The economy, the ecosystem, and our social fabric are all collapsing. And if we just lock up the crooks in charge, but we don’t change the culture that generated them, it will quickly generate a new batch of crooks. Reforms might clean things up if our society had merely strayed from good principles; but actually our society is based on bad principles which need to be replaced altogether.
When a short explanation is called for, I just say end capitalism. That’s a good start, because whether people agree or not, at least they know approximately what I’m talking about.
But that’s too simple. War and poverty predate what most people would call “capitalism.” And in the 20th century, some countries freed themselves from capitalism, at least nominally, but they still weren’t utopias. So, ending capitalism is not enough.
Spiritual pep talks won’t suffice to make our culture kinder and gentler; to change our way of life we must change our institutions. Specifically, we need to end hierarchy and property, because — as I shall explain — they are the root of all evil, the incentive behind all crimes and cruelties. That claim will startle most people, for hierarchy and property are deeply embedded in our culture, and it is hard to imagine living without them. We have accepted them as normal for 10,000 years, since long before the earliest of biblical times. But we were free of them for 200,000 years before that, and we can be free of them again.
Reformists claim that hierarchy and property have merely been used improperly, but really they have no proper use. They concentrate power, and power corrupts, as we see in workplace bullying, domestic violence, police brutality, prison torture, army atrocities, and the money in politics.
Hierarchy is how we organize government and most of our workplaces, but it doesn’t have to be. We should replace it with horizontal networking, also known as anarchism, or friendship.
As for property: If we don’t share, we trade — for labor, food, rent, everything. That favors the trader in the stronger bargaining position, making him stronger still, increasing inequality, which is now huge in our society. Money IS influence, so the rich rule; that’s called plutocracy. The USA has been a plutocracy thinly disguised as a democracy ever since its founding in the enslavement of Africans and slaughter of indigenous people. The only way to end rule by the wealthy class is to not have a wealthy class. Thus, we need to end trade; we need to replace property with sharing.
People at the top get there by chasing power and short-term profit, and only pretending to care for anything else. They don’t care what lies they tell, or who gets killed by the unmeasured side effects of their actions, because they don’t bear those costs. Thus the so-called “efficiency” of the market is a lie. To protect their profits, our rulers block news and legislation about those side effects. Governments aren’t doing what they could to end war, poverty, or climate change.
And climate change, if continued, will kill us all sooner than people realize, because they don’t understand feedback loops and tipping points. The world is being poisoned, not by technology, but by unwise technology. We are all downstream, and there really is no “away” where you can throw things. We need to redesign everything to be reusable, recyclable, biodegradable, organic, and carbon-neutral. Individual efforts, though admirable, aren’t enough — we need society-wide changes in our culture and infrastructure.
Whatever can be done competitively, can be done better cooperatively. But property separates us, and the market makes us rivals and kills empathy. We become commodities to be exploited or discarded. Building friendships and labor unions becomes hard, so our rulers easily divide and conquer us. The wealthy, competing against each other, put the screws to their employees: Wages are low in spite of rising productivity, jobs are scarce and temporary, and pensions are stolen. A really strong social safety net will never be implemented by capitalists, because that would permit low-paid workers to quit jobs they hate.
Automation is accelerating, because robots are becoming cheaper than human labor. That would mean more leisure if we were sharing its benefits. But instead it means layoffs and pay cuts, as its benefits go to just the owners. A capitalist can only be rich if he has lots of paying customers; ironically, that depends on other capitalists paying them good wages. These trends cannot continue much longer. One way or another, our economic system is headed for big changes.
Homeless beggars on street corners are constant visible proof that our future is unsafe and no one cares about us. Thus we come to fear the Other, anyone we don’t know or control. We seek control over our own lives wherever we can find it, so the strong bully the weak through sexism, racism, austerity, imperialism, and other kinds of hate. And every week some desperately lonely and confused man shoots up a school or church. But we don’t shoot our friends. Can we all be friends? That is our true nature, but it’s crushed by our present socioeconomic system.
To change our culture, we just need to see it more clearly. The first step to a better world is to get more people talking about it.
2019 March 12, version 3.10. The leaflet fits on two sides of a single page. (Original version 2018 Jan 14.)