Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Art of life

Today I came across the section below while reading Zygmunt Bauman's book entitled "The Art of Life." I was really taken by the power of the words of Robert Kennedy, shared by Bauman, and thought I would share. Seems to me a particularly relevant meditation on a day where we've heard Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke say the immediate future outlook on economic growth is "unusually uncertain."

" long ago as 18 March 1968, in the heat of the presidential campaign, Robert Kennedy launched a scathing attack on the lie on which the GNP-bound measure of happiness rests:

'Our GNP takes into account in its calculations the air pollution, tobacco advertising and ambulances riding to collect the wounded from our motorways. It registers the costs of the security systems which we install to protect our homes and the prisons in which we lock up those who manage to break into them. It entails the destruction of our Sequoia forests and their replacement through sprawling and chaotic urbanization. It includes the production of napalm, nuclear arms and armed vehicles used by policce to stifle urban unrest. It records....television programmes that glorify violence in order to sell toys to children. On the other hand, GNP does not note the health of our children, quality of our education or gaiety of our games. It does not measure the beauty of our poetry and the strength of our marriages. It does not care to evaluate the quality of our political debates and integrity of our representatives. It leaves out of consideration our courage, wisdom and culture. It says nothing about our compassion and dedication to our country. In a word, the GNP measures everything, except what makes life worth the pain of living it.'

Robert Kennedy was murdered a few weeks after publishing this fiery indictment and declaring his intention to restore the importance of things that make life worth living; so we will never know whether he would have tried, let alone succeeded, in making his words flesh had he been elected President of the United States. What we do know, though, is that in the forty years that have passed since, there have been few if any signs of his message having been heard, understood, embraced and remembered-let alone any move on the part of our elected representatives to disown and repudiate the pretence of the commodity markets to role of the royal road to a meaningful and happy life, or evidence of any inclination on our part to reshape our life strategies accordingly (pg.5)."

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