JR'S Free Thought Pages
                                                                       No Gods  ~ No Masters    ~ No Bullshit



Capitalists, Christians and other Conservatives Are Wrong about Human Nature

By JR, June, 2022

The Christian notion of original sin and determination to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad – Friedrich Nietzsche

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness – John Kenneth Galbraith

Money is better than poverty, if for only financial reasons – Woody Allen

As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love - Pythagoras c. 570 – c. 495 BCE

Remarks on Hierarchy, Human Nature and Capitalism

The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living - Karl Marx, 1852 [1a]

Hell is other people – Jean Paul Sartre

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded – Leonard Cohen

The opening quote by Nietzsche, at least for me as an admirer of his radical contrarian thought, offers one reason for the bleak understanding of human nature that most people have internalized from Christianity and the ruling classes. Certainly the capitalist classes have conceded that resistance to greed and selfishness is futile, so why do anything? Nietzsche was a dedicated anti-authoritarian and looked at life as a form of art and personal engagement with the prevailing culture by challenging, questioning, critical thought and being open to new ways of living. He had nothing but contempt, not only for dictatorial deities and superstitious mysticism, but also the Christian carrot- stick slave “morality”, the concept of “original sin” and life denying death wish philosophy. When Nietzsche declared that “God is dead” he meant that “belief in God” is dead since he did not believe in gods or any other supernatural entities. Sadly, Nietzsche was wrong - as three quarters of the world’s credulous and obedient population continue to believe in gods, demons and other intellectual rubbish and palpable nonsense. But Nietzsche was also an enemy of the both the state and the church, holding to what could be considered anarchist ideas such as the corruptive aspect of state, church and other forms of external power.

The status quo has rarely been the optimum environment for maintaining the natural world, freedom, flourishing and a principled lifestyle. Injustice, economic inequality and oppression of the masses have been the norm, at least for the past five millennia. Indigenous cultures deemed “savage” and “uncivilized” by the Christian European colonialists were subjected to slavery, genocide, theft of their land and resources and other tyrannies. I will attempt to show that these Indigenous peoples were not only more democratic and free than the Europeans that brutalized, demonized and murdered them, they had ways of living from which we can learn.

Being a longtime supporter of the political left since my mid-teens has resulted in multiple risks, disappointments and frustrations. For as long as I can remember I’ve had an aversion to regimentation, authoritarianism, hierarchy and gratuitous punishment which are the hallmarks of tyranny - draconian school systems, police, military, religious and secular zealotry, capitalism and mainstream political conservatism and its offshoot fascism. It’s been a very disappointing and demoralizing experience continually having to be involved in seemingly endless losing political projects and movements against reactionary conservatives and today’s neo-liberal post-liberal capitalist mutants who have long ago abandoned the classical liberalism of John Stuart Mill and John Rawls. Moreover, if you are in sympathy with anarchism, socialism or gulp, communism, there are real hazards of not only future prospects and opportunities, but of being persecuted and vilified by our corporate controlled media and recurrently marginalized, ostracized, harassed, abused, beaten, arrested or even shot by the police who exist primarily to serve and protect capitalist predation, entrenched wealth and political power of historical entitlements and interests. Power, which invariably corrupts, is a serious impediment to any pretense to genuine freedom and real democracy which is certainly the case for any hierarchical top down system such as capitalism. What we call democracy has been, is and continues to be a farcical fraud as the current neo-liberal globalization of capitalism has resulted in the privatization, financialization and commodification of everything. [1] 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water which is increasing because of global warming, toxic pollution, waste and environmental contamination - but only a diminishing 1% of it is fit to drink. Even fresh water is being increasingly privatized as control of water may spark more wars in the 21st century - and soon we may have to pay for fresh air to breathe.

The history of racism and class conflict for the past five centuries has been driven by the struggle between private property and the commons. In pre-class societies, the natural world, land, waterways, seas and means of production were utilized collectively. Only with the emergence of hierarchies and class division that were often claimed by those at the top to be ordained by the gods did the few who did not work live off the labors of those who did. This was a precursor to the invention of forms of private property, of which land was primary. The continued existence of the church and monarchy are two of the insidious residues of past totalitarian systems. Today we have capitalism, equally undemocratic and unjust but more creative in its efforts to own everything, including the bogus farce of “intellectual property”. Private property is nothing more than the power grab seizure of the commons by the ruling class which for today’s brand of neo-liberal vulture capitalism are the transnational corporations, banks and other financial parasites such as asset management and hedge funds such as  Goldman Sachs. As the remarkable escaped slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglas rightly proclaimed, “It is not within the power of unaided human nature to persevere in pitying a people who are insensible to their own wrongs and indifferent to the attainment of their own rights. The poet was as true to common sense as to poetry when he said, ‘Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.'’” It was Douglas who a few months before the onset of the American Civil War wrote:

“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters…This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to, and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. ”

These words have been germane throughout humankind’s struggle with ongoing authoritarianism and oppression that have persisted throughout at least the past 5000 years of human history. Capitalism, the dictatorship of money, is no exception and is arguably the most unjust, hierarchical and insidiously tyrannical of all pre-existing socio-economic political systems.

Free trade, by the way, has existed from the time of hunter gatherer societies. And let us not delude ourselves into believing the endless bullshit on business news networks about meritocracy and “free markets”. In today’s capitalist mutation called neo-liberalism, as in other variations of capitalist hegemony in the past 400 years, it has precious little to do with free markets or other mythologies such as freedom, liberty, democracy or even property rights which are human metaphysical constructs to justify theft and more profit void of ethical norms or responsibility to the commons. Pretty much everything that capitalism does today is grounded in mathematical algorithms such as the time-value-money cost-benefit analysis iterations, demanding no moral oversight. The land we live on and consider our “property” was stolen from collectivized indigenous people at the point of a gun.

