Pogonomics

"We have met the enemy and he [or she] is us."

One of the articles in What Is Enough? (IC#26)
Originally published in Summer 1990 on page 24
Copyright (c)1990, 1997 by Context Institute

What makes life work – for one person, and for all people? Joe Dominguez has focused on that question throughout his life, as a paper boy in his native Harlem, as a market analyst on Wall Street in the 1960s, and during his 20 years of financial self-sufficiency and voluntary service to humanity.

Joe has always been a sharp – some might say cutting – observer of how "economics" functions in both the individual’s life and in society as a whole. His radical thesis, "Pogonomics," tells it like it so often is, and suggests an alternative course.

While no one was paying much attention, economics replaced religion as the touchstone of human life. Like religion, economics has priests and rituals. The purpose of these priests and rituals is to interpret the meaning of events while keeping the people in confusion. Any effort on the part of the masses to connect directly with the realities behind the rituals is considered a sacrilege.

There is supply-side economics, Keynesian economics, invisible-hand market economics – but none of these deal with the real driving force behind economics. The following simple explanations will put you in direct contact with this essential driving force.

1 – LEXICON

ECOLOGY: The mutual relations between organisms and their environment.

ECONOMICS: The mutual relations between human organisms and their environment. The Dismal Science that investigates the conditions and laws affecting the production, distribution and consumption of resources. The material means of satisfying human desires. Since humans appear to be insatiable, that last definition is obviously an oxymoron; therefore, antonym: enough.

EARTH: Our home planet, mother, source of all sustenance, resource base, host, life support system, teat.

RESOURCE: Everything in, on, or above Earth that we can consume, use up, destroy, annihilate, violate or deprive others of. We accomplish all this with the use of money (see below).

CONSUME: Use up, devour, destroy, waste, squander.

CONSUMER: One who uses up, devours, destroys, wastes, squanders.

DEMAND: To claim as just or due. In economics, the desire to consume, combined with the ability to ignore one’s conscience.

ENVIRONMENT: That which results from the consumption of resources.

EMPLOYMENT: Activity by which one exchanges one’s human resource (life-energy) for money. A vital step in the conversion of a resource into environment. Also, contemporary man’s (and increasingly, woman’s) primary purpose for existence and primary means of identification – e.g., "I am a _____" (lawyer, plumber… etc.).

MONEY: That which we spend one-third of our adult lifetimes acquiring, one-third disposing of, one-third recovering from the acquisition and disposal of, and the rest of the time bemoaning the lack of. Money is a lien on Earth’s resources.

DEBT: In ancient theology, a sin or trespass. In modern sociology, a euphemism for incarceration, as in "He paid his debt to society." In the social practices resulting from the contemporary theology of economics, a highly respected way to repay your children for the suffering they have caused you. A device for keeping people trapped in employment, thus creating more environment.

SAVINGS: The result of a practice, now obsolete, whereby money (or resources) was set aside to provide for when employment was not available or advisable, due to its deleterious effect on the consumer or on the Earth. Antonym: debt.

ENOUGH: A condition apparently experienced only by lower animals, plants, galaxies and primitive hominids of the Pre-Industrial Revolution era (the latter were said to have enough after spending only a few hours per day acquiring resources).

VALUE: (n) Monetary or material worth; cost, expense; (v) to prize, esteem.

VALUES: What we profess to be truly important guiding principles in our lives.

INTEGRITY: The state of being complete, undivided; unity, concord, harmony; congruity; wholeness, completeness; alignment between values and behavior.

POGONOMICS: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

ECO-ECONOMICS: The interactions of all of the above.

2 – ECONOMICS

Our employment greatly depends upon converting some aspect of Earth into resources. This is obvious in farming, logging, mining, cocaine- and cigarette-making, and tract house and shopping center developments. Since most of those resources are not really needed, many other forms of employment exist whose sole purpose is to convince people that consuming resources is a way toward greater happiness: e.g., employment in advertising, sales, higher education, television. Then there are the employments that deal with the results of the previous two forms, among them being psychiatrists, hernia specialists, divorce lawyers, day-care operators, police officers and morticians. Another interesting observation: The term of conscription for killing each other with permission is generally two to four years; for killing each other without permission it is generally 20 years; for employment it is generally 45 years.

