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Archive for April 21st, 2016

The solution to (nearly) everything: working less

Had you asked John Maynard Keynes what the biggest challenge of the 21st century would be, he wouldn’t have had to think twice.


In fact, Keynes anticipated that, barring “disastrous mistakes” by policymakers (austerity during an economic crisis, for instance), the western standard of living would multiply to at least four times that of 1930 within a century. By his calculations, in 2030 we’d be working just 15 hours a week.

In 2000, countries such as the UK and the US were already five times as wealthy as in 1930.

Yet as we hurtle through the first decades of the 21st century, our biggest challenges are not too much leisure and boredom, but stress and uncertainty.

Gino Raidy shared this link. April 18 at 2:35pm ·

“Not until men do their fair share of cooking, cleaning and other domestic labour will women be free to fully participate in the broader economy.”

(As Jimmy Carter said lately: “Men don’t give a damn if women don’t take on their responsibilities for a fair system on discrimination”

Excessive work and pressure are status symbols. But overtime is deadly.|By Rutger Bregman

What does working less actually solve, I was asked recently. I’d rather turn the question around: is there anything that working less does not solve?

Take climate change. A worldwide shift to a shorter working week could cut the CO2 emitted this century by half. (Car travel to work for example)

Countries with a shorter working week have a smaller ecological footprint. Consuming less starts with working less – or, better yet – with consuming our prosperity in the form of leisure.

Overtime is deadly.

Long working days lead to more errors: tired surgeons are more prone to slip-ups and soldiers who get too little shut-eye are more prone to miss targets.

From Chernobyl to the space shuttle Challenger, overworked managers often prove to have played a role in disasters.

It is no coincidence that the financial sector, which triggered the biggest disaster of the past decade, is absolutely groaning with people doing overtime.

Countless studies have shown that people who work less are more satisfied with their lives.

In a recent poll conducted among working women, German researchers quantified the “perfect day”. The largest share of minutes (106) would go toward “intimate relationships”.

Down at the bottom of the list were work (36) and commuting (33). The researchers noted that “in order to maximise wellbeing it is likely that working and consuming (which increases GDP) might play a smaller role in people’s daily activities compared with now”.

Obviously, you can’t simply chop a job up into smaller pieces. Nevertheless, researchers at the International Labour Organization have concluded that job sharing – in which two part-time employees split a workload traditionally assigned to one full-time worker – went a long way towards resolving the last economic crisis.

Particularly in times of recession with spiking unemployment and production exceeding demand, sharing jobs can help to soften the blow. (Which requires plenty of training and coordination?)

Furthermore, countries with shorter working weeks consistently top gender-equality rankings. (In many part of the world, men work less and the burden is heaped on the women)

The central issue is achieving a more equitable distribution of work. Not until men do their fair share of cooking, cleaning and other domestic labour will women be free to fully participate in the broader economy.

Take Sweden, a country with a truly decent system for childcare and paternity leave – and the world’s smallest work-time disparity between men and women.

Besides distributing jobs more equally between the sexes, we also have to share them across the generations.

Older people increasingly want to continue working even after hitting pensionable age. But while thirtysomethings are drowning in work, family responsibilities and mortgages, seniors struggle to get hired, even though (some) working has proven health benefits.

Young workers who are just entering the labour market may well continue working into their 80s. In return, they could put in not 40 hours a week for all those years, but perhaps just 20-30.

“In the 20th century we had a redistribution of wealth,” one leading demographer has observed. “In this century, the great redistribution will be in terms of working hours.”.

And then there is the issue of economic inequality.

The countries with the biggest disparities in wealth are precisely those with the longest working weeks.

While the poor are working longer hours just to get by, the rich are finding it ever more “expensive” to take time off as their hourly rates rise.

Nowadays excessive work and pressure are status symbols. Time to oneself is sooner equated with unemployment and laziness, certainly in countries where the wealth gap has widened.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We have the ability to cut a big chunk off our working week. Not only would it make all of society a whole lot healthier, it would also put an end to untold piles of pointless and even downright harmful tasks (a recent poll found that as many as 37% of British workers think they have a “bullshit job”).

A universal basic income would be the best way to give everyone the opportunity to do more unpaid but incredibly important work, such as caring for children and the elderly.

