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Peter Joseph - Where We Go From Here - Athens Z-Day, 2016

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Where We Go From Here Peter Joseph ZDay 2016, Athens, Greece Thank you very much, everybody can hear me OK? Good? All right. So I really appreciate everybody being here. Thank you Gilbert for all the hard work. None of this is easy to do. Thanks to the Greek chapter and of course all the International folks that have come both to speak and all of you that have come here in the audience. Very appreciated. The title of this talk is ‘Where we go from here’ and it is not a transition lecture, even though it may sound like it. Rather it's an homage to the American civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, and his final book ‘Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?’ In this work he extends the civil rights context that's very important to American culture and American history - unique to it of course - from trying to alleviate the mess colonial slavery had done to race relations in America, drawing attention to the structure that created that slavery: capitalism itself. And while he discusses how the market structure distorts culture, erodes moral integrity, is foundationally antisocial and unsustainable, as many people here have talked about thus, the main theme of the work was the abolition of poverty, and this builds a little bit on what Rich had to say earlier, which I'm really glad that he covered certain aspects already. And I’d like to expand upon this particular theme in this talk, specifically in regard to public health and social stability. Of course while King certainly was not the first to criticize capitalism for its perpetuation of inequality, he brings the issue into a more palpable context as far as I'm concerned. With tremendous victory behind him in the late 1960's, gaining stature, global respect winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and so forth, for him to take this position at that time was quite powerful and radical, given the extremely antisocialist climate of the period. Unlike more heady, broad anti-market theorists of the past, from Karl Marx to Thorstein Veblen to the 1930’s US organization Technocracy, which still exists in certain areas of Europe, King kept it simple and focused, specifically seeing the resolution of poverty as not a utopian ideal but a rational and logical issue of civil or human rights. And he even did so transcending the issue of race itself against many other in the community at that time, in part recognizing that the poor white masses in America were also victims of the same broad forces, that being a social system based upon elitism, exploitation, scarcity and dominance, a system of favoring a small wealthy elite, while everyone else just fights amongst themselves. Here are some notable quotes. “We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” “And one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?' (in 1967) And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society…” And as proposed in this book, he saw the implementation of a universal guaranteed income as the first step (as was talked about earlier and excellently so), to put it in this process of a reconstruction of the entire society. “I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective - the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by the now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed Income.” Sadly upon his death, these newly sought economic rights, along with his anti-poverty movement and general, basically evaporated, sort of dissipated. Even his most devoted followers just seemed to give up on it and sort of satisfied with this sort of political success they have through voting rights and the like. Today, 50 years later, it is great to see the conversation return to such things as UBI - universal basic income - and it's a very important step towards improving public health and social stability specifically. It may not address the root problem inherent - the social structure that we all know about - but it hones in on its most central flaw: the grand misallocation of wealth and the creation of caustic inequality. So, what I'd like to do here today is to explore this logic more deeply, considering what it means for public health, social stability, to remove, or come as close to removing, socioeconomic inequality. To clarify the term, socioeconomic means how economic activity affects and is shaped by social processes. I specifically use it to refer to economically-linked chain reactions, such as how the economy links to personal, social, political, and legal consequences, and health consequences as well. So socioeconomic inequality isn't just about imbalance in wealth and income alone, but the vast range of effects they create: the various forms of social inequality that can be linked back to economic influences. However, before we delve into that, I want to step back and think about the framework of thought here, something that we could generally term: Structuralism. I first heard the term used by Norwegian sociologist Johan Galtung, who is also famous for coining the term, as Rich presented earlier, structural violence, which I have also talked about a great deal before. While there are many forms of structural violence, poverty is clearly the most obvious and most notable, since there is little question of its negative effects overall. Structuralism simply means we’re accounting for larger order relationships when thinking about social affairs; generally defined as “the methodology that elements of human culture must be understood in terms of their relationship to a larger, overarching system or structure.” We are looking for relationships, such as preconditions to use a medical term, and these preconditions, when recognized, predictably manifest certain outcomes. What I mean by that is when you see patterns occurring on the population level - meaning statistically derived (has to be) over time across numerous people - when you see these repeated outcomes