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Demeter

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Gender: Female
Hometown: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Home country: USA
Member since: Thu Sep 25, 2003, 01:04 PM
Number of posts: 85,373

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Balancing Act

http://www.utne.com/Mind-Body/Work-Life-Balance-Low-Wage-Workers.aspx#ixzz1hBJV7tcO

A small group of Chicago clothing retailers is challenging convention by offering their low-wage, mostly part-time workers a list of perks normally reserved for management: flexible hours, time off when needed, and a locked-in schedule of shifts that allows workers to plan a full month, rather than a few days, in advance.

If researchers are correct, higher worker satisfaction at those stores will boost employee morale, retention rates, and productivity, pushing labor costs down and revenues up. Meanwhile, employees will report reduced stress, better physical and mental heath, and stronger relationships with family and friends.

“It’s really a win-win,” says Susan Lambert, an associate professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration. Lambert is among a handful of people exploring one of the most overlooked areas of labor policy: work-life balance at the bottom of the pay scale.

The flexible workplace benefits the professional class often takes for granted—maternity and sick leave, time off for family emergencies, control over work schedules, telecommuting—rarely trickle down the pay ladder. Yet studies show that workers at or near minimum wage are most in need of such benefits. The working poor are more likely to hold down multiple jobs, have greater health care needs, be single parents and caregivers, and have difficulty commuting to their jobs.

While much attention in recent years has focused on minimum wage and so-called living-wage legislation, experts argue that actual wages are less important than the work schedule...

Populism Isn't Dead, It's Marching: What 19th Century Farmers Can Teach Occupiers About How to Keep

http://www.truth-out.org/populism-isnt-dead-its-marching-what-bunch-farmers-can-teach-bunch-occupiers-about-how-keep-going/13

Not so long ago, Americans witnessed the beginning of a mass democratic uprising. Thousands of average people, disgusted by greedy elites and corporate control of government, launched a movement that spread to almost every state in the nation. They did it to reject debt. They did it to fight foreclosures. They did it to topple a world where the 1 percent determined life for the other 99. And they did all of it against incredible odds, with a self-respect that stymied critics.

The year? 1877. The people? Dirt-poor farmers who would come to be known as Populists...the Populists came within an inch of changing the entire corporate-capitalist system. They wanted a totally new world, and they had a plan to get it. But as you may have noticed, they didn’t. And now here we are, one hundred years later, occupying parks where fields once stood. We’re at a crucial phase in our movement, standing just now with the great Everything around us—everything to win or everything to lose. It’s our choice. And that’s good, because the choices we make next will echo, not just for scholars and bored kids in history class, but in the lives we do or don’t get to have. The good news is this: the Populists traveled in wagons and left us their wheels. We don’t have to reinvent them. We’re going in a new direction, but I have a feeling they can help us get there.

Occupy has done a lot of things right, and even more things beautifully. But strategy has not been our forte. That was okay at first, even good. We didn’t have one demand, because we wanted it all. So we let our anger grow, and our imagination with it. We were not partisan or monogamous to one creed. That ranging anger got 35,000 people on the Brooklyn Bridge after the Wall Street eviction, and hell if I’m not saying hallelujah. But winter is settling now, and cops are on the march. Each week we face new eviction orders, and wonder how to occupy limbo.

It’s time for a plan, then, some idea for going forward. This plan should in no way replace the rhizomatic-glorious, joyful-rip-roarious verve of the movement so far. It can occur in tandem. But we need a blueprint for the future, because strategy is the road resistance walks to freedom...I sat down a few years ago and devoted myself to studying social movements of the past. I wanted to see what I could learn from them—where they went wrong, where they went right. I didn't trust this exercise to random musings. No, like a good Type A kid, I made butcher paper lists of past movement features and mapped them onto current ones. I asked: What is the revolt of the guard for the climate movement? What’s the modern anti-corporate equivalent of the Boston Tea Party? As I read, I learned a lot about the phases movements go through as they form, what common features they share, and what often breaks them apart. I could name these phases myself, but it’s already been done. And no one has named them better than historian Lawrence Goodwyn, a thinking human if there ever was one and a student of the Populist movement...

MUST READ!

