Thrive: Why we’re Both the Cause of and Solution to Our Problems

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by Danny Long

An unemployment rate as stubborn as the politicians trying to fix it. Debt as deep as The Waste Land. A global economy as fragile as a geriatric Humpty Dumpty. Say it with me: we’ve got problems. Yet perhaps the most difficult of these problems has been uncovering their source, something no small army of Holmesians has set out to accomplish, documentarians among them. In the past few years, films such as Robert Kenner’s Food, Inc. and Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman have opened our eyes to the sordid and complex systems we rely on and participate in every day. And one of the latest arrivals to this truth-seeking tradition is Foster Gamble’s Thrive: What on Earth Will It Take?

Released November 11, 2011, on the Web (www.thrivemovement.com), Thrive begins with a noble question: why can’t we solve our problems — of energy, of hunger, of disease? Why can’t we, creatures of ostensibly unlimited potential, create a world in which everyone, to borrow Gamble’s language, can thrive? The answer, as you might expect, is complicated. Gamble, a descendant of the Gamble in Proctor and Gamble, claims that, contrary to what we might believe, a number of people have found solutions to these problems and that these solutions haven’t seen the light of day. Why? Because a small group of financial juggernauts — the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds, the Morgans, to name a few — view these solutions as threats to business.

For example, Gamble states that soon after Nikola Tesla devised a way of producing free energy — of pulling energy out of thin air, so to speak — J. P. Morgan, who both funded Tesla’s research and profited from more costly forms of energy, demanded that Tesla’s energy devices be destroyed and his lab burned down. And while this example may sound like the exception, Gamble suggests that it is unfortunately closer to the rule. A number of other inventors — Adam Trombly and John Bedini, for instance — tell similar stories of suppression, stories that consequently encourage us to see the financial elite, the orchestrators of these checks on innovation, differently. Indeed, consider Gamble’s visual representation of the One Percent: sinister silhouettes with bright ties, bright teeth, and bright bags of money. These aren’t people. They’re spirits of the underworld, parasitic Machiavellians feeding on the plight of the plebs. Simply put, then: profits and problems are two peas in a pod

This is partly because of the close ties between knowledge, money, and power. Gamble explains that the financial elite have the educational system deep in their pockets, and for obvious reasons. “What the captains of industry [want] from our schools,” he says, “[is] an obedient and docile workforce who would be manageable employees and eager consumers.” Students are not viewed as people but as products, a sentiment with which John Taylor Gatto, author of The Underground History of American Education, agrees. Student subservience, Gatto contends, “is why [pre-college education] takes twelve years. You’re to respond reflexively when anyone in a position of authority tells you what to do.” Controversial statements, these, but their meaning is clear: education isn’t about providing knowledge; it’s about producing ignorance disguised as knowledge. And according to Catherine Austin Fitts, president of Solari, Inc. and former managing director of the Wall Street investment bank Dillon, Reed, & Co., the knowledgeable have not only the power but also the ability to maintain their power. Just listen to her describe what goes on behind the scenes of the Federal Reserve

“The Federal Reserve prints money on a debt-based system, which creates scarcity. But it puts a group of insiders in a position of having access to all the data about the economy, when we don’t. So you have a small group of bankers who understand the data on how the money works in the economy, and [this knowledge] gives them the ability to print money in a way that the insiders are protected and everyone else is drained.”

Ignorance, in other words, is not bliss but the very thing that squelches our progress. Gamble therefore makes a somewhat surprising point here: that we have all, wittingly or unwittingly (and especially unwittingly), become part of a network that gives power to the few and takes power from the many—that power, in the words of Michel Foucault, “is everywhere not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere.” Power does not inhere within those who wield it. It is something churned up through our collective efforts, something given, something received. And it’s the possession and dispossession of knowledge that either stabilizes or destabilizes it.

Thrive’s ultimate strength, then, is in the implication of its audience. We don’t have to agree with everything Gamble says. That’s not his objective. But if we do agree that times are tough, and if we do agree that those in power are largely to blame, and if we do agree that the powerful remain so because we let them, then the responsibility for igniting change falls upon us. After all, we can’t ask the beneficiaries of these problems to come up with the solutions to those problems. That is ridiculous. We must instead, Thrive tells us, develop new forms of knowledge, reorganize power, and find the solutions ourselves.

So, any ideas?

In addition to freelance writing and copyediting, Danny Long teaches for the Program for Writing and Rhetoric at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He can be reached at dannylong449@gmail.com.