In reference to The Inexplicability of Circumstance, I think I figured out, upon further reflection, what disturbed me so much.

Although selling one’s soul is as old as having a soul, there seems in my opinion to be an ongoing shifting of the moral compass that suggests, for reasons of money and resources, one has to compromise and be compromised to get ahead.


The easiest answer yet: because that’s just the way the world is—a world that through “science” has been concluded to not be held in the ridiculousness of God’s invisible hand, but in the self-evident truth of the Market’s invisible hand.

Both are absolutely without “proof,” or as much proof as one wants to give either.

Brutality is now considered so unavoidable that to protest it (say sweatshop degradation) is to get in the way of progress.

The world may have always been this way, with brutality readily available, but lately it keeps putting these ideas in writing.

Fighting for civil rights and access to fair trial for all people can get a good person labeled pro-terrorism.

To protest the mistreatment of workers in sweatshops can make a caring soul feel like they’re helping keep the extreme poor in rural poverty.

That’s just weird.

The question is: can not protesting degradation against human beings possibly be good for human beings in the long run?—and when was the last time human beings thought in the long run?

Who thinks of their great, great, great grandchildren? Whatever faults indigenous cultures had, this concept of taking care of all future generations (not just through Family Trust Funds) was a good one, and all but disappeared with their decimation.

And what the hell do I know? I’ve never been hungry a day in my life.

I know I’m missing something by trying to figure this out. But I’m missing everything by not trying to figure it out.

And may I be more grateful. Always more grateful.

A person whose spiritual intelligence has been reawakened becomes free from both the good and bad reactions to their work (Bhagavad Gita, Ch 2, 50).


I remember ten years back or so, maybe more, I was writing a crappy novel: The Beaver Rebellion, Part II (there was no Part I). It was about four Vancouver revolutionaries, a flagrant oxymoron—Greenpeace notwithstanding. On its opening page I quote what I believe to be a real article from the Vancouver Sun.


(CP-Toronto) That Canadians will no longer have to consider human rights when considering trade with other countries is both progressive and in line with Free Trade Agreements, said Trade Minister Max Boddington.

“This opens up whole new opportunities,” the Trade Minister said from the Conference Room of the Georgia Hotel. “The fastest way to make change is through interinvolvement. For once the market will be left to decide.”

I recall how the article really disturbed me.


One, Canada had for sometime always linked human rights to trade, at least in theory. In other words, a country couldn’t get one without the other.

Two, because this proclamation separating human rights and trade passed without fanfare.

If nothing else, it was always hopeful to make the acknowledgment of human rights by a country a necessity for trade, simply because human rights—the dignity of an individual—are paramount.

But that’s old. Trade is now the answer. Not compassion. Equality comes not by a shift in worldview and belief, but in trade.

If trade is so important, you’d think a torturing or human rights abusing government would stop torture so as to allow trade. But in fact, trade is God, so not even torture or human rights abuses can stop it. And should one try, this legislation will be slapped down at the Pearly Gates, otherwise known as a Free Trade Agreement.

I think I see in the same light Jeffrey Sachs’ well-intentioned (and possibly necessary) idea that cruel, underpaying and degrading sweatshops are an undeniable fact and vital for lifting people out of extreme poverty.

Again, we leave it to this invisible market hand to decide. If we find this theory wrong, we are not only naive, we’re pushing the hopeful poor back to their “rural misery.”

We don’t ask about the long term effects of treating people like beasts of burden, especially if that beast of burden is one day able to buy things like breakfast.

Now of course it’s utterly right to cry out: “What about the annihilating effects of people living endlessly under insurmountable abject poverty?”

But is degrading treatment and work really the only way out? And is it actually a way out? We can split genes and circle Jupiter, and this is the best we can do?

Forcing people to degrade themselves to get out of poverty teaches us that compassion, solidarity, brother and sisterhood are secondary to market demand.

Can this be sustainable? Or is it ongoing paternalism with an allowance?

Are sweatshops not colonialism with a budget? Punishment for aid? Bombs with food? Development without roots?

