Friday, September 9, 2011

The American and the Fisherman

I first read this story posted on the wall of a Jimmy John's sandwich shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan:
An American businessman was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied only a little while. The American then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish? The Mexican said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs. The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?" The Mexican fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life, senior."

The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise."

The Mexican fisherman asked, "But senior, how long will this all take?"

To which the American replied, "15-20 years."

"But what then, senior?"

The American laughed and said that's the best part. "When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."

"Millions, senior? Then what?"

The American said, "Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos."
I've often puzzled over the perceived necessity of "growth." This unattributed parable demonstrates the conflict between the mandate to maximize profits and the value of a life that's worth living. How much greater is this tension when the growth in question is of an increasingly catastrophic militarily-industrial brand of capitalism, the cross of iron on which humanity has hung itself. Buckminster Fuller coined the term livingry, the antonym of weaponry. Our economy should serve the way we ought to live, not the other way around.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Stadium love

Earth is an absurd stadium, teeming and festering with the miracle of life. Each entity must struggle and compete for survival, ceaselessly devouring and being devoured. The most absurd participant in this creature carnival is the human, a being well-constructed for combative success yet seemingly bound by its very nature to self destruction. Our kind's cognitive and physical prowess has elevated us to a position of dominion in the environment, but not over our own nature. We have organized and civilized according to the neccessities of basic survival, the rules of the game, yet we don't seem to be winning the world. We possess the technological capacity to spread knowledge, health, and well-being around the globe, yet remain trapped in primeval tribalism - needlessly beholden to violence, ignorance, and fear. Where's the love?

Sept. 14, 2011 - I wrote this entry prior to watching the video by the Canadian band Metric that is linked to the lyrics (yep, blog post with song lyrics in it). The translation from lyrics to video are quite literal, and in retrospect the whole thing seems kind of on-the-nose. I've embedded said video here for full effect: