Labor Day 2011: in which we watch capitalism dig its own grave, and plant the seeds for a better world

On Labor Day, my students and I discussed “The Communist Manifesto” by Marx & Engels.  We found the Manifesto remarkably prophetic, describing corporate globalization to a T long before either word had been invented, as well as the recurring, ever-more-destructive cycles of boom and bust that Marx predicted would cause capitalism to “dig its own grave.”

We talked about how Marx didn’t envision the final limit to growth being the carrying capacity of our planet, and how the climate crisis may be what finally does the job of sending capitalism over the edge.

But no one could muster much enthusiasm for Marx’s conviction that the proletariat–ie, working folks–would then rise, take over, and make the world a better place.

Looking at the disastrous social experiments in the USSR, China and Cuba, it’s hard to put much credence in Communism as a viable alternative.

It’s also hard to imagine that a social system led by the working class would automatically be any better than the one we have now, dominated by the technocrats and financiers. We’re all human, after all.

Human in our failings–but also human in our creative power to envision new possibilities.

We finished off Labor Day at Simon’s Rock yesterday by having the whole Sophomore class gather to watch “Metropolis,” a visionary film that shows how a young man from the ruling elite is moved by love to become the “heart” that joins the “head”–the technocratic elite–and the “hands,” the workers who actually do the physical labor that makes the vision a reality.

In the allegory of the film, this young, well-educated man provides the missing link, compassion, that can heal a society that has become terribly unhappy in its alienation–the coddled rulers as unhappy, apparently, as the oppressed workers.

It has always been the case that the educated elite have a powerful role to play in social change, if our action springs from the heart.  To survive the coming cataclysms of the 21st century, humanity is going to need all its technological prowess, joined with the age-old wisdom of the peoples who have never embraced western “civilization,” who still know how to make subsistence a happy and healthy way of life.

Head, hands and heart, joining in the common goal of survival.

There are groups now who are forming these kinds of alliances and working actively to create the path towards a sustainable future.  For instance, the Pachamama Alliance, and all the groups who worked on creating the Earth Charter.

The only way capitalism is likely to survive climate change is if the economic elites crack down on the masses with military power–mind controlling hands in heartless fashion. We’re seeing that happen now in various smaller countries in the world.

As a strategy for global domination, I don’t think it will work–it just takes too much in the way of resources.

How much better it would be to have a blueprint for planetary survival based on heart, growing out of our deep love for the natural world that created us and continues to sustain us, despite all we have done and continue to do to destabilize and destroy her.

The Giving Tree is my least favorite book in the world, and I can’t imagine why parents continue to buy it for their children.  Let’s write a new book in which instead of destroying our giving tree, our planet, we nourish her and watch her grow with delight.

Let capitalism step off into the grave.  And let a new world be born, in love, light and laughter.

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