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Byron Shire
April 21, 2021

Interview with Helena Norberg-Hodge

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Connect with like-minded people and discover the new economy and new politics that puts community back in the picture. March 20–22 at the Byron Community Centre.

Going Local in a time of Crisis – Festival of cutting edge ideas and inspiration

Byron Community Centre  | 20–22 March, 2020

Helena Norberg-Hodge founded, and directs, the groundbreaking nonprofit Local Futures, speaks eight languages, and was educated in Sweden, Germany, Austria, England, and the United States. She specialised in linguistics, including doctoral studies at the University of London, and at MIT with close mentor Noam Chomsky. She presents Going Local: Hope in a Time of Crisis – a festival of cutting edge ideas and inspiration that features keynotes by international thought leaders David Suzuki and Charles Eisenstein. Helena spoke with The Echo about what it all means.

What is globalisation? What’s wrong with it?

Globalisation is a process of deregulating global traders who already have near monopolistic power, stretching all the way back to colonialism and slavery. These are big companies creating wealth on a scale that has increasingly made it near impossible for local or national businesses to compete. And since the mid-1980s, a whole series of new trade treaties, both bilateral and multilateral, have continued this process, and it’s become more of a relationship between giant, mobile transnationals and nation-states than a relationship between countries.

In short, we’ve ended up in an absurd situation where – because we’re not shedding light on it – we as individuals are more and more squeezed for taxes along with small- and medium-sized regional businesses, and those taxes are used to basically subsidise global monopolies. One of many ways we subsidise is by building up a global infrastructure, including ever-bigger ports and airports.

So, the deregulation of global transnationals has been accompanied by ever-greater regulation of local and regional businesses?

Yes, and this is a vital issue because, from our point of view, what’s happening is that the smaller businesses are becoming more and more angry at government because of what they see: over-taxation and overregulation. And as a consequence, they vote into the hands of neo-fascist leadership – because they become convinced that the laissez-faire free-trade economy is the way out of our situation – not understanding that there is this greater injustice that began centuries ago, that has kicked in, in a much more extreme way, since the mid-1980s.

They then keep voting for smaller government, not realising – and this is where progressives really need to help us out – that yes, we do need to look at what some of these regulations mean, and how virtually impossible it is to survive as a small business in this unfair playing field. We need to spell out how and why it’s unfair, because we need government to regulate and tax the giants. We need, urgently, new trade treaties that are about re-regulation instead of deregulation.

Imagining a genuine alternative to corporate globalisation is difficult for people who have only known a ‘modern’ way of life.

Yes, it is a bit like trying to imagine a new colour. People who have their eyes open to seeing another color are usually those who have had multiple experiences, particularly those with exposure to less modernised, less urbanised, less technologised and industrialised ways of living, and this is key — also at least some exposure to living in the heart of the urban, speedy, competitive industrial world. That’s the sort of experiential base that helps people to look at a more life-affirming culture and start understanding how destructive this urban-industrial way of life can be.

What do you say to people who feel the change you are talking about is just too huge?

Recover sanity, and joy, and physical health, and emotional health, by staying right where you are, but explore how to consciously connect more deeply to others and to nature. In my work with Local Futures, we help to create this through bringing together, in our ongoing Economics of Happiness conferences, like-minded and mature people in your proximity with whom you can start a process of re-connection. We create settings where people are free to be more vulnerable, to be more deeply honest about their deepest fears, and to move away from the mask of perfection undergirding consumer culture.

The first step is to connect with like-minded people, and then collectively start questioning the dominant assumptions. Part of that is to listen to what really makes your heart sing. Where were you, and what were you doing, when you have experienced moments of deep contentment and happiness? Listen to the answer, and use it as a guide.

Connect with like-minded people and discover the new economy and new politics that puts community back in the picture. March 20–22 at the Byron Community Centre. There are still tickets available, but they are selling fast. Get in quickly! Tickets from localfutures.org

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