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Toward a New World

Gregor Former Oct 23, 2008

Humanity fast approaches a point of no return, a moment of profound decision: whether to continue along our current path of myopic greed, distrust, and shallow desire or to evolve into true caretakers of life upon this planet. We have built systems of control that reward the few and punish the many. We treat the Earth which sustains us with indignity and disdain. More and more we place all value in material wealth and see all things through a lens of monetary worth. Anything that cannot have a price tag attached to it is considered of no value and we conclude that only by pricing the wind, rain, sun, and earth and all its trees and animals will they be worth sustaining. We have ensnared ourselves within cages of thought that do not promote that which is best in us.

Humanity's two greatest strengths are our capacity for love and our creative mind. Any system of interpersonal relations that does not honor and promote these aspects of our nature is a system doomed to failure. Throughout our history we have only managed to replace one system of repression with another. We rearrange those who hold power, but never eliminate the underlying hierachical nature of our interactions.

All human interaction with itself and the planet can be viewed in terms of system dynamics. Our social, economic, and political systems create complex webs of feedback loops. The environment as a whole is a vast complex system of interrelations between various species and the natural systems, like the climate, that sustain them. On top of this natural planetary web, we create further webs of interplay based on culture, religion, economics and polity. Each system has in-built attractors that reward those who work within its parameters by the conferral of power and wealth upon them. Over the course of our history these artificial webs have changed, but the one commonality of so-called advanced civilizations has been the concentration of power in a minority of the population. This inevitably leads to tension between this empowered minority and the population at large and the necessary oppression and exploitation of the majority in order for those who hold the power to retain it.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the economic systems employed throughout the world have coalesced around capitalism of one form or another. Whether naked unfettered brutal capitalism or some slightly modified version with a window dressing of socialism, a supposed consensus has emerged that reduces all people, animals, plants, minerals, etc. to an economic calculus. If a monetary value cannot be placed upon something it has no worth. This leads to an inexorable debasement of our greatest strengths of love and creativity.

How do the various economic systems put forth throughout our history tend to counter that which is the best of our nature? As mentioned, capitalism has no use for that which cannot be commidified, so it has an inherent problem with love which is beyond such a crass value system. It does try to do its best to commidify love by generating profit from the trappings of love and promoting the notion that love is best expressed through buying material trinkets said to embody that love. Beyond this, capitalism, by its brutal adherence to the bottom line drives families apart and pushes people to decisions based upon the need to acquire money that can destroy these bonds of love. And what of creativity? Many would argue that capitalism provides the means by which creative expression can flourish, but anything more than a trivial examination of this notion would show its fallacy. While some creativity is given the means with which to express itself, much is stifled by concerns of the market. If those with the capital cannot see the creative potential of what is before them, it is ignored at best. Also, as the higher levels of education become increasingly subject to economic barriers that require ever greater amounts of money at hand or ever more years in debt peonage after obtaining the education, the creative process is further narrowed into what can turn a fast profit. All else is without value. This commodification of creativity ends up placing more value upon, say, the homogenized muzak produced by the lastest boy band created in some board room over the sheer genius and beauty created by the likes of a Beethoven or Mozart.

And what of socialism? In theory a socialist system would eliminate some of the monetary monomania of capitalism. In reality all socialist systems are just capitalist systems with some of the rough corners smoothed down. As such the underlying incompatibility of capitalism and that which is good and noble in humanity is merely masked and always ready to reassert itself. Industries that are deemed in the national interest or for the public good are held by the state, and as such are subject to the whims of those who hold elected (or obtained) power and are therefore liable to be sold off without any public recourse. When this has occurred the people do not see the monetary benefits of selling these industries and generally the only beneficiaries are those who acquire these privatized assets at undervalued costs. Any nationalized industry that is not held in trust by the people of a country rather than by the state is always at risk. Beyond this, if economic decisions are made at the center, they are necessarily ham-fisted attempts to foresee the future or tardy reactions to events at the periphery.

The communism as practiced by the former Eastern Bloc had obvious problems in terms of its lack of freedom of expression and highly centralized decision making processes. The effects of this model upon our core strengths are glaringly obvious. Marx recognized that pure communism was not something that could be achieved overnight as many would feel they had been robbed by its implementation or cheated by not being recognized with more money for harder work, innovation, etc. A lack of reward created a lack of desire to achieve more.

These economic systems each have their supposed benefits and obvious detriments. Each economic system can be tied to any manner of political system, despite all the noise capitalists make about capitalism being the natural result of democracy and communism being by its nature inclined toward totalitarianism. Thus far humanity has yet to produce a political system that does not collect power in the hands of the few, be it for their economic status, their idealogical purity, geneology, religion, etc. That monarchy, oligarchy, dictatorships, totalitarianism, fascism, et al are smothering of what is best in humanity seems to be beyond debate. Anyone who advocates such systems does not do so out of a desire to advance the lot of humanity, but rather to advance their own position of power within such systems.

