Creating New Systems to Replace Dysfunctional Systems

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OpEdNews Op Eds 7/20/2015 at 15:27:55

By Michael Richards (about the author) Permalink (Page 1 of 4 pages)
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Understanding Present Dysfunctional Systems/Creating New Systems
At our present time in human history we are rapidly coming to the endgame of the social, economic and political structures that grew out of the industrial revolution. These systems have defined human life on our planet for the last 400 years. We are now in the process of unprecedented systems breakdown of the core components that make up industrial/consumer society.

All core components of the collapsing industrial/consumer society are in a state of diminishing effectiveness and they are in fact decaying rapidly. These systems are thus sick. A medical doctor that provides a clear diagnosis of a dying human body is not being negative, they are simply stating the facts. As a lifelong researcher of the human condition, I study and write about the breakdown and dysfunction of the core components” the organs of our present body politic. That does not make me negative ” I am simply stating facts. I also research and implement solutions. I am actually a very positive optimist; I spend 90% of my time and energy identifying the positive pods of human revolution that are presently building an emerging sane and healthy new planetary culture. I also work directly with many of these hopeful initiatives. There are literally tens of thousands of such “pods of progress” all over the world. They are creating new economic structures that are in harmony with their local ecology. There are thousands of new communities based on trust and joint human action growing in every corner of the planet.

Initiating systemic change is very challenging. The 1% that actually control and benefit most from keeping the present systems in place will fight tooth and nail to prevent change. The majority of the vast body politic accept present systems and act in collusion with the present power structure, even though maintaining present systems is not really in their best interest. The majority resist change simply because they live in fear of an unknown future. A planetary vanguard of 5% of the population are actively and courageously building the new components of an ecological and just society. It does not take a majority to bring deep change, just a very dedicated and persistent front line of innovators. The American Revolution that formed our own nation was brought about by a vanguard 5% of change agents. The majority passively waited on the sidelines of history until the tide turned to a new paradigm. We presently sit at the very tipping point on the edge of a new planetary shift.

Human beings have never been able to build effective large scale social structures. The British Empire was a failed experiment, but the USA took on that mantle, and is now finishing the Brits’ pathway to systemic collapse. The Soviet experiment with a large scale, centrally planned economy collapsed.

Throughout history, all military empires have collapsed, there are no exceptions to this historic fact. The present global industrial society is actually our most comprehensive global attempt as a species to build such unnatural structures.

The most effective scale for human action is the small/local scale. The human village model has proven resilient and effective for 100 thousand years. The present large scale globalized industrial model is an historic anomaly that is only kept in place by force. As the global military industrial complex collapses, human beings are returning to what works. This is not a retreat into the past, as small scale human initiatives are now linked by global electronic networks. I refer to this rapidly growing new global social structure as “techno-ecological village building”.
As an old tree dies, a new sapling is taking root. In order to chart our path to a healthy new paradigm, I also spend 10% of my time with the active diagnosis and understanding of our decaying present systems. Unless we understand our history, we could very well repeat it. We most both diagnose the problems, and actively seek and apply innovative solutions. Both intellectual pursuits are valid and necessary, both are part of the whole effort to foster a shift into new social, economic, political systems as we exit the industrial era and enter the ecological/humanitarian era.


Here is a brief summary overview of present human systems at the very endgame of the industrial era:

Economics. Never in history has there been a wider gap between those that have far too much for a happy human existence and those that have far too little to even survive. A world economy where 50,000 children die of starvation each day on a planet with an abundant life supporting ecology is as sick as it gets. The economy is dying. The 2008 crash was a small ripple compared to the emerging economic earthquake. This crash will bring on the collapse of present systems, and provide the evolutionary catalyst for new systems to emerge to move humanity forward.

