“Capitalism” In Eight-Hundred Years

When we hear the noun “Feudalism,” we think of an outdated socioeconomic system, which was replaced by later systems, because it was sub-optimal for human flourishing in various ways. If we are mentally plastic enough to identify a past socioeconomic system as sub-optimal, flawed, and something that can be (and should be) doffed and replaced, why do we have such difficulty doing that with our own current system?

Eight-hundred (800) years from now, the distance between the height of “Feudalism” and the present moment, one of two outcomes will have occurred if the climatologists are correct:

(1) human flourishing will have been extremely diminished, if not annihilated, by the effects the current socioeconomic system, called “Capitalism,” had on the environment. Surely, the Earth will recover many times over after humans are gone, clearing the stage for later apex predators. The question is: will humans even reign for a few-hundred-thousand years? This would be a paltry fraction of the dinosaurs, who ruled for well over one-hundred million; or

(2) the socioeconomic system called “Capitalism,” like “Feudalism” before it, will be a curiosity in the history books. A sub-optimal arrangement that led to rank inequality, brutality, inhumanity, and the despoiling of the ecosystem, which had been long since replaced by something better (if itself not optimal). If humans are indeed to be flourishing eight-hundred (800) years from now, one aspect of the future socioeconomic arrangement will be that it is environmentally sustainable enough to preserve such flourishing.

If we are mentally plastic enough to conceive of other socioeconomic arrangements as brutal, destructive, and deleterious, why do why have so much trouble doing the same with the one under which we presently suffer? Why do we strangely treat mere current norms and practices as immutable rules?

Hieronymus Bosch - The Conjurer

A Libertarian Thought Experiment

Anarchy Symbol

I have quite a few libertarian and anarchist friends. They are infinitely correct on the horrific degradation of civil liberties and American imperialism, which are out of control, unsustainable, and completely immoral. With our incessant aggression and drone strikes upon nations that never attacked us, regularly killing civilians including women and children, the United States is the largest terrorist organization in the world today. And we all pay for it with our tax dollars, as we eat our submarine sandwiches and watch men in tights pummel one another on giant screens for our distracted enjoyment.

Here, however, I will explain why libertarianism/anarchy is not a tenable societal arrangement. I use those words interchangeably here, although I realize on the margin there is a distinction. Other than that, feel free to point out the errors in my thinking, if you find some.

To begin: libertarianism, like all minority positions, has the luxury of being an argument-in-principle, and never a practical policy. And minority position you libertarians are: have a look around your cohort. You are, as a general rule — subject as are all generalities to exceptions — young, able-bodied persons, or older persons who have already accumulated wealth to be protected (whether by chance-of-birth or a combination of good genes and motivation). Generally, you are white males. I do not encounter many poor libertarians; aged libertarians without money; disabled libertarians; libertarians of racial or ethnic minority backgrounds; mentally retarded libertarians; mentally ill libertarians; sick libertarians; etc. Yet the total population is an amalgam of all these types. So minority position you will remain, and thus you can argue in principle forever, because you will never make actual policy.

However, for the sake of argument, let’s conduct a thought experiment. Let’s put libertarians in power. They must now make the policies by which our entire grouping of humans, called a ‘nation,’ lives. The first libertarian principle translates to an easy-enough policy: ‘everyone is free to behave as they see fit, because everyone’s life is their own.’ Great!

But then anyone with a lukewarm I.Q. asks: ‘wait, what if you murder someone?’ The libertarian policy responds deftly: ‘. . . . so long as you do no harm to others!’ Great! Now we have fleshed out libertarian policy #1, the only law: ‘do no harm to others.’

But then the three questions arise which sink the political ship. The questions that someone arguing in principle can avoid with abstract axioms, but someone making actual policy must actually deal with: (1) what is ‘harm to others’? (2) What do we do when persons break the one law? (3) What about potential harm? How on earth do our libertarian policymakers handle these questions? In turn:

1. Overt harm to others is easy. One person invades another’s bodily autonomy. Great! This is illegal in our libertarian nation. But what about less direct harms? The secondhand smoke of cigarettes? Can we smoke in bars? Perhaps ‘smoking bars’ and ‘non-smoking bars,’ so persons can freely choose what type of bar to patronize. How about public parks, or the sidewalk, where someone might pass who does not want to inhale the secondhand cancer? Or what about the peddlers of cigarettes? We know this product is deadly. Should an ‘I just sold it and nothing more’ argument protect the vendor? How about a vendor who builds a nuclear bomb packaged with deft instructions on how to smuggle it into a metropolitan center? Is an ‘I just sold it and nothing more’ defense airtight?

