Guaranteed Livable Income is Arterial
by Matt Fair - November 2006
FIRST BREATH OF DEMOCRACY
One reason I have always worked to promote the concept of Guaranteed Livable Income (GLI), is that, as a medicine, it is arterial. GLI is not a "special interest" to do with identifiable groups, whether the "disabled," the "emotionally disturbed," the exhausted wage-slave, the "homeless," the battered women, the environmentalists, the artists, the hopeless soldiers, the disaster victims, the cancer victims, etc etc.-- many of whom unintentionally "provide content" for social service organizations, perpetuating the necessity of poverty to sustain pyramids of careers.
Actually, the idea of medicine here, appropriate to today's world, after a little thinking gives way to the image of a baby transitioning from placenta (scarcity) to lungs and atmosphere (abundance). GLI is humanity's first breath, the first breath of democracy (an old idea whose time has come*).
Incidentally, Buckminster Fuller, who had the most generous and scientifically-based vision of GLI, wrote that the fossil fuels were our placenta for industrialization, but sooner or later we must transfer to the unlimited power source of the sun-which, like GLI, threatens investments in the scarce power-source, "black gold"-- preferring a source that is dark, hidden, scarce, and Jurassic, rather than one which is radiant, open, transparent, and unlimited.
And it is curious that such a notorious lubricant itself requires so much grease of human blood. Fuller also said, speaking of our "fierce competitive world" that people do not kill each other in competition for air, they do not think of competing for air because they take air for granted as abundant; but in a burning theatre, they trample each other to death in the sudden "competitive individualism." Why then, we ask, are the children of Africa, for instance, being trampled to death in the open air of global wealth?
THIS IS NOT A BURNING THEATRE!
Though some environmentalists say, "just wait." The first cheque (or direct deposit) of a Guaranteed Livable Income is democracy's first breath, a painless transfer to the new operating system, a much more decentralized infrastructure co-ordinated technologically. This is one of evolution's great sudden discontinuities, matrix shifts, quantum-leaps. If you think evolution is "brick by brick," you need a little refocus of your pattern-recognition, or process-recognition. The chick does not erode her way out of the shell. Sometimes evolution gets frisky and we evolve in leaps and bounds.
In this case, it's up to us. GLI is arterial: like the arteries, it supplies oxygen to all the body-parts, and especially those endangered "organelles" which constitute every social organ, individuals-- who liberal democracy is supposed to serve ("The collectivity is there to serve the individuals"- Pierre Trudeau).
NOT A PYRAMID, A BODY
In his 1998 Massey Lectures, Canadian philosopher Jean Vanier said, "Can we hope for a society whose metaphor is not a pyramid, but a body? --where each of us is a vital part in the harmony and function of the whole."
One assumes that Vanier used this image from 1 Corinthians 12. Verses 14 to 26 serve beautifully as a model for democracy, which I'll make explicit after the quotation:
14 For the body is not one member, but many.
15 If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
16 And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him [sic].
19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
21 And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
22 Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
23 And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
24 For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked.
25 That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
REACHING FOR DEMOCRACY
The philosophical tradition of the concept of democracy runs much deeper than the invention of the ballot-which these days gives us the "freedom" to choose which millionaire lawyers or businessmen or women "represent" us, the same "freedom" (the kind GWB always touts) to choose between Coke and Pepsi, Players or Marlboro, a child to serve your sexual needs, or an AK-47-assuming the obvious of course, that you have the money (in Thailand the child is 1/6 the price of the assault rifle).
The celebrated Canadian democratic theorist C. B. McPherson wrote about that deeper stream, which applies the principle of synergy to social contracts: a society that applies the "increment of association," the "chain that is stronger than its strongest link" to create enormous wealth, for the purpose, in turn, of supporting the individual citizen to develop her capacities.
The standard by which the theory must judge the democratic quality of any society, and by which its claim that any particular society is democratic, must be tested, is how nearly it attains the presently attainable maximum, i.e. the maximum level of abilities to use and develop human capacities given the presently possible human command over external nature. C.B. McPherson, Democratic Theory (emphasis MF)
GLI IS ARTERIAL
The large serves the small-that seems right. It fits. The entire sky serves the individual baby with all the air in the world.
