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[pf] we took the wrong track, in the '50s and '60s

by David MacClement

03 December 2000 19:57 UTC

 This is an attempt to bring people's attention back to the subject in
hand: visualising and discussing how to work towards a positive future.

 This morning (Monday; it's before 9 a.m. now) I was making some points
about my general views on recent history, to my wife who's coming home late
after attending a Greens policy meeting this evening.

 In my opinion (and since I was there in the 1950s and '60s and remember
how it went, I think I have some basis for this opinion), people in the
developed or OECD countries were seduced into accepting greed, constantly
having more, as a worthwhile goal in life. 

 It didn't have to be that way; everyone had some greed, though generally
under various levels of restraint, but the general attitude was to frown on
it, to make comment like "you aren't being greedy, are you?" and people
would generally back off.

 So we, the people who had the choice in our hands, could easily have
chosen to continue attempting to draw a balance between one's momentary
individual desires and the general good.

 Many readers will dispute this, saying I'm describing some more utopian
way of life, saying I'm looking at the past through rose-tinted glasses; I
don't think so. /I/ think such readers have been brainwashed into the
current view by its /being/ the current view. They've grown up not knowing
anything different.

 So IMO we could very easily have chosen a route to the year 2000 that
would have left us with a lower material standard of living, though still
quite comfortable, and a world much less ripped apart (for the extraction
of the resources used in the current excess) and messed-up, a year-2000
world that would have quite a good chance of making the much more modest
changes required to work towards living sustainably. 

 I can defend what I've said so far; the next bit is more speculative.

 I would guess that in the alternative year-2000 that we nearly had, TV,
computers, cell-phones and many other developments would be not a lot
different from what we've got now; there might have been somewhat slower
development of technological advances with a restrained capitalism driving
it. At a rough guess, the USA would be not greatly different from Europe in
the early 1990s: much greater reliance on rail for transport, air travel
easily available but more expensive (and less fuel used overall), TV etc
virtually up-to-date (that was the early pentium CPUs), and in the US,
probably but not certainly a monetary support system for the
"disadvantaged" which would have kept social strains reduced and people
more willing to work together than Americans are now.

 The usual criticism of such "philosophy" is: "Yes, but were here now; we
can't change the past, we have to start with what we've got!"

 While my main point is that people should start seriously criticising the
way things are currently done (and have been for some decades), I'm also
saying that we still have a chance of working towards a nearly-visible
goal: what the USA (and the rest of the world) would have been like in
2010-2015 if the alternate route /had/ been taken. 

(David MacClement) davd@ihug.co.nz 

T O P I C A  http://www.topica.com/t/17
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