And finally, shouldn’t the primary goal be to hear the free voices of those millions involved? The companies are western, the products by the billions are for westerners, and yet finding a means of increasing dialogue with workers or to change the practices is not paramount, by any stretch.

That in itself speaks volumes about human nature, and were it not our nature, we would probably respond with humility and caution.

This is not finger-pointing. It’s an exploration. I feel the impotence and the tragic truth of unknowingness. It brings to my heart a desire to listen more.

All pros and cons aside—a debate that in itself is degrading and paternalistic—I would guess the main variable that stops economically desperate people from being treated well under any conditions (perhaps starvation excluded) is the belief system of those with power.

The invisible hand seems more like a fist, and more brutal and obvious than invisible.

This is the greatness of the Grameen Bank (and this bank better be on the up and up or I sure look like a schmuck).

So let me rephrase this: there is much greatness in the spirit of the Grameen Bank as I perceive it—with a complete lack of deeper study.

And of course today, trying to impose democracy by slaughtering a country has come to be thought well within the bounds of normal diplomacy and even common sense—perhaps even the standard means of bringing “democracy” to the rest of the world.

Do you remember when Afghanistan simultaneously had bombs and food (peanut butter, I believe) dropped on them under the label of humanitarian aid?

Well, they’re still in Afghanistan. In fact, Canada sent more troops there today.

Protests aside, my dear friends, that actually passes as normal. That is this world. So—and this is a guess—at some point one either follows that slide or one chooses to humbly try and be more loving, all the time, understanding the universal predicament of the human condition.

One can only be humbled by remembering that in one hundred and, say, twenty years, every body walking on the planet today will be no longer walking on the planet.

Another guess is that giving more love, compassion and understanding today in every thought, will carry not only into my belief system in some mysterious way, but into future generations—as will more divisiveness.

So what changes? The human condition and nature is highly predictable. The effects of that nature are impossible to know.

In the old days they didn’t call war and invasion and threats “creating democracy.” It was called colonialism, and its premise was the spreading of civilization.

There were other problems, too, don’t get me wrong.

Still, one always hopes to be living in enlightened times.

That’s what bothered me so much about the ‘unavoidable necessity of sweatshop’ argument—even if it’s accurate.


The truth is I really want to believe everybody’s loved. And for such heartfelt dreams, the Market’s invisible hand just doesn’t cut it.

Easy for me to say, I just had a good dinner.

So let me put it another way: one day I might die by the invisible hand of the market, but I’ll never believe in it.

It’s as temporary as a God with a big ol’ beard, knuckle-dragging ancestors, all the news that’s fit to print and, of course, me.

So how much am I willing to believe in the invisible hand of love?

Go ahead, make my day. Ah, you already did.


5 Responses to “Spreading PEANUT BUTTER with an INVISIBLE HAND”

  1. […] Yet international processes are cruel. The donor governments—including the United States and Europeans—told Malawi to scale back its proposal sharply because the first proposal was “too ambitious and too costly.? The next draft was cut back t a mere hunded thousand on treatment at the end of five years. Even that was too much. In a tense five-day period, the donors prevailed on Malawi to cut another 60 percent from the proposal, down to forty thousand on treatment. This atrophied plan was submitted to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and malaria. Incredibly, the donors that run that fund saw fit to cut back once again. After a long struggle, Malawi received funding to save just twenty-five thousand at the end of five years—a death warrant from the international community for the people of this country. […]

  2. […] In my opinion, one should not underestimate the sustainable power of seeing everybody as sisters and brothers, as dignified and worthy of kindness, respect and social justice. Nor should one minimize the effects of long term degradation—thus my argument against Jeffrey Sach’s exaltation of multinational corporation owned sweatshops. […]

  3. […] economist Jeffrey Sachs (The End of Poverty) may believe these sweatshops are the key to bring up massive amounts of people from extreme poverty …. There may be some truth in this. But is it necessary to be so cruel in the process? If you degrade […]

  4. […] with job-loss if they speak out against hardship and so on. This bias is evident, for example, in my argument against aspects of Jeffrey Sachs’ (The End of Poverty) support for sweatshops—for the simple reason that, like the physical and emotional abuse of poverty, the endemic […]

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