Robert Fisk: Bankers are the dictators of the West

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-bankers-are-the-dictators-of-the-west-6275084.html

...It seems to me that the reporting of the collapse of capitalism has reached a new low which even the Middle East cannot surpass for sheer unadulterated obedience to the very institutions and Harvard "experts" who have helped to bring about the whole criminal disaster...

...We've been deluged with reports of how the poor or the disadvantaged in the West have "taken a leaf" out of the "Arab spring" book, how demonstrators in America, Canada, Britain, Spain and Greece have been "inspired" by the huge demonstrations that brought down the regimes in Egypt, Tunisia and – up to a point – Libya. But this is nonsense. The real comparison, needless to say, has been dodged by Western reporters, so keen to extol the anti-dictator rebellions of the Arabs, so anxious to ignore protests against "democratic" Western governments, so desperate to disparage these demonstrations, to suggest that they are merely picking up on the latest fad in the Arab world. The truth is somewhat different. What drove the Arabs in their tens of thousands and then their millions on to the streets of Middle East capitals was a demand for dignity and a refusal to accept that the local family-ruled dictators actually owned their countries...The Arab martyrs against dictatorship died to prove that their countries belonged to their own people. And that is the true parallel in the West. The protest movements are indeed against Big Business – a perfectly justified cause – and against "governments". What they have really divined, however, albeit a bit late in the day, is that they have for decades bought into a fraudulent democracy: they dutifully vote for political parties – which then hand their democratic mandate and people's power to the banks and the derivative traders and the rating agencies, all three backed up by the slovenly and dishonest coterie of "experts" from America's top universities and "think tanks", who maintain the fiction that this is a crisis of globalisation rather than a massive financial con trick foisted on the voters.

The banks and the rating agencies have become the dictators of the West. Like the Mubaraks and Ben Alis, the banks believed – and still believe – they are owners of their countries. The elections which give them power have – through the gutlessness and collusion of governments – become as false as the polls to which the Arabs were forced to troop decade after decade to anoint their own national property owners. Goldman Sachs and the Royal Bank of Scotland became the Mubaraks and Ben Alis of the US and the UK, each gobbling up the people's wealth in bogus rewards and bonuses for their vicious bosses on a scale infinitely more rapacious than their greedy Arab dictator-brothers could imagine.

...Why don't my journalist mates in Wall Street tell me? How come the BBC and CNN and – oh, dear, even al-Jazeera – treat these criminal communities as unquestionable institutions of power? Why no investigations – Inside Job started along the path – into these scandalous double-dealers? It reminds me so much of the equally craven way that so many American reporters cover the Middle East, eerily avoiding any direct criticism of Israel, abetted by an army of pro-Likud lobbyists to explain to viewers why American "peacemaking" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be trusted, why the good guys are "moderates", the bad guys "terrorists". The Arabs have at least begun to shrug off this nonsense. But when the Wall Street protesters do the same, they become "anarchists", the social "terrorists" of American streets who dare to demand that the Bernankes and Geithners should face the same kind of trial as Hosni Mubarak. We in the West – our governments – have created our dictators. But, unlike the Arabs, we can't touch them.

The Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, solemnly informed his people this week that they were not responsible for the crisis in which they found themselves. They already knew that, of course. What he did not tell them was who was to blame. Isn't it time he and his fellow EU prime ministers did tell us? And our reporters, too?

I REPEAT: The original purpose of the Postal Service was to Deliver Democracy!



It was the conduit for political discussion and debate, tying a geographically dispersed population into a single, somewhat informed electorate. That’s why magazines and newspapers historically enjoyed a low, government-subsidized rate. The founding fathers realized that a large nation must communicate through media, and that privately funded media would skew the national debate toward the interests of the rich. Hence, they established the oostal service and gave it a mandate to subsidize independent media with deeply discounted media mail rates. That’s why its formation was enshrined in the US Constitution—for the same reason the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and names journalism as the only profession that it specifically safeguards. A free press, including a means for disseminating that press, are paramount necessities for a democracy to function.