“But wouldn’t everybody just be glued to the TV all the time?”, you may wonder.

Actually, it is precisely in overworked countries like Japan, England and the US that people watch an absurd amount of television. Up to four hours a day in England, which adds up to nine years over an average lifetime.

Sure, swimming in a sea of spare time won’t be easy. But that’s why a 21st century education should prepare people not only for joining the workforce, but also (and more importantly) for life.

“Since men will not be tired in their spare time,” the philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote in 1932, “they will not demand only such amusements as are passive and vapid.”

We can handle the good life, if only we take the time.

Refugees Losing their minds in Idomeni, Greece

Idomeni, Greece, April 18, 2016 — The striking thing about these refugees, the ones stuck for months on the Greece-Macedonia border, is that you can actually feel them slowly losing their minds. (Being so close to the doors of Europe and denied to cross a stupid fence)

I’ve covered this refugee crisis for years and in all sorts of places — the refugees fleeing the war inside Syria, getting out of the war zone through barbed wire at the Turkish border, reaching European shores after dangerous journeys at sea on the Greek island of Lesbos.

And now here in the Greek village of Indomeni, near the border with Macedonia.

Andrew Bossone shared a link.

There are around 11,000 people stuck here.

This is the bottleneck that’s developed after a bunch of countries closed their borders in an effort to shut down the Balkan migrant route, through which thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in places like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have reached European countries over the past year or so

Every place where I’ve covered the refugee crisis is different.

What you have to understand about this place is the utter despair. These people have left war-torn countries, made dangerous journeys with their children in tow.

And now they find themselves in the middle of Europe, living in conditions similar to what they left behind, with the gate to Europe shut and no idea of what will happen to them next.

Some of them have been here for two, three months. Just waiting. And not knowing what will happen next.

Will they be able to get into Europe, like the thousands before them? Are they going to be sent back to Turkey? Are they going to have to go back to their countries?

So they’re losing their minds. What do you expect? You’d do the same in their situation.

Day by day their behavior changes. Even me. I’m just doing my job, I’m used to these situations, having covered so many of them.

During the two weeks I was there, I knew I was only going to be there temporarily, and then I would return to my home and family. And even me, day by day I became more depressed, more aggressive.

The atmosphere of the camp, it doesn’t just hang over you, it weighs you down. It’s heavy.

And then there are the conditions. God, the conditions these people live in, I don’t even know what words to use to describe them.

They’re the same conditions that you had in camps in Syria. And Syria has been in the middle of a war for the past five years.

The first thing that strikes you is the smell. A mixture of toilets and body odor.

People are living, sleeping and eating near the toilets. (Even animals don’t sleep or eat where they shit)

You could say they’re living, sleeping and eating in the middle of toilets. What else can I say? That should tell you everything.

There aren’t enough showers, there aren’t enough places to wash your hands. There isn’t enough water, period

The smell — no, the stench — is heavy and it’s everywhere. Children get sick.

I have seen such conditions in war zones. And now I was seeing such conditions in the middle of Europe.

This is the shame of Europe. These people are living like livestock — and I don’t say that with any disrespect to them — they’re living like they’re still inside Syria and they’re in the middle of Europe.

And then there is their daily life. If you could call it that.

They go from food line to food line, eating food given to them by NGOs.

There is nothing to do but to take care of their basic needs. And wait. Can you imagine? Having literally nothing to do all day, except to watch your dreams and hopes slowly die, despite all the sacrifices you made to get to this point. And just not knowing what will happen next.

These people, they have spent lots of money and time, they took lots of risks to get here, they have spent their life savings. They don’t want to go back.

First off, there is nothing to go back to and secondly, then what was it all for?

As a journalist, it’s also difficult because people look at you as some kind of savior. Every day people ask me, “When are they going to open the gate?”

“What will happen to us?” I have no idea what to tell them. I just don’t know.

You want to know what life is like inside? I have a friend, a Kurdish woman from Syria whose husband went to Europe six months ago. He’s in Germany now and he has sent for her and their two children. She travelled through Syria and she has been at the border for two months, waiting to go to Germany and join her husband.

She goes to the food lines and people there, they start hitting each other and pushing each other to get the food.