Capitalism entails the use of force, often from the enabling global capitalist police state, against the will of the controlled masses. The paragon of capitalism is the United States  which was conceived in larceny and founded on slavery and indentured servitude. And then they invented the corporation with its infinite life and limited liability, a devious idea now deemed a person but with more rights and privileges. Corporations have now even hijacked our fraudulent “democracies” which are, like people, mere commodities and which write the laws that permit them to exploit, loot, pillage, pollute and burn with impunity. And the toxic waste problem is solved by dumping it on public property, collateral damage or “externalities” that become someone else’s problem. Capitalism eats in one market or venue and shits in another that avoids costs and impediments to profit. Someone else pays the bills. Guess who? To claim that the worker’ “job market” and the unfair environment they must navigate is a free market is not unlike saying that chickens are free to become chicken nuggets or livestock free to become burgers. Many employment agencies are parasitic in that you become an indentured servant if they find you a job, paying a percentage of your pay for as long as you are employed at that same job.

A serious study of the real bottom up history such as the labor and civil rights movements and other efforts toward unseating entrenched long-standing conservative interests and moving toward civility, genuine “will of the people” direct democracy and social justice will confirm the farcical charade of democracy. Most self-described liberals, especially the political “Lexus Liberal” frauds that populate our equally fraudulent representative “democracies” are authoritarians not unlike most conservatives. Former US Democratic Party president and Texas country bumpkin Lyndon Johnson for example, who considered himself a liberal, made a remark to a colleague about the obedience he demanded of an appointee, “I want real loyalty. I want him to kiss my ass in Macy's window at high noon and tell me it smells like roses. I want his pecker in my pocket”. I submit that the current form of neo-liberal corporatist capitalism is arguably the most oppressive, hierarchical and undemocratic system in recorded history. The democratic values of the inherent dignity of all people, community and solidarity, an ethic of reciprocity such as the golden rule and as much economic, political and social equality as is possible, if they ever existed at all, have been lost for several decades now. Capitalism embraces none of these important ethical principles and if any one of them prevailed, capitalism could not survive beyond a few days. Hierarchies, lifeless bureaucracy and grotesque economic inequalities are now widespread throughout the world. And if everyone took these values seriously, they would reject violence, war, oppression, exploitation, cruelty, corruption and other sociopathic behaviour that would reformat and revolutionize the world.

The growing gap between the capitalist system of monopoly and corporatist neo-fascism and the harsh economic realities and political and psychological dysfunction* facing people in the United States, Canada, Europe and the rest of the world are now approaching a nadir. On the ground, the accumulated problems of global capitalism/imperialism, headed by the collapsing deeply immoral American Empire are plagued by obscene levels of economic and political depravity and malfunction, conjure up images of past robber baron capitalists, tyrannical monarchies, theocracies, 20th century totalitarian  regimes and ancient Egyptian pharaohs. Three massive economic collapses have already occurred in the 21st Century (the tech wreck of 2000, financial collapse of 2008 and the covid-19 grand larceny of 2020, each of which should have signalled the end of capitalism. The worst public health crisis and highest death rates in the world in a century during the covid-19 pandemic - which is still with us - has further exposed how unprepared and incompetent American capitalism was and continues to be, thereby imposing massive new human and financial costs that will prevail far into the future. And now we are faced with Cold War 2.0 and a war in Ukraine, an instigated USA/NATO proxy war that could quite conceivably ignite World War III.

*Sound mental health depends on many factors that include a stable family, economic stability and social well being that are contingent on a just socio-economic order, fairness and laws, police and a justice that serve everyone and not just wealthy power elites. Most psychoanalysts and psychiatrists in today’s capitalist states, with rare exception such as Bruce E Levine, are concerned with individual maladjustment and mental breakdowns due to an inability to cope with the gross injustice of the capitalist order. The root causes of mental breakdown are in very many cases grounded in the inability to cope with a capitalist system that creates alienation, anomie, grotesque economic inequalities and extreme individualism [2a], hedonism and selfishness. These social and economic problems of adjustment to a vile profoundly immoral system are deemed medical problems that are often just symptoms of non-conformism or resistance to what is deemed inauthentic authority that is often dealt with by either incarceration or administering prescription drugs that anaesthetize the “patient”. Many have seen the movie One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest starring Jack Nicholson based on the novel of the same name. There is now an accepted diagnosis of children called ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder); its a malady of kids who question authority, much of which is undemocratic and illegitimate. I’ve had this deviant “ODD disease” all my life, having been subjected to the infamous strap on several occasions for asking the wrong questions in class. But consider the Donald Trump presidency that has demonstrated that psychological malfunction in the form of racism, sexual predation, pathological prevarication, misogyny, narcissism, nihilism, neo-fascism, psychopathic behaviour and the Dunning-Kruger effect, arrogance and ignorance that seems limitless. This unhinged wild beast who orchestrated the January 6 attempted takeover of the White House may be re-elected in 2024, which speaks volumes about those millions of Americans who would vote for such a demented amoral asshole. First we created things, then we consumed mostly useless toys produced by machines and now we are merely zombie like alienated observers in an ongoing spectacle - like the protagonist in A Clockwork Orange. But today we experience free floating mass unreality consciousness and spectacles that make Clockwork seem like child’s play. Simply consider the growing notion that If I believe something it’s sufficient to makes it true, the aforementioned shocking January 6, 2021 Trump incited storming of the White House, idiotic denunciation of all things Russian, regular school shootings, the neo-fascist idiocy of the flag waving anti-vaccination “freedom” convoy truckers in Canada, legalization of waste of time and money lotteries and online gambling and the impending rescinding of women’s abortion rights by the right wing bible banging bozos in the US Supreme Court. These examples are just a few that render what Guy Debord described in his 1967 book Society of the Spectacle mild in comparison. The Enlightenment Age of reason, sanctity of truth and “progress” is over. Welcome to planet insane asylum - Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall whereby the discipline society described by Pink Floyd has been replaced by a digitalized atomized alienated society of techno-feudalism and self inflicted discipline, surveillance and tyranny by zombie smart phone addicts.