you’re left to assume of some kind of larger order structural influence occurring. Of course there's nothing particularly sophisticated about this. If anyone here has studied sociology, this is basically what it's about. However, the importance of this approach still isn't given hardly any weight in the world today, if you think about it and pay attention. And of course this kind of makes sense. For has society really embraced modern sociological understandings? specifically what epidemiological or public health research has been showing us over the past century? The current economic framework would make absolutely no sense, and be completely undefendable. While people rightfully talk about social justice and fairness as an argument for change today, the greatest indictment of this system is actually coming from the emerging field of social science and objective measures of public health. All of this challenges the social structure’s integrity. And it also challenges our sense of volition or identity. When you see for example suicides increase across the world, during periods of economic decline, as has been noted here in Greece with its massive austerity and all the problems that have been occurring, those suicides can no longer be merely attributed to singular human decision. In the same way a certain percentage of cigarette smokers will predictably get lung cancer, the effects of our economic system show powerful population level outcomes. This causality tree is a generalized attempt to organize such negative health effects of the market economy, specifically in terms of socioeconomic inequality. At the top we have the raw structure itself, born from mostly the geographical determinism from the Neolithic Revolution. (I've talked about that before; you can look into that if you’d like to know more of the origins.) This economic foundation - based on property, exchange, labor for income, competition - or competitive self-regulation I should say - sets in motion this predictable array of outcomes at the start. (By the way I apologize again if these terms-… if they’re new. There’s a lot of background lectures; you can go back and look at where all this stuff is defined. And keep notes if you want to ask in the Q&A.) The second tier down is Incentive. This embraces the resulting social psychology that supports and ultimately mirrors the market structure. This includes the pursuit of strategic advantage, self-maximization, "in group" self preservation, dominant psychology, and so on. Then we have the institutions, third tier down. These are the formal and conceptual institutions that surround us, in our daily lives. These include merchant institutions, such as good producing corporations, financial institutions such as central banks through monetary policy, ideological institutions such as neoliberalism or consumerism, regulatory institutions meaning property, law, governments, and legitimizing institutions, which are biases, discourse of the intelligencia favoring the system, general propaganda, and even the industry of commercial advertising itself, since it partly exists to promote positive values towards cyclical consumption, and the ethic of consumerism and vanity, and hence, to go back to the structure, economic growth, which the system demands. And it is from these institutions that socioeconomic inequality reaches the main population (4th tier down): inequality and economic access, specifically material access, along with consequential social/political inequality, embraces this laundry list of injustices. Of course, this is not a complete list; I'm not gonna go through each one and there is great overlap. But to highlight some things, on the left side perhaps the most critical issues are the categories of psychological and physiological disease; these two issues resulting from socioeconomic inequality are engulfing in what they actually embrace. However, stress - psychosocial stress - and addiction are also highly caustic as other examples. On the right side, perhaps the most critical issues are the categories of personal/group conflict, and the negative externalities - that’s a very important word when you begin to look at the market system. Poverty for example is a negative externality just as pollution is. However, oppression and legal discrimination are also quite relevant to that side as well. In the end, all of these injustices and detrimental pressures lead to the final stage manifestation of effectively, structural violence, as expressed in the two resulting categories at the bottom: reduced physical, mental health and life span, and reduced social stability and increased violence. Now, I'd like to basically - and this is the point of this talk ultimately - is to give some notable research examples covering a range of issues from these two broad categories at the bottom. I have chosen these because they're a little less talked about; they’re subtle and unique, showing again just how negative public health relationships are, as linked to poverty and socioeconomic inequality, just the spectrum of disorder is so much more daunting than we've come to realize in its nuance. A 2015 Columbia University study has found that cognitive impairment correlates to poverty in the form of brain damage. It found that the brain structure of children and teenagers in poverty actually develop differently from those in affluent conditions. That children in families earning less than $25,000 a year had 6 percent less development than those that earned $150,000 a year. A similar study found that poverty overall correlates to reduction of cognitive capacities and subsequently an effective reduction in IQ. This study concluded that the stress of worrying about money and survival, clearly common in the lower classes, can create a cognitive deficit equivalent to the loss of 13 IQ points. So the researchers suggest that this stress explains why poorer people are more likely to make bad decisions, exacerbating their financial difficulties. I'm sure we've all heard that rhetoric of those that have great wealth and success, “Well they must be