Happy 2001! My reply to a friend who sent me some serious questions is the first message I would like to share in this new millennium with you!
Dear International Friend,
I am always (and have been for thirty years) pushing the advantages of having your own International business. Many of you must be listening by the way as our January Think Tank here at the farm sold out in just over a week! The benefits are enticing, the adventure, freedom, tax advantages and privileged lifestyle that success in capitalism can bring.
Yet there is a dark side to capitalism as well as one of our friends expressed when she wrote the note below.
in spite of all your years outside the US, you seem still to be fully in the clutches of US “culture” (which I prefer to consider “ideology”). But as a former US-American who took the alternative “America – love it or leave it” seriously and opted for the latter, may I ask you to clarify only one point – for me and maybe for yourself as well:
If you are so aware and critical of the many malaises of US society and government, as you certainly seem to be, then why on earth do you consider it a positive development and worth your investment recommendations that the US is setting up a military base in Ecuador and the economy there is being “dollarized?
When and where has the colonialization (sic) by the US military, accompanied by loose dollars with no real value to back them up, drugs, guns, violence, prostitution etc. brought sustainable prosperity to a country? As far as I can see, US-military presence (and ensuing CIA and corporate company presence) has always only undermined the values self-sustaining decelopment (sic) of the indigenous societies and brought in all the mental and material junk that has become the legacy of US-America. Ask people in Panama who is cleaning up all the pollution the US military left behind and who is paying for it.
Surely, this is a partisan opinion, but one, I think, that is based on facts, especially those drawn from so-called “developing” countries. Corporate America is only interested in power and control over whatever makes it more powerful and more in control of the world via unlimited export of American capitalism. Says a “laggard” and “contrarian”, who thinks “less is more”.
This skepticism is what has always kept me from jumping into the fray with your courses and other offers, although you often seem to be doing the right things – but for the “wrong” reasons, in my view. I just do not see how in a finite world with limited resources unlimited exploitation (which is at the root of the US “ideology” of globalization) can lead anywhere but to catastrophe. Maybe you can enlighten me if I have missed something essential in your train of thought…
Bugfree millennium greetings from your friend
Here is my reply.
When Merri and I recently lived for three months with our Ecuadorian indigenous friends on the plantation we share with them, we lived in a ten by ten hut surrounded only by plastic, no electricity, hot water, heating, T.V. radio, phone etc. We chose the rainy season so we could suffer their worst season up to our knees a lot in mud. We wanted to see how they lived so we could understand what ways we could help them best. My conclusion was that if the world had a few hundred million people living in this way, the whole world's population would be happier.
Yet this won't happen too soon (unless there is some unexpected global calamity). But these people are hell bent for leather on having the wonderful things that the Yankees do, the cars, the radios, T.Vs luxury houses etc. Pandora's box has been opened and it won't be shut (I don't think) until we drown in our own excrement. The natives of the world have a better life in many ways than those in the West and Merri and I thought seriously of just living this easy, low stress life to make a statement. We have been so blessed with material things that we have ben able to see through the big houses, fancy cars, etc. Yet does our having had them and finding them empty give us the right to deprive others of learning the same message?
Plus what would this accomplish? If I sat on my high horse, preached a lot about what the world should be, I don't think it would accomplish much.
I decided to get down in the muck and try to take a practical approach of at least mitigating the damage of materialism in some small way if I can. We have three lines of action we are following. First we are educating the youth. Merri and I have set up a foundation ( Land of the Sun-you can learn more about this at http://www.littlehorsecreek.com/ecuador/landofsun.shtml ) which has a goal to teach third world nations how to live off agricultural land in nourishing ways.
Second we are trying to help the poor make more money and have the western goodies so they can learn that these things are not the end all (not even near). We cannot sit back and tell the poor that all these material things are not good for them. They are going to seek what we have so perhaps the best thing we can do is help them work through the fraud of Madison Avenue in the fastest, least damaging way. We are doing this in our business working with Shamans in Ecuador who worry that the Ecuadorian youth don't have role models. We try to gain the kid's attention as the rich honcos with the big bucks. Once they'll listen to us perhaps we can show them that what their Moms and Pops are telling them isn't so stupid after all.
Regarding the Yankees in Manta, this will be good in the short term for the economy. Where you ask has Yankee imperialism helped local people? In places like Manta where 500 years of Spanish Imperialism have created some of the most warped, destructive systems imaginable. The prostitution and crime are already their. The Yankees do not have to bring it in. The U.S. system is incredibly out of balance, I agree but less so than what has been there before. The U.S. capitalistic system at least lets some of the money flow through to the poor so more can make enough money to have and realize that material things are not the whole answer to life. There are very few societies that are not already distorted. We are helping one of the few pure societies (an Amazonian tribe with just 26 inhabitants left) with food supplements and an eco tourism project, but in most of the world, the societies are already screwed up and U.S. type businesses can help them evolve.
Your questions are well received though and remind me to always look beyond just making an extra buck. What good is leaving a large inheritance to our kids if there is no world left for them to enjoy? I wished I had a perfect answer but as a humble human being, I have not been able to figure out how to change the whole world overnight into a form I think is fitting (Thank God-since I make so many mistakes)
Instead I just try to blunder along doing what seems right (after a bit of thought) and hoping that I do a little more good when I get something right than the damage I do when I get it wrong. But always, I try to keep hearts are pure. Messages such as yours remind me to keep my intentions positive.
By the way I think you'll like my first novel which reaches the book stores next month. It delves into many of the issues you raised. The title is the 65th Octave.
I hope you can find some capitalistic way to have your own business which in the process of enriching your life also helps someone poorer than you. I hope you can find a way of doing this that is not destructive to their society or yours. I hope you can find opportunities that nourish our natural resources rather than deplete them and I hope mots of all that your business will someway enhance love and tolerance around the world. Capitalism has many faults when it is out of balance. Yet other systems have their problems too. Communist systems for example seem to have eroded their environments (with even less return to their workers) very badly.
Most of all I hope you find a balance that in some way helps resolve the one great dilemma we all face, a seemingly finite world serving an ever growing population. This of course only seems true. Our universe actually has infinite resources, we just have to learn how to unlock them. These are the challenges I'm going to keep working on and if I can ever help you in this regard don't hesitate to let me know.
Keep up your skepticism. You need it in this world but don't let it stop you from taking some steps (right or wrong). The only way to really learn is to screw up. Whatever you do I hope it brings you and the world more fulfillment and a great 2001!