As time has progressed there has been a definite trend toward representative democracy in one form or another around the world. It is held as the beacon of hope for the world's people. On paper it would appear to be more aligned to the needs and desires of people, but in action it has a tendency toward a concentration of power in the hands of a professional politician class who interact and socialize with the wealthy elite. This political class comes to see the wealthy as the constituency which they represent, and the public as a nuisance to be dealt with every so often in order to retain their positions. This creates a feedback loop within which the decision making process becomes ever more centralized and that creates an inevitable loss of representation for the bulk of the populace and their real needs. A compliant media in the hands of these same wealthy elite frames the acceptable bounds for political discourse and anything that fundamentally threatens this status quo is left out of the debate.

So what are we to do? Revolution has been tried many times. Regardless of the good intentions of those who rise up in revolt, when power has been achieved, they begin to emulate those from whom they have seized this power. The obvious counter to this is to eliminate the concentration of power in any one place. The more the power to affect society as a whole is dispersed throughout that society, the less chance that it will pool into the hands of the few. How is this to be achieved? Through participatory democracy. Decisions need to be made by those who are most affected by their outcomes. The second need is to eliminate the ability of people to become professional politicians. Legislative and executive power at all levels should be a civic duty performed by all people, like jury duty is in the judicial system. There is the common argument that pure democracy can lead to the tyranny of the many imposing their will upon the few. This is a real concern and is best prevented by a strict legal framework that is based upon the rights and dignity of all. This cannot be just a nod and a wink at rights that are then violated by those with enough money to buy off justice.

How do you create a legal framework that honors all people? It can be argued that all laws are an infringement upon freedom. True freedom would allow people to kill, rob, enslave, etc. at will without consequence. That this is an untenable basis for a society to flourish should be patently obvious. But each of these examples are actions that rob another of their freedom in one fashion or another. This then is the basis for a legal framework for all human activity. Freedom to do anything that does not encroach upon the freedoms of others. This would cover the examples above, but also the capitalist excesses of current human political systems. Economic policies that, for instance, create economic barriers to health, education, food, shelter, etc are by their nature removing freedom from those who cannot afford them. If you cannot afford to put food in your belly, what does it matter what other freedoms you have?

How are these barriers to freedom to be removed and a system built that honors all of its members equally and provides them with the opportunities to express that which is best in them? One thing that is obvious is that profit must be removed from the delivery of many vital needs. Yes, I know: I can hear the howls of those who profit by delivering food, healthcare, etc. This is not to say that a farmer can make no money, or a doctor not be rewarded for years of study and preparation and long hours keeping people alive and healthy, just that profit should be eliminated. The vast amount of money spent in the United States, for instance, on health care does not go to the doctors and nurses who provide it but to the health insurance, drug, and hospital corporations' shareholders. These people have never saved a single life, yet they reap the benefits of the work of others.

The next needed change is that vital resources should be owned in trust by all the citizens of a country. Not run by government bureaucracy and available to be raped when those in power deem it politically expedient. Any profit accrued would be returned to the owners (the people) or, if the people decide, reinvested toward future needs. 

The corporate model of business is by definition fascist. Decision making is top down. Profit goes in the hands of those who add nothing to whatever business is being done. This is not an advocacy for a 'dictatorship of the proleteriat' as Marx envisoned but rather a fully democratic form of business: the co-operative. Not everyone in a company is going to be working on the assembly line (or its equivalent), but a company where everyone feels they are an indispensable part is one that can collectively adapt to changing market conditions, decide upon pricing structures, and make decisions for itself based upon more than just the bottom line. As the epitome of decentralization, the co-operative is an ideal candidate for a replacement to corporations that exist solely to make money for shareholders regardless of the consequences to any and all (including those shareholders, as many who held stock in various financial institutions are now finding out through bitter experience.) This elimination of corporations does not mean an end to the benefits of competition and innovation, or, for that matter, the opportunity to invest in an idea and make a profit from that risk. Investors in a co-operative would enter an agreement with that entity and would profit at a rate agreed upon by the parties involved. By its nature that means that everyone involved in the co-operative would have democratically arrived at the decision to accept money in exchange for some percentage return on that investment.

These changes are all built around the notion of eliminating hiearchical structures within human relations. The less that people see themselves as positioned somewhere above some and below others, the more they will find themselves freed from the stifling nature of such a mindset. When people begin to realize that no one is better than they are and, conversely, they are not intrinsically better than anyone else, no matter what gifts they may feel they have acquired by the grace of God, the accident of their birth, their genes, their nationality, what have you; only then will we begin to be able to move forward as a species. We will stop seeing life as a competition which implies winners and losers, but, rather, an opportunity to grow in understanding, love as fully as we can, and create beauty for all who share the planet with us and are to come in the future.

The alternative is extinction. 

© The Daily Bastard 2008.

 

 




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