Friday, September 10, 2010

Time to retire?

Some claim that we have to know now what an alternative way of organizing society will look like; that even to entitle us to criticize the existing society, we need to have an alternative to put in place of it. But there is no reason to demand that we know how a future society would look like in order to criticize the current. Humanity didn't chose capitalism, it grew, stealthily, under feudalism, and once it had matured and the conditions were the right it took over society, or at least tried to dominate it. At no particular point in time, in most countries, did “the people” make a clear choice to introduce capitalism. When the masses finally got limited power through parliamentary democracy, capitalism was already a fait accomplit. In the same way that the empires that emerged with iron represented an aggressive impulse that forced others to become similar, capitalism forced others to adopt the same system, either by direct conquest (colonization) or by competition. That military dictatorship or capitalist nature domination spread and conquered other cultures is not a proof that they are, or were superior in any way or that they are sustainable, as little as the cancer cell is better than the normal cell, even if it sometimes win.

All societies have their growth periods, maturity and decline. Decline has started long before we can point to defined proofs. When civilization has built the biggest temples for its own glory, mold, termites, rodents and rot are already busy to tear it down. We are there already. Shall we go on building temples like the Maya? Exactly what is it in the capitalist project that we so desperately hang on to? Is it the sanctity of private property; the freedom of the individual; the difference in income; the commercialization of all aspects of our life; the leveling of differences in cultures and values across the globe? It is time to ask those questions, to critical ask ourselves: what was it that we wanted to accomplish? If it was a high standard of living? We have it now. If it was freedom of the individual?, we have that as well (well at least in many countries). Are you sure we need the same system to maintain these as the one that created them? For clearing new land, we cut down forests, or drain swamps, we burn, we use heavy machinery to make the land suitable for farming, but once we done that, we can use much simpler techniques every year. Is it perhaps like that with capitalism? It has done its job. Time to retire?

The good news is that the new society is already emerging as we speak. We don't see it clearly yet, and there is no master blue-print or commander, but there are signs.

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