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The Jerusalem Post published my new article “The Pillars Of Consumerism Are Crumbling“
What happens when jobs and stores disappear? What will we buy and how will we buy it? Luckily, a new industry will provide both income and a new commodity to consume.
The pillars of consumerism are crumbling. For the past several months, there has been a landslide of large and midsize brick-and-mortar retail chain stores that have either filed for bankruptcy or announced the closing of hundreds of stores. If this pace continues, by the end of this year, over 8,600 brick-and- mortar stores will have closed their doors. By comparison, in 2008, at the height of the Great Recession, only 6,150 stores shut down.
Beyond the impact of the collapse on the retailers themselves, their disappearance will have a devastating effect on the malls where they are located, as these are all anchor stores that bring business to the entire mall. In some cases, retailers such as Macy’s and Sears (which also owns Kmart) will shut their doors within the same mall, effectively causing the closure of the entire venue.
The blight is also taking a toll on jobs. As more and more people turn to the internet to do their shopping, stores close and people lose their jobs. According to Labor Department figures, retailers slashed around 30,000 positions in March. That was about the same total as in February, marking the worst two-month showing since 2009.
The rapid growth of e-commerce may be great for online businesses such as Amazon, but e-commerce does not require nearly as many jobs as do brick-and- mortar stores. The grim conclusion is that as far as traditional retail jobs are concerned, we are seeing the end of an era.
Are We Becoming Irrelevant?
Not only retail stores are affected by technology. Machines are replacing people everywhere. There are two million professional drivers in the US. Where will they work 10 to 15 years from now, when autonomous trucks and buses become safer to drive and cheaper to operate than vehicles driven by humans? What will call-center workers do when chatbots completely replace people in a few years? Waiters, cleaners, hotel service people, even doctors and lawyers, everyone is going to be affected by advancements in technology.
A reader’s comment in one of the newspaper stories about the trend captures the essence of our shifting world: “These stories make me feel irrelevant. Where is humanity going? You get into a car that drives itself, it takes you to work, but a robot took your job. Luckily, I am receiving Basic Income from the government. In that case, why don’t I go to the mall? Oh, right, the mall has shut down because we do all our shopping online and drones deliver the products to our doorstep, so even the delivery people have vanished. In fact, I have no reason to walk out the door. I haven’t spoken to a real person in months! Soon, we will all become irrelevant, redundant!”
Introducing Universal Basic Income
In recent years, there has been much ado over the idea of Universal Basic Income (UBI). UBI means that every person receives a fixed sum of money that sustains you above the poverty line whether or not you are employed. In many places around the world, primarily in Western Europe and Canada, experiments on the impact and feasibility of UBI are already underway.
The idea of UBI is also gaining traction thanks to the vocal support of bigwigs at Silicon Valley. Elon Musk, for example, said, “It’s going to be necessary,” and Mark Zuckerberg stated, “We should explore ideas like universal basic income.”
A New Set of Jobs and Industries—Around the Heart
I am totally and utterly against the idea of UBI. If we give people free money, it will devastate society and will turn many of them into ticking bombs. The tragic incident that happened on June 5 in Orlando, where a man who had recently been fired walked into his previous workplace with a handgun, murdered five former coworkers, then committed suicide should teach all of us what might happen to a person who sees no future ahead of him.
Violence is already rampant and growing in our society. Sending off millions of people with nothing to do and with no commitments will drive many of them off the deep end, and we will all suffer the consequences.
In my view, the onset of the robotic era is a great opportunity for all of humanity. Since machines will be taking our physical jobs, we will be free to develop what The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called “a whole new set of jobs and industries around the heart, around connecting people to people.”
In other words, people will not be unemployed. They will be employed as innovators of a new society. Their job will be to foster a society whose members are connected, caring, and feel responsible for one another.
Today, people are admired for their successful careers. Yet, tomorrow machines will be running everything. Competition over jobs will be obsolete; there will be no jobs to fight over. Therefore, the job of the new workers will be to introduce new values into society, where people will compete over recognition as contributors to society.
Positive competition will change the entire mindset of society. We are all envious beings. But when we envy people for their ability to promote society instead of their ability to promote themselves, we ourselves become positive elements in society. In this way, all of society will change direction from isolation to connection.
Shopping Centers Turned Community Centers
The industries of the heart will “manufacture” social cohesion. People will not receive UBI, but salaries, just as they do in today’s job market. The only difference will be in the product they will be making.
There is no end to what people can do if they want to benefit society. Creativity will be unlimited, and the more technology improves, the more people will be able to engage in pro- social jobs and the more possibilities to promote society will open up.
