Monday, September 28, 2009

Have you felt hunger lately?

Yesterday I was sitting in a coffee with my wife and a couple of friends. Both couples are educated, liberal and secular. No apparent reason why, but both men are earning a nice salary while our wives earn less than half that sum. Wouldn’t you ask yourself how come? (This is an important question. Let’s talk about it in a future post).


My friend became a manager this year for the first time in his life. He said “I was always mad at those pigs that pay meager salaries. But now when I’m responsible for a little budget and need to opt for getting an acceptable salary for myself (the same I would get in any other job of the same type) or expense it on salaries ‘higher than the market’.” We then discussed lengthy the fact that he offered a salary he is “ashamed of offering.” Actually this salary is 130% of the legal minimum wage over here, while it was clear to everyone around the table that it is impossible to maintain a decent life for a single parent with one child with this salary – not to mention a bigger family. My friend was further amazed by the fact that people ‘fought’ to get this post. My friend is working in the commercial hub of the country and was wondering for what a lower wage would people struggle in the peripheral areas of the country?

We tried to understand what brings young liberal people, the ones which are supposedly aware of social injustice, to focus their whole efforts in improving their own life and be ‘surprised’ when they find that people are willing to work for a salary which they consider indecent and impossible to live from.
The conversation turned to discuss our fears. I am afraid that I must work b/c of my chronic disease, since when I’ll be sick no one will provide for my family or even my medical needs. My friends were afraid of the soaring living and education costs in the metropolis. We didn’t have to further explain things – as we are all aware of the declining level of health services and especially the education system.
Without being able to pay for private health services and education – you and your children are doomed to be dumped to the bottom of the social ladder. We are all mice in a race which isn’t regulated anymore.

In these days were supposedly even the USA Federal Bank understood that a pure non-intervention approach a-la Adam Smith, cannot secure prosperity and will bring upon us more and more disasters – we still find that most of the governments and societies vigorously maintain their own mice races. No one is able to stop the race – as everyone is racing for their souls.

The problem as you can see is that no one will stop racing and change the race rules until he drops off the race – but then, he’ll be too tired, too hungry and weak to make a change. He’ll be begging for one of those indecent salaries while others will wonder how come people fight for such a salary. The mice still in the race will probably claim that it’s the ‘offer and demand’ that set these salaries.

How can a social ship get in the right direction when the prevailing mantra is “save your souls!” or “race for your souls!”?
Have you felt real hunger lately? Are you ready for it? If not, please keep running….


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

We take care of ourselves

As more and more aspects of Left idea were vanishing - remember the end of history, neoliberalism as the only possible world - a fearsome idea seems more and more "natural": each one HAS to take care of himself, and what happens to him is its entire responsability.


  • You suffer a prolonged or chronic disabling illness

  • You suffer a really bad blow in life: a bad divorce, lose of a dear person

  • You just suffer a prolonged lapse of bad luck

It's your business. I am your neighbour, or your colleague, I belong to one of your networks somehow, and I don't care. I have to protect my interests and take care of my career and family.

Well, it's true that I alone cannot do great things for you ,"bad-lucker". My possibilities are limited. I have a full time job (lucky of me!), I have to dedicate time to my sons and parents and friends, my economical assets are quite limited because my housing spent doesn't left me much margin. So, I can listen to you, I can make you a favour, even I can lend you petty money. But it is your business.

What a live, uh? Just a chronic illness and your life goes down the toilet

Well, there was a thing called "Welfare State". When taxes started to go well, more and more public money were invested in services for the population. You go ill? No problem, you paid your social services quota, and now we pay you. You are unemployed for a long time? Well, throwing you to the trash can is out of question. We will do something. We cannot accept that anybody goes without medical asistance or education.

State was not only a commodity for building roads, defense and the stupid things that don't generate benefits. State meaned a minimum barrier for everybody. It was not efficient, but worked.

Hum, efficiency... sacred word, one of them. One lie said 1.000 times becomes true. Neoliberals talked in their media so much about inefficiency that it seems to be only solution: privatice. Private services were going to be more efficient and everybody would win.

It was a lie, after all.

It is just a joke, really. If the contractor achieves efficiency, what is he going to do? offer better services, or improve his margin?

We are lessering more and more that basic wellfare barrier because of that lie.

Now, in the start of this Crisis, it looks like State services has a deadline. After all the turmoil, State is not going to have enough money for all that services, from retirement to public health. At least here in Spain, a lot of people assume that people that is going to retire from 2025 onwards have not their retirements assured.

Well, at least we still be able to remember the idea of WE. There was a time before wellfare state in which We took care of Ourselves (our grandparents and grandgrandparents). One guy generally is not be able of take care entirely of another one. But a collective does, and if that collective behave in this way, it will commiting to its true purpose.

Not an agreggate. A collective. There in Israel people knows a lot about that, and it is not fantasy

Us. We. We can if we want, although the enemies wanted us divided, "taking care of our own business"