All these employments are for the purpose of acquiring money. A common cultural taboo insists on using circumspect language to obscure this simple fact. One does not say "I’m acquiring money" but instead says, "I’m Making a Living" – though it is obvious that the individual speaking returns home from employment much less alive than when he or she left! Also, one would never ask "How much money do you acquire?", but rather, "What do you do?" (In certain sub-cultural groupings one might, however, ask "Are you Following Your Bliss?" or, "Have you found your Right Livelihood?")

The purpose of money is to consume resources. Any time that you spend money, you are consuming resources. Since you have traded a piece of your life to get that money (through your employment), you are also consuming your own resource (your life-energy) when you spend money. The new resource you bought with the money now belongs to you – it is not available to others. It is now your right to use it up, to prevent others from getting it, to hide it from other people in your closet, to make other people feel bad because they don’t have it.

When you want to consume more resources than you can get with the money you got by selling your own resource (your life energy) through your employment, you can sell your future and your children’s future. This is called "trading futures," or debt. You have to use up even more resources when you are consuming via debt – the extra amount being called, interestingly enough, "interest on consumer debt." This is a very efficient way to "use up, devour, destroy, waste and squander."

While you are in employment, acquiring money and debt, and consuming, you are creating the environment. All along the way, from when that resource was taken from the Earth to the time you have consumed as much of it as you want and then thrown it "away," it has been creating environment. The mining equipment that got to the resource had to create environment by removing trees and topsoil that were in the way, had to burn (consume) fuels that created a different recipe for the air environment, had to run a lot of water to take the used-up chemicals into the river environment. Then the resource had to be transported to the refiner, creating a lot of environment along the way, and the refiner created more environment, and then the manufacturer created still more environment, and then the shipper had to create lots more environment to package the resource so that it would appeal to the consumer, who would pay the money that it cost for all that environment (and employment and resource). The consumer often uses the new resource to create more environment as well, and then throws it "away" – creating even more environment.

3 – POGONOMICS

"We have met the enemy and he is us."

– Pogo

If the environment is not to our liking, it is because of our employment, our consumption, our debt, our focus on money. It is us – as individuals – who are the enemy.

It is not due to the "Military-Industrial Complex."

Or "The Federal Budget."

Or "Defense Spending."

Or EXXON.

Or the Logging Industry.

It is not even due to McDonald’s!

It is due only to our individual consumption.

OUR DEMAND.

Prostitution would be the world’s loneliest profession without demand.

The Medellin Cartel would be a 4-H club without demand.

Loggers would be owlophiles without demand.

OPEC would be a Solar Energy and Desalinization Consortium without our demand.

Japan would be a leader in Third World sustainable development if not for our demand … for sushi, Toshibas, Suzooks, CDs, VCRs, TVs, HDs, RAM, CVCCs…

What sort of demand?

Bigger house. Remodelled kitchen. Full employment. Boat. Mountain Bike. Second car. Vacation cabin. Job security. Motor home. Four wheeler. Satellite dish. Microwave. Laptop. Riding mower. Silk blouse. Bigger paycheck. Second income.

Why this demand?

Because we have come to believe, or act as if we believe, that:

More Is Better

We Must Raise Our Standard of Living

Quality of Life Is Measured by Income

Abundance and Prosperity Are Material Birthrights

Whoever Dies with The Most Toys Wins

We Should Shop Till We Drop

We Deserve It

It’s The American Way

We Are Our Jobs

Success Is a Many-Spended Thing

We Can Serve Two Masters – God and Mammon

4 – ECO-ECONOMICS

The Ecology of Values and Value

What do we value? Do we value our lives? What value do we put on our lives? Do we value life? Do we value the host of life – Earth? (Organisms that survive "know" that the health of their host eco-system is vital to their survival; apparently this "knowledge" has escaped cancer cells, humans, and other parasites.) Do we value breathable air? Drinkable water? Fertile topsoil? Healthy children? Functioning families? Time to love?