Capitalism and Loneliness: Why Pornography Is a Multibillion-Dollar Industry

AND WHAT ABOUT COLLEGE GIRLS PROSTITUTING THEMSELVES TO PAY FOR TUITION? HOW FAR DOES CORRUPTION GO?

http://www.truth-out.org/capitalism-and-loneliness-why-pornography-multibillion-dollar-industry/1324586390

Massive social changes in the US labor force and in commerce have transformed the economy and powerfully affected personal relationships. Since 1970, we have changed from being a society of people connected in groups of every kind to a society of people who are too often disconnected, detached and alienated from one another.

One is the loneliest number, and in their personal lives, Americans are increasingly alone.

What Has Happened to Us?

In the 1970s, the American dream of 150 years duration ground to a halt. From 1820 to 1970, every US generation did better than the one that preceded it. In the 1970s, computers began to replace millions of US jobs. International communication systems became so sophisticated that factories could be moved overseas, allowing the livelihoods of more millions of Americans to be outsourced. Civil rights and feminist gains had given women and minorities access to a depleted job market. Militant left trade union movements or political parties were not there to protest. Wages flattened. Profits rose with productivity and the share distributed to the top rose, rather than being distributed in wages. Wealthy banks issued credit cards with high interest rates that allowed them to make even more money on funds formerly paid out as salaries.

Men were no longer paid a family wage. Families suffered. Women poured into the labor force to make up for lost male wages. Until this point, most women's work was primarily labor in the home: creating domestic order and cleanliness, performing childcare, and providing social and emotional services for the family. After the 1970s, the majority of women worked outside of the home as well as within it. Now, practically all women work outside the home, currently constituting almost half of the labor force.

Before the movements for racial and gender equality, the best jobs were reserved for white males who were an overwhelming majority. Within our racist and sexist labor force, white men had what ultimately amounted to two wage bonuses: one for being white and another for being male. Beginning in the 1970s, it was no longer necessary to give financial bonuses to white men. Indeed, it was not necessary to pay higher wages to any workers in the US labor force. Workers' salaries flattened even as they increased their efficiency. This meant that ever more profit was made and accumulated at the top.

American white men lost a good deal of the male hegemony that accompanied steady jobs and wages that could support a family. When millions of manufacturing jobs were outsourced, our economy became a service economy. Neither the greater physical strength nor the higher levels of aggression associated with males are particularly welcome in a service economy. Heterosexual personal relationships that had developed on the basis of a male provider income could not hold. Those gendered roles were sexist and limiting. However, they could have been transformed politically without economically and psychologically traumatizing the American people.

New Roles

US women adjusted to new roles in the marketplace. Unfortunately, men did not make comparable changes. They held on to the privileges that came with men's provider roles and women's full-time service in the household. The average unemployed man currently does less housework than his fully employed wife. Many men now want extra domestic, sexual and emotional services to compensate them for the emasculation they experience when they lose provider jobs and salaries. There is conflict in the household on a whole new level. Our divorce rate has become the highest in the world. Unfortunately, men and women did not mobilize to force the government to provide free or subsidized childcare, eldercare or any other direly necessary social services to compensate for women's "second shift" at home.

In 2008, the recession struck, plunging millions of Americans into precarity and loss. Male jobs were hit hardest. Most of the jobs lost were in disproportionately stereotypically male fields such as construction, heavy machinery, finance and aggressive big-ticket sales. Seventy-five percent of the more than 5 million jobs lost in our recession have been traditionally men's jobs.

Men have fallen behind. Women's earnings grew 44 percent from 1970 to 2007, compared with 6 percent growth for men. Women now occupy nearly half of the nation's jobs, more than half of management positions and most of the seats in higher education.

Men's traditional roles in both the marketplace and the home are becoming obsolete. Only two of the 15 most rapidly increasing US jobs are usually male jobs: janitor and computer engineer. All the rest of the job-growth areas are in traditionally women's jobs in social services of all kinds. Social service jobs cannot be outsourced. Qualities traditionally associated with women, such as the abilities to nurture, cooperate and socially connect, are those most often required in America's new service economy.

Women have responded to men's financial incapacity and refusal to share equally in housework and childcare. Women can no longer bear the extra work in caring for men who can neither support them nor compensate for women's quadruple shifts in domestic labor, emotional labor, childcare and jobs outside of the home. US women increasingly refuse to marry men who cannot provide economic support and still want full personal services. Women currently initiate most US divorces and, increasingly, refuse to marry in the first place. Women can now afford to live in single households, and do. The majority of people of prime marriage and childbearing age (18-34 years old) remain unmarried and live alone.