Political Systems; only 6% of the U.S. population have trust in U.S. Congress. 10% think that the President has the best interests of the body of citizens as a priority. We have a global crisis of confidence in our present social structures. Both parties are absolutely owned by corporate interests. Every 4 years the two parties engage in a “bread and circus” spectacle. Yale University economists this year publicly stated that the USA is an oligarchy, not a democracy. The public perception of outward political power dominance may shift every 4 to 8 years between the two main parties, but the behind the scenes power structure never changes. Many major corporations hedge their bets with massive campaign contributions to both parties. The power brokers always win. This is a cynical, but highly practical strategy. Even “socialist” Bernie Sanders supports global imperialist action carried out by the entrenched military/industrial complex. There are no active agents of real systemic change within either of the two main parties. If a candidate issues a public clarion call for real change , they do not get past the gate keepers of the established power brokers in the two parties. All real social and economic change is presently taking place below the radar of official national discourse. There are hopeful seeds of change taking root all over the nation and yjrl world at the local/activist level.
Health Care Systems can only be described as a disease management industry that is totally controlled by global pharmaceutical companies. 95 per cent of all health care costs are spent by the most elderly, as life long earnings are consumed as a planned final profit extraction system. This takes place while the United States has one of the most disastrous infant mortality rates in the developed world. The evidence is clear; this system is built to profit from disease, not to foster health.


Education Systems; Our current schools from kindergarten to college cannot even use the word education in any valid meaning of the word. The Latin etymological root of “education” is educare, which means “to draw out”, Instead of inspiring students to engage in critical intellectual inquiry and to draw out the innate intelligence and creative responses of an individual, our schools “pump in” the dogma that supports the present paradigm of the industrial era. Schools are training camps for corporate cogs to dutifully take their subservient place within the present political and economic structures. Students that “color outside of the lines” are not encouraged in the least, and at worst punished for original thinking and courageous creative action. Education “reform” will not suffice. We need an outright revolution to serve as the catalyst to create a new citizen body engaged in lively life-long learning from cradle to the grave. There are hundreds of new education models and initiatives now germinating that meet this urgent need.

Organized Religion; Millions of people head into churches, mosques and synagogues on each Sabbath to return each week into the spiritual void of their daily lives. Real spiritual practice can best be experienced as a conscious immersion in the present sacred moment, not by being passively fed prepared religious pablum. The fact is, for the past thousand years of religious history, 100 million people have been murdered over disagreements about unprovable theological theories. From the Crusades to modern Jihad, the path of dogmatic religion is paved with the “Blood of Christ” the blood of Islamic martyrs and many bloody wars of humanity.

Philanthropy and “Corporatized Charity”

Real charity takes place person to person within strong networks of mutual aid and concern. The mutual aid of real community bonds has largely been replaced and undermined by Corporatized Charity. “I gave at the Office” is a common refrain. Philanthropy is a human practice carried out by the “haves” as they deliver a few crumbs to the starving and despairing masses of “have nots”. Most often in the USA, such economic activity takes place within the arcane systems of tax law to bring tax relief or outright tax advantage to the wealthy class. Real charity is simply doing the right thing, not calculating a write off. Real charity empowers the recipient and does not approach our fellow human brothers and sisters as poor wretches that have no hope for economic self-sufficiency. A safety net can also serve as a permanent systemic snare that anchors recipients in a low economic status. The largest philanthropy on earth provides insight into current aspects of this sick system:

From Iceberg
(image by Rghrous) License DMCA

In order to understand the Gates Foundation, we first need an understanding of the total economic structure of such large financial holdings. An iceberg provides an excellent metaphor; The public at large see just the surface “good works” presented by an expert team of Gates Foundation PR professionals. Below the surface it is very telling to see how the majority of Gates Foundation funds prop up the current industrial/military/pharmaceutical complex. The Foundation preserves their hard assets and attempts to aggressively grow their “principle” or underlying Foundation assets. The Foundation directs only the “interest” into their “philanthropic” activity. At best, 10% of Gates funds would be directed into “humanitarian work”. The 90% represented as permanent assets are invested in many industries that actually bring harm or subvert the work carried out by grant recipients of the Gates Foundation.