smarter; they must have tried harder, they must make better decisions.” Well that may be true, but the actual structuralism of it, when this division occurs, gives them that advantage on multiple levels, so at the end result they appear that way, not because they are, [but] because that's what the structure has allowed them to groom within themselves, while the poor and poverty-stricken become confused and dislocated, and loss of confidence, and literally suffer brain damage and a loss of their cognitive capacity. ChildFund International, a nonprofit that compiles research on the effects of child poverty, stated “One of the most disturbing links between poverty and education we see is that ... low household income correlates closely with poor achievement in school. Children from lower-income families are more likely than students from wealthier backgrounds to have low[er] test scores, and they are at high risk of dropping out of school. Those who complete high school are less likely to attend college than students from higher-income families. For some children, the effects of poverty and education present unique challenges in breaking the cycle of generational poverty, and reduce their chances of leading rewarding, productive lives." These people talk about equal opportunity in the world as though it’s like a policy. It's not. It's systemic; it starts again at the socioeconomic level. As far as mental health, a study by researchers at Washington University, St. Louis in 2016, actually found that child poverty can alter brain connectivity, weakening important connections between regions, leading to future clinical depression, in the long term. More broadly, a 2015 study focusing on 63 countries, found that, with respect to mental health, 46,000 suicides were associated to unemployment in 2008 alone, marking a dramatic rise related to the global financial crisis of the time. A report published by the American Psychological Association, examining a database of 34,000 patients with repeat psychiatric hospitalizations, found that unemployment, poverty, and housing unaffordability were correlated with the risk of mental illness. It stated: “One of the most consistently replicated findings in the social sciences has been the negative relationship of socioeconomic status with mental illness: The lower the socioeconomic status of an individual is, the higher is his or her risk of mental illness.” Similarly, an analysis by M.H. Brenner, covering 120 years of data from New York state mental institutions, found that "instabilities in the national economy are the single most important source of fluctuations in mental hospital admissions, or admission rates." As far as lifespans: a 2015 report from the National Academy of Sciences found that an average lifespan difference of 13 to 14 years between rich and poor exists in the US. (And I’m sure that's pretty much the same across the world.) A more extreme result exists in the City of London alone, where the London Health Observatory concluded a 25-year gap between rich and poor as far as life expectancy. If that's not violence I'm not quite sure what is. In that context we also have the prevalence of heart disease, which is not only highly correlated to poverty but the broad stress of living in an unequal society in general. A study by UC Davis found that people with lower socioeconomic status had a 50% chance of developing heart disease. Using data from United States, where about 600,000 deaths occur each year, the lead author of the study concluded: “Low socioeconomic status is a heart-disease risk factor on its own and needs to be regarded as such by the medical community.” The power of stress is huge in this regard, with economic stress naturally the most prominent for the general population, and of course the lower-income population. Plaque that builds up in the arteries, leading to heart attack and stroke, has been definitively tied to stress hormones such as glucocorticoid. And it triggers immune responses, that lead to these problems. In fact, psychosocial stress, meaning psychological stress coming from the social environment, links to brain damage, hormone problems, depression, anxiety, reproductive complications, sleep disorders, growth impairment, memory problems, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders, sexual disorders, and overall immune deficiencies that open the door to a host of other complications. The effects of stress can also be long-term, such as the case of child abuse. Various studies tracked childhood abuse (stress) to adult disorders, such as obesity and addiction; there are many. This particular one concluded: "The study clearly shows that difficult life events leave traces that can manifest a disease much later in life. The mechanisms behind this process include stress, negative patterns of thought and emotions, poor mental health, increased inflammation, as well as lowered immune function and metabolism." Now intuitively, if you said that to most people they would counter and say “Well, you know, the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of a child has nothing to do with the current adult socioeconomic status, and hence class can't possibly be to blame,” right? However, this argument holds little ground, since the precondition of poverty has been found to be the largest predictor of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of a child. Where exactly this socioeconomically triggered causality occurs occurs a generation or an individual, really doesn't change its relevance. As far as broad mortality itself, a 2011 study by researchers at Columbia University, the Mailman School of Public Health, they found that factors surrounding poverty, lack of education and racial discrimination, are linked to the death of approximately 874,000 Americans, in 2000 alone. About 2.8 million Americans died in 2000 meaning 31% of [these Americans] died because of these arguably preventable circumstances, invariably tied to income, and loss of opportunity, and elements related to the economy. You can’t talk about racial discrimination for example, especially in the US, without understanding the chain reaction and origin that built up those discrimination, xenophobic views - discriminatory and xenophobic views. So the depth of this is quite profound. And it gets even more weird and bizarre and frightening when you look at even more macro conditions. Globally, about 800,000 commit suicide annually, with many more attempted of course. 