These changes have drastically altered the pattern of intimate relationships. Shifts in gender roles and employment required women to adjust by taking on career and job responsibilities and living alone, or alone with children. Most men have not adjusted. Their former workforce and gender roles allowed men to grow accustomed to outsourcing their emotional needs and life maintenance activities to women, who are now far less available.

American women had a vital feminist movement for support. US men had and have no social, political or labor movement to explore what they missed by avoiding tasks in maintaining life or emotional intimate personal connections outside of sex. Single women continue to maintain close emotional connections with their women friends and children. Men have become increasingly emotionally disconnected and lonely. They respond to capitalist ads selling market-based solutions to their felt loss of manliness. They buy testosterone cream to enhance the sense of manhood that changed social conditions erode for them. Testosterone products are one of the biggest growth areas for the pharmaceutical industry. Heterosexual men have now become afraid of love relationships in which the rules have changed. Often, those heterosexual relationships were the only emotionally intimacy men had. They do not know how to function as equal partners, and they often fear learning. Heterosexual women, too, may be afraid, because they also have no guidance in maintaining an intimate relationship between equals. They fear losing their autonomy.

The Position of Men

Lost and lonely men may work on transforming their lives through 12-step programs or therapies. However, needing and reaching out for help has traditionally been associated with femininity, not masculinity. There are four refuges left for men who cling to male hegemony and stereotyped masculinity. They are: the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun culture; the military; the Christian right; and pornography. Of these four misogynist refuges, pornography is the most prevalent, profitable and expanding. The heterosexual Internet pornography industry has exploited heterosexual men's loneliness and contributed to changing the face of the most intimate connections.

Possibilities for meaningful and egalitarian heterosexual personal relationships now seem bleak. Women's current disappointment with men and men's increasing withdrawal from authentic communication and relationships are now reflected in popular culture. Trendy films like "Knocked Up" have birthed a new genre. In "Knocked Up," the female lead has a good job. She is attractive and professional-looking, while the male lead lives with a handful of unemployed, slovenly, male roommates who spend the majority of their time playing video games, smoking pot and watching pornography in a filthy apartment covered in pizza boxes and overall inertia. Their biggest aspiration, which remains to be accomplished, is launching their own pornography site.

A New York Times article describing two state-of-the-art sitcoms is called "Downsized and Downtrodden, Men are the New Women on TV."

Images of high-functioning women and slacker-style, adolescent men have also come up in a study conducted by one of this article's co-authors, Tess Fraad Wolff. Fraad-Wolff interviewed 48 heterosexual women of four different races and socioeconomic groups, ranging in age from 22-40 years old. She asked questions that concerned women's emotional and sexual experiences during the dating process. An overwhelming majority, 46 of the 48 women interviewed, responded with descriptions of the problems below.

Men often refuse to plan ahead and can only accept spur-of the-moment arrangements.
Men show fears of commitment after first dates by failing to make or attend second dates. They reschedule and cancel frequently.
Too many men fail to bring sufficient funds to even share the cost of possible activities on dates.
Men introduce sex and sexually related material into conversations instantly and inappropriately, yet many cannot perform.

The last complaints, about inserting sexual material into the most initial of conversations, may relate to an issue that powerfully impacts relationships and illustrates a profound connection between capitalism and loneliness. It is the mainstreaming of heterosexual pornography.

The Impact of Pornography

Pornography precedes capitalism. However, capitalists have now marketed pornography on a whole new level. Pornography has now become a pastime for billions of men and an addiction for millions. Forty million adults in the United States regularly visit pornography sites. Of those 40 million, 87 percent are men.

Capitalism and Pornography

The explosion of heterosexual Internet pornography in the early 90s yielded huge profits. Pornography is a capitalist dream machine. The industry has larger revenues than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined. By 2006, worldwide pornography revenues ballooned to $97.06 billion.

Because of pornography's extreme profitability, its producers strive to capture a greater market share. They produce more violent pornography with ever younger women and more degrading and assaultive acts. Capitalism values profit above all, thus de-prioritizing consideration for equal rights, morality or damage to personal relationships.

