It seems to me that many of us are still saying the same things as we have for decades, while the crisis just gets worse. We know there’s a crisis but still lack hope or a sense of direction for the future.
The real problem is capitalism itself. It is leading us rapidly into a neofascist dystopia where the suffering is simply becoming immense for people, animals, plants and the planet. Capitalism is focussed only on money and the power to get more money. And making money is above the law, ‘It don’t count unless it sells’. Anything can be justified it seems by ’shareholder value’. Even the planetary crisis is not taken seriously. It’s easy to declare a climate crisis but then do nothing about it. Words are cheap.
But money is a fiction. Its value is determined by supply and demand like anything alse. We are endlessly manipulated into wanting money. Capitalism thrives on creating demand – i.e. creating scarcity. At one time, we could be persuaded that with a little more money we could have a happier life, and create jobs for others too which would help them have a better life too. But for the last 100 years that American dream has started to look more and more threadbare, and now it is revealed as a lie. Since Edward Bernays more or less founded the modern concept of marketing in the early 20th century, those with wealth and power have driven their agendas more and more by the sticks of fear, anxiety, depression, hatred and anger rather than carrots of real benefits. Each technological innovation has been a benefit to some at the expense of others, and each time it has been used to strengthen the hand of the wealthiest and most powerful and weaken the rest of us. On one side of the scales we have medical advances, increased comfort and convenience for some, on the other, rising poverty, war, slavery, hatred, racism, depression, anxiety, suicide, dependency, despair, and planetary destruction. We have become increasingly aware of the downside.
In short capitalism is now failing to deliver what we and the Earth really need. But is far worse than that. Capitalism is really a form of legalised organised crime. It places itself above the law, and organises itself to avoid responsibility for any consequences of the pursuit of profit and power. It is based on taking control of resources, so creating scarcity, and ‘externalising cost’, so creating pollution and destruction of people and planet that are always someone else’s problem to deal with. It is therefore a form of sickness because it completely fails to recognise that the Earth is a finite and carefully balanced ecosystem. If you destroy your life support system you destroy your own survival. But capitalism is so obsessed with greed, power and wealth that it is either blind to the fact it is destroying itself, or it thinks that somehow technology will fix every problem, or it simply doesn’t care about the future at all. Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
The entire legal system has been subverted to serve the interests of organised criminals at the expense of everyone and everything else. Money is a fiction based on demand. And legal ‘corporations’ (bodies) are fictions that pretend that a group of people can give themselves more legal rights than an individual. It is very difficult to hold a corporation to account. In fact, its very purpose is to avoid responsibility – originally, for debt, but now, for almost anything. ‘Shareholder value’ is an excuse for murder, rape, blackmail, theft, ecocide, any crime you can imagine. Regulatory bodies have been reduced to holding the ring in disputes between pirates: nobody has an over-arching duty to the planet or the future. And we are endlessly manipulated in all sorts of clever ways to create demand for products, services and authoritarian government – all of which are more likely to destroy our happiness rather than add to it. Once the wealthy and powerful are above the law, the rule of law is over. It is rule by coercion and manipulation. Fearmongering, creating hostility, division, hatred, confusion are all forms of abuse. We are ruled by gaslighting.
So my first thought was, that we are all actually part of the planet, we are made of the same atoms and electrical charges as everything else. We are not in reality separate, competing organisms. And the planet is immensely older and wiser and more resilient than any mere human ideology. The planet is going to survive, one way or another, far longer than capitalism and far longer than human beings. We might not survive as humans, but ultimately, nothing is destroyed.
Then I reflect that nonetheless, immense suffering is already being caused. Whole species are being wiped out, and many people animals and plants are suffering at least as much as they ever have before. We simply have to do something about that. And maybe we can at least reduce that suffering even if we cannot eliminate it entirely.
So here are a few ideas, for what they are worth.
