I have to admit that I’m a bit of a net-addict and geek. I was on MSN and Facebook well before any of my friends, I’m on Twitter, Linked-In, and I use Delicious, (although I find Digg useless) etc etc.
However, just because I’ve signed up to something, doesn’t mean I’m convinced of its utility. It’s taken me 18 months to convince myself that Facebook is actually useful in some way. The main way in which Facebook is useful is to me is in keeping up with friends and family who live elsewhere or whose lives are often lived in parallel to your own. You get to see what people are up to and feel like you’re staying in touch a lot better than you otherwise would. Indeed, for me Facebook has facilitated social events and catchings-up with friends.
However, there’s stuff on Facebook that I find just plain annoying. For example, I detest the ads that say things like “How do celebrities stay so skinny?” and “Make $400,000 from home just by typing.” Whatever you do, DO NOT click or sign up for the latter one – the EMillionaire scam. If you agree to pay the $1.95 fee for the initial training package, you’re secretly subscribing to a US $47 (currently about $73 AUD) per month credit card scam. I was stung and so were many others!
Then there are applications like Vampire Hugs, Foodfights, Presents, astrology, drinks, Scrabulous… Why would I bother to play virtual Scrabble when I can play real Scrabble with my family? Why ‘drink’ virtual red wine when you can have real red wine? And Vampire Hugs… WTF? Honestly, if I want entertainment on the internet, You Tube is where I’ll go (type in Angry German Kid or Harry Potter Puppets or for super cute, Falcor the Urinator!).
Then there’s Facebook Friends. I don’t have them. When I first got on Facebook, I said yes to one Facebook Friend who turned out to be a Facebook addict and seemed to spend every waking moment of her life on line, sending application invites to her ever-increasing list of Facebook ‘Friends’. For a few months, I was scared to delete her – until someone told me you could delete people without them knowing. Which I promptly did.
So I guess, Facebook has been useful for me albeit, not in the way its creators imagined. I’ve managed to recruit new staff (former colleagues) via Facebook, kept in touch with my school friends better than I’ve ever kept in touch, and joined some pretty silly groups (the Darwin Pigeon Lady Appreciation Society – you have to see it – it captures the essence of Australian (Northern Territory) humour and interest in fellow human beings).
The GFC … I Mean BFG* … or is that just another meaningless TLA**?
If you haven’t heard about the GFC (global financial crisis) I’m jealous. I’m over hearing about the GFC being the Worst, Biggest, Deepest blah blah blah ever.
This is where I diverge with this idea significantly because the hard facts just don’t exist. For example, the unemployment rates in the late 1920s and early 1930s (the Great Depression) in Australia were 30%. Yesterday, we had one right-wing propaganda paper, The Australian, spouting that unemployment could go as high as 5%.
That’s right: a massive FIVE PERCENT!
Now, excuse me if I’m stupid, but to me 5% does not equal anything like 30%. At least, not in the mathematics I learned at school. So let’s get that fact right. And look at it this way: if five percent of people who want jobs are unemployed then there are STILL NINETY FIVE PERCENT OF PEOPLE IN EMPLOYMENT!!!
Cast your minds, back dear readers, to 2007, we had full employment and the same papers and commentators were screaming about inflation driven by upward wages pressure. I do know something about economics – I have studied it. Once you get to around 2.5-3 % unemployment (that means most people who want to work are working) employers have to compete for workers. The main way that employers do so is through purchasing labour at ever-higher rates. This increases inflation and we pay more for everything. Our former government was screaming about inflation and casting the current government as a massive inflation bogeyman. Within months of the new government being elected, the inflation bogeyman had deflated (excuse the pun). Instead it was the global recession, the end of the resources boom, and doom and gloom – none of which were caused by any Australian government of either political persuasion.
How the tables have turned. Now, we have employment rates returning to what is probably far more sustainable and realistic, and people at last examining their outrageous consumer appetites and need for ever-bigger plasma TVs and McMansions. And what is the media doing? Screaming WOE!!
Of course, all of this suggests that national governments have little control over the big economic picture – and yet we continue to believe the myth in this globally-linked world, that governments can control what is far, far bigger than any one nation. And the media – especially the right-wing media- continues to push this leaking, faulty wheelbarrow for all that it’s worth, creating fear, doom and gloom in their wake.
Another issue is that of economic cycles. We have been in an upward trend of increased growth (which ultimately comes back to ever-faster rates of consumption of natural resources) for 12 years. Before that, we had a recession (in the early 1990s), before that the greed of the mid 1980s and before that, a recession in the early 1980s. I could go on – as I mentioned, I’ve studied economics! My point is this: like every source of energy in existence, economies cycle.
Let’s get this straight. It is sheer fantasy to think that economic growth has no limits and will trend upward forever. Especially so, given that much of this ‘growth’ was created by highly unstable and ‘abstract’ financial products such as loans to high-risk customers or the kinds of projects leveraged by venture capitalists. (BTW who in their right mind would call banks Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac? Are you serious? What the hell were Americans expecting, naming financial institutions such things and NOT expecting them to fail?).
Furthermore, I think our government is wrong to hand out yet another huge chunk of its savings to the people, who’ll fritter it away on purchasing plasmas and the fantasy celebrity clothing and accessories our society has gone ga-ga over. (For those who don’t know, the average Australian worker is about to get a $900 bonus from the government which we’re being urged to spend).
What would I do? I would use the money to begin large-scale housing and infrastructure projects that will stimulate the building sector and employment for the next 5 years. Then, I would begin to re-employ the public servants we’ve lost over the past 30 years AND fund high paying scholarships for teaching, nursing and medical degrees because we have a desperate shortage of those.
Most of all, I want to say this: this GFC is not doom and gloom. It is a massive, cosmic (if that doesn’t sound too cheesy) correction. A massive global opportunity. We have the chance to reflect on our over-consumption, to shrug off the illusion of the individual as a celebrity and the pressure to purchase the overblown trappings of creating such a fantasy, to shrug off the notion of status and worth linked to consumption, to cut back on our unnecessary spending, to cut back on clutter, on waste, on energy consumption and live more real, simple and FREE lives, grounded in family and community.
This GFC is a wonderful lesson. A true lesson – the market should not decide and you should not be fooled by the market. The market is an abstract, a word. Just as you are not a brand or an image, you are a divine energy manifesting as a human. The luxe lifestyle and greed of the financial sector given its conscienceless free reign are over. The correction is here and the sun is still coming up tomorrow morning. There is love and joy and non-attachment.
Nothing can change that.
*BFG – Big Friendly Giant – a popular children’s picture book.
**TLA – three letter acronym, a term anthropologists use to piss off corporate obsessives