75% of this occurs in low and middle-income countries, with 30% of them occurring by way of pesticide self-poisoning. 30% - that's odd right? Why pesticide self-poisoning? This pesticide self-poisoning has become a powerful pattern in rural regions in the developing world, agricultural regions, while part of the larger global problem of farmer suicides' patterns in the Global South, has specific characteristics that link it directly to changes in broad international trade and economic policy, and effectively neoliberal globalization. In fact of all the variations of structural violence that we could categorize, the economically-induced mass suicides, occurring by poor farmers that have lost their means due to austerity, economic adjustment programs, trade policy, and ultimately the stress of debt, is very very unique from a structuralist respective. A study by the Mumbai-based Gandhi Institute of Development and Research found in 2006, 86.5% of farmers who took their lives were simply in too much debt. And then we have the broad behavior of violence, something I'm not gonna go into too much detail as it’s complex and is a lecture in and of itself. But this isn't just about the deprivation of poverty, it is also about inequality in general, and the psychological distortions and sense of shame created by feeling unequal, the feeling like you're worth is less than others. A detailed 4-year study measuring the relationship between socioeconomic factors and gang violence in Los Angeles concluded, obvious enough, at the community level, gang-related homicide in Los Angeles is most closely associated with lower income and unemployment. This is also interesting given that there's great political outcry, where I come from, regarding gun violence, and it's been found that half of all the gun violence is coming from 33,000 gangs. So 50% of all the gun violence is coming from gangs that have been born - on average, high probability overall - from the destitute arena of poverty and inequality. Yet no one is talking about poverty or inequality control, while everyone raves and talks about gun control. Guns are tools and they're ultimately killing people in the gangland world, but the precondition of poverty, lack of opportunity and inequality, is really the main problem, and guns just speed up the process. In the words of Dr. James Gilligan of the Harvard Center for the Study of Violence, “Worldwide, the most powerful predictor of the murder rate is the size of the gap in income and wealth between the rich and the poor. The most powerful predictor of the rate of national or collective violence - war, civil insurrection and terrorism - is the size of the gap between income and wealth between the rich and poor countries.” In the work ‘The Spirit Level’ - something I’ve talked about before - why [equality] is better for everyone, Wilkinson and Pickett present a large amount of epidemiological data, and it’s explored and correlated. Societies with large income gaps such as the United States, suffer disproportionately across a range of public health problems, including higher incidence of heart disease, obesity, infant mortality, homicides, imprisonment, teen birth, mental illness, education, and so on. Now that is this gamut of examples that I wanted to run through, and it’s just the tip of the iceberg. And the point is - and as we all basically know - anyone that tells you that class stratification is somehow a motivator, anybody that tells you that, we’re supposed to aspire to something in this system, and that's why people have more than others - they're just simply wrong, and probably an asshole. We are allergic - we are literally allergic - to socioeconomic stratification, and inequality as a society. It's not just our culture, it's our system; it’s built into us. We don't want to see this; we don't like that feeling. We might in that nasty way (because this is what culture has done to us) gravitate towards elevation, to feel like we've done something over the capacity of others. But on the root level we really strive for equality; justice is what we naturally gravitate towards. And poverty and inequality is the most powerful economic precondition for disease, violence, and disorder. Now to conclude this, here is the ‘Empirical Table of Structural Violence’ calculated by Köhler and Alcock in 1976 (again I've talked about this before), comparing global lifespans as the basis and using the countries with the longest lifespan as the benchmark, details of which can be looked at - it's a very reputable study; I'm not going to go into any of the specifics as far as why the chosen measurements are what they are - they calculate that up to 18 million unnecessary deaths occurred annually at that time - (there's no reason to assume these numbers have changed that much) - and 95% of those deaths have occurred in the Global South, showing the incredible disparity between the two hemispheres, as is still the case today of course. It's quite startling, as it means inequality is the leading cause of death on the planet Earth. As an aside, someone presented this book to me a while back and said I had to read it, because ... it's everything that's true about the history of communism. And these authors in this book ‘The Black Book of Communism’ claim that 94 million people were slaughtered by communism in the 20th century. Well let's assume this is accurate (and many critics say it's not at all accurate), but based on these numbers, socioeconomic inequality facilitates this death toll in a little less than 6 years. And it’s very hard not to witness this, and then from a structuralist view, not link it back to what is effectively its core point of origin - market capitalism - which is predicated on competitive-produced inequality. In the words of violence researcher Dr. James Gilligan once again, “Every single year two to three times as many people die from poverty throughout the world as were killed by the Nazi genocide of the Jews over a six-year period. That is, in effect, the equivalent of an ongoing, unending, and in fact accelerating, thermonuclear war, or genocide, perpetrated on the weak and poor every year of every decade, throughout the world.” Meanwhile, as Abby pointed out, as of 2015, 62 people have more wealth than the bottom 50% of the entire world population. There are about 1800 billionaires in the world as of 2015 with over $7 trillion between them. