“While modern capitalism constantly develops new needs in order to increase consumption, people’s dissatisfaction remains the same as ever. Their lives no longer have any meaning beyond a rush to consume, and this consumption is used to justify the increasingly radical frustration of any creative activity or genuine human initiative — to the point that people no longer even see this lack of meaning as important.” - Pierre Canjuers, Socialisme ou Barbarie #27

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

A Brief Rant on the Nature of Things

Every day, somewhere on earth, water falls from the sky.  Water is essential for all life, which is why it makes sense to drink it every day.  The sun shines, providing ample heat and light for most of the year, and allows for photosynthesis, which makes plants grow.  Many plants are edible, and it is possible to live as a human by eating nothing but plants.  We are a part of a self-sustaining ecosystem.  It took billions of years to evolve, with no personal effort on the part of you or I, whose very existence as the particular individuals we are is astronomically improbable.  And yet here we are.

On the one hand, nothing could be better fit for the definition of the word, "miracle".  On another hand (there are more than two) all of this happened entirely naturally, with no reason to suppose there was any intentional or divine intervention in these natural processes that led to our existence.  So nothing could be a less fitting definition of the word "miracle".  It depends how you describe it.  And however you describe it, the result is the same: here we are.  It's strange and wonderful and horrifying, and just like those, or the word "miracle", or any other word, it just is.  Here we are, and don't we know it.

I have always found our subjection of these perfectly basic necessities of life - water, food, heat and light, and shelter - into our fallible, corruptible social and economic infrastructures to be obscene.  There is something deeply wrong about it.  I think we all know that, whatever our politics.  There is enough food and water for all of us, yet hundreds of millions of us are malnourished or starving.  There is enough room for all of us, yet even on the affluent outskirts our enormous planet, people are homeless and destitute.  And all the while the shine is shining, drinkable water is raining down on us, and edible plants are blooming into life.  Technology now exists to automate all the processes we may wish to implement to make the use of these raw materials as simply as possible for the masses.  In India, one of the most populous countries on the planet, solar power is now cheaper than that derived from fossil fuels.  There is absolutely no reason for anyone to have to give over the time working in exchange for money they then use to pay for these freely available abundant necessities.

And yet that is what all of us do.  It's so natural and normal that even to resent it comes across as irresponsible or contrarian.  I find this objectionable.  A natural progression of this line of thought would be towards total anti-capitalism, but for all the problems with that system, I'm not sure such extremity is necessary.  We may not need a world without money, but I'm convinced we do need a world without the need for money.  A world where participation in the market is possible, perhaps even encouraged to a limited extent, but not required for those who would rather just opt out, and live simply, without possessions or wealth.  It shouldn't be that hard to bring such a world about.  It really shouldn't.