You’ll Be Surpised

18 11 2008

By Teasome

This is in a way related to Dorte’s appeal to action (see What the Hell is Spirinomics below). Though it goes outside the frameworks of a website and into the most real life.

There is this centre in Switzerland, Caux sur Montreux. It’s a beautiful castle on top of a mountain, and in summers an organisation called Initiatives of Change runs conferences there. There is one conference called Trust and Integrity in Global Economy. Check it out here:

 http://www.caux.ch/en/node/38692

 Or  if this doesn’t work, go to www.caux.ch website and find TIGE there.

 I’ve been to Caux twice, for other conferences and as a volunteer doing some office work. I know this organisation for 7 years and got a lot of friends there. I recommend you Caux because of a very, very unique atmosphere. It’s got tons of spirituality in it, it’s soaked through with spirituality. Chance to meet good people, too, and create something together. Great community spirit, either. You’ll be surprised.

One drawback is that it costs around 75 euros per night, so the whole stay would turn out something like 500 euros. Plus tickets to get to Geneva and from there to Caux. For those of us who work and stay in Europe it’s probably manageable. For others – we’ll need to think something… Perhaps there are some ways of fundraising. I can find out!!!!

But anyway, I REEEEEEEEALLY recommend it, and it would be smashing if we could get together there! It would be an absolutely fabulous reunion.

Have a look, the application should be made in spring I think, march or april………… Let me know what you think, and I’ll find out for you whatever you need.

Advertisements




Oyel!

9 09 2008

By Teasome

It’s a bit scary. Oil has peaked or will peak soon, whatever. Wars for oil are inevitable anyway. They have already been led for a long time (since people discovered oil, perhaps), and they will persist and become more fierce and cruel.

Russia has a lot of oil. Consider the way the US government deals with oil shortage: name an oil-rich country’s regime undemocratic, overturn it by force, and gain the power over it. Extrapolate, and it’s easy to predict what will happen. Consider that recently the political regime in Russia has become extremely undemocratic – from the American government’s point of view, naturally. Extrapolation works?

To spark off a war with Russia would be too much in political sense. Of course, it’s easy for the rest of the world to murmur approvingly when the Russian regime is being attacked; but to actually start military actions against a Christinal country with acknowledged market economy and enormous mutual investment would mean a dramatic loss of political points. The problem is, while oil is becoming more scarce, political points matter less. In the face of scarce oil, the power will be not with the one who has more political credit with the rest of the world, but with the one who has a better bomb. A more effective one, or better few, the most advanced and expensive.

Bleak isn’t it. All this makes me think: ok, the most pessimistic scenario works out, Russia is invaded and destroyed by America, China, whoever. Fine. While I’m writing this, I should check on the Internet: how many people get killed per second all over the world? Why should I think that my country is any better than any other? Why is it more worthy of remaining intact than any other?

I think that the moment a nation or an ethnic group, or a tribe, becomes extinct, a voice is lost in the universal chorus. That voice cannot be replaced. It has a message which no other nation, ethnic group or tribe can deliver to the humankind. The humankind becomes forever deprived of a certain knowledge, which hinders its development, if not questions survival.

So, judging from the amount of wars we’ve had and nations, ethnic groups and tribes become extinct, I’m not surprised the survival of the human race is under a big question.

Not that I’m in an especially bleak mood today 🙂 Though the weather is rubbish in St.Peters today actually, yes.





Rationality revisited

14 08 2008

By Economicsfairy

Just a quick question: How do they define “rationality” in economics again? Wasn’t it, very simply, a decision-making process based on what you perceive is better or best for yourself, according to your preferences? I’m not sure, maybe there are already models to incorporate altruistic behaviour, to be able to show that one could do something for someone else (which might be a “sacrifice”), but still behave “rational”.

If not, then the whole concept is a bit flawed, due to a very narrow worldview and also, to limitations on information as far as the long-run time horizon is concerned. Of course, a very “rational” action today (going to work by car because it is more convenient than the bus) can have very bad effects for me and others in the future (including the environment etc. etc.) So is it still rational to take the car?

But it doesn’t always have to be the environment. The game theory model “prisoner’s dilemma” shows that sometimes in a given situation, two players could both be better off by cooperating, but because they don’t trust each other (and behave according to “individual rationality” which would make each alone even better off, but both together worse), they end up in the worst possible situation. This is what happens in our societies at all levels, all the time. People defect because they think the others will do the same and so we end up worse off, altogether. But we are rational.

I think that the whole idea of being rational if you do something only according to how much it benefits yourself in the short-term, without realizing the detrimental effects on yourself in the long-run, other people or the environment, suffers (like many other ideas in world history) from the assumption that we are all separate individuals, separate entities who have to fight for themselves (against others) and are basically alone in this “cruel world”.

There are spiritual people who claim that the opposite is true: that we are not at all separated, neither from others nor from the Divine. They say this would just be a great illusion we all suffer from. So if we regarded the world like as if we were all one, wouldn’t our behavior change, little by little? Wouldn’t it become clearer that whatever good or bad we do to others would come back to us at some point?

And wouldn’t it be fun to think of “rationality” like that? Rational behaviour as a kind of behaviour that doesn’t distinguish too much between people anymore, but that tries to take into account the well-being of as many beings as possible?





