Cracking the Planet of the Humans

We can’t electric car and solar panel our way out of this.

That was the gist of the groundbreaking film by Jeff Gibbs that was executive produced and promoted by documentary legend Michael Moore.

This film also got a full front page of my hometown’s paper, the Times Colonist. The local icon news source is based in Victoria, British Columbia Canada so not even the film’s county of origin in the United States.

The movie sparked immediate discussion and even backlash as people took the film up on a few technical points such as the dates of certain clips, but on the whole the idea stands strong, raising other issues that just can’t be ignored.

The one that sticks out to me is the one that Gibbs has repeated on multiple occasions in interviews…

You cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet

The timing of film was accidentally in the middle of Covid 19 outbreak. From a rumor of this “thing going on in the Wuhan, China” it quickly grew exponentially in the next few months until countries and their people found themselves in lockdown. We’ve all been through it so what need be said, but now even the most powerful person on earth has been proven as unable to be protected from this change of events.

Despite conspiracy theories of secret labs in the province of Hubei there has been the talks about involvement of bats, specifically in a wet market where animals are traded and that somehow it was able to jump species.

Like climate change it seems one thing overrides most of our problems, which is the same infinite growth Gibbs speaks to.

As we push the earth harder and harder things start to give. Some of our largest glaciers are disappearing. Rainforests are being destroyed and the polar ice caps are all but gone.

Mother Nature is forgiving, but it seems only to a point.

Now the thing is, what drives this? We humans know this is terrible but we persist with the same direction. Are we just crazy or greedy or thoughtless or what?

If I may I’d like to divert away to say a little about one human, myself before age ten.

Ever since I was about 6 I’ve watched nature shows and documentaries. I remember my mom being enthusiastic about this because she was taking night classes in early childhood education in the 80s. The reason for this enthusiasm was that instructor told all her aspiring teachers to “watch more nature programs like Nova and Lorne Greene’s New Wilderness” and there was me blasting through them with a boozy gusto just for fun.

But in every one of them it was the same thing, everything was going along great and then invariably man steps into the picture. Our report card at that moment was never glowing. There might be some scientist by the end of the show who was trying to reverse the effects, but on the whole we always came off as the bad guys and for good reason. Our thing was always to take over, push nature aside and destroy.

This activity was just the kind of thing that could put what was meant to stay far from us into close proximity, such as a defensive virus.

“I’m sorry humans”, says Mother Nature like a preschool teacher, “but you need to have a time out.”

Which, of course, returns us to the quote by Jeff Gibbs again.

So the problem is infinite growth. But what is behind that? I like looking at things this way.

Total tangent, but I think it’s because of another show I watched as a kid religiously…Robotech.

It was a Japanese cartoon but the gist of the whole series was that we were invaded by the Zentradi who looked like us but were just much taller, who were pushed by the Robotech Masters, who were pushed but the Invid.

So essentially behind what you see, someone unseen is pushing.

So, who is our Invid right now? What is the unseen force that is pushing us?

What’s wierd is that, well, we are.

We have created a world of cheques and balances. We have created a world of capitalistic neoliberal meritocracy where you are either making money or you’re not, where you’re ahead or behind. We have made a religion of it and we are all affected.

Even for myself when a YouTube video on the future of capitalism said “There will not be any jobs in the near future” it felt like I had just been punched in the chest.

And I’m into ideas that defy the norm. That’s how deep seated our connection is to our work…and the idea of bigger and better.

Infinite growth. Our Invid.

So we have heard and seen how AI and automation is coming, and from what the film suggests we have to slam on the breaks. But how?

What we need is something that allows us to not worry about having to create larger growth. We need to know that no matter what we do this year, next year will be ok. Lions, tigers and bears feel like this. Dogs and cats and mice feel like this. Baby dolphins feel like this. The whole planet does, just not the humans.

It’s because we’re the only ones who feel we have to work to live here.

This brings me to the solution which you may have guessed…the idea of a basic income.

