Capitalism, as we know it, is dying. We are coming to an end of certain presumptions and thought patterns that we have so far taken as normality and acceptable – industrial agriculture is the obvious example.
I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest. I will not equivocate. I will not excuse. I will not retreat a single inch. And I will be heard.
These are William Lloyd Garrison’s words launching his newspaper, The Liberator, in 1831, which he made a mouthpiece for the release of the slaves. At that point in time, the Congress refused to discuss the issue of slavery, and it would take another three long decades before America finally confronted itself with the unrighteousness. In other words, slavery was in 1831 when Garrison wrote this, a widely accepted business model.
Agricultural industry, meat and death.
In 2017, there are similar business models and ideas that we do not have a great desire to confront ourselves with. But, like Garrison’s serious words were the beginning of the end of slavery’s abominations, the countdown is underway for a number of things many today perceive as natural and normal. The most obvious example is the industrial agriculture. Here we have a business model that violates both environment and animals, and in addition, Denmark does it for borrowed money.
At the time of writing, Danish agriculture is almost 400 billion dollars in dept. 1,000 farmers are in danger of decommissioning. At the same time agriculture accounts for 16 per cent of Denmark’s total CO2 emissions. And in addition to the environmental impact, the lack of sustainability is much wider. For example, 24,000 piglets die every single day, and a quarter of the pigs never reach the slaughterhouse, but die in the barns. Half of the pigs are given stomach ulcers, and 99 per cent of all piglets get their tail cut off, even though this routine is illegal. In addition, there are correspondingly critical conditions for cows and other animals and huge problems regarding the discharge of too much fertilizers and pesticides that poisons Denmark’s drinking water. On top of all this, we’re also challenged by MRSA.
Connected to the agricultural industry is the meat industry. According to the United Nations, 30 per cent of the globe’s entire landmass is now used for livestock farming, including areas used for grazing and crop cultivation. It requires up to 25 kilos of grain to produce just two kilos of meat. And this takes a lot of water! Watering the crops that farm animals eat, drinking water to the billions of animals, and water for cleaning slaughterhouses, factories and means of transportation pose a serious strain on our water supply. Almost half of all water used in the United States goes to breeding animals for food. It requires up to 7-9,000 liters of water to produce 0.5 kilograms of meat. By comparison, 0.5 kg of wheat requires only 95 liters of water. You save more water by not eating half a kilo of meat than you do by not taking a bath for six months. By switching from meat production to vegetables, switching to organic farming and reducing meat on our tables, we will be able to solve many problems regarding the environment, animal welfare and our own health.
A mindset of separation.
Slavery was a perversion. And like slavery, the agriculture and meat industry rests on a fundamental perverted thinking. Slavery was based on the fact that some people, one race, had the hand over other races, which is absurd. The industrial agriculture and meat industry relies on the fact that human beings have control over animals and the environment, and that economic conditions are ahead of everyone else, which is equally absurd.
This can only occur because we live in a mindset that comes from a basic experience of separation. Neither slavery nor the industrial agriculture and meat industry could exist without experiencing us apart from other people, animals and nature. Our current mindset of the capitalist industrial age is linear, short-sighted and a mindset of separation, where the world is thought to consist of separate and independent parts. That mindset is self-righteously hunting single goals, and is in opposition to all that may stand in order to achieve that goal, including humans, animals and the environment.
That mindset dates back to Isaac Newton’s mechanical understanding of the world that sees it as composed of independent and distinct parts, as well as the philosophy of René Déscartes, who regards emotions and sensations as indifferent and invalid when it comes to orientation and decision making. With August Comte, these basic scientific understandings were taken into the social sciences and from there into everyday life. It has become a way to see and understand ourselves and the world as independent parts that are separate from everything else living.
Neglect of interdependence.
Ancient traditions from all parts of the world have always told another truth, and even though quantum physics 100 years ago actually showed us this other truth in scientific terms, we stand here 150-200 hundred years after, continuing on the basis of a thinking of separation. It’s a mindset that simply is not complex and nuanced enough to understand, acknowledge and experience the interrelatedness of everything; not developed enough to recognize that the whole is more than the sum of its parts; not enlightened enough to see that there is only one sphere on which all living beings are interwoven in their need for oxygen, water, food and safety; and not sensitive enough to deeply know that all living beings on our planet are interdependent.