2. Second: in our libertarian reality, someone breaks the one law of ‘no harm to others.’ Perhaps he harms someone with some uncommon weapon, like a personally-owned tank or fighter jet (after all, all weapons are legal and available on the anarchic market). How do we stop him? Must the citizenry band together with their own weapons? Grandma included? And if the Kitty Genovese effect takes over, and no one stops the criminal, is he free? Or do the citizens pool their money together to pay something akin to a police force that has a mandate to stop such criminals? Who oversees this force for corruption, and who commands it? Once the criminal is caught, do we have a public court system? Who pays for it? Do we have prisons, executions, or something else, and who pays for those? Or are all crimes merely punishable by fines? What if the perpetrator does not pay? Who decides what kinds of crimes get what punishments, and by what process? If you’ve instituted a police force, courts, and legal concepts, you’ve just created a government bureaucracy with authority and force, out of necessity. Perhaps much smaller than the current mess, but government nonetheless.  Un-anarchy.

3. Finally, what about potential harm? In our libertarian world, am I free to build weapons of mass destruction in my basement, if I can figure out how? Or am I free to shoot bullets perpendicularly across a busy highway to my heart’s delight, so long as no bullet actually strikes a motorist? Libertarian thinking is wholly reactive, and never regulatory or preventative. The axiom ‘no harm, no crime’ implies any number of such absurdities should be legal: building nukes in home kitchens, shooting wantonly across freeways, suspending toxic and carcinogenic chemicals in a giant vat above the town’s drinking water with a single string of dental floss, so long as the dental floss does not break . . . . There is no limit to this for the imaginative. Or, for a real-world example, should that mentally ill and suicidal man in Ohio a few years back have been allowed to keep a private zoo of tigers and lions?

This is why libertarianism/anarchism can never be more than a tug affecting policy. It is not a tenable social policy on its own, because all actualized policies must answer complex questions. It is a useful anchor in the social dialog to drag the policy towards more freedom and less bureaucracy, but it is not itself a policy. It is a mere principle. When advocating for actual policy, you must answer the above questions and countless more somehow, concretely, and realize other self-described libertarians will answer them differently.

We are on a spectrum, not living in a binary world of the ‘free’ and the ‘unfree.’ Real life is infinitely complex, and common sense demonstrates that the ‘actual freedom’ of one individual in many cases is less valuable than ‘freedom from potential harm’ for the many. So I say: raise your valuable voices to move the marker on the spectrum toward freedom. But stop thinking, implying, or stating as though an anarchic form of societal arrangement can or will ever happen among we humans, who are, after all, a tribal, social, and hierarchical species that depends on one another to survive. Not happening.

The Two Understandable Moralities

The only two moralities I’ve ever understood were those of the Jain sect, and of Peter Singer. The first draws the line at ‘everything alive.’ The orthodox practitioners actually carry a broom about and sweep in front of their steps, in a symbolic attempt to not step upon even microscopic life forms. A little untenable in modern, non-hermetic life.

The second draws the line at ‘everything human.’ It finds fault and violence in mere inaction. By not helping when we know there is suffering, even somewhere foreign and distant, we are not behaving morally. But, as we know from all the social sciences, we are a tribal species, and what is most proximate and genetically-related and self-narratively important concerns us most. Our concerns are circumscribed by our limitations. This is the essence of ‘tribalism,’ or in other cases, ‘egoism.’ Freud — holla!

There is no end to this story. Thank you for tuning in.

♥ Sterling —

Hypocritical Humanity and Jesus Bullshit

Can anyone show me a single human being that is not hypocritical? In my mind, I ran through a quick ad hoc list of supposedly principled persons:

Gandhi (wife beater);

Martin Luther King, Jr. (wife cheater);

Mother Teresa (checked into the finest of western hospitals when ill, while requiring austerity and prayer to ‘heal’ the poor she ‘helped’);

Ron Paul (editor of racist newsletters);

Jesus of Nazareth (compare Matthew 5:22 to Matthew 7:26);

Saint Reagan (doubling the national debt while calling for small government); and

Ayn Rand (suckler upon the public teat).

So, in our rhetoric, why do we so often strive for the conclusion ‘he/she/you/they are a hypocrit?’ If *every human being* is, by nature, hypocritical, this is a completely useless and unenlightening conclusion. And it serves to immediately distract from the actual content being discussed. I do believe we might be a nation of fools.

Myself included. I’m not trying to be a hypocrit here. But I will be going to hell. And if you read the Jesus bullshit I pointed you to, you’ll know why.

You Wake Up

You wake up. Everything is strange. You don’t much remember who you are, or what role you are to play, but you know something must be done. Something must be done because you *exist*. It could be anything, anything at all — governed, of course, by the rules of existence as they are presented to you — but within that, a truly shuffled deck. Holy fuck! You exist! (For now, at least, and now is much too brief.) So what are you going to do!?

