Thank you Greece

I recently read a quote attributed to Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s prime minster and head of the euro group, to the effect that “we know exactly what we should do; we just don’t know how to get re-elected if we do it” (quoted in Guardian Weekly 25.05.12). I then heard Yiannis Milios, top Economic Advisor of the Syriza Party, currently polling highest in the run up to new elections, on BBC World Service’s Hardtalk.

Think for a moment about what Juncker is saying – according to our economic policy framework and paradigm, we know what we should do, but we also know that it would be immensely unpopular with people. What does that tell us? One of two things: either the people are ignorant and don’t know what is good for them and their countries, or the socio-economic paradigm from which our politicians are trying to manage the crisis is fundamentally flawed. I tend to go with the latter. They are trying to impose more of the old when the old itself is the problem – because they don’t know any better.

Listening to the Hardtalk interview, I was struck by how, for the first time in a long time, views that fairly fundamentally challenge the current economic paradigm and assumptions were given a serious airing. Something is shifting. And Greece is leading the way.

This is not to say that I agree with everything Syriza stands for nor the energy with which they are going about it. But that is not the point. The point is that life is giving form to a new way of thinking about our societies, and Greece and Syriza happen to be the channels for the new birth. Passion, positioning and polarisation is part of the process. This may sound romantic but is actually a blessing very much in disguise. Greece is the innovator here, and for an innovator to carve out a new paradigm at this level is going to be extremely tough.

The transition will be painful, as people struggle to make ends meet playing by the rules of a game that is dying. It will take time for the new ways to emerge and crystallise in such a manner that they really serve the needs people are feeling and can be widely adopted (see this emergence of local solutions as an example of innovation due to need). There will be recriminations towards the old order, babies will be thrown out with bathwater, sides will be taken, society will be polarised. But eventually the new order will settle down, people will have space in their hearts to forgive, they will remember the good elements of the old and will re-integrate what has been rejected too hastily, and Greece will once more have been the cradle of a new civilisation.

Thank you Greece for being so bold. Thank you for cracking the old mold. And thank you for the suffering you undergo for us all. We hold you in our hearts.

Thrive – the Movie and the Conversation in Amsterdam

In my role as Director of Wisdom University in Europe, I will be hosting a showing of the movie Thrive and a conversation afterwards on Saturday 12.11.11 at the Hub in Amsterdam (Westerstraat 187), starting 18.30. It launches on 11.11.11 and promises to challenge many assumptions. RSVP Film showing is free with donations to cover room hire.

Even insiders who have seen it talked about it for days afterwards. My business partner and friend Tatiana Glad, also co-founder of the Hub in Amsterdam, will join me in hosting the conversation afterwards. Thrive recommends that people go to Wisdom University to get academic credits for studying related issues. See also the Thrive website.

Economics and Work for People and Planet

In 1997 I wrote my Master’s thesis for the Centre for Human Ecology at Edinburgh University and entitled it Why Work?. Monitoring the news of the current situations in Greece, Portugal, Spain and other countries, I was reminded of my thesis. It was born out of a sense that there must be a better way of matching the potential of amazing human beings with real needs in the world while nurturing the ecology of our planet. The thesis was published as the 2nd Occasional Paper by the Centre for Human Ecology. Below I am sharing two sections of the thesis where I explore a deeper paradigm around work and economics, and then solutions at local and global levels. It feels relevant to what is happening at the moment in the world, as people gather in many countries motivated by a deep sense that something is wrong with the current system and that there must be a better way. Please do share where relevant. With thanks and love, Peter

Table of contents

Being And Working
Who Is In Control?
The Economics of Expropriation
Shadow Work
The People in Power
The Power in People
Why Work?
New Economics
Eco-tax Reform
A Basic Citizen’s Income
Future Work
Redistributing Work
Appropriate Work
The Parallel Economy
Theory into Practice
The Immediate Future

Being And Working

“Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself. Being true to anyone else or anything else is not only impossible, but the mark of a fake messiah.” (Bach 1992 , 47)


“The only question which matters is, ‘Am I living in a way which is deeply satisfying to me, and which truly expresses me?’” (Rogers, 1961, 119)

These are questions that reach down to the heart of what it is to be human. Spiritual leaders, psychologists, philosophers, artists, all grapple with the existential issues of life. One thing so many of their reflections seem to have in common is the desire for a kind of unity within ourselves – a unity where our actions reflect our thoughts which reflect our deep human emotions – a desire for the ability to find who we really are, and then to act in accord with those discoveries (Sri Chinmoy 1974, The Bible, Hesse 1974, Dostoïevski 1950, Schumacher 1978).

What concerns me specifically here, is to what extent the present system of employment encourages “living” as opposed to “being lived”. Do most people spend their lives in “the pernicious devotion of habit” which “paralyses our attention, drugs those handmaidens of perception whose co-operation is not absolutely essential” (Beckett 1931)? To what extent do we need to be “virtually bludgeoned into detachment from our daily lives, our habits and mental laziness, which conceal from us the strangeness of the world” (Ionesco 1962)?

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Economics 1

John Maynard Keynes:

“I sympathise … with those who would minimise, rather than those who would maximise, economic entanglement between nations. Ideas, knowledge, art, hospitality, travel – these are the things which should of their nature be international. But let goods be homespun whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible; and, above all, let finance be primarily national.”