February 10, 2012

Redefining Prosperity

50 years of incessant advertising and lies has made us think that prosperity means having more money to buy more ‘things’. Yet each of us knows that beyond a certain level, the ownership of ‘things’ makes us no happier and certainly no healthier. There is a perception that a bigger car or house increases our social status, but that perception is marginal at best. It does not make for a better human being.

Prosperity is defined as being flourishing, thriving and successful. To be a flourishing, thriving and successful human being depends more upon health and happiness than the size of your bank balance. The misplaced clamour for economic growth has put many economies into decline, and economic notions of prosperity are at last being seen for what they actually are – a negative impact on personal and national self esteem.  It seems that we have mistakenly equated the acquisition of monetary wealth with our feelings about ourselves.

If the crazy drive for economic growth has got us where we are – a society becoming less equal by the day, public borrowing at levels in excess of £1 trillion in the UK (US $15 trillion), shrinking tax receipts and rising unemployment - why oh why is the government baying for more growth?

Our socio–economic order is rotten. Greed and irresponsibility have fuelled little but disaster. Yet still we hear the cry for a return to ‘business as usual’. Certain groups and individuals know exactly what to do, because they know how much they have to gain from it. A return to the old order – as if that was possible – would continue to magnify the wealth of the few. We now know that the problems facing communities right now are a result of ‘growth’. We do not want a return to the old order. 

We live in a world of finite resources. No matter how deep we dig, the fossil fuels will eventually disappear, so for starters an oil based economy does not make much sense. Uranium too is a fossil fuel, and its supply is finite. Gas, coal – all the fossil fuels can only be mined for so long, and they will be no more.

Life for us all is poised to change. There are a lot of mouths to feed, so we must look to ourselves and our communities for the answers. Big Money and Big Corporations will be dragged screaming into their own decline, because the last thing they want to see is ordinary people managing their  our own way into the future – and it could be a lot better than the past.

A sensible government would be looking to real prosperity. It would be using sustainable energy sources and guiding us towards non-financial goals such as family life, health and community. The Buddhist definition of prosperity is based on collectivism and compassion, and that is not a bad place to start.