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations calculated that it would only take roughly $30 billion a year to solve world hunger through mostly developmental programs in poor regions. Not only could the billionaires do this for 200 years and still be wealthy, which wouldn't even be necessary because it's about development, not just ... piecemeal aid. Only a tiny fraction of course of the US annual military spending would suffice as well, as we’ve heard. Recognizing this deeply impoverished value disorder, a former FAO director stated “Against that backdrop, how can we explain to people of good sense in good faith that it was not possible to find US $30 billion a year to enable 862 million hungry people to enjoy the most fundamental of human rights: the right to food and thus the right to life?” So with all those considered, returning to Dr. King and the anti-poverty movement he attempted to start, I hope everyone can better understand how deep the rabbit hole goes. As far as I'm concerned, the new civil rights movement, today picks up where he essentially left off, seeking the abolition of socioeconomic inequality as a core focus. This is the core public health crisis, and it's only going to get worse as things move forward, and that brings us to the chickens. Some may know a rather idiotic idiom in American culture referring to the chickens coming home to roost. This is about the long-term negative repercussions of bad deeds: acts with a lack of foresight, set forward by a person or a culture. And on the scale of global society, as we've heard again today, I'm sorry to tell you that the chickens have arrived, there are many many many many more on their way, and they are pissed. Part of the new civil rights movement is ensuring that we have a sustainable habitat, obviously. After 200 years of industrialization, oblivious to the delicate nature of our habitat, driven by an anti-economy that is artificially premised on growth and consumerism, compounded by patterns of social dominance and unenlightened self-interest through exploitation, colonialism, globalization, and xenophobic outgroup fears that continually produce war, oppression and anger, the chickens are not coming home to merely annoy us with mild pecking. Due to time, I have presented this, and originally the bracket of time for this event was a little bit shorter for me. But, I added this in because - I'm not gonna go through every single instance in any explicit detail - but I wanted you to kind of get a sense of this. We've talked about climate change earlier and other issues, and of course that's the biggest one in the long term, but there are numerous problems. I call this the Seven Nails, and if we have a business-as-usual scenario persist, around the 2040-2050 period, the convergence of - just the destruction of the biodiversity and resource overshoot - we use a sixth of the world's resources each year-... excuse me, we use ALL the world's resources that it produces a sixth way through each year - resource overshoot. Of course, climate change. We have all sorts of other general pollution problems that take a back seat to climate change but are just as prevalent, leading eventually to mass water scarcity that we've been hearing about as well which no one's doing anything about. And that relates to food scarcity; it works in synergy with all these other issues. We have technological unemployment; that is the profit motive our system - the contradictions of capitalism. Companies are going to start using machines and, I hate to say it - as writers-... Stephen Hawkins recently pointed out, if we don't get a collar on this, it's just going to create that much more inequality. In fact I argue that the mass inequality shift that we've had over the past ten years, hasn't been because people have gotten more greedy - it's because all the efficiency produced by this great technology that can help us keeps going to the elite; to the 1%. They're doing the same thing they always did, but they have that much more they can extract in wealth, because they don't have to spend as much for labor, and so on. And then government debt is that final issue, as I've talked about before, that Standard & Poor's predicts by 2050, 60% of all countries on the planet will be bankrupt. Now you have to ask yourself, even though it’s a fiction, it’s elaborate fiction, but if that's the psychology of scarcity - like in here in Greece where they're cutting welfare programs, you know - if that's the psychology, how do we ever expect to rebuild an energy infrastructure? How do we ever expect to budget out for all the grand revisions that are really required IF we're supposed to keep using money, of course. So, within the new civil rights movement, we have to see of course the broad picture, and this is just as much a part of it as the abolition of poverty and socioeconomic inequality of course. So I'm sorry to torture you with this graphic at the very end, but I'm gonna leave it at that, and thank you very very much. [Applause]

Video Details

Duration: 31 minutes and 57 seconds
Year: 2016
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: The Zeitgeist Movement
Director: The Zeitgeist Movement
Views: 81
Posted by: ltiofficial on May 1, 2016

Peter continues the TZM train of thought with this Z-Day 2016 talk on the likely road ahead.

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