Time to bring down the real slave master
Capitalism is a term that enjoys an interesting variety of connotations and interpretations that range from quite narrow and specific, to completely nondescript. In the hallways of Washington or the World Bank, the C word is barely used, and for good reason: doing so would be sacrilege. It would be like saying “the Christian God” in an all-Christian monastery. It would immediately suggest that you are implying that there is another God, an alternative to Capitalism.
This was unavoidable. Capitalism has consumed so much of our planet that it has become a synonym for Life (or arguably Death). It is the arteries and blood cells of our everyday existence — what keeps everything moving, living, breathing.
Or so we had been made to believe. I guess once every single item on the planet — from an animal, to a river, to a stone, to the air that we breathe — has been marked with a price tag, the entire planet becomes a shopping mall. We never stopped to think that maybe some of these things should have never been priced. They should have stayed free, sacred and never relinquished, whatever the offer.
Luckily in more academic circles capitalism is still discussed as an economic model or philosophy, often given a political colour and compared and contrasted with Socialism. Although all of these distinctions and definitions are vastly outdated now, in the age of neoliberalist tech dystopia, the Big C has become almost like sugar: whatever cake you are baking, it will still need to be in the ingredients. Whether it is a communist oligarchy, western kleptocracy, digital bankocracy, disaster capitalism or other flavour you’d like to concoct, the recipe book is deceptively long and quite repetitive, offering pretty much the same recipe of sponge cake throughout: intoxicatingly sweet, and always able to bounce back to pressure. Capitalism has proven to be the ultimate predatory system: able to survive on scraps here and there, and even eat itself if it needs to.
The Capitalist cake has relied on the same raising agent throughout its history: developing and implementing efficient systems of exploitation. Once everything on the planet had been price tagged, earth was converted into a massive conveyor belt almost overnight. Food was mass harvested. Products were mass produced. Goods were mass transported. Populations exploded. Buildings buckled under their own boiling hormones and exploded upwards, becoming skyscrapers. Our waistlines expanded too, as our own metabolic systems were too slow to keep up with the output frenzy of the cake factory. Humans mutated into a fat, sick version of the previous species.
Slavery and Mirrors
It is now well-established that without human slavery, and without the enslavement and exploitation of Nature’s resources, there would never have been a profit-turning capitalism. It is also well-established that without colonialism and White Theft there would be no US and UK as we know them today. What is less well accepted however is that our current system has turned us all into slaves. All 8 billion of us. Because a slave is someone who is “owned” and exploited by someone else in some way or another. When they have limitted career opportunities because of the colour of their skin, gender, background, beliefs or sexual orientation. When they are forced to spend all of their income on subsistence, buying all their food from the same “shop” that employs them in the first place. When they are forced into jobs they don’t want to do because these very jobs involve exploiting another person.
The secret ingredient of this system is that, just like a virus, it created self-perpetuating systems of exploitation. In the end, everything on the planet became a slave: natural resources, humans, species at the edge of extinction. And we are all working in a cotton plantation that has become over-exploited and weakened. It is getting infected with the fungus of climate change.
There is only one slave master on this planet: our flawed economic system.
(from the book Disposable Earth)