How do the mainstreaming of pornography and the increasing numbers of viewers and addicts affect relationships?

Sexual connection can motivate people to find and maintain relationships. Heterosexual Internet pornography has dramatically altered images of sexuality. Heterosexual US men are experiencing increasing difficulty performing sexually, from maintaining erections, to focusing on partners during sex, to having orgasms at all. Many men have grown so accustomed to the breakneck pace with which pornography offers hundreds of images that they can no longer maintain arousal or concentration during the comparatively slow interactive process of actual sex. Additionally, many viewers have unconsciously associated anonymity with arousal, resulting in a failure to either engage in or appreciate the intimacy that often accompanies real sex. Men in record numbers report being unable to complete sexual acts that involve another live person. A recent University of Kansas study found that 25 percent of college-age men said they'd faked orgasms with women because they could not have orgasms without pornography.

Why Is Pornography Addictive?

The act of watching pornography involves bonding between the brain and the pornographic images and acts depicted. This neural bonding process entails the immediate mental imitation that occurs when people watch representations of any behavior, particularly behavior that possesses arousing qualities. The chemicals released from the firing of neurotransmitters create pleasurable sensations. Viewers want to get more of these sensations. Viewers are all potential addicts because they can not only achieve orgasm with pornography, but potentially develop a neurological attachment to it. They often do not realize the ways in which their relationships with pornography have begun to replace those with one another.

Many men reject actual sex in favor of the synthetic version even when they have partners with whom the opportunities for sex are present. They turn off to the connectedness and intimacy that actual sex can offer. They retreat into pornography to escape from the challenge of changed and challenging relationships with women. Many avoid even trying to form a relationship in favor of a seemingly safe, isolated, anonymous bond with artificial images on computer screens. Although the fraction of women who view and are addicted to pornography mainly do not cite decreased desire to experience real sex with partners, they do share inabilities to masturbate or orgasm without pornography or pornographic images. Initially, larger numbers of women reported feeling perpetually upset and sexually rejected by their male partners. Men, too, have now grown disturbed by their increasing sexual dysfunction and reliance on pornography.

Immersion in pornography is both a cause and a result of the bleak loneliness of trying to relate in a profit-driven America with an altered gender landscape. Pornography provides a lucrative market that sells its wares to mask heterosexual men's fear of changed gender expectations. The way in which capitalism and loneliness feed one another is present as rising numbers of men and women forego countless opportunities for intimacy in favor of the experience of sitting alone with manufactured, profit-driven images that often contain polarizing and divisive messages about gender relationships and sexuality. They select solitary, purchased experiences over mutual ones - even in sexual acts that are, by their very nature and description, about merging, physically, psychologically, symbolically and perhaps spiritually.

The hegemonic position of heterosexual males has been destroyed as the relentless capitalist search for profit eliminated and outsourced jobs and lowered wages. Men and women might have reached a desired mutual respect and equality without the capitalist, profit-driven destruction of our economic and personal lives. There are non-capitalist ways, such as uniting together to force the United States government to provide services that permit women and men to work together as equals outside and inside of the home. The destruction of the US economy left women with the burden of doing it alone and men listless, dispossessed, dysfunctional and lonely. The marketing of pornography offered a refuge from the wreckage that capitalism helped to create.

We must now face the eerie trumping of profit over shared experience. Capitalism has polluted the experience of reciprocal connection in our very bedrooms and bodies. The failure of capitalism to provide sufficient jobs, possibilities for prosperity, decent wages and social services has led masses to grab at lonely pseudosolutions that ultimately worsen the quality of life. Pornography is one of them.

Emerging From Capitalism and Loneliness

How can we emerge from this epidemic of personal isolation and loneliness? How can we connect as equals to change these things? The hope of reaching one another is beginning to mobilize the 99 percent of Americans dispossessed and formerly isolated in capitalist America. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight men and women of all races and ethnicities are beginning to affirm that we belong to the 99 percent and can begin to build a movement together as equals. It is happening. Occupy movements are spreading across America and flourishing in spite of police brutality and repression.