She tells me ‘I have never hit anyone in my life to get food, I just can’t do it. Even here, I just can’t do it. How can I push another person to get food?” So there have been days when she just couldn’t get any food. This is how people live in the camps

And then there are the children.

The children are what gets to you the most in this story. They’re the ones that stay in your mind once you go home. Especially if you have kids of your own.

The children, they’re just going crazy in these camps. They don’t go to school. Do you know what happens to children if they don’t go to school?

The way they act changes. You can actually feel their brains changing.

They play in the middle of the train tracks, in mud. They have nothing to do. They come and touch you, they push you, they shout at you. What do you expect?

My friend, she has an 8-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl. Because of the war, they haven’t been to school in two or three years. She is really worried about them. They don’t learn anything, she says, what’s going to become of them?

And to top it all off, you had the tear gas incident of a week ago.

You had a bunch of people trying to force their way through the closed border into Macedonia, and the soldiers threw tear gas canisters and fired rubber bullets, injuring several dozen people who were then treated by NGOs.

Can you imagine? You’ve been through hell, you’re living in hellish conditions, you have no idea of what’s going to happen to you and then you have soldiers throwing tear gas at you.

It’s just crazy. Who wouldn’t lose their mind?

This blog was written with Yana Dlugy in Paris.

Bülent Kiliç . AFP’s award-winning chief photographer in Turkey, based in Istanbul.

Note: Click on the post to let the pictures tell you the story

 Mistreatment of women is the number one human rights abuse: Jimmy Carter

Note: I think this is also true in matriarchal structure for abusing men

With his signature resolve, former US President Jimmy Carter dives into three unexpected reasons why the mistreatment of women and girls continues in so many manifestations in so many parts of the world, both developed and developing.

The final reason he gives? “In general, men don’t give a damn.”

The president of the United States from 1977 to 1981, Jimmy Carter has used his post-presidency years to work for peace, teach, write and engage in global activism. Full bio

As a matter of fact, I was trying to think about my career since I left the White House, and the best example I have is a cartoon in The New Yorker a couple of years ago. This little boy is looking up at his father, and he says, “Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a former president.”

00:26 (Laughter)

Well, I have had a great blessing as a former president, because I have had an access that very few other people in the world have ever had to get to know so many people around this whole universe.

Not only am I familiar with the 50 states in the United States, but also my wife and I have visited more than 145 countries in the world, and the Carter Center has had full-time programs in 80 nations on Earth.

And a lot of times, when we go into a country, we not only the meet the king or the president, but we also meet the villagers who live in the most remote areas of Africa.

So our overall commitment at the Carter Center is to promote human rights, and knowing the world as I do, I can tell you without any equivocation that the number one abuse of human rights on Earth is, strangely, not addressed quite often, is the abuse of women and girls.

There are a couple of reasons for this that I’ll mention to begin with.

First of all is the misinterpretation of religious scriptures, holy scriptures, in the Bible, Old Testament, New Testament, Quran and so forth, and these have been misinterpreted by men who are now in the ascendant positions in the synagogues and the churches and in the mosques.

And they interpret these rules to make sure that women are ordinarily relegated to a secondary position compared to men in the eyes of God.

This is a very serious problem. It’s ordinarily not addressed. A number of years ago, in the year 2000, I had been a Baptist, a Southern Baptist for 70 years — I tell you, I still teach Sunday school every Sunday; I’ll be teaching this Sunday as well — but the Southern Baptist Convention in the year 2000 decided that women should play a secondary position, a subservient position to men.

So they issued an edict, in effect, that prevents women from being priests, pastors, deacons in the church, or chaplains in the military, and if a woman teaches a classroom in a Southern Baptist seminary, they cannot teach if a boy is in the room, because you can find verses in the Bible, there’s over 30,000 verses in the Bible, that say that a woman shouldn’t teach a man, and so forth.

But the basic thing is the scriptures are misinterpreted to keep men in an ascendant position. That is an all-pervasive problem, because men can exert that power and if an abusive husband or an employer, for instance, wants to cheat women, they can say that if women are not equal in the eyes of God, why should I treat them as equals myself?

Why should I pay them equal pay for doing the same kind of work?

The other very serious blight that causes this problem is the excessive resort to violence, and that is increasing tremendously around the world.

