fear.

What are you afraid of? Anybody out there, what are you afraid of? Shift from fear to curiosity. Become curious about what you’re afraid of. That’s what Lao-Tzu taught me.

Become curious about what you’re afraid of. You’re afraid of flying? Get curious about that. Get interested in that. You’re afraid of snakes. You’re afraid of disapproval.

Just shift from fear and say, “I’m going to become more curious about what I’m afraid of.” And then take all of the things that you’re attached to, like all of your photographs, like all of your furniture, like all of your clothing, like all of the stuff that you find so much attachment to and start letting it go.

28:34min – Take that idea that you have to be attached to things and know that you came in with nothing with no thing. And you’re going to leave with nothing with no thing and understand that your life is a parentheses in eternity. Live there without attachments and then take you need to be in control of yourself, of others, of the situation and shift from control to trust.

29:45min – And finally shift from your sense of entitlement “Nobody, nobody can treat me that way… I’m entitled to have this… Well I paid for that…”

Shift from entitlements too radical humility. Lao Tzu speaks about it so often “Stay humble, stay low, the greatest leaders are the ones who do the least. The ones who stay back and just model and allow” And at the end of the day in one of the verses of the Tao it says “The people will say ‘we did it ourselves, we did it ourselves’” In verse forty-nine of the Tao, here’s an exact quote “The sage is kinda to the kind, and kind to the unkind, because the nature of his being is kindness.” And also “Be wise and help all beings, impartially, abandoning none.”

32:39 – You change your thoughts from I need more to what I call living contentment. What is this thing about more, it’s the mantra of the ego isn’t it. “I have to have more, I have to collect more stuff, I have to have more friends, I have to have more money.” It’s more more more more more, when where you came from came from, nowhere, you don’t need anything. It’s a continuous bombardment that we are all exposed to in this whole world of believing that we have to have more.

So we get bombarded with this idea of attracting more and Lao Tzu says “Live contentment, live in the state of being contented.” Here is verse eighty-one, the last verse of the Tao Te Ching…
“Sages do not accumulate anything, but give everything to others. Having more, the more they give.”

37:22min – Lao Tzu said that “When your cup is full, stop pouring.” We have an obesity crisis in the United States, in the Western world. The obesity crisis can be handled, if you just read the Tao. If you realize in verse 33 it says “If you realize you have enough, you are truly rich.” If you could just learn something called portion control, where you just take a bite and say “Is my cup full?” Stop pouring. In other words, instead of filling yourself with that which is already a surplus. In the Tao it teaches us to take surpluses and reduce them, and to take deficiencies and increase them, so that we create balance in our lives, to be in balance.

38:30min – Listen to this poem. It was written by a great Persian poet named Hafez. It says “Even after all this time, the Sun never says to the Earth, you owe me.” Just look at what happens with a love like that, it lights up the wholes sky. It lights up the whole sky. There is no owing.

40:18min – (Lao Tzu taught me) Instead of thinking that I don’t trust my nature. He said trust your nature. Instead of saying “I need more,” he said you need less. More is less, that comes right out of the Tao.

Next thought, move from thinking in a rigid way to thinking and being flexible, soft, and allowing. From rigidity to softness, what a wonderful transformation that is.

41:40min – Lao Tzu is speaking to us about understanding our nature by examining how nature works and then making it apply to our thoughts. So that a soft thought, a thought that isn’t a rigid thought, a thought that doesn’t say “you have to be this way or you have to be that way,” a thought that is not stiff. A thought that water, there are so many references to water.”

Here is verse 8 “The supreme good is water, which nourishes all things without trying to.” Verse 78, right smack out of the Tao “Nothing in the world is softer and weaker than water, but for attacking the hard, the unyielding, nothing can surpass it. There is nothing like it.”

And Lao Tzu is saying, the same thing is true with everything in your life. The more you grasp, the more you try to hold on to it, the more you try to be rigid with it. The less control you have of it. The softer you are, the less rigid you are, the more flexible you are as a person. The more you can accomplish.

49:23 – Listen to this verse of the Tao Te Ching, one of my all time favorites, verse #76 “A man is born gentle and weak, at his death he becomes hard a stiff. All things including the grass and trees are soft and pliable in life, dry and brittle in death. Stiffness is thus a companion in death, flexibility is a companion in life.”

50:53min – In verse 73 it says “It is heavens way to conquer without striving. It does not ask yet it is supplied with all that it needs. It does not hurry yet it completes everything on time.” One of my favorite lines from the Tao, one of my favorite beliefs from the Tao is this “That you are doing nothing, all of you, you are doing nothing. You are just being done.” Just like you were the first 9 months of your life.

52:21min – The next thought that I would like to see us change that the Tao taught me so much was “Living by interfering, to shift that to, living by not interfering.”

53:22min – Verse 29 of the Tao “Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it? I do not believe it can be done. Everything under heaven is a sacred vessel and cannot be controlled. Trying to control leads to ruin. Trying to grasp we lose. Allow your life to unfold naturally. Allow other peoples lives to unfold naturally as well.”

60:18min – In the Tao it says “There is a time for everything and everything in its time.”
There is a time for being ahead and a time for being at peace. There is a time for being in motion and a time for being at rest. There is a time for being vigorous and a time for being exhausted.
62:04min – In the Tao it says that “Hidden in all misfortune is good fortune.” Hidden in the misfortune that you have is good fortune because no storm can last forever. Even nature cannot create a storm that last forever. Ultimately, hidden within every storm is calmness, hidden with every flood is drought and dryness. Hidden within all of the storms of you life is the Peace that you desire. And it leans on you if you stop telling yourself… and just let yourself go with it, to be at harmony with it…

62:58min – This is verse 39 of the Tao Te Ching “When man interferes with the Tao, the sky becomes filthy, the earth becomes depleted, the equilibrium crumbles, creatures become extinct. Therefore nobility is rooted in humility.”

