Revolution of Feelings

The USA is not like Europe, Russia, China. We are not a nation of philosophers, historians, deep thinkers. If and when we make our revolution, it will not consist mainly of people quoting Marx and Lenin. Oh, sure, there will be some people of that sort, and they may believe themselves to be the vanguard, but they’ll be mistaken. Our revolution will start on a much more emotional level. Not until a later stage, when we the 99% are more united, will we see major change through elections or a “revolution” in the usual sense of that word.

Certainly we must move from capitalism to ecosocialism. But that economic change is only an afterthought to a deeper change in our feelings about each other. Here I am talking about the feelings of workers, not politicians. I follow the terminology of Paul Waldman:

  • Conservatives believe in self-reliance; that is, “every man for himself.”
  • We progressives believe in solidarity; that is, “we’re all in this together.”

(Thinking about that led me to socialism, but apparently Waldman himself has never moved beyond the Democratic Party.) It’s partly a question of what kind of world you want to live in:

  • Would you prefer to live in a world where people constantly compete against each other for everything, and where you’re always looking over your shoulder in fear of fraud and theft and worse?
  • Or would you prefer to live in a world of caring and sharing where everyone is your friend?

But we also disagree about what kind of world is possible, based on our beliefs about economics and human nature. Conservatives have been misled to believe:

  • that all humans are basically greedy and selfish. (I disagree; see links to Rifkin, Joseph, Solnit.)
  • that the poor are lazy; that’s why conservatives don’t want to share. (Actually the poor merely have been denied opportunities.)
  • that the source of our troubles is the poor (actually it’s the rich).
  • that “independence” is possible. (Actually we are all interdependent.)

People agree more than they realize. MOST people will tell you, “Oh, personally I would prefer a world of caring, but MOST people will never go along with that.”

Of course, changing our feelings is not enough. Our feelings and our institutions perpetuate each other; we must change our institutions too. In particular, I would recommend that we replace property with sharing, and replace hierarchy with horizontal networking.

climate cliffWhy should we change? Well, certainly friendship is more pleasant than fear. But there are also excellent selfish reasons for becoming unselfish. Our present system is killing us all:

  • Competition and separate property kill empathy, yielding hatred, random shootings, wars, etc.
  • Trade, even honest trade, increases inequality, by favoring the trader who was already in the stronger bargaining position. Thus a handful of people end up owning all the workplaces, all the robots, all the news media, all the food producers, all the government. And power corrupts.
  • vileUnmeasured side effects of trade are poisoning our food, water, and air; even the rich will discover that they can’t eat money. The climate apocalypse is speeding up, and it has no concern for property rights and national borders. It will finally make blatantly obvious that we are all in this together — but if we wait until then, it will be too late. We must awaken and revolt before then.

How can we change? Well,

  • we change to a new culture by seeing the old culture more clearly. Talk about it.
  • Join a worker co-op, but don’t overestimate its significance. It may be internally socialist, but externally it is still forced to be capitalist; that perpetuates most of the problems.
  • bernie-sandersSupport the few politicians who are progressive. Right now, in early 2020, I particularly recommend Bernie Sanders; he’s the only real progressive who has any real chance of winning the US presidency. He is doing a very good job of spreading progressive ideas, and the attitudes and emotions of solidarity that we need.


2020 Feb 5, version 2.17.