Take a close look at what is happening to the American way of life. It is going downhill big time. We are facing the biggest crisis in the history of this country. And as with all crises, this one too is self-produced by every single individual.
How did we get here?
There are basically two ways to live your life and make a living. Each way is a different approach that varies considerably in its outcome.
The Lose-Lose Gamble Approach
You are focused on making a living by constantly looking for where and how to get the most money out of every situation. Money is the driving force behind in this scenario. You always try to get a piece of the cake as long as there is cake on the table. If there is no cake on the table, you move on to another table to see if there is some cake left for you.
It’s a lousy way to get food on the table and to feed your family. It’s a way that leads sooner or later to the bottom of the system, ending up with less and in the end, with nothing. Over time, you need to become smarter to grab the cake, as there is more and more competition from others for that choice piece of cake. At one point, you may even try to steal the cake. It’s a desperate situation, but one you can justify, because after all, you need to eat, right?.
You are lost in cake hell.
As you constantly focus on getting your share of cake, you are broadcasting loud and clear to society that you are part of the great lumpy mass of existence – hungry for cake, but ultimately replaceable and easily dispensed with should your search for cake force you to unacceptable extremes. It’s not really your fault. It’s merely the result of our current process of automating and consumerizing society on a global scale.
Sometime during the previous century, the world started seriously to apply this automation process to every single product that is producible and consumable. We are currently not only automating everything possible, we are also in the process of squeezing more and more cake out of fewer and fewer ingredients.
Beware! The moment your work can be done by an automaton you likely will be replaced by it in the interests of automation. In a nutshell: if you act like a robot, and you work like a robot, you will be replaced by another robot sooner than you might think.
From an economic standpoint, you are constantly depleting society and the social system. You buy things you really cannot afford. You borrow more and more money, and therefore contribute to a money-debt system that presents more intractable challenges every year, both on a micro level and on a macro level.
Every year there is less to take out of the system. Yet every year you require more because of the system. If you project the consequences of supporting this kind of system, you can easily see that it ultimately has to fail. In fact, it’s not too difficult to see that if everyone everywhere supported this kind of system, it would fail in a blink of an eye.
It’s a straight lose-lose system. You lose and the whole society loses. Do you really think the bank just prints more money? Have you ever thought about where the money comes from? Why is it that the dollar is worth less and less? Everyone works harder and longer and more efficiently than ever before in the history of the human race. Yet, it cost more and more to simply have that piece of cake. Do you get the idea that all this is somehow connected?
The bottom line does not stop there. Individual (micro) loss and market or social (macro) loss is just the tip of the iceberg. Our system of monetized consumerism goes far beyond of our paltry ability to understand how it fully affects our planet. All resources – natural or otherwise – that are taken out and not somehow replenished are lost forever. This helps to create a downward spiral that ultimately affects our own chances of survival.
Where does the cake come from when everyone is focused solely on the cake itself and not on what goes into the cake? How can anyone make a cake when all the ingredients have been depleted? How about when they are priced out the reach of everyone but the wealthiest few in our society?
This approach is the simple result of thinking and acting as if you’re the only one on this planet. It’s the attitude that says, “It is all about me, me, me.” This attitude is severely unhealthy. It ultimately leads to loss of power, loss of self-esteem, avoidance, and to feelings of hopelessness and depression. It is beyond the power of even Prozac to sugarcoat.
The Win-Win Contributer Approach
You are focused on contributing to society. You are aware that you are a unique person and you have developed your unique strengths, abilities and gifts – of course for your benefit, but also for the benefit of others. You are using these attributes along with a positive attitude to contribute your share to society.
You are in the service business. You enrich and enlighten society, and from the mixing bowl of your life, you make wonderful cakes. It gives you pleasure and fulfillment in your life. You are valued and appreciated as a contributor, and you get your fair share of return (money and other things even less tangible) by the people who love to buy your cake.
Imagine if everyone could do it this way. Imagine the results of this scenario. There would be so much cake on the table that no one would ever have to fight about the getting enough. Indeed, there would be countless tables with an abundance of cakes on each one. It would be a society that would be so rich, so deliciously abundant, that it would have plenty of resources, and also one in which everything that is created is sustainable.
There would be so much value in the system in the form of money and in many other intangibles, that society could cooperatively build a global energy production system that is cheap – maybe even free – and based on free resources from advanced solar, wind and other technologies.
As a member of this society, and because you are creatively and fully utilizing your strengths and talents, no robot can ever replace you. Artificial intelligence may arrive this century but it will definitely not replace an intelligent human being fully grounded in its creative strength. You holistically use your intuition as well as your intelligence to to make life decisions. As a consequence, your capacity to visualize reality and to create it flawlessly borders on the fantastic. Just try building a robot to do that . . .
This approach is the result of thinking and acting with the certain understanding that we are all connected. We have plenty of evidence that this is indeed the case. If you look into the rise of the Internet as a global medium of exchange, modern systems-based approaches to productivity and distribution and even our increasing understanding of natural systems and their attendant challenges like climate change and rapid alterations in the biosphere, this approach seems to provide a much better match to our current reality.
We have one earth and each of us is part of the whole system. We understand that our local actions have global effects. We understand that contributing to the whole makes the whole stronger and richer, and gives back synergistically to each individual and to society as well. Each individual benefits in untold ways when he or she contributes back into the system.
It all starts out with a single belief or concept about how we want to see the world and ourselves. Everything else follows directly as the exact experience of this thinking. Everyone can choose this kind of abundance over deprivation if they are only willing to take their eyes off the cake and instead think about how to put it – and many more just as delicious – onto the world’s table to benefit the whole.
The first time I used the bus in America I felt like an outlaw. What a terrible experience. I felt as if I had hit the bottom tier of society. The bus system obviously exists only for people that couldn’t afford or are unable to drive a car. I was certain then, as I am now, that those fortunate people in their shiny SUVs whizzing past my bus window also held this low opinion of their carless neighbors. I don’t think much has changed since then. I think that we are still a society of haves and have-nots when we could be a society of equal contributors to our wonderful cake.
It’s a mere shift of viewpoint that can make all the difference. Other viewpoints can sometimes nurture your sense of self and provide the additional benefit of being good for all. For more than a generation now, my brother and sister Europeans have looked askance at anyone foolish or simply unaware enough to drive a car into the hearts of many cities.
Pedestrians shake their heads at you with ill humor as they hurry out of the path of your offending automobile. Obviously you are a dinosaur for taking your car into the city. However, if you avail yourself of the excellent and inexpensive bus system offered in nearly every European city, you are hip! You are the coolest of the cool. You know the score. With this approach – the one involving buses rather than cars – it is a breeze to meet new friends and have a wonderful relaxed time.
What a difference an attitude can make.