So much wealth has come from memetic descent and the co-operation of human beings that it has kicked out the supporting platform, some would say bedrock, of market economics altogether-the assumption-- no, the imperative of scarcity.
GLI: arterial: blood flow through the body to refresh every organ, so that the most important worker on earth, the mother, can do her job; so that the writer can write, the painter paint, the psychologist explore, the healer heal, the gardener garden, and whatever you like to do, perhaps share laughter, perhaps play with kids, or play with words, or play piano, perhaps independent study/research, tracking some interest out beyond the box to where, as Emerson wrote, "in the end, it ripens into truth."
We are a many-gifted group, us humans, animals, and plants. Our economic system has systematically-and conscientiously hounded individuality to death or near-death. That is why the term "self-interest" as applied to obsessive money-making is so ironic. Obsessive monkey-making mimicry. "Big Pharma" has been one of the most useful tools for the hounding of the individual, coupled with a public school system whose "covert curriculum" (Toffler, 1980) has always been "obedience, conformity, and rote, repetitive work." (For an explicit and fascinating exposé of the history of schooling in North America, read John Taylor Gatto's The Underground History Of American Education -available online for those with access.)
DISSOLVING POVERTY AND SLAVERY
Arterial: from the lonely boy in school who thinks his compassion evidence of failure, the girl who feels pressured to hide her intelligence, the 40-year-old whose death taps the shoulder saying "having fun yet?", to the exhausted nurse, home-care worker, logger, janitor, prison guard... to you, whoever you are: a Guaranteed Livable Income, supported as perfectly viable by many economists, would instantly dissolve two major institutions-poverty, and slavery. By slavery, of course, is meant the trading of days, energy, and freedom for subsistence.
*"There is enough go round.... handsomely" said Buckminster Fuller, who informed us that a consensus of scientists in 1955 had published this assertion: humanity had the tools in place to feed, clothe, and shelter everyone on the planet at high standards of living, including the means to support increasing populations at ever-improving standards of living. As you know, technology is evolving so rapidly now that we can call those scientists' declaration conservative understatement.
FOLD UP YOUR FOOD BAND AND GO CANOEING
GLI is arterial: it brings oxygen to every nerve cell, from the big toe of humanity to the hair-tips. Everyone on the planet can join the party, no more need for 20,000 deaths a day from hunger, nor even for the brutal despair of poverty for parents reliant on food banks (many working full time).
Not only does it liberate them immediately, it lets food-bank supporters fold up and go canoeing, lets those miserable welfare workers go and write a novel (tell what they know but weren't allowed to say), lets you or I offer our services to an employer on agreeable terms, to get money for luxuries.
There's no "We" who support the poor on "our" backs-- and "Them," those lazy mothers looking for a handout. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? There's just us, the passengers on this spacecraft, the animals, plants, and humans.
John F. Kennedy said, "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Sorry Jack, that's totalitarianism, fascism, what-have-you.
What your country can and should do for you is, first, support your life with the living essentials (any system dedicated to the development of the individual knows there is no individual without the living essentials); support life and community with infrastructure, provide the means for the development of talents, and, crucial now, give you free time in which to undergo the recovery process, and then to get on with what you really want to do, which will be your contribution.
No hurry for it, take your time, there's no shortage, no scarcity, no desperate need for your production-there has been overproduction in industry for 100 years, there's lots of inventory to clear. And five percent of the population is all that is needed to keep everything running smoothly to provision us (Gatto, 1995).
You've heard of supply and demand? That's a bullshit term economists use. What they mean is supply and "demand-among-those-with-enough-money."
Democracy, folks: "enough money" is now available to us all. That should be our first demand. Municipal politicians are household servants-premiers, prime ministers, presidents are head butlers-a perfectly honorable job--in our mansion. Demand a Guaranteed Livable Income here at home, and around the planet. Let's all hold hands and take our first breath.
Matt Fair is a BC writer and artist. Article published in Victoria Street Newz, 2006
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