You cannot just accept the PR dished out about all of the good that the Gates Foundation carries out, -it is imperative to also dig down a layer to understand the social and environmental harm rendered by the massive global power of the 40 billion dollar Gates investment fund. For the most part, Gates investments support the “status quo” of the military/pharmaceutical/industrial/corporate complex. Real change cannot be brought about by directing 10% of a fund into “good works”, while 90% of assets actually harm the planet and its’ people. Systemic change is necessary to bring about an improved human and ecological future, not just misleading green washing and expert corporate PR programs.

As the global, corporatized economy collapses under its own weight and as a predictable result of its present systemic dysfunction, the human community will return to the time tested response of family care and mutual community aid. The systems that humanity has applied to survive through all ages will re-emerge.

Gates Foundation Facts

Soon after Susan Desmond-Hellmann became chancellor of the University of California San Francisco medical center campus, she faced an acute personal embarrassment. Financial disclosures revealed that she and her husband, both physicians, owned a sizable chunk of stock in Altria Corporation, a top cigarette maker. The chancellor commendably divested those shares and donated the proceeds to tobacco-control research. In May, Desmond-Hellmann became the first physician to head the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private foundation and one of the most influential forces in global health. Desmond-Hellmann could draw on her own personal experience–both as a doctor and as a once-oblivious investor–to synthesize investment with the Gates’ stated social purpose.


For all its generosity and thoughtfulness, the Gates Foundation’s management of its $40 billion endowment operates with a puzzling ethical blind spot.

In 2007, a group of colleagues at the Los Angeles Times, examined whether those investments tended generally to support the foundation’s philanthropic goals or subvert them. This investigative journalistic inquiry found that The Gates Foundation reaped vast profits by placing billions of dollars in firms whose activities and products subverted the foundation’s good works. For example, Gates donated $218 million to prevent polio and measles in places like the Niger Delta, yet invested $423 million in the oil companies whose delta pollution literally kills the children the foundation tries to help.

Gates has vast holdings in Big Pharma firms that priced AIDS drugs out of reach for desperate victims the foundation wanted to save. Gates invests in predatory lenders whose practices sparked the Great Recession and they hold shares in chocolate firms said by the US government to have supported child slavery in Ivory Coast.
After the LA Times investigations were published, the foundation briefly considered changing its policy of blind-eye investing, but ultimately pulled funds only from firms that provided the financial basis for genocide in Darfur. Even in that case, when the glare of adverse publicity faded, the foundation hopped back into such companies, including the Chinese construction giant NORINCO International.


The Gates Foundation boasts about its grants to help poor farmers adapt to droughts and floods caused by global warming. Yet according to the foundation’s most recent tax filing and recent SEC filings, it holds more than $1.2 billion in a rogues’ gallery of corporate actors, including BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil, whose environmental despoliation promotes the climate change that is destroying those farmers’ livelihoods. You cannot fight global warming by investing in those global firms that help to create it. 10% good works, countered by 90% of funds actually causing damage results in a net ecological and social loss.

By comparison, a group of seventeen other charitable foundations showed philanthropic leadership when they recently decided to divest from companies that do business in fossil fuels. The head of the Wallace Global Fund wrote that the effort “seeks to break the industry’s grip on our political process as it helps catalyze the global energytransition that the climate crisis demands.” Stanford University, a major beneficiary of Gates largesse, recently announced that it would divest all coal company investments from its endowment. In contrast, as of the most recent publicly available annual report, the Gates foundation held $30 million in coal firms.

Gates also has placed big bets on mining firms whose operations have proved environmentally disastrous for foundation beneficiaries in the developing world. This includes stakes in Brazil’s Vale S.A. and Rio Tinto–often cited for egregious pollution. Both companies, among others in the Gates portfolio, are jumping into the burgeoning market for rare earth elements essential to electronics, hybrid cars and windmills, yet they are notorious for laying to waste wide areas around mines and processing plants.

Dr. Desmond-Hellmann of the Gates Foundation should understand the Hippocratic imperative, “First, do no harm.” “so she could begin to push Bill and Melinda Gates to restructure the Foundation endowment by starting close to home and direct the massive financial clout of the Gates Foundation that support, or at the very least do not subvert the stated humanitarian objectives of the Gates Foundation. After the tobacco investment episode, she and her husband pledged to “monitor our portfolio to ensure that it reflect our values,” and barred further personal investments in alcohol and firearms.