In the United States of America, for instance, we have had an enormous increase in abuse of poor people, mostly black people and minorities, by putting them in prison.

When I was in office as governor of Georgia, one out of every 1,000 Americans were in prison. Nowadays, 7.3 people per 1,000 are in prison. That’s a sevenfold increase. And since I left the White House, there’s been an 800% increase in the number of women who are black who are in prison.

We also have [one of the only countries] on Earth that still has the death penalty that is a developed country. And we rank right alongside the countries that are most abusive in all elements of human rights in encouraging the death penalty.

We’re in California now, and I figured out the other day that California has spent four billion dollars in convicting 13 people for the death penalty.

If you add that up, that’s 307 million dollars it costs California to send a person to be executed. Nebraska this week just passed a law abolishing the death penalty, because it costs so much. (Applause)

So the resort to violence and abuse of poor people and helpless people is another cause of the increase in abuse of women.

 Let me just go down a very few abuses of women that concern me most, and I’ll be fairly brief, because I have a limited amount of time, as you know.

1. One is genital mutilation. Genital mutilation is horrible and not known by American women, but in some countries, many countries, when a child is born that’s a girl, very soon in her life, her genitals are completely cut away by a so-called cutter who has a razor blade and, in a non-sterilized way, they remove the exterior parts of a woman’s genitalia.

And sometimes, in more extreme cases but not very rare cases, they sew the orifice up so the girl can just urinate or menstruate.

And then later, when she gets married, the same cutter goes in and opens the orifice up so she can have sex. This is not a rare thing, although it’s against the law in most countries.

In Egypt, for instance, 91% of all the females that live in Egypt today have been sexually mutilated in that way. In some countries, it’s more than 98 percent of the women are cut that way before they reach maturity. This is a horrible affliction on all women that live in those countries.

2. Another very serious thing is honor killings, where a family with misinterpretation, again, of a holy scripture — there’s nothing in the Quran that mandates this — will execute a girl in their family if she is raped or if she marries a man that her father does not approve, or sometimes even if she wears inappropriate clothing. And this is done by members of her own family, so the family becomes murderers when the girl brings so-called disgrace to the family.

An analysis was done in Egypt not so long ago by the United Nations and it showed that 75% of these murders of a girl are perpetrated by the father, the uncle or the brother, but 25 percent of the murders are conducted by women.

3. Another problem that we have in the world that relates to women particularly is slavery, or human trafficking it’s called nowadays.

There were about 12.5 million people sold from Africa into slavery in the New World back in the 19th century and the 18th century. There are 30 million people now living in slavery.

The United States Department of State now has a mandate from Congress to give a report every year, and the State Department reports that 800,000 people are sold across international borders every year into slavery, and that 80% of those sold are women, into sexual slavery.

In the United States right this moment, 60,000 people are living in human bondage, or slavery. Atlanta, Georgia, where the Carter Center is located and where I teach at Emory University, they have between 200 and 300 women, people sold into slavery every month.

It’s the number one place in the nation because of that. Atlanta has the busiest airport in the world, and they also have a lot of passengers that come from the Southern Hemisphere.

If a brothel owner wants to buy a girl that has brown or black skin, they can do it for 1,000 dollars. A white-skinned girl brings several times more than that, and the average brothel owner in Atlanta and in the United States now can earn about $35,000 per slave.

The sex trade in Atlanta, Georgia, exceeds the total drug trade in Atlanta, Georgia.

So this is another very serious problem, and the basic problem is prostitution, because there’s not a whorehouse in America that’s not known by the local officials, the local policemen, or the chief of police or the mayor and so forth.

And this leads to one of the worst problems, and that is that women are bought increasingly and put into sexual slavery in all countries in the world.

Sweden has got a good approach to it. About 15 to 20 years ago, Sweden decided to change the law, and women are no longer prosecuted if they are in sexual slavery, but the brothel owners and the pimps and the male customers are prosecuted, and  prostitution has gone down.

In the United States, we take just the opposite position. For every male arrested for illegal sex trade, 25 women are arrested in the United States of America. Canada, Ireland, I’ve already said Sweden, France, and other countries are moving now towards this so-called Swedish model. That’s another thing that can be done.