The conditions for creating the change are already in the making. According to a new report from Credit Suisse, between 20% to 25% of the nation’s shopping malls will close in the next five years, as e-commerce continues to draw shoppers away from bricks-and- mortar retailers.
Instead of becoming crime-breeding zones, as is happening today, they can easily be transformed into centers for training in the new pro-social work.
As I see it, every person who becomes unemployed should not receive unemployment benefits, but be enrolled in these trainings right away, and receive a salary just as in any other job. Instead of sitting at home feeling miserable, recently fired people should receive benefits from the state contingent upon their participation in the pro-social trainings. At the end of the training, or even during, they will launch their new careers as innovators of the new society.
The Technology of Connection
The technologies for nurturing pro-social attitudes in entire communities already exist. Round Table events and Connection Circles are two ways that I have elaborated on in my book Completing the Circle: An empirically proven method for finding peace and harmony in life.
They have been tried numerous times in the US, Western and Eastern Europe, and Israel, all with resounding success. When implemented correctly, these technologies not only create an atmosphere of warmth and sociability, but also promote the understanding that this is how society should maintain itself if we want to feel safe and happy in our neighborhoods. With the advent of the jobless era, the social paradigm shift will become a necessity.
However, thanks to online technologies, this shift can be done at minimal cost. Moreover, the expenses that will be saved as people’s current anti-social attitude is reversed will far outweigh the cost of the trainings, making them lucrative business for investors.
When a community unites, violence, crime, and substance abuse all drop, and mutual responsibility, mutual assistance, and friendliness emerge. This frees tremendous amounts of resources that would otherwise be used on policing and welfare workers trying to mitigate crises. Therefore, even from the most capitalistic viewpoint, pro-social attitudes in the community pay off.
The sooner the governments, or states, implement these programs for the unemployed, the greater will be their profits, both socially and financially, and the greater will be the benefits to our entire society.
Answer: This is a complex matter, yet I think that it is possible to feel it to the same degree that a person understands the books and the Kabbalah lessons in feeling.
If a person feels that the lessons are having an influence on him and he wants to feel them more, this testifies to his advancement. The main thing is feeling because spiritual attainment is sensual.
From the Kabbalah Lesson in Russian 1/29/17
Answer: What is above the world of Atzilut we attain within the head of the world of Atzilut. Baal HaSulam described the world of Ein Sof when he was in the head of the world of Atzilut.
From the Kabbalah Lesson in Russian 1/22/17
Answer: Indeed, you will not find anything wise where there is a crowd, but only stupid fantasies. But in a Kabbalistic society, it isn’t a crowd that gathers, but outstanding people who want to overcome their egoism and raise their yearning for the Creator above all the obstacles.
Thus they unite, each with his own unique, upper impulse, and this is actually what determines the shared outcome that we attain in the connection between us, and in it, we reveal the Creator.
From the Kabbalah Lesson in Russian 2/19/17
This question is hidden in each of us, and it is called a desire. When all of these small desires connect into one desire, it is possible to receive an answer about the meaning of life, and this is precisely what we get together for.
From the Kabbalah Lesson in Russian 2/19/17
Why? So we will reach out to Him, ask Him, look toward Him, and draw near Him! He gets very jealous if we look at each other instead of looking at Him! He is more jealous than a woman! I say this in all seriousness.
It is very important! That is why the Creator constantly puts us in such situations that we are unable to overcome—so that we would yearn for Him, request that He help us. That is how parents sometimes behave toward their children: on one hand, they want the children to do something on their own, and on the other hand, that they are compelled to get the parents help.
In case of the Creator, it is quite simple. From the very beginning of our journey, if we are walking the right path, then every step that we make, we are never able to do without the Creator—never! In our lives, we learn how to walk, then walk on our own, grow up, and become adults.
In spirituality this is not so. In spirituality, our need for the Creator is constant; it only grows stronger and stronger, and then we truly come to a greater adhesion with Him. After all, the Creator opens up the system to us, but we do not know how to operate within it.
After we exert efforts in the connection between us, we increasingly open up the place where He has to explain and fulfill. And then He is revealed, always in response to a request for Him! There is none else besides Him.
Therefore, if we are unable to connect, it is natural and good. We only need to remember who puts these obstacles in our way—He does, so that we will turn to Him.
Answer: Freemasons are completely unaffiliated with the wisdom of Kabbalah. These are people who act in special relationships among themselves and they build a small closed society in their connection. It has nothing to do with Judaism, religion, and all the more so with the wisdom of Kabbalah. They believe that by performing certain rituals, they can impact their conditions of the conditions of those around them.