Attempts to reform this capitalist global mega-machine police state gorgon have failed and the possibility of revolution seems more remote than ever as people are totally atomized to a permanent state of unthinking docility, narcissism, resignation, neurotic consumerism, political paralysis and stasis. The ongoing spectacles include the farcical corporate financed elections and liberal parliamentary “democracies” in which the masses are mere wage slave fodder that feed the system, not unlike the same indoctrinated working class cannon fodder that fight the imperialist wars that enrich the 1%. Real democracy will only arrive by the demolition of the state, churches, mafia banks, corporate capitalism and the restoration of the commons. The alternative is continued widespread stupidity, ignorance, barbarism and inevitable extinction.

It’s obvious to anyone paying attention that selfishness is endemic to both wealthy elites, our corporate oligarchy, banks, wealthy elites and sadly, many of the impoverished masses who aspire to financial independence and enrichment. But there continues to be a lively debate among philosophers and scientists regarding the roles of genetics (nature) and environmental factors (nurture) in our tendencies to belligerence, greed and conflict on the one hand and peace, tolerance, sharing and compassion on the other. Most of us have character traits combining both - but does not being a decent human being demand that we control our animal instincts and live by the golden rule as a minimalist ethical principle. Certainly there have been many earlier indigenous societies cited by anthropologists and others that were very much inclined to what we mean by real democracy and the dispositions of caring, compassion and cooperation. Certainly on the genetic side, our nature is not necessarily dominated by greed, rapacity and belligerence as some people seem to be born with dispositions toward those aforementioned traits of generosity, empathy, compassion and a propensity to sharing rather than acquisitiveness. For Christians, they ought to ask themselves why their omnipotent omniscient god didn’t create humans with better moral character traits rather that “being born into sin” which is a convenient ruse to create a solution for innate depravity that they and only they can provide.

One of the most common arguments for systems of domination and subordination is that they are “human nature” and natural” - immutable and inescapable, as in the 1980s Bruce Hornsby song “The Way It Is” just the way things are and cannot be changed since they are wired into our genetics. Hitler’s and Mussolini’s fascist solutions to crises within their capitalist nations did not end well, Hitler’s Thousand Year Reich lasting a decade. Yet today’s leading global capitalists, especially glaring in the United States seem not to know or care about failed historical precedents. They continue to perform their disconnected demented politics as if history never happened while comfortably oblivious to the grotesquely immoral and deeply undemocratic corporatist techno-capitalism and the resulting damage to the vast majority. In that sense, they disturbingly resemble the upper class elites in Tsarist Russia before 1917, the monarchical and big business plutocrats in Germany before 1933 and the Catholic and feudalistic barons  running Italy before Mussolini’s fascists in 1922. The most important questions thus become whether or not and how soon a new unified left wing solidarity movement can arise that has the wherewithal to win the hearts and minds against the insidious corrupt cesspool of corporatist monopoly capitalism. Only the limits of our imagination prohibit us from coming up with a genuine democratic order. Is the current dictatorial global system of financial predation and parasitism by blood sucking billionaire elites the best we can do?

Oppressive systems work hard to make it appear that the hierarchies - and the disparities in wealth, status, and power that flow from them - are natural and beyond modification. If men are stronger in stature and character than women, then patriarchy is inevitable and justifiable, even divinely commanded in some faith traditions. If the United States is the vehicle for extending modern democracy, then US domination of the world is inevitable and justifiable. If white people are smarter and more virtuous than people of color, then white supremacy is inevitable and justifiable. If rich people are smarter and harder working than poor people, then economic inequality is inevitable and justifiable.

All these claims require a denial of reality and an evasion of both epistemic and moral responsibility, and yet all these claims continue to prevail in the twenty-first century. The evidence presented for the natural dominance of some people is that those people are, on average, doing better and therefore must in some way be better. That works only if one believes that the wealth of the world should be distributed through a competitive system, a debatable point, if one takes those commitments to dignity, solidarity, and equality seriously and that the so-called meritocracy in which people compete is fair on an even playing field - a point that requires ignoring a tremendous amount of evidence about how the systems are rigged to perpetuate unearned wealth, power and privilege. This so-called evidence - that people who succeed in systems designed to advantage them are actually succeeding on their merit, which is proof they deserve it all - is one of the great myths and shell games of history.

That’s why it is crucial for unjust hierarchies to promote a belief in their naturalness and deterministic quality; it’s essential to rationalizing the illegitimate authority exercised in them. Not surprisingly, people in a dominant class exercising that power gravitate easily to such a view. And because of their control over key storytelling institutions, especially education and mass communication, those in a dominant class can fashion a narrative about the world that leads some portion of the people in a subordinate class to internalize the ideology. Instead of accepting this, we can evaluate these hierarchal systems and acknowledge that they are inconsistent with the foundational values most of us claim to hold.

These myths are as pervasive as the ones about the capitalist system and the so called “free” market which is a fantasy that only exists in economics textbooks and the endless propaganda peddled by conservative and liberal politicians, corporations, Chambers of Commerce and especially business news networks such as BNN (Bullshit News Network) in Canada, the high priests of Wall Street finance and most of the uncritical compliant corporate controlled media. Economists will debate exactly what makes an economy capitalist, rarely if ever defining what the “economy” is and who is served by it. In the real world we use capitalist economics as a system that serves primarily a thin layer of the 1% in which: (1) almost all property, including the capital assets necessary for production, is owned and controlled by private persons or corporations; (2) most people are mere commodities and must rent themselves for monetary wages to survive; (3) the means of production and labor are manipulated by capitalists using amoral calculations to maximize profit; and (4) most exchanges of goods and services occur through markets. I did not say “free markets” because all markets in modern society are constructed through law (rules about contracts, currency, use of publicly funded infrastructure and the police and military that were created to serve and protect those laws and special interests), which inevitably will advantage some and disadvantage others. Some disadvantages, such as living by resource extraction, manufacturing and industrial facilities that produce toxic waste, foul air and contaminated waterways are what economists call externalities (i.e., collateral damage) the consequences of transactional rules that affect other people or ecosystems but aren’t reflected in the prices of goods or services. They are offloaded onto the public whereby profits are privatized and costs are socialized. The term externality produces a moral outrage regarding the cost of doing business, borne mostly by poor people and non-human life which is slowly disappearing.