“Ethics is not enough for me – I’m an economist”

12 08 2008

By Economicsfairy

 

It just came back to my mind: Once in an “Aid and Development”-class, a lecturer made a comment about debt relief (it was all about the pros and cons etc.), and he said something like, well, of course, there is a moral argument for debt relief, but that wouldn’t be enough for him, because he was an economist. Therefore, he had to ask himself: Where (in which country?) does debt relief pay most? I think that idea makes perfect sense, but please note the separation: moral arguments – economic arguments. How can we bridge the gap between the two at least a wee bit?

 

In this context, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Adam Smith, the Godfather of Economics, wrote his “Theory of Moral Sentiments” before the “Wealth of Nations”. He was a (social) philosopher after all. Economics has to be quantified with the help of mathematics and statistics, no doubt – but it is more than that. It is not a pure natural or mathematical science. It is inextricably linked with politics and so there always has to be some kind of judgement. Many countries have accounted for that fact in some way or other by their constitutions, rules of law, social systems, protection of minorities etc.

 

But on a global scale, this kind of thinking (and acting!) is absolutely lacking. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t want a world government (really not, just imagine the horrible bureaucracy, the red tape and the opportunities for corruption!) but we need a reliable framework to make the global economy truly work – concerning trade, debts, labour, social security, migration – a framework backed by the people and by more than economic calculations. What power does the UN have? Is the WTO democratic? Who can effectively fight global pollution? So much needs to be done – we shouldn’t leave it to economists and their limited worldview alone.

 





Fair Trade is not a Fairy Tale, but: A bit of both worlds

6 08 2008
By Economicsfairy
A much laughed about project ten or twenty years ago, Fair Trade has meanwhile managed to establish itself – Scotland even wants to become the world’s first “Fair Trade Nation”. There are efforts to make universities “Fair Trade”, there are “Fair Trade towns”, you can find more and more Fair Trade coffee, bananas, tea, chocolate … whatever, in the shops. In our co-operative round the corner, I get the impression that there is a new Fair Trade product nearly every week. So people MUST buy the stuff (even though more expensive), otherwise the shops wouldn’t offer it any longer. How can economic models account for that? (Model Fair Trade products as “luxury goods” for which people like to pay more?)
By the way, I don’t think that Fair Trade can save the world, but it is an example of how economics and a spiritual way of living (in this context the idea that we are all linked and that my actions or non-actions do have an effect on others) may be reconciled. In the end, we certainly need another world trade system and a different WTO. But in order to achieve that the developing world still has a long way to go. Fair Trade could be an encouraging step in between.
At Glasgow’s Aye Write Festival in March, I attended an event with Harriet Lamb, the Fair Trade woman in the UK. It was such a pleasure to listen to her talk about her experiences and her new book, she was full of energy and passion about what she’s doing and what she has achieved, that I thought: She makes money with doing something really good and valuable and she loves it – what a nice merger of the two worlds!
And she might be rewarded for all that work time and again: Hasn’t some Harvard genius found out in his recent game theory experiments that “it pays to be nice”?
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 

 





This is a blog about economics and spirituality: So, what do the IMF and the Vatican have in common?

28 07 2008

By Economicsfairy

Correct: Old white men tell everybody how the world works and what individuals and societies as a whole have to do in order to survive (in this world or the one still to come). I don’t want to go as far as to claim that economics is not a proper science, but i.e. even the IMF and the World Bank start to realize that their simple free markets blueprint didn’t really work in many countries (or worse, was detrimental), so might not have been grounded on thorough research, but rather on ideology:

 

We believe that this is the right way for everybody – and so it must be!

 

Fortunately, the IMF doesn’t come along with swords and axes like the crusaders in the Middle Ages, but for some of the countries that were very badly affected by the so-called “structural adjustment programmes” the difference may not be that big … Indian farmers committed suicide because of the economic pressure.

 

Certain people always tried to rule the world, be it via religious belief systems, political ideology or (most common today) economic power (and certain economic models (that don’t leave much room for the poor of this world). And there is always some kind of “big story” involved, some kind of narrative, model, belief, worldview … that serves the interests of the people in power.

 

Monty Python films ridicule this idea of “meta-stories” or “meta-narratives”, whether in religion or in politics. I think that economics could go down the same road if it does not allow for a constant reality-check. The economic/political meta-narratives of our time are: globalisation is good for everyone (“in the long run”), trade liberalisation is good for everyone, privatization is always better, Western democracy is the best model for every country (and the USA knows how to implement it), everybody is per se egoistic and a “utility maximizer”, everything needs to be assessed in terms of usefulness and rationality, money makes you happy, more money makes you happier ….

 

Okay, a bit exaggerated, but I think you get the idea: Since more and more churches are being converted into pubs – and priests had to give up their monopoly on story-telling: What kind of stories are we told these days? Who benefits from them?

 

And do we believe them?
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Life in a breath

5 06 2008
I dream to sail
across the heavens and
and the oceans
 
I dream to be free
from the ties of worldly desire
 
Will flow like a river
the soul in me,
an urge to feed the empty darkness
with the radiant light of compassion.
 
Yet I am here, battling the world
living by the rules, trying to be a good man
 
Is this me, do I desire this existence
of mere living with hope, that one day I will be free.
 
Or is this me on a journey of preparation,
of experiencing pain and pleasure,
learning to create light in darkness.
 
Why do I feel so confused at times, when even in silence
there is anarchy of thought.
 
Have I burdened myself with the intellectual rigour, to find logic
in all that god gives me, why cant I be his humble servant and be thankful for
the abundance that he provides in every breathe of my life.