There are times when I want to take fervent defenders of capitalism by the collar of their shirts and toss them onto a huge continent of abundant resources where they can all compete and fight with each other over who gets the most of everything available on that land mass–as opposed to cooperating with each other to share resources and prosper collectively–to their hearts desire, while leaving the more civilized amongst us to share the rest of the planet’s uber-abundant resources and productive capacity that modern technology has made possible. In short, we would be free of the profit demand imperatives that prevent us from creating a far better society that, while it wouldn’t be perfect, would nevertheless be many magnitudes better than what we do have and can have today thanks to post-industrial technology.
And that is not in reference to just the small handful of actual beneficiaries of this system, but also to the too many fellow members of the working class who continue to vote such individuals into office simply because they think they are nice looking, have charming personalities, come off as “just a regular person like us” (as if a multi-millionaire typically leads a lifestyle comparable to the average worker), are the “correct” race or gender with the same religious beliefs (or lack of same) that the worker in question happens to share, or agree with them on silly wedge issues like whether gays should be allowed to legally get married, etc., et al., and give not the slightest shit about the effects that the foreign and domestic policies on economics, civil rights, or the environment that these people support for entirely self-serving reasons will have on both us and the rest of the world (assuming they even care about what goes on outside the borders of grand old America, which has but 5% of the world’s population). And we continue to let them convince large numbers of us that we are “good Americans” by supporting an archaic and destructive system far past its progressive heyday nearly a century and a half past while entirely ignoring the fact that America was born in revolution, and the Constitution has a provision (Section V) that allows for a legal and peaceful revolution whenever a vast majority of American citizens demand it. Instead, we have come to worship those in offices of political and corporate power as if they are akin to gods on Earth rather than seeing them as what they actually are–privileged human beings who do not work harder than any of us do, and are certainly not any more talented than we are as a group, but simply got the luck of the draw when it came to who their families were, what decade they happened to be born in when a certain talent they had happened to be in high demand, or some other generous dealing of the cards that in no may meant they worked harder or took more risks than the vast majority of workers who have to deal with the daily grind of low-level employment in fast-food restaurants, the various departments of a bank, as professional housekeepers and janitors, etc.
And if you think saving up money from busting your ass at three of the above types of jobs simultaneously over even a long period of time will enable you to eventually become a millionaire, then you are refusing to take a realistic look at not only the cost of living for an average worker that quickly eats up what you make from the relatively meager paychecks offered by even three of these jobs per month, but you are also willfully overlooking the fact that the cost of big factories, attendant machinery, and number of employees needed to run the big corporate juggernauts that the few members of the capitalist class own shares of to make their vast wealth (I won’t use the word “earn” here), not to mention the fact that the vast majority of income taken in every year by the capitalists come from (appropriately enough) capital gains, and not any number of paychecks. To those who are not familiar with the jargon of big business, that means investments, and it takes vast amounts of money to play the stock market in order to acquire a level of returns that are significant enough to actually live off of (if you don’t believe me, then I double dare you to invest a few hundred dollars of your paycheck into the stock of whatever company you work for, if not the stock market itself, and see if the miniscule level of gains you make and all the risks you take elevate you into the life of leisure that members of the capitalist class routinely enjoy at any point in your life).
Let it be known here that my problem is not with rich people per se; I do not begrudge anyone a comfortable and even lavish life style, and I am seriously glad that the families of these people, despite whatever personal or emotional problems they may have, do not have to live in the type of environment and insecurity that the majority of working class people regularly have to deal with. My problem is with capitalism itself, and not any particular group of people, even the beneficiaries of the system themselves, and I acknowledge there are some genuinely good-hearted and very progressive millionaires and billionaires who are generally working towards a more equitable type of system (note Bill Maher, Michael Moore, and Chris Rock are a few good examples). Kudos to them, even though I obviously don’t agree with them on everything.