“Industrial capitalism” was made possible by discoveries of new energy sources, sweeping technological changes and concentrations of capital in rapacious empires such as Great Britain which was characterized by development of the factory system and greater labor specialization and exploitation. The term finance capitalism is used to denote a shift to a system in which the accumulation of profits in a manipulative financial system that has come to dominate the production processes. This financialization whereby assets are moved about, economies destroyed and recreated for profit  by mathematical algorithms, keyboard strokes and mouse clicks are coterminous with globalization that has led not only to obscene economic inequality but also to political dysfunction and economic instability, most recently in the dot com bubble and subsequent meltdown in 2000 and the collapse of the housing market that sparked the massive global financial crisis of 2007-08 in which trillions of phantom dollars mystically appear to bailout the criminal banks and investment parasites who were responsible for the debacles. In other words, immorality, corruption, exploitation and rampant theft are rewarded and rarely punished.

Today in the United States, most people understand capitalism through the experience of wage labor - a form of enslavement in which people are forced to renting themselves to an “entrepreneur” in order to survive. And mass consumption of mostly useless gadgets cheap enough to be affordable for most ordinary wage slaves. In such a world, everyone and everything is a commodity to be marketed and sold for a profit. The Roman stoic Seneca (4 BCE – 64 CE) offered a state-of-the-art handbook that ought to apply to multiple layers of the 1 percent. Seneca claimed, “I deny that riches are a good, for if they were, they would make men virtuous.As it is, since that which is found in the hands of the iniquitous cannot be called a good, I refuse to apply the term to riches.” Seneca and the Stoics taught that to be in public life or governance meant to promote virtue and cooperation and to disdain vice and bellicosity. But today’s politicians are careerists and opportunists, mere tools of capitalists who covet only wealth and power.

The current ideology of market fundamentalism is often referred to as neo-liberalism, the new post-liberal mutation of an economic definition of classical liberalism from the nineteenth century that advocated minimal interference by the state in markets but at the same time imposing limits on profit and caring for society’s worst off. But the latest market theologians and lords of finance promote as axiomatic the notion that the most extensive use of markets, along with privatization of publicly owned assets and the shrinking of public services that served the people will unleash maximal competition and result in the greatest good.  This is counter-intuitive at best but for capitalist evangelists, this is all well and good and inherently just, no matter what the chaotic and harmful outcomes. We are now realizing with the latest Oxfam report exactly what those results are. If such a system creates a world in which most people live near or below the poverty line, it is then assumed not as evidence of a problem with market fundamentalism but evidence that fundamentalist principles have not been imposed with sufficient force. It is an article of faith like “god’s will” in that the “invisible hand” of the market invariably provides the preferred result, no matter how horrific the consequences may be for large majorities of people and the earth’s ecosystems.

Capitalism’s failures are easy to enumerate and can be traced back to the critiques of Marx and Engels. It is fundamentally inhuman and not only allows but depends on the impoverishment and misery of a substantial portion of the world’s population to generate wealth. Moreover, it is inherently immoral and anti-democratic as the concentration of that wealth results in the concentration of corporate and financial control of the state and unchecked power and undermines broad public participation. It is an unjust all-encompassing totalitarian system that is unsustainable as plunder of the natural world; overpopulation and over-consumption are threatening the stability of the earth’s biosphere and biodiversity resulting in global warming and mass extinctions of all living things except at least so far with the exception of voracious humans. Of course capitalism is not the only undemocratic, unjust, exploitive and unsustainable economic system in human history.

In his book of short essays Capitalism and the Death Drive, South Korean philosopher Byung-Chul Han claims what we call economic growth today is in fact a tumor growing like an incurable cancerous proliferation which is disrupting the social organism. This depiction is not unlike Canadian John McMurtry’s metaphor in his book The Cancer Stage of Capitalism. These tumors endlessly metastasize and grow with an inexplicable destructive and deadly force on not only the planet’s ecosystems but on the human psyche resulting in alienation, narcissism, nihilism, burnout, fragmentation of community, loss of freedom, privacy, empathy, compassion and a host of psychological maladies. At a certain point this growth is no longer productive, but rather destructive. Capitalism passed this through this moral and intellectual tipping point long ago. Capitalism’s destructive forces of continuous toxic and generally morally deceitful marketing, exploitation and control have caused not only ecological and social catastrophes but also the aforementioned mental collapses. The destructive compulsion of people to perform combines self-affirmation and self-destruction, what Han calls the “entrepreneur of the self” as we optimize ourselves to the point of dysfunction and burnout? Brutal competition only ends in destruction, producing docility, emotional detachment and indifference towards others as well as towards one’s own self. I’m currently reading Han’s latest book Capitalism and the Death Drive; check it out.

The devastating consequences of capitalism suggest that a death drive is at work. Freud initially introduced the death drive hesitantly, but later admitted that he ‘couldn’t think beyond it’ as the idea of the death drive became increasingly central to his thought. Today, it is impossible to think about capitalism without considering the death drive. Global justice and ecological sustainability are impossible to imagine if we do not quickly find something to replace capitalism and its fantasies of endless growth. When the shit storm eventually hits us full on, we will all be doomed. There is no Planet B.