This is an idea that has been around since 1516 with Sir Thomas More, later picked up by United States founding father Thomas Paine when he addressed critics around the time of the French Revolution in his book “The Rights of Man”

Since then the idea has been championed by a number of famous and not famous names from across the political spectrum like Martin Luther king Jr, Milton Friedman, Richard Nixon, Hugh Segal, Brian Mulroney, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Andrew Yang and Robert Reich.

There are many different versions of it as well as different ideas as to how to fund it, but with the oncoming reality of our increased to cut labor, it seems more and more of us are awakening to the idea that this is the way of the future. John Maynard Keynes said as much years ago when he predicted that there would be so little work that boredom would be the biggest problem.

But here’s where I join the dots.

If we don’t have the fear of scarcity beneath us, if we know we will be ok, if we know we don’t have to push our earth to the limit, we can dial back the clock. Nothing helps with keeping local and not wondering what kind of car to use like not needing to use the car at all. Nothing helps a company made of people not worry that they have to beat the other guy like knowing that they don’t have to push for bigger and that they will be ok.

A basic income raising the floor beneath us has the power to create an absolute seismic shift in how our world operates for the better.

A basic income harkens racial equality as a basic income literally declares that all persons deserve the same ability to live as a guaranteed human right. It is not a hand out, it’s not a hand up, it is your inheritance.

A basic income reduces stress, proved by the smaller isolated cases in pilots such as the recent Ontario pilot, Finland two year project and ongoing South Korean experiment.

Income dictates health. Health dictates where money is diverted and the ability for everyone to calmly choose the best for themselves creates towns we would want to call home.

It’s time for this Planet of the Humans to be like the tigers, bears, cats and lions…

Let’s get a basic income.

Let’s sleep tonight.

Thank you for reading.

Tom Pogson

A creative professional’s take on Universal Basic Income

Among the first political advocates for the Basic Income idea were conservatives.

I have been listening and reading as much as possible about this idea and the weirdest of wierd facts is the number of non-leftist types that are behind it. I mean, Andrew Yang blasted it into public consciousness with his one thousand dollars a month promise, but it was certainly around prior to that!

It was during the Nixon administration that the idea was first tabled (after the second bill of rights anyways). I mean, Nixon!

Milton Friedman, the guy behind the “no free lunch” wanted a work fair idea for workers that would endure working class people never slipped below the poverty line.

The first point to make is that this idea has actually been around in one form or another since Utopia by Thomas More in 1516 and then Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man in 1791. And now our former Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney has advocated for it. It’s been backed by tech giants like Elon Musk, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey as well as activists like Noam Chomsky and Robert Reich.

I’m not as great at coming up with financial details to combat the frequently asked questions like “hey, I don’t want to turn into a member of the former Soviet Union!” I can promise you that neither do I, but I’ve never been great at the intricacies of tax and the economy so I have to defer to someone like Scott Santens who works on this stuff full time, has a blog on Stitcher called The Scott Santens UBI Enterprise and has a FAQ on the front page of his website at http://www.scottsantens.com

You can also check out some deep dive podcasts on NPR (which I completely appreciate leans left, though not always) Anyways…

Is Universal Basic Income too Utopian to Work?

Universal Basic Income – Why and How?

These are just from a search but there is lots more, with a growing bi-partisan advocacy.

The “why now?” couldn’t be more clear. We have had a blast from how things can change suddenly. Just like the potential effect of automation, robotic or just in terms of how our civilization advances, we have experienced how the financial rug can be suddenly pulled out from under you.

For myself this happened ten years back, with continued changes similar to Covid. I remember a manager at the McDonald’s that I worked at, the same one where I was once taken into the office to go over my 100% Medical, Dental and Life Insurance, saying “well, you’ll get your 40” referring to the 40 hours a week that of course every full time employee gets.

This wasn’t generations ago; this was the mid-nineties. This was back before I had the twin kick of stomach issues, hearing loss and arthritis that threaten to shut down my ability to do any non creative job at all.

One of the buildings I clean now is a side contract, but it used to be my main one at 10 hours a night. Now it’s about an hour and twenty, full of empty, cobwebbed vacancies. One of the main offices in that building will be going on the 28th so I have asked my employer if there’s anything else out there because that location will end up being less than a half hour a day. Back in those nineties you could not be brought in for anything less than three hours.