Bill and Melinda Gates publicly oppose tobacco while the Foundation has held large investments in tobacco companies. Gates investments in manufacturers of military equipment and weapons and alcoholic beverage stock exceeds $1.2 billion.

The foundation says that it must guard against inevitably lower returns from a portfolio that tries to reduce social harm. That tired argument has long since been debunked. Not every mutual fund structured to reduce harm to the environment, to support good governance and fairness to a diverse labor force, and to create safe products outperforms funds designed purely to maximize returns. But many do. For example, the $10 billion Parnassus Core Equity Fund, one of the largest such investment vehicles, beat the annual returns of the booming S&P 500 index by 2 percent over the past three years–one of numerous large funds with social and environmental goals to outstrip the market in recent years.

Even if socially conscious investing shaved a thin slice from the bottom line, harm reduction would much better support the Gates Foundation’s oft-stated goal, that “every person deserves the chance to live a healthy, productive life.” In the financial world, you must analyze the total profit and loss to understand net gain.

Undeniably, there are shades of gray in the world of global investing. But to use economic complexity as an excuse for doing nothing–for rejecting the opportunity to lead into holistic philathropy–seems a shortsighted approach.

The Gates Foundation was described as a shell for tax avoidance by philanthropist and accounting expert, Sheldon Drobny.

Through the Gates foundation, Bill, Melinda and Microsoft maintain pharmaceutical patent investments, tobacco investments, investments in alcoholic beverages, petroleum investments, investments in experimental and controversial GMO crops, and even investments in news/media that shape public perception of the Gates Foundation. Bill Gates need not pay tax in this structure, even though he keeps control of the assets and uses that control and influence private and public policy. Money talks and politicians can in turn be persuaded to buy from Microsoft and engage with other industries associated with Gates. This dependence/lock-in cascades down to Gates’ many business interests, creating a revenue stream that would not exist in a free market. Gates is also able to bring public money to his operations through energy and public health policy. As Gates has diversified, his massive influence has spread to other portions of the economy” often with measurable social, economic and ecological harm.

Many philanthropic organizations are beginning to seriously look at both the net effect of their investments and the philantropic initiatives that they fund. Large organizations usually move much slower as they engage change.

A Local Example of how “Philanthropy” is not what it seems on the surface.

– Advertisement -We have an example in Iowa of how what you see on the surface of the organizational “iceberg” does not tell the whole truth of what goes on under the surface. Liz Mathis, professional spin artist does all of the PR work for Four Oaks. On the surface, Four Oaks is presented as a “not for profit” doing good works. Below the surface, Four Oaks channels millions of dollars into for profit business interests” many of which have a direct connection to Four Oaks board of directors. “inside dealing” takes place, providing massive amounts of money to for profit business in projects with extremely inflated budgets. Four Oaks is a huge organization that controls large assets; they operate in all 99 Iowa counties and sit on a 80 million dollar endowment. Look below the surface to understand it.

Many small non profits do good work and struggle with inadequate funds, and no pay… or very little pay for the management team. -one local case in point is the not for profit “FEED IOWA FIRST”, Inc. Feed Iowa first uses their meager funds for actual urban ag seeds and equipment. There are no salaried employees. All work is done by volunteers. Feed Iowa First has 22 plots of land in production, and the food produced is distributed without cost to families in need in Linn County. The huge contrast to this are large, well established not for profits, where management are often paid as much or more than private industry. Local examples, such as Four Oaks/Affordable Housing Network, also direct millions of dollars in contracts to area builders, contractors and others in projects with very inflated budgets; and spending well beyond what private enterprise would pay for the same thing.

The example of how Four Oaks works that I cited in the formal ethics complaint that I filed with the 5 member Cedar Rapids Ethics Board was the Brown Apartment project of Affordable Housing Network when then Four Oaks C.E.O. was also the Chairman of a City board distributing public city funds for housing development.