The toxic ideology of corporate capitalism, in addition to destroying communities and all life forms on the planet is producing grotesque levels of economic inequality. Capitalism differs little from any other of the countless hierarchical socio-economic systems that have prevailed throughout recorded history. The anarchists who have for over 150 years been critiquing hierarchical systems such as religion and the state were spot on when they claimed that “power corrupts”. One only needs to read one of the earliest anarchists Mikhail Bakunin in writings such as God and the State to understand the tyranny of both the Christian churches and the bureaucratic bourgeois state. But hierarchies exist within the nation state itself and surely corporations, organized religion, police and the military are four obvious examples. Bakunin was right when he proclaimed “If God actually existed it would be necessary to abolish him”. The same could be said about every other bogus authoritarian and asshole sociopath that gets their rocks off by imposing their will on others. Most neighborhoods have at least one neighbor from hell on their street. But the insidious nature of power can be traced back at least as far as Thucydides in his History of the Peloponnesian Wars (c 411 BCE) when he wrote, “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer as they must”. For starters, why can’t people realize that private property is a human construct, a fantasy like both religion and capitalism that use their sacred dictums and deities as mechanisms to justify thievery. Private property, sanctioned by the Catholic Church, was used to expropriate all property from Indigenous people. The first person to declare himself an anarchist was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon who proclaimed rightly that “all property is theft”. Now we have an even more insidious scam called “intellectual property”. [2b]

Canada’s most revered politician and left-liberal Christian influenced by the long abandoned social gospel movement was the great Tommy Douglas. In many of his rousing and inspiring public speeches he often included the political allegory of a fictitious country he called Mouse Land. As Tommy explained, every four years in Mouse Land a society of mice would vote on a choice restricted to feline candidates. In one election cycle they would vote for the black cats, and after four years of being lied to, propagandized, preyed upon and exploited by these cats they would vote for the white cats, and after four years of the same old same old they would vote for the black cats, and so on; until one insightful mouse proposed to form a separate mouse party in order to govern for themselves.Every election cycle it’s a revolving door of a capitalist conservative or capitalist liberal, neither of which gave a rat’s ass about working people. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. In most versions of the story, this social democratic mouse is red-baited, accused of communism, the mouse party declared illegal and its leaders locked up; a sign of the extent to which the CCF/NDP were faced with red-baiting by the conservative and “liberal” capitalist party duopoly and their lap poodle corporate media. This situation predominated despite the CCF/NDP’s own anti-communism. In the past five or six decades the NDP, since changing its name and abandoning the founding document Regina Manifesto is a mere shadow of its anti-war anti-capitalist and socialist origins as the former CCF.  As to the cat in mouse’s clothing - which is what the so-called social democratic NDP has sadly become - it’s important that the revolutionary rodent employ capitalist detection by sniffing them out first. It has always mystified me as to why so many Christians are political conservatives who embrace a capitalist system based on the most degraded aspects of humans such as greed, avarice and exploitation. The cognitive dissonance of Christians surely must be a serious mind virus, especially in light of the graphic below:


                                                               Rembrandt: Christ Driving the Money Lenders (aka Banksters) from the Temple, 1635

Given the revolutionary Che Guevara character of their guru Jesus Christ he most certainly would be an anti- capitalist in today’s FUBAR world. Nietzsche was right when he declared that "the last Christian died on the cross". In fact JC would be arrested by the capitalist state, incarcerated and perhaps executed as he was during the rule of the Roman Empire. But selection bias and motivated reasoning are examples of logical dysfunction and it ought to surprise no one that the Christian churches and other conservatives supported Hitler’s rise to absolute power in 1930s Germany. Hitler, after all, was a Catholic. And what about today’s globalized finance capitalism - a quasi-religious neo-fascist dogma called neo-liberalism? There is a striking parallel here with the German jurist and Nazi Party member Carl Schmitt’s claim in his Political Theology that the hallmark of true sovereignty is the power to “decide on the exception” which invariably becomes the rule.  Schmitt’s point is that sovereignty, like god, stands above all law because in an emergency the sovereign can suspend any law and declare an exception and govern in its place as the very source of law.  

Schmitt spoke of the state and the idea of sovereignty as derivative of the religious dictatorship of God, but the theology of neo-liberal market society is developed from the dubious Christian idea of free will in the face of a deity that clearly doesn’t give a shit about the misery of his flock - or is asleep at the wheel. In the capitalist market everyone is free to exploit and extract profit and this freedom is the deemed the greatest good. But along with free will comes culpability, the theological basis of neo-liberal conceptions of guilt and original sin. The market is the sacrosanct environment in which we exercise our freedom to accumulate capital but unlike the Christian requirement, if we are sufficiently powerful we need not accept the consequences of these choices, since the state will forgive us and cover our monetary losses. The Christian Evangelical world, like the neo-liberal world, is a world of individuals. After all, one of the queens of untrammeled capitalism, Margaret Thatcher, proclaimed that "there is no such thing as society", only profit seeking individuals. Each of us stands alone before the Gods of the market in a theology in which all inconvenient socio-economic facts are, unlike Christianity, exempt from responsibility, accountability or punishment. In fact, if you steal enough from certain people who don’t matter, you are not only forgiven, but financially rescued and exonerated from your crimes, even offered key positions in the capitalist governments.

The vile Christian sect of Calvinism comes to mind here, in particular the Calvinist combination of free will, predestination, original sin, the inscrutable will of God and his inexplicable grace as visible signs of invisible benevolence is not only unintelligible, but a source of hellish angst. We are all born sinners, so consequently we all deserve to be damned whether we are moral exemplars or psychopathic scorpions. After all, everything that happens is ordained by God; however when things go well we cannot be certain that we will be bound for the equally opaque heaven or when things go badly we cannot be sure that we will be destined to eternal damnation in God’s hell fires - or why. We’re told that the Christian god, like the market, works in mysterious ways. In either case it is possible that we are just being put to a demented test by temptation or tribulation. A particularly malicious consequence of Calvinism is that there can be no possibility of moral protest or justice because there are no innocent victims. With no explanation given, we are all guilty and plagued by “sin” at birth; but once again, the Lard, like the insane roulette wheels of the capitalist market, works in mysterious ways. Even the successful capitalist cannot relax, since it may be that the market God is merely tempting them, waiting to destroy them if they make a misstep. The market God and his “invisible hand of the marketplace” are enigmatic as one of the high priests of neo-liberalism Friedrich Hayek claimed. We can never be confident why anything has happened or predict what will happen next, despite the predictions and prognostications of legions of market analysts, soothsayers and crystal ball reading economists. And in 21st century capitalism, anything goes as the latest scam marketed endlessly on TV is online gambling on professional sports which in a more civilized ethically inclined era, along with lotteries, were illegal.