- What sort of world do we want for our children, all other living beings and the planet? One built on understanding of the ecosystem and our place in it? One built on compassion and taking responsibility? Or the opposite, which is what we have at present? What sort of technology do we want? Is all technology good in itself or are some technologies better rejected? Who benefits and who suffers? What really makes us and others happy?
- If we reflect on what makes us happy and hopeful for the future, perhaps we should start there. Instead of allowing ourselves to be ruled by a narcissistic, amoral group of obscenely wealthy individuals, we have to take back control of our freedoms, justice, resources. Water is not the property of Nestlé, the Amazon rainforest is not the property of US corporations. My health is not the property of Bill Gates or Big Pharma. These ideas are simply concepts. We do not have to accept them. And the key thing surely has to be that CAPITALISM IS NOT ABOVE THE LAW. ‘Corporations’ must be held to the same ethical standards as individuals. If capitalism is above the law, it will eventually destroy the rule of law altogether. And the law is ultimately our only protection against crime.
- Instead of allowing the creation of more and more scarcity and need, we need to create free abundance. We have to restore the commons. We can start to do that, even within the present system, by (for example) creating social enterprises, localism, and through land reform. And directly building biodiversity. In short, by rejecting fear and taking positive action. We have to restore our human dignity, our self confidence, our own happiness and refuse to be manipulated. That includes seeing activities as valuable and creative in themselves. And stopping rushing around so that we never have time to enjoy and appreciate the present moment.
- I do not think there’s much real future in trying to make those with power and wealth change, take any responsibility, or give anything up. They will just fight you – and they thrive on doing just that. It seems to me that the only possible future is a change in consciousness.
- We have to take responsibility for our future and demand the same of those in power. Politicians, technology, money, must serve us and not the other way round. I think talk of ‘economic growth’ is simply a false measure and the language is deceptive because it is not really ‘ rowth’ in anything but wealth for the few. We need to stop using this weighted language and find new words to reflect a new perception. That means a world led by ethics – equally for legal corporations as for individuals.
We ourselves surely have to be the change we want to see –
- Rediscovering that happiness and fulfilment are still possible. We can empower ourselves to make a change. We may not be able to prevent all suffering but we can certainly make a difference. We have nothing to fear but fear itself.
- Building positively for a different future, with projects that empower, inspire and cause people to question their assumptions
- Insisting on holding the wealthy, the manipulative, the fascists, even the legal system itself to account if it fails to work for us.
- Demanding the truth – not just on climate change but on everything. And calling out the endless gaslighting, lies and manipulation. Who pays? Who benefits? Who gets hurt?
- Refusing to buy their ideas, their cheap globalised products and services we don’t need, the things that destroy our happiness and that of others. I’d love to visit New Zealand, but not if it’s at the price of my children’s future. ‘Give me spots on my apples but leave me the birds and the bees.’ I don’t care if the disgusting US food that’s coming our way is dirt cheap. I’d rather eat less, and eat organic.
- Everything we do and say has great power, because we are not separate. We are not lone voices crying in the wilderness. Systems theory demonstrates that the law of cause and effect can have surprising consequences.
- The Buddha proposed eight areas to focus on if we want to build a happier, healthier future for all. Let’s start being the change by examining each of them, and then acting on any insight:
- Our views
- Our intention and thinking
- Our communication
- Our actions
- Our livelihood
- The effort we make (not self sacrifice but looking after ourselves and others equally)
- Our mindfulness ( what about that ‘impulse buy’? that triggered reaction? ‘dog whistle politics’?)
- Our concentration ( are we easily deflected, sidetracked, do we run away from difficulties?)
- What will people do to work in future? What will they not do?. Automation and globalisation that only serve the wealthiest are not sustainable at all because they have too high a price. Costs cannot be externalised.
John Wood is a member of the project team for Wester Ross Pocket Orchards project. Find out more about the project on the Wester Ross Pocket Orchard Facebook page.