We have two great institutions in this country that all of us admire: our military and our great university system.

In the military, they are now analyzing how many sexual assaults take place. The last report I got, there were 26,000 sexual assaults that took place in the military 26,000. Only 3,000, not much more than 1 percent, are actually prosecuted, and the reason is that the commanding officer of any organization — a ship like my submarine, or a battalion in the Army or a company in the Marines — the commanding officer has the right under law to decide whether to prosecute a rapist or not, and of course, the last thing they want is for anybody to know that under their command, sexual assaults are taking place, so they do not do it. That law needs to be changed.

About one out of four girls who enter American universities will be sexually assaulted before she graduates, and this is now getting a lot of publicity, partially because of my book, but other things, and so 89 universities in America are now condemned by the Department of Education under Title IX because the officials of the universities are not taking care of the women to protect them from sexual assault.

The Department of Justice says that more than half of the rapes on a college campus take place by serial rapists, because outside of the university system, if they rape somebody, they’ll be prosecuted, but when they get on a university campus, they can rape with impunity. They’re not prosecuted. Those are the kinds of things that go on in our society.

4. Another thing that’s very serious about the abuse of women and girls is the lack of equal pay for equal work, as you know. 

And this is sometimes misinterpreted, but for full-time employment, a woman in the United States now gets 23 percent less than a man.

When I became president, the difference was 39 percent. So we’ve made some progress, partially because I was president and so forth — (Applause) (Laughter) — but in the last 15 years, there’s been no progress made, so it’s been just about 23 or 24 percent difference for the last 15 years.

These are the kind of things that go on. If you take the Fortune 500 companies, 23 of them have women CEOs, out of 500, and those CEOs, I need not tell you, make less on an average than the other CEOs. Well, that’s what goes on in our country.

5. Another problem with the United States is we are the most warlike nation on Earth.

We have been to war with about 25 different countries since the Second World War. Sometimes, we’ve had soldiers on the ground fighting. The other times, we’ve been flying overhead dropping bombs on people. Other times, of course, now, we have drones that attack people and so forth. We’ve been at war with 25 different countries or more since the Second World War. There was four years, I won’t say which ones, where we didn’t — (Applause) — we didn’t drop a bomb, we didn’t launch a missile, we didn’t fire a bullet. But anyway, those kinds of things, the resort to violence and the misinterpretation of the holy scriptures are what causes, are the basic causes, of abuse of women and girls.

6.There’s one more basic cause that I need not mention, and that is that in general, men don’t give a damn. (Applause) That’s true.

The average man that might say, I’m against the abuse of women and girls quietly accepts the privileged position that we occupy, and this is very similar to what I knew when I was a child, when separate but equal had existed.

Racial discrimination, legally, had existed for 100 years, from 1865 at the end of the War Between the States, the Civil War, all the way up to the 1960s, when Lyndon Johnson got the bills passed for equal rights.

But during that time, there were many white people that didn’t think that racial discrimination was okay, but they stayed quiet, because they enjoyed the privileges of better jobs, unique access to jury duty, better schools, and everything else, and that’s the same thing that exists today, because the average man really doesn’t care.

Even though they say, “I’m against discrimination against girls and women,” they enjoy a privileged position. And it’s very difficult to get the majority of men who control the university system, the majority of men that control the military system, the majority of men that control the governments of the world, and the majority of men that control the great religions.

 what is the basic thing that we need to do today?

I would say the best thing that we could do today is for the women in the powerful nations like this one, and where you come from, Europe and so forth, who have influence and who have freedom to speak and to act, need to take the responsibility on yourselves to be more forceful in demanding an end to racial discrimination against girls and women all over the world.

The average woman in Egypt doesn’t have much to say about her daughters getting genitally mutilated and so forth.

I didn’t even go down to detail about that. But I hope that out of this conference, that every woman here will get your husbands to realize that these abuses on the college campuses and the military and so forth and in the future job market, need to protect your daughters and your granddaughters.

I have 12 grandchildren, four children, and 10 great-grandchildren, and I think often about them and about the plight that they will face in America, not only if they lived in Egypt or a foreign country, in having equal rights, and I hope that all of you will join me in being a champion for women and girls around the world and protect their human rights.




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