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Banbury Cross

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Post details: Leaves Impressions

Leaves Impressions

When the Czech language was resurrected from the deep comma inflicted upon it by the oppressive milieu of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, its rescuers decided to increase its allure among populace by making it as colorful as possible. As part of the linguistic face lift they ditched the traditional Latin based month names and created new ones - a set that was more evocative and based on the native roots. For the month of November they aptly chose the moniker leaves-fall. And that indeed is a prevailing natural theme for this time of year.

The visible end of the growing cycle is a reminder that the Earth is entering its winter orbit. The living organisms are readying themselves for a long slumber and as the trees are shedding their foliage, another leaf-based entity reclaims its prominent place in our lives: a book. Sure, there are no laws of physics that would prevent you from reading in Summer as well, but somehow those long cold dark nights make more fitting backdrop for your favorite tome than the star studded skies of August. Nothing is more conducive to eager page turning than a warm blanket and a smell of hot chocolate sprawling in the air.

There is another growth cycle that is coming to a halt these days. It pertains to global economy. Many are realizing that the dynamic expansion that we have come to worship in the past few decades was a false idol. As the leaves of once self evident platitudes are falling down from the tree of economic theory, they lay bare the stark truths behind the myth of perpetual growth. When you look at its most vocal apostles, you find financiers, you find media moguls, you find mighty tycoons and corporate aristocracy, the ones who reap disproportionate benefits from outsourcing the labor overseas, the ones who have vital interest in shaking the dressed up carrots in front of myrmidons of consumerism. But when you turn around and look at your average working family, you find them making the same meager wage as they were thirty years ago despite all this phenomenal success. Competing globally with armies of nameless teenagers slaving away in Asian sweatshops can wreak havoc on the middle classes in developed countries.

Look out of the frosted window - the King and the Queen standing barefoot by the railway tracks, bowing to a passing train.

I saw a documentary about Amazon Indians last week. These folks lived happily in harmony with Nature for eons, their cable subscription rates held steadily at zero, and yet the sincerity of their smiles had not been diminished by the conspicuous absence of status symbols. Many civilizations thrived without a license to exploit our common and very finite resources.

This is not a call to abandon technology and progress. Rather it is a case for reevaluation, recycling and return to simplicity. We don't need to expand our GDP by 20% every five years to be happy. We don't need to plunder the world's environment just to squeeze the last droplets of an increasingly inaccessible oil from the ground. We don't need to stampede electronics stores in a hogging frenzy every Black Friday. We can lead perfectly fulfilling lives just by maintaining our homes, our gardens, our towns and our relationships. Take care of what we have rather than pursuing a different fad every year. Depth rather than breadth should be our goal.

I came across several books recently that look at our present world from a similar perspective. They are not about the risks of unbridled growth per se, but each in its own way illuminates the global craziness our society has succumbed to. If you have some reading time during the coming Holidays, I recommend them to your attention.

Matt Taibbi: Griftopia
Ellen Brown: Web of Debt
Roger Hodge: Mendacity of Hope
Jonathan Chait: The Big Con
Naomi Klein: The Shock Doctrine

Despite the seemingly dry subject, these books read like a thriller, and present enough food for thought to eclipse even the most opulent Thanksgiving fiesta. You may end up disagreeing with some of their conclusions, sometimes strongly so, but hey - that's what thinking is all about. Reading stuff you agree with is a waste of time.

If you care about the course our society has embarked upon, each of those page turners will leave a lasting impression on your mind. Much like the leaves on the concrete pathway to my apartment, whose dark silhouettes were still there - clearly imprinted - long time after the leaves themselves were blown away.

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