Published online 8 June 2009.
for a better world?
The basic situation is this: as the noose tightens on the old, capitalist ways of life, very few people appear to be all that interested in creating new ones. Am I missing something here?
(crossposted at Docudharma)
Immanuel Wallerstein, the world-systems theorist, was telling us all a few years ago that the capitalist system was beginning to break down, with the reality at the other end being non-capitalist:
Because the system we have known for 500 years is no longer able to guarantee long-term prospects of capital accumulation, we have entered a period of world chaos—wild (and largely uncontrollable) swings in the economic, political, and military situations—which are leading to a systemic bifurcation—that is, essentially a world collective choice about the kind of new system the world will construct over the next fifty years. The new system will not be a capitalist system, but it could be one of two kinds: a different system that would be equally or more hierarchical and inegalitarian; or one that will be substantially democratic and egalitarian.
Were we even listening? Because, now, it’s all coming true. Are we all going to get together and do something about it, maybe something to save our own skins in light of the general foreclosure on existences going on now?
Back in 1970 Alvin Toffler released Future Shock, a hyperbolic celebration of the neoliberal economic regime which was later to be imposed upon the world. Toffler’s prose glowed with predictions that technological change would speed up businesses around the world and allow them to make customers into kings. He thought people would freak out about this, though, because he thought the change of pace would be just too fast. Toffler also slipped in the message that there would be no job security in the future. Do you get it now?
Now here in 2009, finances in ruins, I’m reading diary after diary declaiming the absurdity of a Congress which debates “solutions” to a “crisis” in “health care,” all without allowing a voice to those who might actually propose a working solution. From War On Error to paradocs2 to Terri to DrSteveB, the evisceration is of high quality. People are being screwed by a private bureaucracy which is about to get a permanent hold on your wallet with insurance mandates. The main barrier to the real solution, single-payer health coverage, is a sold-out Congress — and things are likely to remain that way as long as the big boys are allowed to buy Congressmembers.
Meanwhile “the economy” (whoever that is) is steadily getting worse, with the mainstream media repeating its pronouncements that everything’s OK because the rate at which things are getting worse has slowed down a bit. $11.4 trillion in national debt, $13 trillion in bank pledges, and practically everyone I know is strapped for cash.
I’ve already complained at full length about the abrupt climate change thing. Like I said in that diary: “The ideas we typically see in the mass media as regards abrupt climate change are cruel jokes.” It is well past time for something far beyond what is being proposed, and the political system is unprepared to do anything of substance.
And to a certain extent I’ve already said my piece here about No Child Left Behind, Proposition 227 (California), and all of the other atrocities committed against our educational institutions (and soon to be committed, too, with coming budget cutbacks). It’s clear that for the past thirty years the politicians have molded our educational systems to push out a lot of unintelligent follower-types whose business in life will be preoccupied with the struggle to make ends meet while dealing with the “educational deficit” their previous educations didn’t address. It should be clear at this point, given the innovative character of research over the past few decades, that colleges and universities should be places where we can imagine things differently — and that we are, sadly, not using them for that purpose.
Thing is, it’s been this way for quite some time now — back in 1998 Kees van der Pijl noticed that the “political class” was all pretty much sold out to the tasks of managing the neoliberal state, and the establishment Left is dead. Van der Pijl, moreover, was talking about the situation GLOBALLY, not just in the United States. The real left, van der Pijl noticed back in 1998, was the “antiglobalization movement,” the movement which showed up in Seattle in 1999 to protest the WTO meeting there. It’s ten years later, now, and politics now as then has been reduced to the possibility of voting for Democrats because they’re better than Republicans. Well, we’ve been there and done that, and now the Democrats are in control of the White House and Congress. Is that all there is?
(Is that all there is?)
Now the general public response to diaries and comments such as this one is “what are you waiting for — go out and do something!” Thing is, I can’t bring myself to believe anymore that “going out and doing something” will amount to anything with the situation as it is. Pleading before the Emperor isn’t doing it for me. I want to participate in something far more dynamic — something which would actually make a difference given the coalition of forces arrayed against the public interest, in Washington DC, in the various state governments, in the Republican Party, and on the Right.
It’s past time for a movement, with an intellectual ferment to match. In this intellectual ferment, I would like to see the revisioning of our society’s most cherished institutions — education, medicine, agriculture, food distribution, housing — with people collaborating in a communal spirit upon experiments to do things differently. And it needs to happen outside of the little gated communities in which the free thinkers are currently hiding from the world. It is time for a global seizure of power by those who would die were they not to have any, by the surplus populations of the globe, the discriminated-against, that bottom half of humanity which makes less than $2.50/day.
(This video needs a pictorial — hopefully the lyrics will get the message across.)
So is it that the “protest organizations” are currently so strapped for cash that they can’t function anymore? Are the political organizations too locked into today’s legislation, with no long-term vision or populist concept of public outreach? Are the institutions which promise “hope” still locked into visions of recreating the political and economic status quo? Are we still blaming each other for not “doing something” rather than collaborating on a bigger something to do? Are we all just working for peanuts?
What am I missing?