We Are Stuck Inside A Machine Bleeding To Death
This moment of crisis is a direct result of a system built by and for white, wealthy men who falsely believed themselves to be the rightful leaders of the world
It all feels so heavy.
Modern living means from one moment to the next it’s a matter of either focusing on the still-churning dread of the Coronavirus pandemic, our intentionally neutralized representative government, widespread economic crisis, the full-out assault on democracy by a rising fascistic movement, unstoppable climate change and its resulting apocalyptic disasters, or, as was the most recent sign of the end times: the Gulf of Mexico literally catching fire.
These days are brutal. Soul-crushing, honestly. And we live in a time where politics have been reduced to spectacle, something we watch on the TV while white-knuckling and gritting our teeth to the point of shattering.
What. Can. We. Do.
The very question feels like an insult. The levers of power are so far beyond our control, by design, that even the elected heads of state of the world’s foremost powers have found themselves scurrying to try and steal back even an iota of influence from the multinational corporations they birthed and fostered.
To even begin questioning the matter for a solution, we must first understand the very nature of the crisis, interrogate and deduce how it originated in the first place. And the answer is of little comfort but proves, honestly, more than illuminating. It is the equivalent of a fish realizing water is a knowable, investigatable substance as opposed to simply reality.
We are living in the wake of centuries’ worth of failures by individuals who have, at every turn, taken the mantle of leadership because they believed themselves deserved of that mantle. We are trapped within a system that was faulty, shoddy, and unworkable from the very beginning, built upon lies and prejudices and greed, and the option we are given, every single time, are to continue within the same decaying system helmed by the same people who broke things to begin with.
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The origins of our current political and economic systems lie in the so-called “Age of Exploration,” in which European nations began invading civilizations around the world in order to plunder their resources, enslave and exploit their inhabitants, all while creating a system of commerce that would replace the decrepit feudalist state. To assuage their guilt and promote the process, this theft and genocide was hidden behind the veneer of “civilizing” the indigenous people and introducing religion and “progress.”
Colonization was done at the behest, and assistance of, both the state and the wealthy elite who controlled the system of feudalism in the first place. Joint-stock companies that largely took over the world were funded by and beneficial for the wealthy elite, including royal families and exorbitantly wealthy individuals. Colonization ensured the already-rich would control the burgeoning capitalist system, taking the past hereditary power structure, laundering it through the myth of the free-market and meritocracy, and creating a new myth of competence and talent.
What was birthed was a new capitalist order in which the already-wealthy and the newly rich, who would eventually transfer their wealth to their offspring and so on and so forth, continued to hold sway over politics and society, though the appearance of hereditary structures gave way to new fairytales. But the primitive accumulation necessary of people of color around the world meant that white, wealthy, European men enjoyed uninterrupted dominance and began the game of capitalism with, surprise surprise, generations’ and continents’s worth of wealth and advantage.
It wasn’t talent or intelligence or hard work that won this headstart. It was simply the benefit of unrestrained and gleeful brutality.
The beginnings of the capitalist structure maintained much of its hereditary trappings, including kings, queens, and lords. Occasionally new features - a parliament that functioned as a semblance of representative government - might emerge in order to quell the needs of the growing bourgeois class, and feudalism eroded as the balance of power moved to the cities, but the old hierarchies survived.
Eventually, with the rise of the Enlightenment - spurred by educated, white, wealthy men who believed they were more capable of running states than monarchs chosen through blood - championed replacing the monarch entirely with a ruling class that oversaw the body of government. In the United States, the wealthiest and most powerful men, many of them slaveholders, declared independence so that their businesses and interests might escape the superfluous taxes and direction of Great Britain. Though they hid their intentions behind revolutionary rhetoric, the intent of “liberty” and “freedom” always meant liberty through property and wealth and freedom from hierarchical oversight.
By design, the government of the United States was intentionally constructed to give the wealthy, white male class the upper-hand, limiting mass representation to the House of Representatives while reserving overwhelming and off-limits power to themselves. At the time, the belief was that those who had money and property were to be the stewards and safest guards of government.
They believed this because it was themselves.
The lie of capitalism, from the very beginning, was that anyone with wealthy and power obviously deserved it because they had proven themselves in the free market and had been chosen by an “invisible hand.” But the deck was stocked from the start. The majority of the Founding Fathers, believers in meritocracy, were from wealthy, affluent families that could afford educations and inheritance, including the transfer of human slaves. The design was faulty from the get-go because the Founders could not see beyond their own limitations or imagine any scenario in which wealth did not denote talent. And so, they entrusted white, wealthy men with the future.
That experiment has failed over and over again. History is the story of white, wealthy men failing to live up to the promise of talent or capability because the meritocracy is a fraudulent lie, a convenient mythology for the powerful. This system that is suffocating us, destroying our planet, keeping us from healthcare, education, and ensuring our lives will be spent in suffering and possibly total collapse, is a doubling-down on a bet that was made centuries ago and was never, not once, predicated on a self-sustaining lie.
There is no way out of this moment through these means or building off the established falsehoods. Free-market ideals were engineered to benefit the plundering class. Capitalism itself was constructed to the benefit of those who would hasten this collapse. Our nation-states are incapable of addressing the crisis precisely because they were created and tuned to the interests and preferences of those who have created the crises in the first place.
The only possible answer has to be new. It has to be divorced from this mythology and inheritance of selfish, cruel, greedy lies. We must discover it and we must discover it with incredible speed.