What are your personal values?

When our actions are in alignment with our values, we experience wholeness – integrity.

Money is not only a lien on a physical resource, it is also a lien on our personal resource: we sold X number of hours of our life to acquire Y dollars. Since money is unique to the human species, we can even say that money = human life- energy!

How we spend our life-energy and how we spend money are direct measurements of the degree of alignment between our actions and our values.

When we spend money for a resource we must ask: "Is this money spent in alignment with my values?"

Fulfillment, by its very definition, is a function of knowing when you have enough.

The questions to ask: "Am I likely to get fulfillment from this money spent in proportion to the resources that it represents? "

"Am I likely to get fulfillment from this money spent in proportion to my expenditure of my resource (my life-energy)?"

"Am I likely to get fulfillment from this money spent in proportion to the environment that it has created and will create after I am finished consuming it?"

What if asking those questions results in spending much less money, and yet feeling much more fulfilled and whole?

Savings is money not spent, resources not consumed and environment not created. It can instead be used to consume debt and reduce dependence on employment.

By saving money, you maintain the integrity of the Earth. You do not maintain the integrity of the Earth by spending money, no matter how "green" the product. All consumers are "green" consumers simply because the color of their money is green.

But what will we do if we do not consume? Who are we, if not consumers?

Answering that question is life’s greatest adventure. When we’re not consuming, we are creating, caring, communicating, communing, conserving, cooperating, being concerned, being conscious. What we have, when we let go of consuming, is integrity – wholeness.

Joe Dominguez retired at 30 in 1969, having saved enough out of his regular paychecks to live off the interest for the rest of his life. By 1980, he recognized that his greatest service would be to help liberate people from their fear, confusion, and unconsciousness about money. See below for more information about the cassette course that is his vehicle for this basic education about money in our lives.


The Joy Of Knowing
How Much Is Enough


Our guest editors for this issue, the members of the New Road Map Foundation (NRM), are a remarkable group of people who preach what they practice – "Transforming Your Relationship to Money and Achieving Financial Independence." That’s the title of the cassette course by Joe Dominguez that they distribute. And here’s the clincher: they give away all the proceeds from the course – which sells for $60 – to other non-profits working for positive cultural change. NRM doesn’t even pay salaries to its staff – they’re all (financially independent) volunteers.

The course includes six cassettes and a workbook, and it walks you through an enlightening and penetrating experience that will not only clarify your relationship with money, but help you figure out what’s really important in your life as well. To illustrate, here are some quotes from people who have taken the course and written to NRM about it. You can order it direct from NRM at P.O. Box 15981, Seattle, WA 98115.

"The notion that money is something I exchange my life energy for gave me the power to say no to the unsatisfying, [and] the go-ahead to explore what is fulfilling."

Lucy Woods, Paonia, CO

"For us the satisfaction of knowing what’s enough has been reward in itself. There’s no question that we would have been seduced into gradually larger purchases if we hadn’t had the clear focus the [New Road Map] program provides."

– Helen Gabel, Mercer Island, WA

"There is no girdle budgeting aspect to this. I never feel deprived. Rather I buy myself and my freedom many times a day."

– Penny Yunuba, Jamaica Plains, MA

"My renewed and enhanced commitment to living my life according to my deepest values and continuing to become more and more of a global citizen has been one of the most meaningful payoffs of the course."

– Tom Clayton, Yakima, WA

"I am going through a subtle metamorphosis from being a consumer to being a conscious shaper of my own destiny."

– Mario Kujawski, Professor
Kent State University, OH

The [financial independence] course has a lot more to do with life than it does with money… [Financial independence] gives us more time to love and be loved."

Ted Pasternak, Boulder, CO

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