What I have to say at this moment is more important than much of what I have written before. And, to be clear, I don’t write to complain; I write to enrich the understanding and empower the lives of those around me. I can’t do the good things I want to do on my own. So if you’re open to embracing the possibility of a greater life for yourself and others, as I have, then carry on reading.
Surely everyone has heard of the expression “you are entitled to your own opinion.” Many, out of a commitment to notions of individuality and even liberty, embrace this idea. It seems fair on the outside, but this idea is, in the most honest way I can put it, stupid. It is stupid because, as philosopher Patrick Stokes puts it, “it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned.” In other words, this idea does two things. One is that it creates a stubborn attitude where non-experts think of themselves as intellectually equal to experts, which can lead to scenarios where, say, no one can stop you from saying that vaccines cause autism, no matter how many times that claim has been disproven, because, after all, you’re somehow ‘entitled to your opinion’. And the fact of the matter is that you’re definitely not entitled to an opinion – you’re entitled to believe in what you can argue for. And the reality is that you can’t argue with the facts! What this means is that, secondly, every person who thinks of themselves as being Republican and Conservative needs to reflect and understand that, particularly in a socioeconomic sense, they are no longer entitled to many of their falsified, archaic and austere opinions for what is best for our economy and even what is best for our contemporary society – the facts show that a world operating in adherence to right-winged socioeconomic policies, in the form of trickle-down economics, corporate subsidizing, deregulation of capital, austerity measures such as cutting welfare and education budgets, and so on, have mostly brought about harm to a majority of the world’s people, especially ecosystems, and have mostly benefited but a small social elite: scientists at the World Wide Fund for Nature reported just last September that almost half of the world’s species have died in the past 40 years; poverty and wealth inequality are higher than ever before in recorded American history; the USA’s top .01% owns as much wealth as the bottom 90% of American citizens; the rich are, meanwhile, richer than ever before, and all signs show that, for them, just like people at large, there is no such thing as enough. The destruction of the earth, the pain of the exploited worker, and our societal problems at large, will only keep getting worse, and man as we know it will reach an end, which is just decades away, where masses of people will die and the rest of the remaining species on earth will be eradicated and seize to have existence in the universe.
My friend Nayeli asked me the other day how did we even begin to make our way towards this dark point. It is so damn vital to understand this question because it might be the only way for us to stop the end, which is securely in view, from happening. So what can be said about this question is this: the destructive culture of today’s industry is no different than that of when it was born. At the end of the American Civil War the United States passed the 14th Amendment, which made it unlawful for any state to restrict any single person from pursuing life, liberty, and due property; this was intended to improve the civic conditions of black people, who were historically deprived of these rights. Around this same time industry began to take form, where its businesses only operated under the strict commission and charter of government orders and public interest. Hence, corporations mostly worked out of necessity, such as being charted to build a bridge for a city, and nothing more. In order for industry to expand to the levels they have go on to eventually reach – levels where today they are omnipresent in virtually every social sphere in our lives – they needed to supersede these regulations. During the years 1890 to 1910 alone, around 300 cases were put to court from entities trying to attain judicial protection of their newfound rights under the 14th amendment; only around 13 of these cases were from black persons, the other 287 or so were from early corporations whose lawyers made the first ever attempts at arguing that corporations were less like a community and more like people: individual, legal consumers that can buy and sell property, borrow money, sue and be sued, and so on. Because businesses carry out many very same actions as people, they wanted to be legally treated less like a controlled, artificial community that responds only to another’s orders, like a slave does, and, instead, be treated more like a free person: The Supreme Court became convinced, and deemed, for the first time, that capital is a person. Corporations have since augmented their profiteering, their manufacturing, their ecological impact, their power to a global scale and have done business however way they pleased. Industry has since committed, at all costs, to improve their capacity to fulfill their only real legal obligation: to provide for the needs of their stockholders and owners, and, by design, as philosopher Noam Chomsky always argues, fulfilling this obligation does not involve a moral consciousness for people and their well-being, and certainly not for the environment and its stability.
Today, corporations have since centralized power and wealth to a global level, and by virtue of such power they have achieved the capability of reaching an aim that before was out of their reach: political power. In 2010, in the now infamous Citizens United vs FEC Supreme Court case, just like after the Civil War centuries ago, business interests have continued to rely on judicial powers to grant them the same liberties that individual people have, in this case the right to contribute money to political campaigns. And in a world where as little as 737 companies control 80% of the global economy, the implications are grave, yet they have almost done it. Political power is the last frontier that society still has: corporations already had vast control over the media, and, therefore, mainstream cultural relations as we know it; businesses already had chief control of property, where trading agreements of many forms have allowed them to outsource almost anywhere they want and do what they please with the world’s resources, whether human or ecological; they already had control of the products that we lust over, dangling it before our eyes, leading us to buy the iPhones that we know are partly made by impoverished children in dangerous factories in China, that, in light of these realities, we know in our hearts that these are products we shouldn’t buy, but we do so anyways out of certain degrees of self-centeredness and sometimes even vain notions of individualism – and as we either mindlessly indulge in consumerism, or as we take our time struggling to reconcile the morality behind our consumption, industry has taken advantage of our collective naiveté and inaction, and now has access to political power by putting their representatives in political office at a higher extent than ever before, leaving no one to stop them.
Political power is not in their total control, yet. Life on earth is not over, yet. We still have a chance to change the course of history. It begins, on a political level, to vote for those who will start passing laws that regulate capital, that redistribute wealth via taxes on the wealthy, that place severe sanctions on economic activities that recklessly damage the environment, that gives power back to structures of public good and interest, such as worker unions, cooperative communities, welfare, ecological protection, scientific innovation, and so on.
The first thing we must do is pay attention to the reality. On the one hand, during the 2014 midterms only 12% of millennials (people 30 years and younger) voted – disgraceful. Almost 20% of us voted in 2012; Get your shameful ass up and vote in 2016 and whenever possible locally! And, on the other hand, I endeavor to live under the moral principle of being as critical of the things that I like as much as I am critical of the things I don’t like, for to limit my criticism and doubts to what I dislike is, I believe, to bring upon my consciousness its own decadence. Therefore, I have plenty of critical things to say about progressives, egalitarians, and the left at large, and what we need to do in order to improve our own condition and start, at the least, voting in earnest - this will come later. For now, just know that no person is entitled to their opinions; we must understand our reality, to truly get in touch with it, and to support our own convictions with empirical evidence so that we may properly defend them with our life if we had to, because that is what is at stake here. I wrote the other day over how Republicans managed to take over Congress regardless of their failures and even crimes against society; this, on the surface, represents a loss for egalitarians, but this loss also demonstrates that people everywhere are confused and even scared, and don’t know where to look to for help on their growingly difficult circumstances. And we must tell them, as I am telling you now, that it is not the far right, elite conservatives who can help, for they have largely lied to you and even themselves – it is us, believers in real positive change, who can help. And we need to be knowledgeable, confident, and excited about what progressive changes can entail.