Monday, October 29

Hidden in Plain Sight: A dollar a day was pretty good in the local currency

In 2004 an American named John Perkins published a book, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, which became a runaway bestseller. Public interest in Perkins' lurid account of how he'd earned his living -- by talking third world governments into burdening themselves with massive debt to finance the World Bank's idea of development -- activated the globalist antibodies. 

By the time the U.S. Department of State and the likes of Sebastian Mallaby got finished verbally hammering Mr Perkins he didn't exactly retreat into mysticism, but for some years he's headed a nonprofit, Dream Change Coalition, "which works closely with Amazonian and other indigenous people to help preserve their environments and cultures," with, it seems, emphasis on preserving shamanistic practices.

I've not read the book nor the subsequent ones he authored. So I don't know how much Perkins focused in his writings on a point he made almost in passing during a meandering interview in 2007 that was posted in two parts to YouTube. Part one. Part two

From my notes on some of his remarks in part one, starting at the 33 minute mark on the video:
People in developing world working in factory sweatshops in Asia ... [myth]: People working in sweatshops are better off than if they didn't have those jobs. [Actually] They lived very well in subsistence economies until companies came in and created a local economy that now depends on the dollar.
So in a very few years they went from living subsistence lives and statistically having no money at all, totally impoverished statistically but their lives were quite good, to having to work in sweatshops, dependent on the money. ... Then companies discover they can get work done even cheaper in another country, then the workers don't even have the pittance to live on.
Of course it's not that cut-and-dried. A mashup of factors, at work long before the present era in globalized trade and the global dominance of the U.S. dollar, had already wreaked havoc on subsistence ways of life around the world. However, Perkins' discussion points up a fact that has always been hidden in plain sight: only by the statistical measures of currency are many peoples impoverished. 

Thus calling up the saying, "Lies, damned lies, and statistics."

Moreover, it was certainly possible to live reasonably well on a dollar a day when that dollar was converted into local currencies -- provided the people didn't have to earn their dollar a day in big cities, which most of them did. That's a point UNICEF and Western charitable organizations omitted from their fundraising posters featuring a bedraggled Third World child and emblazoned with the cry, 'This hungry child has to live on a dollar a day.'

Eventually the UN upped the baseline pittance to $2 a day; by the time it got to $5.50 a day, where is stands now, the posters had pretty much disappeared and the World Bank had reshuffled their priorities from hunger to lack of education.

Unfortunately the blasted climate has not cooperated with the World Bank's prescription for human progress. And so today in several parts of the world there is the very real prospect of drought-driven mass starvation. This has stretched the financial resources of (debt-ridden) governments in poorer countries and humanitarian aid agencies to the breaking point.

Here again what has been hidden in plain sight remains hidden as drought news features farmers telling reporters pretty much the same thing: 'My crops failed so I don't have the money to buy food.'

As I've pointed out in recent posts, and as Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej pointed out until he was blue in the face, there is something wrong with that sentence.

Since when is "jobs" an edible crop?

Yet once again a mashup of factors can make it hard to see the obvious, leaving beleaguered government officials to cry for help in creating more jobs so the hungry in their nations can better feed themselves.

It's only when the ball of yarn called "drought" is untangled is the "jobs" solution seen for what it is: a fantasy. On this blog I'm now undertaking the task of looking at the individual skeins. But in one sentence numerous human factors have transformed what are routine weather cycles into droughts that threaten to wreak mass starvation on the human race and crash civilization.

The solution isn't more jobs, any more than it's herding billions of starving rural peoples into cities. The solution is modernized subsistence farming, of the kind developed by King Bhumibol, tailored to individual climates and societies, and which makes allowances for the importance of money in modern societies.

But what if you're still alive when the long run arrives?

Standing against this solution are the kind of people who went after John Perkins for blurting some unpleasant truths and who've called King Bhumibol's solution "archaic."

However, some humanitarian aid organizations are now so desperate they're willing to bite the hands of their largest donors and studiously ignore glares from the International Financial Community. Here and there, like weeds that have somehow escaped applications of Roundup, such organizations are taking actions in line with His Majesty's solution -- and I think even directly inspired by such in several or certain instances.

In any event the solution that seemed archaic to many a mere decade ago is now seen as 'right on time' by organizations that are on the front lines of battling mass starvation.

The problem for the rest of us is that 'right on time' has worked out to the Eleventh Hour for the entire human race -- not just the world's poorest.

Will sanity prevail in large enough measure before the clock strikes midnight? Therein lies the cliffhanger. For now, below is another report on the "stay in place" doctrine I've talked about in recent posts, and which is emerging from humanitarian agencies that have realized it doesn't make sense for millions of people to flee to already overburdened cities if there is a way they can stay in place.  

The doctrine is predicated on teaching the poorest people to feed themselves from what they can raise on their small farming plots, and without their having to attempt what is often the impossible for them: to raise and to sell enough of their crops at a high-enough price to purchase adequate food for themselves and their families, and do this despite weather vagaries.

The report below is from -- wait for it -- none other than the World Bank. The Bank hasn't quite conceded all of His Majesty's points even though they've known for decades about his "Sufficiency Economics." And, given the report, one could argue that the Bank is simply trying to co-opt the issue of subsistence farming by funding gussied-up versions of small-scale commercial farming. But the journey of a thousand miles.....

Livestock and Fish Farming Bring Self-Sufficiency to Rural Afghans
October 28, 2018
Relief Web
  • Thousands of people in rural communities in Nangarhar Province have become self-sufficient farmers and business owners.
  • By supporting poultry and fish farming, the National Horticulture and Livestock Project helps poor families make a living.
  • The project helps farmers improve their production practices and reaches beyond Nangarhar province. The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock currently implements the project in 291 districts spread across 33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
Against this "stay in place" approach is the many nightmares to have emerged from the economic development model that John Perkins decried. One such nightmare is illustrated in a documentary by RT, posted to YouTube on October 14 and titled, "My Mother Sold Me: Cambodia, where virginity is a commodity," and which traces the efforts of an Australian organization set up by a former police officer to rescue Cambodian girls forced into prostitution.  

To be precise, the location is the city of Phnom Penh. There are many documentaries on the same situation, which exists in all large cities in 'developing' countries. But I would like you to note the commentator's mention that the mother and her family have to survive "on less than a dollar a day."

From now on, whenever you see such a phrase, please recall what you've read in this post. 

For those who try to shrug off the looming disaster for humanity by saying, "In the long run, we're all dead" -- what do they think the coming decade equates to? They should glance through the headlines in Sputnik's 2017 compilation of 21 reports on Europe's Refugee and Migrant Crisis for a small preview of what's on the way


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