The 99 percent movement is characterized by democratic decisionmaking, respect, transparency, and race and gender equality. Together, people strive to end rule by and for the 1 percent of profiteers who have steered America into economic and emotional destitution. Occupy movements provide possibilities for better lives with opportunity and connection for all. They are our hope.

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Creative Commons License

This work by Truthout is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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Harriet Fraad

Harriet Fraad is a psychotherapist-hypnotherapist in practice in New York City. She is a founding member of the feminist movement and the journal Rethinking Marxism. For 40 years, she has been a radical committed to transforming US personal and political life.

Tess Fraad Wolff

Tess Fraad Wolff is a certified art therapist, hypnotherapist and MSW psychotherapist. She speaks on issues of male female relationships and pornography.

Weekend Economists Ring in the Old, Wring Out the New: Dec. 30, 2011 to Jan. 2, 2012

Another New Year already....I'm still waiting for the last one, which must either be on back order, or held hostage in some 3rd world nation. Maybe even here! We qualify as a third world nation nowadays, a Banana Republic, without the bananas. Is that store still in business? I haven't been to a mall in ages, having fallen out of the demographic which malls choose to serve. Or more likely, the malls have changed demographics because people my age know better than to buy crap.

Yes, I'm still in Bah, Humbug! mode. Perhaps the soggy, foggy, bone-chilling weather out here has something to do with it. Well, when the Big Depression sets in, music can take us away to a better time and place. So we are saluting Judy Collins, that Irish Nightingale, because singing is better than wine for what ails you, or at least, goes well with it.

The woman is so photogenic, it's hard to pick just one photo. Google Judy Collins Image and see what I mean.

This one looks rather recent.

And as for picking one tune--impossible! So let's start with one best suited for a New Year celebration:



And I suppose, as a form of medicine, we will have to interleave some economic news and opinion...post what you got!

To Build Community, an Economy of Gifts By Charles Eisenstein

http://www.nationofchange.org/build-community-economy-gifts-1325082127

...community is nearly impossible in a highly monetized society like our own. That is because community is woven from gifts, which is ultimately why poor people often have stronger communities than rich people. If you are financially independent, then you really don't depend on your neighbors—or indeed on any specific person—for anything. You can just pay someone to do it, or pay someone else to do it...In former times, people depended for all of life's necessities and pleasures on people they knew personally. If you alienated the local blacksmith, brewer, or doctor, there was no replacement. Your quality of life would be much lower. If you alienated your neighbors then you might not have help if you sprained your ankle during harvest season, or if your barn burnt down. Community was not an add-on to life, it was a way of life. Today, with only slight exaggeration, we could say we don't need anyone. I don't need the farmer who grew my food—I can pay someone else to do it. I don't need the mechanic who fixed my car. I don't need the trucker who brought my shoes to the store. I don't need any of the people who produced any of the things I use. I need someone to do their jobs, but not the unique individual people. They are replaceable and, by the same token, so am I.

That is one reason for the universally recognized superficiality of most social gatherings. How authentic can it be, when the unconscious knowledge, "I don't need you," lurks under the surface? When we get together to consume—food, drink, or entertainment—do we really draw on the gifts of anyone present? Anyone can consume. Intimacy comes from co-creation, not co-consumption, as anyone in a band can tell you, and it is different from liking or disliking someone. But in a monetized society, our creativity happens in specialized domains, for money. To forge community then, we must do more than simply get people together. While that is a start, soon we get tired of just talking, and we want to do something, to create something. It is a very tepid community indeed, when the only need being met is the need to air opinions and feel that we are right, that we get it, and isn't it too bad that other people don't ... hey, I know! Let's collect each others' email addresses and start a listserv!

Community is woven from gifts. Unlike today's market system, whose built-in scarcity compels competition in which more for me is less for you, in a gift economy the opposite holds. Because people in gift culture pass on their surplus rather than accumulating it, your good fortune is my good fortune: more for you is more for me. Wealth circulates, gravitating toward the greatest need. In a gift community, people know that their gifts will eventually come back to them, albeit often in a new form. Such a community might be called a "circle of the gift." Fortunately, the monetization of life has reached its peak in our time, and is beginning a long and permanent receding (of which economic "recession" is an aspect). Both out of desire and necessity, we are poised at a critical moment of opportunity to reclaim gift culture, and therefore to build true community. The reclamation is part of a larger shift of human consciousness, a larger reunion with nature, earth, each other, and lost parts of ourselves. Our alienation from gift culture is an aberration and our independence an illusion. We are not actually independent or "financially secure" – we are just as dependent as before, only on strangers and impersonal institutions, and, as we are likely to soon discover, these institutions are quite fragile.