It Wasn’t Always Thus

You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The triumph of despotism is to force the slaves to declare themselves free - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The slave trading genocidal Christian European explorers - the real savages - were invariably incredulous by the generosity of indigenous populations in the Americas. Columbus wrote in his diary, “When you ask for something they have, they never say no. To the contrary, they offer to share with anyone.” This was especially the norm with the freedom loving indigenous tribes in North America who resembled libertarian socialists; that is, they were anarchists. Certainly they were far more democratic than their European invaders who were only interested in stealing everything in sight, including the land and its bountiful resources. The leaders of Native American tribes remained in their positions only insofar as they put the interests of the tribal members ahead of themselves, demonstrating real democracy that the so-called enlightened European Christian did not seem to understand. When Europeans began to engage in dialogue, in particular with North American indigenous thinkers, many were surprised at the values of freedom and egalitarianism they valued, especially compared with the hierarchical monarchic/theocratic societies from which they came. While these discussions continued, they were at the same time colluding to steal their land and resources by means of mass genocide. Some of the natives that traveled back to Europe were shocked at the levels of depravity, poverty, squalor and inequality coterminous with tyrannical power and obscene wealth, conditions that were non-existent in their own cultures. One of the many disagreeable features of Europeans that bothered Native Americans was the putrid odor of their bodies since unlike Europeans, bathing and cleanliness were cultural requirements for members of most native tribes.

Within the Iroquois Confederation of communal ownership, mutual aid and ethic of sharing, one might consider the Huron (or Wendat) for example, who were particularly insulted and offended by the unmitigated greed and lack of generosity within the French settlers in Canada. Consider the brilliant Wendat philosopher Kandiaronk who considered the French Canadian religion of Christianity repulsive but he was also contemptuous of the societal norms of the most French colonialists, their love of power and claims to cultural superiority. Kandiaronk was considered one of the most valuable guests at the table of Count de Frontenac and his deputy Lahontan in the late 17th century. Consider this excerpt from David Graeber and David Wengrow’s amazing new book The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity:

During the 1690s, in other words, the Montreal-based governor and his officers (presumably including his sometime deputy, Lahontan) hosted a proto-Enlightenment salon, where they invited Kandiaronk to debate exactly the sort of matters that appeared in the Dialogues, and in which it was Kandiaronk who took the position of rational skeptic.

What’s more, there is every reason to believe that Kandiaronk actually had been to France; that’s to say, we know the Wendat Confederation did send an ambassador to visit the court of Louis XIV in 1691, and Kandiaronk’s office at the time was Speaker of the Council, which would have made him the logical person to send. While the intimate knowledge of European affairs and understanding of European psychology attributed to Adario might seem implausible, Kandiaronk was a man who had been engaged in political negotiations with Europeans for years, and regularly ran circles around them by anticipating their logic, interests, blind spots and reactions. Finally, many of the critiques of Christianity, and European ways more generally, attributed to Adario correspond almost exactly to criticisms that are documented from other speakers of Iroquoian languages around the same time.

Lahontan himself claimed to have based the Dialogues on notes jotted down during or after a variety of conversations he’d had with Kandiaronk at Michilimackinac, on the strait between Lakes Huron and Michigan; notes that he later reorganized with the governor’s help and which were supplemented, no doubt, by reminiscences both had of similar debates held over Frontenac’s own dinner table. In the process the text was no doubt augmented and embellished, and probably tweaked again when Lahontan produced his final edition in Amsterdam. There is, however, every reason to believe the basic arguments were Kandiaronk’s own.

Lahontan anticipates some of these arguments in his Memoirs, when he notes that Americans who had actually been to Europe – here, he was very likely thinking primarily of Kandiaronk himself, as well as a number of former captives who had been put to work as galley slaves – came back contemptuous of European claims to cultural superiority. Those Native Americans who had been in France, he wrote,

… were continually teasing us with the faults and disorders they observed in our towns, as being occasioned by money. There’s no point in trying to remonstrate with them about how useful the distinction of property is for the support of society: they make a joke of anything you say on that account. In short, they neither quarrel nor fight, nor slander one another; they scoff at arts and sciences, and laugh at the difference of ranks which is observed with us. They brand us for slaves, and call us miserable souls, whose life is not worth having, alleging that we degrade ourselves in subjecting ourselves to one man [the king] who possesses all the power, and is bound by no law but his own will.

In other words, we find here all the familiar criticisms of European society that the earliest missionaries had to contend with – the squabbling, the lack of mutual aid, the blind submission to authority – but with a new element added in: the organization of private property. Lahontan continues: ‘They think it unaccountable that one man should have more than another, and that the rich should have more respect than the poor. In short, they say, the name of savages, which we bestow upon them, would fit ourselves better, since there is nothing in our actions that bears an appearance of wisdom.’

Native Americans who had the opportunity to observe French society from up close had come to realize one key difference from their own, one which may not otherwise have been apparent. Whereas in their own societies there was no obvious way to convert wealth into power over others (with the consequence that differences of wealth had little effect on individual freedom), in France the situation could not have been more different. Power over possessions could be directly translated into power over other human beings.

