I look at the world today, with all its vicissitudes and hypocrisies and I feel like weeping. I do however recognize the work and effort that so many are putting into resolving these issues. I just hope we are not too late…
The combination of this image and Jane Goodall’s wisdom always brings a shiver up my spine. We are so blinded by silly things that we don’t appreciate the wonders of existence, the great and unique bond we share with every living organism on this planet, yet for some reason, some of us feel alone. Look around and take a moment to rethink. Feel the life around you. You’ll notice that you can’t help but smile…
We spend so much of our time blending in that we forget what makes us individuals. I spend a lot of time ranting and raving about the problems of the world, which for me is a much needed mental valve given that most of the people that surround me don’t want to discuss or try to find solutions to these issues. Each person has their own path to work for happiness, but through my own narrow window, the path to happiness still needs to be paved. There is work to be done. We can only begin to become a part of a community when we begin to actively defend it from what is coming right at us, we only become human beings when we begin to fight for our collective future. We need each and every single independent voice to strike out against conformity and lift their eyes above the rim, my dear friends it is time to rise above.
If you have ever nodded in agreement with anything said here, you know that you’ve got a responsibility, as much as everyone else out there, to speak out. Let your voice strike like thunder against oppression and injustice, let your actions shake apathy out of its roots and convince those around you to wake up from their slumber. You know as well as I do that we have a lot of work to do because these problems are not going to just go away every time we turn on our TVs. If it’s one small act, every single day, I know that we can turn away from the precipice, little by little we can.
Or maybe not. Be right back, Game of Thrones is on.
Whenever I see a little image like this, with very relevant and insane statistics that we should all be worried about and do something about it, I do shudder when I get to the great conclusion at the end of the flyer, with great big bold lettering claiming that “CAPITALISM DOESN’T WORK”. Ok, so one of the first rules I learned in academia is: define your terms. Just because I call someone an asshole every time I see them, does not make them an asshole, which is why just because everyone calls our system capitalism, does not make it capitalism.
Our current system is not capitalism as it was conceptualized. In an actual capitalist system there are consequences for actions. If you gamble and risk and it turns out you were misbehaving, you fail, and if you go bankrupt your assets are liquidated. On the other hand, if you are responsible and foster growth and don’t engage in destructively risky behaviour, you get to grow and assimilate chunks of other firms that have gone bankrupt. This way we ensure that those that do things well and by the book are rewarded and those habits and that culture persists. The risky, overly leveraged, irresponsible firms, go away, and so do their practices.
What we have seen in the last decades is a complete socialization of the market by guaranteeing lenders of last resort keep firms afloat, even if they should be allowed to sink. By keeping these institutions up and running, it prevents some unwanted economic rattling for a little while, as opposed to the long-term damage these firms and their behaviour do to the health of a country. This moral hazard of bailing out failing financial firms took away all accountability from their actions. Not a single CEO has seen his day in court for destroying depositors assets and forcing an entire nation to kowtow and write out a blank check to them.
When you have the ever greater consolidation of the largest companies, aka the merger between Time Warner and Comcast, you no longer have a free market, you have a monopoly, set up by crony deals and pure insidious corruption, which will do nothing to better the service brought to its customers. Why? Because there is 0 competition. Therefore it is not a free telecom market. You have a couple of incumbents which control their share of the market and they don’t interfere into each others businesses because it is more profitable this way and the pile of cash is growing disgustingly well. Might as well have the 4 or 5 just merge and get it over and done with, that’s how the trend follows.
Then we have the Citizens United case in the Supreme Court and the news this week that there would no longer be a cap on single campaign donation limits. One of the Justices argued that this would go far to limit corruption and bring more transparency to the electoral process. Sure, if you want to justify two corrupt decisions in a completely myopic reading of the Constitution, yeah, you could call the unlimited financing by any one individual or corporation (which is also an individual), a measure to curb corruption. Are you kidding me? Well, since it’s open season for corporations and the mega-rich to pick and choose their boys and girls in congress, then I think two things are in order:
1st: Redefine the United States for what it is. Yes it does have a democratic spirit, but functions in effect as a Plutocracy (Rule of the Rich). If you prefer Oligarchy you can also call it that.
2nd: Redefine the economic system as two-tiered. Socialism for the Rich, free-market for the rest. If you have a multi-billion dollar financial firm which behaves like a crack-head in a glass store, which breaks all the glass and then the government comes in and pays for you to not go bankrupt, that’s socialism. No ifs buts or maybes. If you’re a regular Joe and you can’t make your mortgage payments because your crops have been poisoned by nearby fracking operations, you lose your home, your business and your property is repossessed. You’re not getting any help from Uncle Sam, you’re just the right size to fail.
So what did we get from all of this? There isn’t Capitalism, there is Cronyism. There isn’t Democracy, there is Plutocracy. It is not a free-market because the rich get bailed out with everyone else’s money, and the rest get shafted.
And I’m talking about the United States because it’s the most extreme example, but I’m looking at you too “rest of the world”. So yeah, get your terms right.
Our species has an innate hunger for finding meaning in this uncertain reality we live in. From the harrowing days of the state of nature, to today’s seemingly chaotic world order, there are very few of us that don’t ask that most fateful of questions: what’s it all about? Searching for meaning is one of our most deep philosophical needs, one which drives so much a lot of our behaviour. After all, what’s the use of understanding yesterday and living today, if we don’t know where we’re going tomorrow?
The relaunch of Cosmos, with Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s masterful homage to Carl Sagan’s view of the universe, has led me to think a lot about things. It’s made me realize that the dream I had as a nerdy little kid, sitting in a trance devouring book after books, is still alive and well. As a matter of fact, with almost two decades since I formulated that dream, I think I now understand what it takes to make it come to fruition. I recall vividly the warning Sagan made about our species, warning that any species that did not leave its cradle was doomed to extinction. And that is my dream, to one day see a species united in one common cause: the exploration and colonization of space. And I don’t just mean our home around our Sun in the suburbs of our galaxy, I mean venturing out and spreading our tendrils across this universe. This is not a fictional dream, I believe this to my core, that we are meant to survive through the aeons and explore the full potential of the human species.
Which is why it frustrates me infinitely that we spend so much of our time embroiled in solvable drama. We have issues plaguing us that could be solved if only there was a concerted effort to do so. We can solve hunger, we can solve our climate crisis, we can solve misery, war, pestilence and death if we set our minds to it. I have no doubt of this, and if you set aside yourself for just a moment, you know it too.
We have searched for significance and have looked up at the heavens waiting for an answer, not realizing that our answer lies right there, in the great beyond. We were meant to flourish and take part in the magnum opus of the universe. At the rate we’re going however, we’ll be nothing more than a whimper in the overall scheme of things, a species which learned much but knew little and squandered an opportunity to participate in writing the annals of this cosmic tale. So, I ask all of you, as I ask myself each morning. Get your shit together and get with the plan; we have work to do.