The crux of the problem is not white men; not rich people; not Jews; not “welfare cheats”; not immigrants; not prostitutes or drug dealers, or sexual deviants of one kind or another, or gay people that want to get married; the problem is the system itself, and the fierce competition and inequality it engenders amongst a world population during an era in time when technology has progressed to the point where–for the first time in human history–an abundance is capable of being produced for everyone on the planet. Going along with that problem is the continuing love affair (as Michael Moore put it in the title of one of his great documentaries) that the majority of the population continues to have with the system. And sadly, those continuing to remain loyal to a system that they have the equivalent of an abusive relationship with (whether they are the majority in the position of the abused, or the tiny minority in the position of abuser) not only includes a surfeit of some of the poorest of the working class, but also a good number of crusading progressives who insist on attempting to continuously reform (i.e., tame) capitalism, and who continue to believe that it’s somehow un-American not to like some variant of capitalism, rather than agreeing to junk it and replace it with a more advanced, resource-based economy where money, competition, and private or state ownership of the industries and services are replaced (respectively) by disbursement based on the needs and wants of everyone, cooperation, and social ownership by everyone (which does not occur in the form of a state run by a handful of privileged and powerful bureaucrats who control a professional police force, but committees run and controlled by all workers across the various industries and services, none of whom receive special power or privileges over anyone else).
We need to get over our learned helplessness of believing that a man-made system like capitalism is somehow fixed in nature rather than an institution created by humans, or that the ruling class and its many institutions are too powerful to defeat. If the vast majority of us continue to wallow in a sense of piteous acquiescence to the existing system, then obviously the relative few who do stand up and fight are going to have a very difficult time enacting lasting change in a prompt fashion. We have to be in this together collectively, and not believe that the 99% of us that run and operate (but do not own) the industries and services are actually helpless before the 1% who control and benefit from this arrangement. We need to keep in mind that the mass of professional soldiers and police are comprised of members of the working class who would be highly unlikely to turn their weapons on family and friends if the great majority of workers stood up and demanded change by working within the existing system and its legal framework to enact a firm and uncompromising, but civilized and lawful revolution. Workers need to stop identifying their interests with that of the ruling class, and realize that they do not need a boss class dominating the decisions of industry, but are capable of running society equitably and in a much more fair and meritorious manner by themselves.
Those who continue to fight for reform and attempt to change the Democratic Party into an instrument for workers’ interests need to look at the many past examples of such attempts that proved futile, and those who continue to support the Republican Party based on their attitudes towards gays, religion, abortion, or some ridiculous sycophantic love of anyone who is both good-looking and powerful, need to join together based on common economic interests geared towards providing our families and future generations of humanity with freedom from poverty, insecurity, involuntary unemployment, a heavily polluted environment, and the threat of constant war–which will eventually make its way into our borders with the attendant erosion of civil rights if those who follow the legacies of Republican Bush and Democrat Obama continue to have their way–and seek democratic rather than draconian solutions to the problems we now face. And the number of genuinely good-hearted, progressive members of the wealthy few who care about all humanity and the planet itself over that of the profits of the few need to pool their sizable resources into the effort to aid the workers into getting off their asses and working together collectively (keep up the good work, Michael and Bill!), while the rest of us need to recognize that this contingent of the 1% cannot do this all by themselves despite the resources they wield, because they have the majority of their own class against them.
This is not about taking away the secure lifestyle of the few that now have them, but simply to remove their status of power and privilege over others by bringing this lifestyle of plenty to everyone, and this is what those few are fighting to retain, which they argue rightfully belongs to them and no one else. Do any of you seriously believe that Donald Trump or the royal family in Britain, or even the CEO of whatever company you work for, literally works millions of times harder than you do to support your own family? Do you seriously believe that the thousands of involuntarily unemployed in your state who receive $300 per month in welfare benefits and $250 in food stamps per month are seriously living a life of luxury compared to the vastly larger hand-outs and bail-outs the government routinely gives the not-exactly-needy executives of the many big corporations that regularly screw up with their decisions and nearly cause the economy to collapse on more than one occasion–as Enron did a decade ago, and as the banks did during the Obama administration’s first term in office? We need to get over our fear of change, and end our stubborn loyalty to an abusive and predatory system that encourages the worst aspects of human behavior simply because we have been conditioned to do so our entire lives, and it’s all we’ve ever known. We need to believe that all humanity not only deserves better, but is capable of providing a better world for ourselves and future generations, as well as facilitating a harmonious existence with the rest of the planet. We can achieve this by working together across racial, gender, ethnic, and sexual orientation barriers, as well as the artificial barriers of religion, national citizenship, and party affiliation, to progress towards our collective material interests, and the needs of this planet. These material interests are what is most important, and when they are resolved in an equitable manner, then the other problems we face will be far easier to deal with.
Not all of my future blog posts will be on the subject of progressive politics, of course, but you can look forward to and/or dread several of them to be, as next on this topic I plan to delve into the charming subject of America’s wondrous for-profit health care system.