Having recently read a good portion of Tolstoy’s societal critique, translated “What to do” or “What then must we do” in English, I have some pretty heady thoughts running around upstairs. Firstly, I recommend that anyone and everyone read this short book.
Next, I have been faced with the moral dilemma and choice of my lifetime. What do I do? Now that I know that we are living in an empire of control and that we are collectively serfs on the larger plantation so to speak, what on earth do I (and we, collectively) do about it? What do we do with the knowledge that we have, and how can we focus our energy in an effective manner that will create a world that we want our children to inherit? How can we take steps to throw down the seemingly overwhelming influence of corruption and greed in all forms (governmental, corporate, local, federal, etc.)?
Firstly, we need to identify the real root of the problem. And I think that Tolstoy hits the nail right on the head. The real problem is the greed and selfishness that arises from a polarized society. We all hold the seed of that corruption in ourselves, and can work to keep it in power, or to dismantle it. I think the whole unifying force that keeps the super-wealthy and entitled classes where they are, is that the rest of us lower class peons have this silly illusion that we might just hit the jackpot one day and when we do, we don’t want to share either. We want to heap up the imaginary wealth that we don’t yet have and keep it from being taken by those evil socialists or beggars who think they own everyone else’s stuff. I think this mentality has reached insane proportions in the U.S., which also happens to have the worst inequality of any industrialized nation.
Tolstoy wrote while he was working in the slums something to the effect of (and this is a bad paraphrase), “it was not until that moment that I realized the truth, and the truth was, that it was my wealth that had created their poverty.”
He was speaking of his attempt to understand the poor, and how to best remedy their wretched state of existence. He came to realize that it was his very own great wealth that contributed to their poverty. He compared whores to the nobles that visited them and how the money that the upper-classes spent on vanity and show brought men and women from the countryside into the cities to compete for this money, and in actuality created the very ghettos where poverty and depravity thrived.
We are not living in the same century as Tolstoy, and things are not exactly the same. I would argue that someone’s success doesn’t necessarily create poverty for others, but it is the way in which they achieve wealth that creates either poverty or well-being. For instance if I made a fortune in a multi-level marketing scam by enlisting my friends and family members under me in the pyramid, then I would consider that creating poverty.
Not all success leads to others being deprived of their own success, but increasingly in today’s world the elite are busy creating more rent-seeking schemes to gobble up the pie instead of seeking to increase the size of the pie for everyone. We have fallen into a trap of wanting something for nothing, or for as little as possible. This has lead society as a whole to be very busy figuring out ways to screw other people out of their time and money in increasingly involuntary ways. Car companies make more off loans than the cars, so they specialize in selling people too much at too high a price to keep them enslaved to a payment and rolling over the loan that will never be paid back. But that’s okay in a debt-based monetary system. I don’t want to diverge too much from the core of this article though.
My main contention is that it is not wealth, but greed that creates poverty. We should be working on ways to expand wealth and everyone’s share of it, rather than simply fighting over a shrinking pie. How can we do that practically though? What can we each do today, tomorrow morning, this weekend, to start to change things for the better? This has been the sole occupation of my weak intellect for some time now.
It seems to me that we have a critical mass of informed and intelligent people all over the world, who are savvy enough to realize what is going on around them, but for fear of losing their livelihoods have shrunk back at doing anything too radical to change the status-quot. I know, because I am one of those persons. When you are too focused on trying to pay bills and run the hamster wheel another day, it is very difficult to think about how to get off of this damn thing. How do we get off of this hamster wheel?
I have a million answers to this question. It is a process. I am in the midst of this transformation myself. My family and I have relocated to a rural area where the regulations are sparse and the taxation is low. This helps us to put a little more into savings each month, but in and of itself doesn’t seem like much. I quit my job in finance and am now working in technical education. Also, didn’t seem like much, but it is a small step. I stopped buying processed foods and planted a garden and raise chickens for eggs. Another baby step off of the hamster wheel of dependence and debt-slavery. My wife and I are frugal, we won’t go into debt, we fix our own cars, repair our own clothes, and are as thrifty as we can possibly be within reason. We are planning on home-schooling our children when they are ready and do everything within our power to raise them to be successful leaders and not followers (this part is really hard).
All of these things are simple (or not so simple depending on your perspective), but we are doing them slowly but surely. But think of all of consequences from these small things: Mega-Banks are deprived of loans and a willing debt-slave. Automakers are deprived of a loan and debt service. Monsanto is deprived of a GMO eating consumer. Slave labor reliant retailers are deprived of cash-flow.
We are learning about herbal remedies and are slowly learning how to make our own toothpaste, cough medicine, and more- that grows for FREE in our back yard: Screwing over Big-Pharma. Check.
My rambling point is that every little thing that we do has far reaching consequences, not just depriving our government-corporate-fascist overlords of the debt that is their life-blood, but becoming healthier, happier, more confident humans in the process. So what do we do to turn things around? Live.
Live happy, healthy, defiant lives. Stop buying shit you don’t need. Don’t go into debt. Plant a garden. Eat something grown from your yard. Ride a bike. Relocate to a healthier place with the money you saved from NOT buying shit. Each and every person who starts taking small steps to check-out of the control system is playing an integral roll in the demise of the status-quot. It may not seem like it, but you are helping change the world one little decision at a time. And the little trickle of red ink that millennials (and others) are causing on bank, corporate, and government balance sheets will soon turn into a flood. Things aren’t going to change, they are changing. Things aren’t getting bad for the oligarchs, they are already terrible, and getting worse by the day.
The worst enemy of the global oligarchy is you and me. The ANTI/Consumer. Voting with your wallet (and not opening your wallet) is the most effective protest that you can muster. The second most is making a plan for getting out of the matrix and creating a new system entirely. The beauty is that business follows the money, and if more people started say, raising chickens and doing self-sufficiency projects, then those businesses that provide the materials and know-how for such things will thrive, even as the debt based economy continues to crumble.
Re-localizing is another big step. Knowing where your food comes from, knowing where your clothes come from, knowing who you can call to help you when something breaks that is beyond your capability to fix. This is the beginning of building a real local community. Ideally, like-minded folk could all relocate to the same strategic area in order to collaborate and even lobby to help keep regulations light and bind together for the safety of the community. A prime example of this is that in the rural county where I live, when an aluminum factory wanted to create a waste dump for whatever leftovers the process created, the local citizenry got together and rejected the idea so strongly that local officials were forced out of office over the issue, and the dump was killed. Even in a county with no zoning or regulation, the citizens can keep the environment clean without resorting to more rules and regulations. This is just a tiny example of what people can do when they bind together and stop fighting each-other long enough to see that that we have common interests.
I will endeavor most thoughtfully to write more about positive solutions, because Lord knows there are enough good people out there pointing out the corruption, greed, and vice of the power-structures of the world economy, and I feel obliged to acknowledge their awesome work, but rather than get depressed and wallow in self-pity and powerlessness about the state of humanity, to stand up and offer real every day solutions. Solutions that make us happier, healthier, better people- and at the same time stick it to the wall street gangsters and capitol hill whores. My next posts will try to convince you of the power and demographic might of the ANTI/Consumer.