Here are the facts about The Brown Apartments adjacent to the “Medical District” in Cedar Rapids

1. $170,000 plus was spent by Four Oaks/AHNI to simply rehab existing apartments in an existing, structurally sound building. Not one existing wall; was moved, not one new wall was built. The Brown Apts. maintained all original floor plans in one to two bedroom apartments. This was simply cosmetic remodeling, yet the cost per unit was an astounding $170,000 per unit. The $170,000 funds came from City of CR, State of Iowa and Federal funds… (our funds, as taxpayers)


2. In preparation for filing on this issue with the City Ethics Board I did a survey of local contractors. The response was that this type of cosmetic rehab should cost in the range of $35,000 up to $50,000. $50,000″ -if there were luxury features. How can the economics for private contractors be so much lower than a large not for profit? -because people spending their own money use tight financial controls, and do not waste funds. They get the job done efficiently.

3. How can a large not for profit such as Four Oaks, Affordable Housing Network spend $170,000 per unit? (over 300% more than private property owners on the same type of project) Answer; by directing “for profit funds” into highly profitable, over paid for profit business partners (many of whom have direct relationships on the board or with board members of Four Oaks; Skogman Realty, OPN, Ryan Engineering). Former Iowa Senator Jack Hatch was paid as a “consultant” on this project, and that drove up the extremely inflated per unit cost even more.

4. When I arrived to present these facts to the “Ethics” Board, I found out that the 5 member board included both the Accountant and the Attorney of Four Oaks. (these 2 recused themselves, but on a small 5 member board, the other 3 bowed to informal peer pressure from these 2 cohorts as the 3 remaining Ethics Board members voted unanimously that there was “no conflict of interest”. The Catholic nun from Mercy Hospital on the ethics Board commented that “Skogman is a good person who is on the Mercy Board and donates to the Hospital, so there is no way he could engage in conflict of interest”. There can be no objective weighing of facts with such a stacked Ethics Board. The very composition of this board is a conflict of interest. There is no accountability with this kind of structure.


Often, “not for profit” funds are channeled into very lucrative payouts to for profit business interests. (You just have to be a for profit business with the right political connections in town) Many “charities” spend more on paid employees and administration costs than on service. There is need for new systems on this front.

At present Four Oaks/Affordable Housing network is engaged in a massive project of social engineering as they purchase hundreds of housing units in Cedar Rapids. Four Oaks has very strict credit and legal history requirements for families to participate in their housing programs. The poorest of the poor are actually being evicted to fend for themselves, as they are screened out by Four Oaks effort to forcibly restructure the neighborhood. It is not too difficult to see that one motive is to carry out a cleansing of the neighborhood as the adjacent medical district expands. The City of Baltimore spent 100 million dollars and a decade with the same attempt at neighborhood social engineering now attempted by Four Oaks. That experiment was a predictable dismal failure; you cannot change a neighborhood or a city without changing the underlying economic structure. Four Oaks is simply shuffling the deck; undesirable tenants are booted out. Those that meet their credit and legal history move in. It may look like change on the surface, but the human suffering and poverty just gets moved out of sight to another location.
To understand any system, it is imperative to understand the whole system. This is not really that difficult” simply look beyond the official PR dished out by each component of the present power structure and explore what lies beneath the surface of each iceberg. Also, follow the money” -In a profit driven economy, someone benefits from almost every action taken. Find out who benefits from each action, and you will start to understand how the system works. This requires the use of critical thinking skills that are glaringly absent from the official curriculum in our schools. This is not by accident. Our present industrial/consumer society depends on a very passive and compliant population. An alert citizen that asks questions and researches the unseen levels of each economic action is seen as a real threat.

During a time of deceit and deception, telling the truth is a revolutionary and necessary act.

Ask questions. Seek out facts. Analyze the system. Build a better system.


Take action — click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:
We need to understand present dysfunctional systems as a basis to build effective new systems

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Michael Richards is a life long innovator, entrepreneur and author. His most recent book is; SUSTAINABLE OPERATING SYSTEMS/The Post Petrol Paradigm (available on line at; Mr. Richards has presented as an author, speaker and (more…)

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