So I think it’s fairly clear, especially now after Covid, that things are not like they were in the 80s.

I don’t believe that UBI would reduce incentive to work because we are no longer generalists like we were. Imagine an interviewer asking you now “why do you want to work here?” and you just saying “Oh I applied everywhere, I just need a job!”

Yeah, you’d be out the door quick.

UBI would give everyone the keys to the drivers seat of their own lives. It gives everyone the ability to say “I love this…I want to work here!” or to refuse work that is exploitative. Money is essentially value and it would give a sense of value and belonging. You get this when you do a busking set. No, it’s not “all about money” but when you make that first twoonie ($2 coin here in Canada) you feel better. You dont feel like a shlub. You feel like your life is right and you are appreciated. Financial lack creates stress, anger and division. It says that you are competing with everyone around you. This is further compounded by the bragging you see on social media of all kinds, even if it’s not meant to be.

Aren’t we supposed to do the things we want to do as if money wasn’t an object?

For myself I think it’s clear that I would want to work on music, but I absolutely want to take it beyond that. I want to study creativity on a deeper level in my leisure time and report back to everyone here. I want to take what I’m singing about to the next level. At present I have from essentially nine am to about one in the afternoon in which to incorporate everything. I am a cleaner so I have tried making use of YouTube premium and podcasts to learn while I’m working, but of course that’s not the same thing.

“You can’t do the job if you don’t have the equipment” – Paul Ironhorse, War of the Worlds

I have been a full time artist before (I still play professionally, but was also making money full time as a pitch writer through Canada Media Fund) and I can tell you that without even a second’s thought that artists have more than enough actual work to do to take up the classic eight hour day. In a previous blog I talked about Bjorn Ulvaeus of ABBA who spoke of being “an eight hour guy.” I need to put at least two hours a day into my principal instrument bass (that’s being generous) and then at least an hour into keyboards, guitar, drums and voice. So were at six and I haven’t even touched composition of any kind, which is not unusual these days. Then there’s promotion, research/reading, exercise to make it so you can at least get on stage as an older performer. So were at nine hours approximately.

I work every day. I have a wall calendar where each day has a blue dot for when I’ve practiced and that includes Christmas. This is because I am made to feel that unless I’m taking it to the next level I have financially no chance.

I am absolutely certain that I am not alone. I do believe this is the thing behind many of the crazy Instagram posts where people attempt to go viral. I might be another “dime a dozen musician” but if i am then i certainly not alone.

I like what one lady said on Twitter about UBI…that has only been echoed by not just Scott Santens but this article on the possibility of a creative and cultural renaissance…

https://www.mic.com/articles/125420/basic-income-studies-higher-minimum-wage-and-living-wage-creative-renaissance

Presently Canadians are being harrassed by fraud that tries to make use of the idea that they are in trouble with Service Canada which is undoubtedly about the Cerb benefit and how they are “in trouble for doing it wrong.”

What if we all got that money? All of us. Regardless of reason.

Wouldn’t there ability to make people scared drop through the floor. Most crime comes from fear.

“Constant fear of scarcity, aggression as its child” Sting

There’s the fact that income dictates health, and that health dictates income in a circle which you learn about in the first term and first year of sociology 100 at the University of Victoria.

If everyone is protected from the “Wolves at the door” that Roland Orzabel refers to on his Tomcats Screaming Outside album (a reference to his Tears for Fears successes keeping him in good financial stead) then people in poverty are not just more easily preyed upon but they dont feel the need to desperately take some kind of action. This is one I know about only too well. Like I mentioned in my song Precipice from my album The Goldblacks (of which I also blogged about previously) if feels like your life is on Niagara River floating past Goat Island towards the brink. In a state like that people will of course do anything.

Hell, they’ll even write a blog about it.

Thank you for reading. If your interested in this please share this blog or any other media you find the most compelling with your network.

Cheers,

Tom Pogson

If you are interested here are the links for Canada based petitions…

https://petitions.ourcommons.ca/en/petition/details?Petition=e-2821

http://www.leahgazan.ca
(If you are interested in the Guaranteed Livable Income version)

http://www.ubiworks.ca