Given the circular nature of gift flow, I was excited to learn that one of the most promising social inventions that I've come across for building community is called the Gift Circle. Developed by Alpha Lo, co-author of The Open Collaboration Encyclopedia, and his friends in Marin County, California, it exemplifies the dynamics of gift systems and illuminates the broad ramifications that gift economies portend for our economy, psychology, and civilization. The ideal number of participants in a gift circle is 10-20. Everyone sits in a circle, and takes turns saying one or two needs they have. In the last circle I facilitated, some of the needs shared were: "a ride to the airport next week," "someone to help remove a fence," "used lumber to build a garden," "a ladder to clean my gutter," "a bike," and "office furniture for a community center." As each person shares, others in the circle can break in to offer to meet the stated need, or with suggestions of how to meet it. When everyone has had their turn, we go around the circle again, each person stating something he or she would like to give. Some examples last week were "Graphic design skills," "the use of my power tools," "contacts in local government to get things done," and "a bike," but it could be anything: time, skills, material things; the gift of something outright, or the gift of the use of something (borrowing). Again, as each person shares, anyone can speak up and say, "I'd like that," or "I know someone who could use one of those." During both these rounds, it is useful to have someone write everything down and send the notes out the next day to everyone via email, or on a web page, blog, etc. Otherwise it is quite easy to forget who needs and offers what. Also, I suggest writing down, on the spot, the name and phone number of someone who wants to give or receive something to/from you. It is essential to follow up, or the gift circle will end up feeding cynicism rather than community. Finally, the circle can do a third round in which people express gratitude for the things they received since the last meeting. This round is extremely important because in community, the witnessing of others' generosity inspires generosity in those who witness it. It confirms that this group is giving to each other, that gifts are recognized, and that my own gifts will be recognized, appreciated, and reciprocated as well.

It is just that simple: needs, gifts, and gratitude. But the effects can be profound.


READ ON FOR THE POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES...

A Run On The Global Banking System—How Close Are We? MUST READ

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article30085.htm

My own sense is, this is the first tremor of the earthquake that’s coming to the global financial system. And how the central banks and financial regulators treated the “Systemically Important Financial Institutions” that had exposure to MF Global—to the detriment of the ordinary, blameless customer who got royally ripped off in its bankruptcy—is both the template of how the next financial crisis will be handled, and an accelerator that will make the next crisis happen that much sooner.

So first off, what happened with MF Global?

Simple: It went bankrupt—because it made bad bets on European sovereign debt, by way of leveraging positions 100-to-1. Yeah, I know: Stupid. Anyway, they went bankrupt—which in and of itself is no big deal. It’s not as if it’s the first time in history that a brokerage firm has gone bust. But to me, the big deal in this case was the way the bankruptcy was handled.

Now there are several extremely serious aspects to the MF Global case: Specifically, how their customers were shut out of their brokerage accounts for over a week following the bankruptcy, which made it impossible for those customers to sell out of their positions, and thus caused them to lose serious money; and of course how MF Global was more adept than Mandrake the Magician at making money disappear—about $1 billion, in fact, which still hasn’t turned up. These are quite serious issues which merit prolonged discussion, investigation, prosecution, and ultimately jailtime.

But for now, I want to discuss one narrow aspect of the MF Global bankruptcy: How authorities (mis)handled the bankruptcy—either willfully or out of incompetence—which allowed customer’s money to be stolen so as to make JPMorgan whole...

The Jig Is Up, or at least, Revealed: Keiser Report: Möbius Strip of Fraud



Keiser explains it all---Lehman, JPMorgan, Bernie Madoff, etc. and ties it all up with a bow.

CIA won't disclose involvement in crackdowns on #OWS --- THIS WOMAN WANTS TO BLOW IT OPEN

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