Smash the Machine
The black and white drawing for this image is on auction at ebay, and comes with a print of the color version.
* * * *
Today’s most popular word is “change.” But what characterizes most of what passes for politics in this country is unserious and empty of content. We want change but we don’t talk enough about what that means.
We’re facing environmental catastrophes of truly apocalyptic proportions. This empire has crested its peak and is gathering steam for a long, hard and permanent economic collapse. Are we all just along for the ride, struggling to retain a place within a disintegrating economy, and succumbing to starvation when it spits us out? Are all our plans centered on individual survival strategies, along the lines of “I bought a few sacks of beans and rice for me and my family for once the stores shut down, and after they run out we’ll have planted some vegetables, and surely those in charge will figure out a solution by then… they wouldn’t just let us die…”
We could surrender our agency and passively allow all this happen to us, or we could choose to see this collapse as an opportunity to affect what comes next. First we must overcome the problem that we as a people have no idea what we want, no coherent vision that corresponds to possible reality. Most only want desperately for the collapse not to be happening, so they pretend it isn’t. If we persist in denial, we’ll remain the victims of those in power — who know very well what *they* want (to remain in power and amass more wealth).
Whether we like the idea or not, we’re soon going to be living in a post-industrial world. What do we want it to look like?
Before we can even articulate that, we must come to terms with what is necessary for simple survival of our planet. It comes down to two things:
1) Shut down the system.
2) Heal the land.
1) Our economic system, currently global industrial capitalism with persistent remnants of feudalism, is devouring our planet. Industrial capitalism isn’t just a bad lifestyle choice. It’s a mega-machine of global proportions tying together the activities of the majority of us 6.7 billion humans. It reaches into every aspect of our lives, especially our transactions but even our most personal thoughts and emotions. It treats everyone – mineral, vegetable, and animal, including us – as fodder for the production of wealth for a very few. It is causing mass extinction of species. It’s destroying the land, the water, everything that makes this planet alive and support life.
The most dangerous and destructive thing the system does is put massive quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, choking the oceans and trapping heat. There’s only one way to stop this, and that is to stop burning oil and coal, industrial capitalism’s lifeblood. It will fight to the death to keep burning them. We must fight to the death to stop it. It’s the system or us.
Shutting down the global economic system is enormously complicated. We must destroy the political and cultural institutions that serve and protect it, that coerce and enforce our submission to it. We have a monumental task: to defeat and dismantle its states, governments, police forces, armies, laws, communication and transportation networks, its energy grid, supply lines, its news and entertainment propaganda machine, its control of food and water, its wealth-concentration mechanisms (corporations), its ownership of land and extraction of resources, its stranglehold over every aspect of our lives and over everything on this Earth it can wring profit from.
As the economic and environmental crises converge and everything gets worse, it’s becoming clear to more people that drastic changes are coming. Through its own excesses, the system is crumbling all by itself – but we’d better be proactive because it may not happen fast enough to save our world. As it falters and flails and tries to patch itself up, still it devours mercilessly. And unless we intervene, it will likely devolve into some kind of fascist neo-feudal hell of failed states ruled by warlords with hired guns, where the rich expend their very last resources to suck the planet dry. Clearly we can’t wait for it to collapse on its own.
2) We must heal the land. This system has taken too much already. We must give back to it more than we take, nourish the depleted soils, clean the rivers and lakes, give space and encouragement for forests, oceans and jungles to grow back and creatures to repopulate them. The land gives us life: food, oxygen, water. As it dies, we die. As we nurture and care for it, enter into respectful relationship with it, and live in balance with it, as it recovers, we have a chance to live.
But we will never be allowed to heal the land as long as the system retains power, for its function is not to heal but to turn the living into money. Destroying it must be our first priority and is our only hope for survival.
* * * *
Once these fundamental responsibilities are fulfilled, what next?
Perhaps unrealistically, I hope that without the merciless influence of capitalism, eventually humans’ better nature might have a chance to fully re-emerge, and we can conduct our lives in ways that make us happy and make sense. We can’t build a new society until the old is defeated, but it’s important for people to start thinking about what we want. Vision, intention, direction are needed to motivate us and to help us avoid falling back into bad habits.
We need to know what we want. What do you want?
Here’s what I want:
I want to see the end of oppression of all kinds: race, class, gender, sexuality, species, nationality, ability, appearance. An end to exploitation, drudgery, the division of labor. No more commodities, buying and selling, private ownership of wealth.
I want to see a world of fairness, equality, justice, love, dignity, freedom, celebration, happiness, good health, joy, inclusiveness.
I want humans to have healthy relationships with each other and with everyone else, to appreciate every kind of living being and all our infinite interconnections. I’d like to see every individual respected and encouraged. I would like for domination and control to cease to exist, and for all beings to thrive in harmony, for the planet to be pulsing with life.
Is that so much to ask?