I met with Freemasons in Rome and gave them lectures. They invited me to their ceremonies and explained what they meant, but I would not say that their rituals were interesting. It is very difficult to impress me because Kabbalah puts a person on such a level that after that there is nothing to be impressed by.
Don’t look for anything mysterious in the world because whatever seems mysterious is only because we don’t know its nature. Be an absolute materialist!
The wisdom of Kabbalah is the study of the upper nature, not the physics of our world. This is actually how it approaches every phenomenon and this is how it explains it. Therefore, it is open to everyone and does not require any initiations, incantations, secret signs, or special dress.
Do you have a desire? Come and study the wisdom of Kabbalah. Afterward, everything will depend on you. You will manage to ascend above your egoistic nature and become Kabbalists, both men and women.
From the Kabbalah Lesson in Russian 1/22/17
The Torah describes laws that everyone who works toward being like the Creator and is in a state of constant battle within him or herself should know.
A person represents the entire world. To the degree we reveal reality, we begin to realize that all that is seen outside of us is really a reflection of what exists within us. And that is why all people, the inanimate, vegetative, and animal worlds, the entire universe, exist within me; they do not exist outside of me.
In referring to the Torah, we say that a person must behave in a certain way toward animals or plants, meaning the animal or vegetative levels of egoism within a person. The same applies to the inanimate and human levels.
“Men,” “women,” “virgins,” and everything else described in the Torah are our desires. When we work with them, this is how we define, sort, and bring them to the appropriate order of correction. The desires stay, we only change the method of their realization.
Those desires that were initially directed toward egoism and self-indulgence, we rework in order for them to serve others. Here a question arises: “What others if everything exists in me?”
This is the trick: actually, everything exists in me, but given this, when I see everything as being outside of me, it helps me to change my relationship from being directed inward to being directed outward; that is, I change only my internal vector.
In reality, I am not going out of myself; rather, I begin to accept all that exists outside of me as existing within me, as my personal qualities. Therefore, I begin to experience that I include the entire world within me. This is the state of “a person is a small world,” which Kabbalah speaks of.
Then, inside this world that has now become mine, I begin to exist, experience, and understand all things. This world is not egoistic. But it is inside of me because I changed my vector by not using everything for my personal “I,” but for those who appear as others outside of me.
In this way, I correct my egoism (desire to receive) to the desire to bestow. And this desire is inside of me and cannot be attributed to another; only its vector is corrected. This is how I begin to sense the Creator, the upper force, filling me.
That is why I don’t need to run from anything. I become a system that is called soul or Adam – Man. Does anyone else exist besides me? No one. I alone, and the Creator within me.
It is almost as if I begin to “swallow” the entire world, strangers become part of me. This is what is called “love your neighbor as yourself.”
How can he be my neighbor? He is part of me! But in this moment, he appears to me as being distant; that is why I attempt to bring him closer, until I become one with him.
Along the way, there is a constant battle. It is impossible to consistently imagine that everything that exists outside of me, including outer space, is all in me, and I am just looking inside myself, watching the “film projector and a screen” that constantly spins in front of me that which I see as outside of me.
This is the Creator’s amazing innovation that exists within a person.
If each of us would only see all this just from their own perspective, but we see animals and fish,, we even see other people who have similar experiences. This means that I consist of multiple egoistic desires, each of which exists as I do.
In what way then does my desire, my “I” that I am now trying to figure out and altruistically transform, differ from the desire that is appearing to me right now as the person next me? And he sees the world just like I do, and we understand each other and are able to speak with each other.
What is this desire next to me? For instance, across from me sits a friend, affirming, “Yes, I see it like that also.” What then? Am I in him and he in me? It means that in me is some friend who exists absolutely independently, decides independently, and corrects himself independently.
In order to understand this, we need to unite. But, aside from uniting, each of us also continues to remain in their individual egoistic desires and intentions.
It turns out that each of us, like a pomegranate, consists of many of seeds. And this entire totality creates the sense of the whole world being like a beehive in which, on the one hand, there is a division into a tremendous number of honeycombs, and on the other hand, their unity gives us the sensation of the Creator. We are not able to experience this quality within ourselves in any other way.
Each is an individual, and each experiences the world within him or herself. The assembly of all individuals, when they do not merge, but only unite above themselves, creates a level, which, on the one hand, consists of 600,000 parts, and on the other hand, is as if a single unit. That is, below it is 600,000 parts, and above is unity, in which the upper force is revealed.
From KabTV’s “Secrets of the Eternal Book” 10/10/16