In 1959, a hamburger at the Hickory Buffet next to my father’s gas station in the industrial West Bottoms of Kansas City cost 25 cents.
The plate came garnished with a handful of potato chips as well. A small pop added another nickel to my tab. My usual choice varied only on Fridays. A grilled cheese, also for a quarter, then filled the bill.
My father gave my brothers and me $1 a day each for our lunches. It came straight out of the till or, occasionally, from the long, flat wallet chained to his belt. Any change I got from my frugal lunch was mine to keep. As a 10- almost 11-year-old, my major challenge was saving the $30 I needed to pay for 10 days at Camp Osceola, the local Boy Scout camp, later in July.
With my 70 cents change a day plus the remnants of savings from the long passed snow-shovelling season I saved what I needed in about a month. The coins I took home also provided my first basic understanding of how our economic system should work. If I worked hard, the money I made should provide not only for my necessities, but also help me achieve my hopes and dreams.
Many young Yukoners already have or will soon be starting their summer jobs. What lessons are they learning as they listen to the news during our on-going economic crisis? Will they be able to realize their aspirations given the current economic system?
Professor Joseph E. Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics and former chief economist of the World Bank, argued earlier this week in an article for the Australian newspaper, The Age, that they may not.
“Rewriting the rules of the market economy, in a way that has benefited those that have caused so much pain to the entire global economy, is worse than financially costly,” argues Stiglitz. “Most Americans view it as grossly unjust.” Furthermore “This ersatz capitalism, where losses are socialized and profits are privatized, is doomed to failure.”
A world where, as Stiglitz states, “The rich and powerful turn to the government to help them whenever they can, while needy individuals get little social protection,” does not bode well for the future of our young. (For the full article see www.commondreams.org/view/2009/06/09-8).
How long will they be saddled with the cost of cleaning up after the excesses and greed of the “too-big-to-fail banks” and other corporate giants? This is especially egregious when “there is no evidence that these behemoths deliver societal benefits that are commensurate with the costs they have imposed,” argues Stiglitz.
Ultimately this points us, though, to a more fundamental flaw in our global economic system.
“Western civilization must withdraw from its efforts at dominion over the Earth. This will be one of the most severe disciplines in the future, for the Western addiction to economic dominance is even more powerful than the drive toward political dominance,” noted Thomas Berry in his book The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future.
Thomas Berry, priest and cultural historian, passed away last week at 94.
Captains Robert and Johannah Sessford will soon be leaving Whitehorse after 10 years of service here. They will be taking up a new assignment in Regina, Saskatchewan. During their watch, tens of thousands of meals have been served to our hungry from their soup kitchen, a warm, safe bed provided in their shelter for thousands for our homeless and solace for countless others through their other efforts. They deserve our thanks and gratitude.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, June 14—Second Sunday after Pentecost or Body and Blood of Christ. Suggested readings are Mark 4: 26-34 or Mark 4, 12-16, 22-26.
Sunday, June 14—All Saints is celebrated by Orthodox Christians.
Tuesday, June 16—The martydom of Guru Arjan Dev is remembered by Sikhs along with all those who have suffered for their faith.
Tuesday, June 16—172 students died in Soweto, South Africa when police opened fire on their protest against education under the apartheid system in 1976.
Wednesday, June 17—World Day to combat Desertification and Drought 2009 has as its theme: “Conserving land and water = Securing our common future.”