But here let us give the floor to Kandiaronk himself. The first of the Dialogues is about religious matters, in which Lahontan allows his foil calmly to pick apart the logical contradictions and incoherence of the Christian doctrines of original sin and redemption, paying particular attention to the concept of hell. As well as casting doubt on the historicity of scripture, Kandiaronk continually emphasizes the fact that Christians are divided into endless sects, each convinced they are entirely right and that all the others are hell-bound. To give a sense of its flavor:

Kandiaronk: Come on, my brother. Don’t get up in arms … It’s only natural for Christians to have faith in the holy scriptures, since, from their infancy, they’ve heard so much of them. Still, it is nothing if not reasonable for those born without such prejudice, such as the Wendats, to examine matters more closely.

However, having thought long and hard over the course of a decade about what the Jesuits have told us of the life and death of the son of the Great Spirit, any Wendat could give you twenty reasons against the notion. For myself, I’ve always held that, if it were possible that God had lowered his standards sufficiently to come down to earth, he would have done it in full view of everyone, descending in triumph, with pomp and majesty, and most publicly … He would have gone from nation to nation performing mighty miracles, thus giving everyone the same laws. Then we would all have had exactly the same religion, uniformly spread and equally known throughout the four corners of the world, proving to our descendants, from then till ten thousand years into the future, the truth of this religion. Instead, there are five or six hundred religions, each distinct from the other, of which according to you, the religion of the French, alone, is any good, sainted, or true.

The last passage reflects perhaps Kandiaronk’s most telling point: the extraordinary self-importance of the Jesuit conviction that an all-knowing and all-powerful being would freely choose to entrap himself in flesh and undergo terrible suffering, all for the sake of a single species, designed to be imperfect, only some of which were going to be rescued from damnation anyway.

There follows a chapter on the subject of law, where Kandiaronk takes the position that European-style punitive law, like the religious doctrine of eternal damnation, is not necessitated by any inherent corruption of human nature, but rather by a form of social organization that encourages selfish and acquisitive behavior. Lahontan objects: true, reason is the same for all humans, but the very existence of judges and punishment shows that not everyone is capable of following its dictates:

Lahontan: This is why the wicked need to be punished, and the good need to be rewarded. Otherwise, murder, robbery and defamation would spread everywhere, and, in a word, we would become the most miserable people upon the face of the earth.

Kandiaronk: For my own part, I find it hard to see how you could be much more miserable than you already are. What kind of human, what species of creature, must Europeans be, that they have to be forced to do good, and only refrain from evil because of fear of punishment? …

You have observed that we lack judges. What is the reason for that? Well, we never bring lawsuits against one another. And why do we never bring lawsuits? Well, because we made a decision not to accept or make use of money. And why do we refuse to allow money into our communities? The reason is this: we are determined not to have laws – because, since the world was a world, our ancestors have been able to live contentedly without them.

Given that the Wendat most certainly did have a legal code, this might seem disingenuous on Kandiaronk’s part. By laws, however, he is clearly referring to laws of a coercive or punitive nature. He goes on to dissect the failings of the French legal system, dwelling particularly on judicial persecution, false testimony, torture, witchcraft accusations and differential justice for rich and poor. In conclusion, he swings back to his original observation: the whole apparatus of trying to force people to behave well would be unnecessary if France did not also maintain a contrary apparatus that encourages people to behave badly. That apparatus consisted of money, property rights and the resultant pursuit of material self-interest:

Kandiaronk: I have spent six years reflecting on the state of European society and I still can’t think of a single way they act that’s not inhuman, and I genuinely think this can only be the case, as long as you stick to your distinctions of ‘mine’ and ‘thine’. I affirm that what you call money is the devil of devils; the tyrant of the French, the source of all evils; the bane of souls and slaughterhouse of the living. To imagine one can live in the country of money and preserve one’s soul is like imagining one could preserve one’s life at the bottom of a lake. Money is the father of luxury, lasciviousness, intrigues, trickery, lies, betrayal, insincerity, – of all the world’s worst behavior. Fathers sell their children, husbands their wives, wives betray their husbands, brothers kill each other, friends are false, and all because of money. In the light of all this, tell me that we Wendat are not right in refusing to touch, or so much as to look at silver?

For Europeans in 1703, this was heady stuff.

Much of the subsequent exchange consists of the Frenchman trying to convince Kandiaronk of the advantages of adopting European civilization, and Kandiaronk countering that the French would do much better to adopt the Wendat way of life. Do you seriously imagine, he says, that I would be happy to live like one of the inhabitants of Paris, to take two hours every morning just to put on my shirt and make-up, to bow and scrape before every obnoxious galoot I meet on the street who happened to have been born with an inheritance? Do you really imagine I could carry a purse full of coins and not immediately hand them over to people who are hungry; that I would carry a sword but not immediately draw it on the first band of thugs I see rounding up the destitute to press them into naval service? If, on the other hand, Lahontan were to adopt an American way of life, Kandiaronk tells him, it might take a while to adjust – but in the end he’d be far happier. (Kandiaronk had a point, as we’ve seen in the last chapter; settlers adopted into indigenous societies almost never wanted to go back.)

Kandiaronk is even willing to propose that Europe would be better off if its whole social system was dismantled:

Lahontan: Try for once in your life to actually listen. Can’t you see, my dear friend that the nations of Europe could not survive without gold and silver – or some similar precious symbol? Without it, nobles, priests, merchants and any number of others who lack the strength to work the soil would simply die of hunger. Our kings would not be kings; what soldiers would we have? Who would work for kings, or anybody else? … It would plunge Europe into chaos and create the most dismal confusion imaginable.

Kandiaronk: You honestly think you’re going to sway me by appealing to the needs of nobles, merchants and priests? If you abandoned conceptions of mine and thine, yes, such distinctions between men would dissolve; a leveling equality would then take its place among you as it now does among the Wendat. And yes, for the first thirty years after the banishing of self-interest, no doubt you would indeed see a certain desolation as those who are only qualified to eat, drink, sleep and take pleasure would languish and die. But their progeny would be fit for our way of living. Over and over I have set forth the qualities that we Wendat believe ought to define humanity – wisdom, reason, equity, etc. – and demonstrated that the existence of separate material interests knocks all these on the head. A man motivated by interest cannot be a man of reason.

