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The thicket of excuses

(crossposted at Voices on the Square)

Eventually the human race will realize that its subordination to the capitalist system is destroying life on the planet. At that point, it will walk away from capitalism, and toward a multiplicity of small-scale, decentralized economic systems based on trust and friendship.

Of course, the beginning may be a bit rough. Mostly this will be the case because, as we create the new world, we will be living in a sea of people who will all be making the same excuses. We will be installing the social basis of the revolution while the material basis lays open to the predatory machines of the capitalists. Meanwhile, capitalism didn’t get this way by chance. The capitalist system is the most effective system of domination yet to be seen. Its hired state authorities will try every trick in the book to keep the system alive. Who do you think these people are?

When we finally get our collective stuff together, we will all be able to do something definitive about the problems facing world society in our times: war, hunger, poverty, pollution, disease, global warming, biodiversity loss, resource shortage. Problems of money, property, and national “security” will no longer stand in our way. Until then, don’t count on anything, anything at all. Forget it. Your job isn’t secure, your property isn’t secure, your future isn’t secure. You are nothing before the 1% and their ultimate imperative — keep capitalism going.

Where can we hear the death-shudders of the system? Let’s start with the declining growth rate, nearly four decades going now. Capitalism depends upon economic growth — economic growth means that people can pay off their debts, when said debts grow with interest charges. Is it surprising that the system is now critically overloaded with debt, with zombie banks forcing austerity plans upon nation states with collapsing economies?

Here’s a fun illustration of the economy these days. Sound good to you?

Or in our relations with nature. You know what the Powers That Be are going to do now that the North Pole is melting? They’re going to drill for Arctic oil! Yeah, pretty futile. Here’s David Roberts’ summary of the issue:




Until the big change happens, we get to endure a vast thicket of excuses. We will ask the human race, politely, gee what about taking control of your lives? and it will say that it can’t take charge because… What are the big excuses? Here are some of my guesses:

1) Obama’s better than Romney.

Omigod if Romney wins we’ll have… well, pretty much what we’ll get with Obama. Yawn. Oh yeah, the Supreme Court. There might be a few differences. Obama has to find people who will defend his own special shredding of the Constitution. Romney has to say crap to keep his right-wing base in line while he pursues office. Mostly what I see is that the people who are so scared of Romney are the same folks who didn’t do diddly squat about Bush when he got the Democrats to approve Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts, and who won’t do anything about Romney’s nominees once he’s elected.

Frankly I thought this whole issue was resolved in 1996, on the Simpsons Treehouse of Horrors:



For the next four years America (and the world) will be kept very, very busy coping with problems that we will see regardless of whether Obama or Romney wins this year. I suppose we’ve got about three weeks of this excuse left.

2) I have a family to take care of.

Question. Did you think about the future they’d face before you started having children? Or was it only that you thought you’d start saving for their college expense, that wonderful expense that has increased by 439% since 1982? Or, to put it more bluntly: half of you will get divorced at some point. Since when did the modern, nuclear family have anything to do with the real future? Let me suggest another possibility — you’ll be creating a better world for them to live in, and that’s what postcapitalism is about.

3) I have to make a living you know.

OK, now this might be legitimate for some people. It’s the basis of false consciousness as typically described by marxists. You have to believe in the system because the system is all you’ve got. Here’s the problem though. Unless you are a member of the investor class, the system cannot grant you financial security.

As I suggested above, the elites are all on the same page. Their common idea: to preserve the profit rate despite the decline in the growth rate. To make up the difference, to keep profits high despite low growth, they have to find some way of taking your wealth from you. Are you sure you weren’t in the audience when George Carlin was saying this stuff?

At the very least you need to be doing something.

4) Capitalism equals freedom.

Of course this is the ideological pretext of the investor class, and the flagship ideology of the libertarians. Capitalism is the freedom of the investor class to invest.

Capitalism is based on money and property. For some reason money is this great secret in our society, when it’s actually printed by banks and borrowed by the rest of us, to our great indebtedness. Please take a look at Hutchinson, Mellor, and Olsen’s The Politics of Money for a bigger explanation. Money doesn’t have to be the way we have it now.

And property? You have this great government machinery out there to define and defend property, which was something your ancestors grabbed and kept for themselves.

The whole point of capitalism is unfreedom. An owning class controls almost all of the money, and owns almost all of the property. The rest of us must continually sell our labor-time, per hour at the going wage rates, in order to survive. If you had freedom you could live off of the land, and tell those people to get lost. Can you do that now?

Did you imagine that you had some great freedom to choose your profession under capitalism? You’ll choose what the rich folks are buying. The battlefields of career choice are littered with mall franchises that don’t make it in the long run because there simply aren’t enough customers for all of the flowers, yogurt, and high-priced clothing they’re selling. This logic is what drives the chronic complaint about the Citizens United ruling. If the rich folks want to buy elections, well, nobody’s forcing anyone to take their money. Or maybe someone out there IS obliged to take all that money.


I’m sure there are more excuses — I’ll deal with them in another diary…

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Ph.D., Communication, The Ohio State University, 1998
M.A., English, Sonoma State University, 1992
B.A., Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz, 1984