The Purpose of Life

 

 

THE PURPOSE OF LIFE

The purpose of life is quite plain to see. It is the endeavor – perhaps the only one – in which we all invariably engage. And the plural first-person pronoun ‘we’ here is not limited to just we humans. It applies to all life.

Wait, hold up, stop, stop, stop. We’ve just encountered our first hurdle. What on Mars does it mean to be alive!? I know I’m alive, I know the marijuana plant pieces in your glove box were once alive, and I know the virus that has burrowed into my foot-skin and erupted as a doppelganger cauliflower is alive. (Okay, okay, okay, I know viruses are perhaps too simple to be considered ‘alive,’ but give it to me on credit here, for the sake of the continued existence of the compound noun ‘doppelganger cauliflower.’)

On the other flipper, I know the metal pan into which I just hungover-dly dumped a can of cream of mushroom soup replete with a surprise stranger’s single pubic hair is not alive, the old afghan blanket wrapped around me that gives me childish and sentimental comfort is not alive, and my grandfather is not alive. The last bit there is especially confounding. Right after grandpa switched from alive to not alive, he looked very much the same as he did prior to the switch – the same as all of us living mouth breathers still up and about and hanging our ass-cracks out of our loungewear as we publicly shop for useless subsistence-wage-manufactured bullshit in giant retail warehouses, while other people outside remain cold, hungry, and sick.

 

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What’s that little hair in there?

 

So why is the be-pubed metal pan not alive, while the foot cauliflower is? Well, the omniscient internet god has cursorily informed me that biologists have come up with a few characteristics to differentiate dead pubic pans from blooming Brassica Oleracea parasites. To wit:

1. Growing. If you grow from small to big, like the mosaic wart that I just passed to you in the wet gym shower, you might very well be alive. Put a new mark on the door frame.

2. Cellular Composition. You are made of cells, the most basic plastic square in the Lego starship of life. But wait a minute. Wait just one minute here. I’m not a biologist or anything – my advanced studies were in the form of the abstract and economically-worthless thought-castles known as ‘the humanities’ – but I do believe I recognize a logical tautology when I see one. ‘You are alive if you are alive.’ Well, very good then.

3. Anabolism. Sounds like a gonzo porn studio. Means you transform shit outside of yourself – maybe the box of Twinkies and Bisphenol-A-riddled Mountain Dew you just bought off a metal rack at Wal*Mart – into cells (the tautological font of life, see #2, above). Your consumptive mouth is the entry point to a mystical engine that transforms non-life into life. And you thought you didn’t have any special talents! Fuh. This one pretty much makes you a god.

4. Stimulus-Response. You get poked, you say ‘ow.’ Or ‘uhhh, yes!’ Depending on the poking.

5. Reproduction. After a certain kind of poking, the genital slimes combine, and in something akin to the most horrific of Cronenberg scenes, slowly transform into a humanoid-golem-thing. That eventually ambulates around the retail warehouses to buy terrible bullshit to put it in its godly mouth to create further life in a prolonged and cyclical living horrorshow.

 

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I’m Aliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!

 

You got it kiddos? That’s life. The living thing is the thing that gets bigger, consumes shit, responds with shallow, stupid satisfaction to the stimulus of insultingly moronic pablum, and creates half-copies of itself if it can cajole, force, or drug another sufficiently similar living thing to engage in coitus with it. Sometimes, two living things not sufficiently compatible to baby-make end up genitally probing one another – but fair warning, this can be fatally dangerous. It is best to keep your insides on the inside, folks: only fuck things that more-or-less look pretty much like you.

So consuming, shitting, and making more dull-normal children isn’t a bad start to understanding the purpose of life. But these are mere descriptors of what life is; they only describe how we distinguish the non-living bullets from the living human bodies we assiduously shoot them through. But do they really serve as bona fide purposes? Let’s see . . . .

 

BABY MAKING

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Coitus.

 

Could baby-making be life’s purpose? Well, if you remember, we’re looking for the thing we all invariably engage in. Now, by your social network feeds you must know this is not the case with baby-making. You have either made a baby, and therefore are incessantly flooding the bandwidth with digital ones and zeros representing your alarmingly average child because everyone needs to see him or her at all times always, and they surely could not find it at all obnoxious, or you have not made a baby, and therefore are drinking yourself to ruin, wondering what the point of life is, and writing bizarre internet articles that no one will read, but which will make for good professional psychologist talking head fodder after you become infamous for doing something horrific. Point is, kiddos, not everyone makes babies, or wants to, or even wants to engage in the act that can lead to making babies. So cross it off: this isn’t the purpose of life.

 

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Let us not even chance making babies – by refraining from the baby making act altogether, William.