That is why slavery could occur. That is why the industrial agriculture and meat industry can exist. It is due to a basic experience of discernment and independence that violence in any form grows. That thinking does not allow us to see ourselves as part of a larger and interdependent whole, but creates a world where we feel separate from other people and everything else alive. It is a thought pattern that appeals to our fears and greed, which has defined the world in purely economic terms, builds on the idea of eternal growth and profit, and which constantly brings us to battle against others and nature.
That thinking is capitalism in its raw form. It has brought us where we are today, to a world where many people are ill due to either malnutrition, overweight, stress, loneliness or lack of existential meaningfulness; where corporations chase profits no matter the costs; where people with a background in different cultures and religious views are fighting; and where animals and the environment are neglected to such an extent that the continued existence of mankind is at risk.
Stop downloading the past.
If we continue to blindly download our past thinking into the present, our future will most likely not be different from our past. A possible definition of insanity is to do the same over and over again, and still expect another result! What is now breaking through, and which is so much needed, is a new paradigm that gives our world a new basic purpose that extends beyond profit, products, and segregation. We are reaching a critical mass of people that are intuitively conscious that they are not separate from everything else alive, and that holistic thinking based on empathy and humility is the only viable path forward. Communism came to its end in 1989 when the wall in Berlin was overthrown. Now it is equally clear that the existing capitalism is also not viable.
Necessary with several bottom lines.
In practical terms this means, among other things, that we can’t continue to only weigh the economic bottom line, but must make the social and environmental/climate baselines equally important to all areas of life. Some places, fortunately, this happening already. The Bolivian parliament, for example, has adopted the Law on Mother Earth, which gives rights to our planet as a living system. It is quite remarkable. The Law of Mother Earth describes the Earth as holy and considers it a living system of rights to be protected from exploitation. For many years, Bhutan has been working with Gross National Happiness (GNH) rather than GDP. Bhutan’s model contains indicators that focus on sustainability, culture conservation and good governance. Among the 72 indicators are health, education and mental wellbeing. All in all, when politicians make a decision, they should not only assess the economic effects, but also the consequences for the environment, social justice and the culture.
Similarly, there are movements in a number of other areas: non-democratic trade agreements such as TTIP and CETA are counteracted with great determination of entire populations. A banking sector, which is considered to be too big to fail, with the possibility of speculating the world to the abyss’s edge with our savings, is being opposed by growing resistance. A health system that is too reluctant to adopt complementary knowledge and apparently under the strong influence of the pharmaceutical industry is being challenged more and more. An education system that measures and tests pupils but forget the building aspect of democracy, equality, critical thinking and spirit meets opposition. A legislative power that protects itself from demonstrations and adopts laws that darken the public, are designated and held responsible. Pioneering ideas like a citizen/basic salary and a 30-hour working week to make room for more people in the labour market and less stress is considered by more and more people to be tested in order to create a more democratic, social and sustainable society. The above are all very natural consequences of moving away from a separation paradigm and beginning to perceive us as being part of a more cohesive whole.
The cooperating community.
Interestingly, technological developments could be supporting this transition. The American thinker Jeremy Rifkin considers that capitalism in just 40 years will no longer be ruling our world because the cost of producing has become so low that it is very difficult to create the margins that lead to profits. And without profits there is not much capitalism left. Rifkin points out that the development will continue: with 3D printing we will be able to produce more products and goods ourselves; with green energy we will be able to produce electricity and heat ourselves; on the internet, we can take higher education almost for free; with ever stronger internet connections, more services can be taken cheaper and cheaper home, and most of us will produce more from home. We will also start sharing the already produced to an larger extent.
Access to the three cornerstones of development – means of communication, energy and logistics – becomes a member of the public. We become what Rifkin calls prosumers – both producers and consumers/customers. As consumers, we become our own producers. The division will disappear. The market as it has worked in the capitalist era will fade away. The cooperation community will grow. All this, which on the surface can look like purely movements in economics and technical development, is both creating and is a consequence of the change in consciousness this article has attempted to embrace and describe. The pressure on capitalism is a pressure on a mindset that, at it’s basis, has discernment, greed and separation. Here, open source innovation, communities, transparency, sharing, empathy, collaboration across industries and between private, public and voluntary organizations are based on an understanding of everybody’s and everything’s interdependence.
When we no longer experience ourselves as separate and independent of everything else alive, we discover that what we have seen in the paradigm of separation as normal actually is abnormal; and that what we have accepted is actually totally unacceptable. We are approaching a critical mass that speaks out, loud and clear, against the existing capitalist paradigm of separation. And we say what Gerrison said in 1831: We are in earnest. We will not equivocate. We will not excuse. We will not retreat a single inch. And we will be heard.
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