64:37min – Another thought to change. To change from thinking big, to thinking small. It’s.. so much of the Tao has statements that seem so paradoxical and so confusing to us. More is less, less is more. Think small and get great thins done, accomplish great things.
Listen to verse 64 of the Tao Te Ching “A tree that fills a mans embrace grows from a seedling. A tower 9 stories high starts with 1 brick.”… “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one first step.”

70:44min – Thinking small is what gets great things done. Verse 63 “Achieve greatness in little things, take on difficulties while they are still easy. Do great things while they are still small. The sage… does not attempt anything very big, and thus achieves greatness.” Greatness comes from being in the moment, here, present, in the now. The sage confronts difficulties but never experiences them.

71:34min – I’d like to see you change from this thought. Change from seeing yourself as separate, to seeing yourself as connected to everyone and everything in the universe. Our ego tells us that we are separate. That who we are is this body that we have, and that everyone out there is separate from me.

71:56min – Nothing has been more profound and more powerful and important for me than this verse of the Tao Te Ching. This idea that we are all one. That all of use emanated from the same source. By doing so, by emanating from the same source, we need to see ourselves as connected to every single being, every single person, every single flower, every single tree, every single animal. If you can see yourself in everyone, we are all connected.

73:09min – The Native Americans would say “No tree has branches so foolish as to fight among themselves.” … we are all branches on a tree called Humanity.

73:52min – The idea that you and anyone else on this planet is an enemy, in the Tao is says “I and enemy cannot exist in the same sentence.” He says that “Even those who go to war, the ones who will triumph in war, are those who go to war without an enemy.” and they will treat every victory in war not as a victory to celebrate but as a funeral. As an indication that we haven’t reached the highest place within ourselves to see that even those people, that we judge to be our enemy, are really connected to us. It says in the Tao “That a bad man is a good mans job, and a good man is a bad mans teacher.”

77:21min – There is a great lesson that when we use violence as a means to resolve our disputes, whether it’s individually with each-other, or whether its in countries, or whether its in communities, whenever it is that we resort to that kind of “not seeing myself in others.” Out of this kind of a consciousness will emerge those people who will ultimately  begin to get this. Because if we don’t get it… if we don’t really get it, civilization as we know it will not survive. We have to learn that the people we call enemies, no matter how horrendous they may behave towards us, there is still something of us in all of them.

78:40min – In verse 25 of the Tao it says “Thus to know humanity, understand earth. To know earth, understand heaven. (which is where earth came from) To know the way, understand the great within yourself.”

79:45min – Lao Tzu says “The person of Tao will eliminate all of the pain, all of the stress, all of the anger, all of the hatred, if they decide to end the conflict with love.” Just be the one who ends the silence by saying “we don’t agree but I love you.”

80:43min – He said “Wisdom is know that I am nothing. Love is knowing I am everything and in between the two my life moves.”

81:43min – Many principles to live by in the Tao. First, remind yourself that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. Bring happiness to all that you do. You accomplish much by trying less.

83:43min – “Trust in others,” the Tao says “to know what is best for themselves.” Trust in that.

Live without attachment and be generous.

84:22min – Be strong by bending. We need to learn this in our lives. We need to learn this in the world. It’s not so important to be right, it’s so much more important, when you have a choice to be right or to be kind, always pick kind. Always be kind. Practice radical humility. Live low, like the ocean, and all the streams will come to it. … And rather than looking for miracles, see everything as miraculous. Everything in your life.

87:37min – Listen to these words, it sums up all that I’ve been saying “I wouldn’t coax the plant if I were you. Such watchful nurturing may do it harm. Let the soil rest from so much digging and wait until it’s dry before you water it. The leafs inclined to find its own direction, give it a chance to seek the sunlight for itself. Much growth is stunted by too careful prodding, too eager tenderness. The things we love, we have to learn to leave alone.”

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Posted in Education, Environmental, Health, Inspiration of the Week, Philosophy, Psychological, Social (Cultural), Spiritual | Comments

Inspiration of the Week #60

May 14, 2012 through May 20, 2012

Troubadour for Justice

This week the Bill Moyers show featured Tom Morello, political activist and former guitar player for Rage Against the Machine. The episode does a wonderful job of detailing Morello’s background and the inspiration driving his prosperous career. Watch the full show below:

http://billmoyers.com/episode/full-show-tom-morello-troubadour-for-justice/

Songs of social protest — music and the quest for justice — have long been intertwined, and the troubadours of troubling times — Guthrie, Seeger, Baez, Dylan, and Springsteen among them — have become famous for their dedication to both. Now we can add a name to the ranks of those who lift their voices for social and economic justice: Tom Morello.

Morello is the Harvard-educated guitarist who dabbled in politics, then chose rock music to make a difference. He played guitar for the popular band he co-founded — Rage Against the Machine — and then for Audioslave. Rolling Stone chose his album “World Wide Rebel Songs” as one of the best of 2011, and named him one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

As likely to be spotted at a grass-roots rally as he would at a concert hall, Morello was in Madison, Wisconsin last year, braving bitter winter weather to sing on the steps of the state capitol in support of public service workers. Morello defended their collective bargaining rights against Republican Governor Scott Walker.

He was in New York City at the May Day demonstrations, an honorary commander of a battalion of musicians they called the “Occupy Guitarmy.” That same night, Harry Belafonte presented Morello with the Officers’ Award from the Sidney Hillman Foundation, honoring his “advocacy for and support of working people across the world.”

Tom Morello shares his music, his message, and mission with Bill Moyers, who’s all ears.

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Posted in Inspiration of the Week, Political, Social (Cultural) | Comments