 

PLEASURE

How about good old-fashioned stimulus, then, likely in the form of physical pleasure or agreeable sensation – could that be the name of the game? Let’s just ask this guy, who is better at life than you and your next thousand descendants combined will ever be:

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No.

 

SHIT

Okay, okay, we’re running short on big ideas here. How about consumption – eating shit, buying shit, owning shit, having shit, using shit, breaking shit, McMansions, strip malls, posting pictures of your heinous possessions on social networks, useless plastic folderol, toxic children’s toys, millions of vehicles constantly spewing toxic gases from their six-foot large-diameter-ed metal cancer blow holes, the saline bags in your chest, your adultery-abetting smart phone, and all the other fuck-all?

To begin: if consumption turns out to be the purpose of life, I will personally accept that turn of events as irrefutable proof that the multiverse exists, and we are all living in a variant governed by none other than the Anti-God itself.

But I don’t believe that’s the case. We Americans – five percent (5%) of the world’s human population – consume twenty-five percent (25%) of the world’s resources and create a full half of humanity’s solid waste. Despite this yawning material privilege and entitlement, we for some reason save our most ravenous consumption for scores of anti-depressant pharmaceuticals, which we pop into our ignorance spouts with “astounding” zeal. This, even though the pills facilitate our breast cancers and kill us. Well, I suppose there’s nothing more American then selling deadly products to the interminably stupid populous for a tidy profit, so let’s give ‘em a pass. Pop the pill and feel better, folks – it’s not the American way to address root causes. Dump your piss bucket on the top-of-the-flame symptoms, and be done with it. There’s prime-time television to watch.

 

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Happiness.

 

So mass consumption is a strong correlate of mass anti-depressant use, and Americans’ materialistic narcissism prevents other humans from consuming their equitable share of the planetary bounty, and those other humans become the losers of the zero sum resources game. Yet the fifty-three Chinese people who together only get to consume as much as the one, single, solitary You continue to live anyhow. So we’re still missing the bull’s-eye on the purpose of life. The thing we – the big, big we – we growing, consumptive, reproductive things – we living things – all invariably do.

But . . . wait . . . thinking about the pills . . . the pills that numb the inexorable depression of simply being alive . . . and that cause the cancers . . . that kill you . . . . Kill . . . you. Kill you. Kill. Death. Death.

By Jove, I think we’ve found it.

The purpose of life, folks, is to die. It is the vital negative, the yin to life’s yang. The Bert to life’s Ernie. It is an inevitable coda, one towards which all life, from big human you to the smallest and cutest foot cauliflower, careens daily. Surprise! A pube in the soup. In one of many of life’s circular arrangements, you will eventually become the stuff of anabolism – your basic chemical and energetic constituents will become the consumable crap that some other living thing uses through its godly mouth to make more of its own cells and grow, until it too dies, and on and on and on. Just as the crap you’re putting in your mouth now was once alive. Life begets life, life begets death, and death begets life. In a very physical, material way. Involving mouths and anuses.

 

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We’re both going to die, Bert.

 

The social-network-post-happy baby makers, in their reproductive endeavor, have consigned their own children to certain death. But without the death sentence, the live children could never have existed in the first place. So basically, you’re fucked. Not to worry too much, though: the digital ones and zeroes approximating your child’s visage will last a very long time – much longer than his or her lungs will draw breath – on some for-profit corporation’s redundant servers. But remember, they own a transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free license to the copyright.

This endpoint is so weighty and imminent that a great many people skip the masturbatory stanzas of living altogether. They might choose, for example, to let a non-living piece of metal occupy the same space as their organic brain for a very brief moment of time. Then they are either just as non-alive as the bit of metal, or through accidental failure (and why not? – they weren’t very good at life to begin with!), they become what we call a ‘vegetable.’ A metaphor to another living thing, because they are still alive. As opposed, to say, ‘dead as a door-nail,’ a metaphor to a non-living thing, reserved for the non-living.  And coincidentally, also something you can neither consume to grow more of yourself, nor something you can fuck to make a brand new half-you out of genital slime.

So the very purpose of life is to die, to make more stuff for other life to consume, to eventually die, to make again – circles, circles, circles. Got it? But we’ve got these big, self-aware organic brains that let us perceive and sense our infinitesimally abbreviated circle-arcs. It would be easier if we were on unconscious autopilot, and the life-death-consume-life-death machine just went about its machinations in quiet, repetitive peace. But it doesn’t. The light shines brightly upon the merry-go-round. And you can see everything. While you are waiting for the life machine to chew you up and spit you out – the very purpose of the life machine, after all – what the hell are you going to do with yourself?

You can really choose anything, anything at all.  Except ‘not dying,’ of course.  Because that is your purpose. Okay kiddos. Act now, or forever hold your peace.