By Roland Watson, email@example.com
January 1, 2018
I apologize for being pessimistic, but here’s an idea to start the New Year. With only one clear exception, bad people almost always win. The exception – purely merit-based activities: music – the best guitarists or violinists; art – the best painters; sport – the fastest or strongest (but not through drugs); mathematics – the most original theorists; etc. In all other cases – getting power, getting rich, getting an advantage in any type of way, the most unethical among us prevail. The only conclusion is that we are wired this way, by evolutionary instincts. Evolution is survival of the fittest, and for humans this means being ruthless and completely selfish and immoral. When we look around the world today, with all these horrible people and problems, this is why. The society of the planet’s dominant species is run by literally its worst members. Democracy is the best strategy that has been conceived to prevent this, but now, in those places where it even exists, it is being subverted more and more effectively.
So, who are these bad people? To me, it’s the rich. Every country is controlled by the rich, although this is covered up by a range of ideologies. But it isn’t all the rich. As with anything, gross generalizations are misguided. If you inherit a farm that has been in your family for generations, and now because of inflation it’s worth a huge sum, you’re not – possibly – who I am talking about. What I mean, in addition to overt dictators, is people who will do anything to get to the top of the business world, and “earn” the staggering wealth this generates, and also individuals who are obsessed with growing their “portfolios,” in stocks, other instruments and also property investments. These people almost always live in or near urban environments.
There’s a quote that says “power corrupts,” but it’s really money. The obsession with getting more and more money is the most corrupting thing of all. People can be terrible for lots of reasons, but other than a few clinical psychopaths down deep it’s usually about money.
Going forward, things like idealism and activism seem almost pointless. The only action that has been demonstrated to lead to structural change, to topple the bad, is revolution. In some cases it works, such as the American Revolution, but in others it doesn’t, notably Russia and the Bolsheviks and also Glasnost. In many ways the world is collapsing right now. There doesn’t appear to be anything that we can do.
At my age – 60s, one of the things that I have become more aware of is the intergenerational transfer of power. We all age and die, and at some point the next generation takes over, and then the one after that. For the U.S., I think the generation that contributed to the victory in World War II was pretty special. But, many if not most were also racists, and they further fell prey to the idea of a development utopia. It took decades to realize that “progress” and never-ending growth were delusions. Nonetheless, I think my own generation – baby boomers – are pathetic in comparison. We were never really challenged, and did not achieve our full potential. Through the above evolutionary foundation, the worst among us gained wealth and power.
I wonder what future generations will do when they get the chance. We now understand ecology, and democracy versus dictatorship. It’s not that difficult at this point to figure out what needs to be done (install democracy, protect all remaining natural habitats, minimize child-bearing and consumption – strive to have the Least Possible Impact, and be extremely careful with, and regulate properly, the use of new technology). But will the leaders of these generations also be terrible people, so that nothing changes, or will these age groups somehow reconfigure the social selection process so that political leaders are skilled and principled, nature is restored, and wealth is distributed fairly?
The problem is this: Humans are easily conditioned, and we also have an almost limitless ability to adapt. We are persuaded, not convinced. We choose emotion over reason. We are so susceptible that we fall for voices simply because they are loud. We accept the lies, foremost, “that’s just the way things are,” and its corollary, “it’s pointless to fight back.” Then we adapt.
Democracy is the only system where we can slow things down to such an extent that people, many of them at least, make informed choices.
We need to transcend our nature, and the historical basis of evolution, by being thoughtful and by rejecting competition for cooperation. And, we need another revolution – against the rich. However, it can’t be a communist revolution, which just created a new class of rich. There has to be a different follow-through. But to start there does have to be wealth confiscation. Excess wealth has to be redistributed. In some societies it is still possible, because of democracy, for this to be non-violent. In the dictatorships, though, more typical revolutions will be required. (Even mass popular uprisings inevitably have violence, if only by the dictators against the protestors.)
There are basically two options for the follow-through. The first one is to block, not just tax, massive intergenerational asset transfers, which is how over time the obsession with money and its resultant criminality is passed along. Coupled with this would be extremely high taxes, say 90% or more, on exorbitant incomes. The other option is to combine the wealth transfer block with the criminalization of corporate profitability, whereby all for-profit enterprises are prohibited and instead restructured as non-profits. (This would do away with the outlandish incomes.) The rich like to argue that people need the opportunity to be obscenely wealthy to be motivated. That is of course nonsense.
Human society, and the natural world, are being destroyed because of the “leadership” of the rich. They have to be stopped. Fortunately, they don’t live in castles anymore. They are still easy to find, though, but for the most part unprotected. In the dictatorships, go find them. In the democracies, take away their power to destroy through a popular uprising at the ballot. Elect grassroots leaders with a supermajority and then immediately raise taxes for high incomes and block extreme inheritance. Then take a long, hard look at the profit motive.