November 8, 2008

A Monopoly of Ideology

Albtraum has been taking it to the hoop pretty strongly lately through his comments. I have been letting it go , because I know he is a very intelligent guy whom I respect greatly as a thinker and as a friend, but his last comment was a foul, and I need to call him on it.
“Since the day a caveman discovered fire and immediately started charging his friends mammoth meat and sexual favors if they wanted some, every human system has been based on certain people profiting far more than others, for various reasons and through various methods. There never has been and never will be a human society that is not based on profit.”
I will try to keep this brief and not get caught up in socialist jargon. There is no doubt that human beings desire profits and most of us are greedy and operate mostly through self-interest and self- preservation. The animal in us has needs. Our biological, evolutionary need to survive often trumps any weighty spiritual or political ideologies.

I am here to argue, however, there is a difference between a healthy system based on profits or compensation and exploitation. Every one deserves to be paid for services or products rendered, but what I think many people fail to see is that capitalism is based on exploitation. It is a system based on one class, the capitalists exploiting the laboring class. Wealth is generated by the severity of this exploitation. Because this class is in control of not only the means of production and capital but also the media, the state, and all of the fundamental economic governing bodies like the IMF and World Bank, they have forced us all to believe that this current economic system based on a globalized, unregulated, privatized, free market is, not only the best choice, but our only remaining option.

Oops. I wasn't going to get into jargon. Listen, although I agree with much of Marxist philosophy, I am not here to promote a communist alternative. So please spare me the Mao, Stalin, fall of the wall rhetoric. I am only saying that a system, which depends on perpetual growth, cannot survive with a finite resource pool. The system we are immersed in today is only possible because of cheap fossil fuels. It generates wealth for a very small percentage of people, because it steals resources through privatization schemes after forcing nations into unmanageable debt, and when that doesn't work there is always war.

This is not a system based on honest profit, this is a system based on greed and injustice. It is this system that makes me uncomfortable and fills me with angst.

Another point worth examining is that we are viewing the world through the lens of capitalism. In order to maintain their hold on power and maximize their wealth, the capitalist class must maintain that theirs is the only viable system. Through media, through public schooling, through an attitude of a global culture based on profit and consumption, we are led to believe that our purpose here on earth to buy and sell commodities.

I hope that we are here for more than that. My last post was simply trying to find a way to move toward an alternative. I am not sure what that alternative will look like, but that is why I got into teaching. I hope that we can work with young people today and rethink everything we have been taught since the dawn of the industrial age. Hell maybe since the dawn of man.

A monopoly of ideology leads people to not even bother thinking that another system may be possible. John Molyeaux says it best:
… we have to remember that the human behavior we experience is behavior under capitalism and that capitalism massively conditions people towards selfishness. Of course the system preaches morality and altruism to children but look at how schools are actually organized: the children required to compete to come top of the class (or be punished for not trying), to pass exams, to gain entry to ‘good’ schools and top universities, to get the best jobs, and with any deviation from this self interested agenda subject to severe condemnation.

We need to be focusing on turning this entire thought system on its head.

1 comment:

  1. Good post!

    Of course the system we are in has also taught us what to think - whether it's through schooling, or, more powerfully, through advertising and the values displayed in the trash pumped through our TV screens - from cartoons to intellectual dramas and documentaries. There's no conspiracy to brain wash us - it just happens that the people with the power tend to only allow broadcast of stuff that supports their values.

    Hence we get intelligent people like albtraum who think that profit has driven society for ever. Not true!

    Self interest may be at the root of things, but for most of our existence self interest has been best served by helping each other - not by exploitation or wanton profit.

    If you lived in a largely self-sufficient community of say 20 folk and you operated on 'profit' you'd soon find people got sick of it and you'd not have anyone to help you to build your next house or hunt your next mammoth....