Here, finally, ‘equality’ is invoked as a self-conscious ideal – but only as the result of a prolonged confrontation between American and European institutions and values, and as a calculated provocation, turning European civilizing discourse backwards on itself.

One reason why modern commentators have found it so easy to dismiss Kandiaronk as the ultimate ‘noble savage’ (and, therefore, as a mere projection of European fantasies) is because many of his assertions are so obviously exaggerated. It’s not really true that the Wendat, or other American societies, had no laws, never quarreled and knew no inequalities of wealth. At the same time, as we’ve seen, Kandiaronk’s basic line of argument is perfectly consistent with what French missionaries and settlers in North America had been hearing from other indigenous Americans. To argue that because the Dialogues romanticize, they can’t really reflect what he said, is to assume that people are incapable of romanticizing themselves – despite the fact that this is what any skilful debater is likely to do under such circumstances, and all sources concur that Kandiaronk was perhaps the most skilful they’d ever met. (pp. 51-56)

Unsurprisingly, there were many Europeans especially the Jesuits and other Christians who condemned the principles of freedom, egalitarianism and fairness extolled by indigenous people such as Kandiaronk. As this scintillating dialogue on real freedom, justice and democracy reveals, the type of society and the values we hold will greatly determine which dispositions and values dominate our lives. As opposed to the tolerant, open-minded freewheeling classlessness, solidarity and sharing of North American indigenous societies, within a culture of capitalist greed, the ugly side of our natures tends to win out even if as survival mechanisms. Parental and other sources of upbringing are critical in what kind of person you will become, often offsetting the destructive aspects of a prevailing socio-politico-economic order. I think I learned more from my caring and compassionate mother and indigenous paternal grandmother about behavior and morality than the dozens of philosophy books I've read on ethics. Jean Jacques Rousseau, an Enlightenment icon and impetus for much subsequent socialist, anarchist and other left wing thought, was influenced by these ideas of real freedom and the notion of all property held in common:

The first man who, having enclosed a piece of land, thought of saying, ‘This is mine’, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. How many crimes, wars and murders, how much misery and horror the human race would have been spared if someone had pulled up the stakes and filled in the ditch and cried out to his fellow men: ‘Beware of listening to this impostor. You are lost if you forget that the fruits of the earth belong to everyone, and that the earth itself belongs to no one!’ But it is highly probable that by this time things had reached a point beyond which they could not go on as they were; for the idea of property, depending on many prior ideas which could only have arisen in successive stages, was not formed all at once in the human mind. (Rousseau, “Discourse on Inequality”)

But contrary to Rousseau our culture of greed and endless wars of conquest and plunder create self-fulfilling prophesies and work against justice, real democracy, peace, civility, sharing and decency. Moreover greedy business types, entrepreneurial financial parasites and psychopathic capitalist cockroaches are rewarded and then bailed out when they mangle the economy and cause market meltdowns. Surely within the confines of our families and even our friendship groups, a capitalist ethos would be divisive and destructive of the sharing, love and caring environment that defines a stable family or friendship group. I would claim that families are very much like the communist societies described by Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto whereby the rule is “to each according to his need and from each according to his ability.” Although age is now making them prohibitive to participate, I continue to love sports which I’ve always considered the ideal meritocracy, a condition that certainly does not exist within capitalist arrangements; at least sport is one activity that potentially allow for the possibility of a meritocracy. It certainly does not exist in our exploitive amoral kamikaze capitalist class culture of "might is right", monopolistic corporations, obliterating or assimilating rules of decency and fair play, killing the competition, the primacy of hierarchy , social class and "what's in it for me" ethos. Karl Marx is frequently accused of reducing everything to the economic; but it is not Marx that does this but rather the high priests of Wall Street and their alchemists of the “dismal science” of economics, finance and neo-liberal corporate capitalism itself. And back in his era it was precisely because Marx found this condition repulsive that he reveals it in all its naked ugliness and pressed for revolution and capitalism’s destruction. As Jonas Ceika wrote in his excellent book How to Philosophize with a Hammer and Sickle, “Marx predicted that, so long as capital exists, it will accumulate indefinitely, falling into an increasingly smaller number of hands, and correspondingly, an endless growth in productivity will soar side-by-side with an ever-growing wealth inequality. Nietzsche predicted the continued levelling of humanity into a faceless mass, the loss of any sense of greatness, and the corresponding degeneration of culture into the lowest common denominator.”

Many theorists in the second half of the twentieth century and twenty-first believe that by leaving behind the categories of thought of what they saw as a totalizing and antiquated Marxism, they could unlock new potentials for freedom, creativity and transformation, but in many cases remained servants of the market all the more unwittingly. As opposed to reformist social democratic parties such as the SPD in Germany, Labour Party in the UK and the CCF/NDP in Canada that have made peace with capitalism and rendered superfluous. The Communist parties that were so popular in the first half of the 20th century have been proven correct in claiming that capitalism cannot be reformed, only taken down. Jonas Ceika again:

Capital has fully colonized the globe — there is no spot on the planet immune from capitalist social relations. There are, furthermore, no mechanisms internal to capitalism that would allow its influence to decrease. This influence is universal and indefinitely increasing, and there is no class and no nation independent of it. So long as one recognizes this, one must also recognize that Nietzsche’s dream of transforming the world is impossible if one does not address capital. And, further, given the stage of development at which capitalism operates, the only way to address capital is to destroy it. There are no means for moderating capital or limiting it, except those that aim for its destruction.

Capital can be destroyed by neither the state or by itself. It can only be destroyed by the class which makes it possible but is simultaneously made to suffer under its mechanisms — the class that does not grow wealthier on account of its accumulation, a class that is subjugated by capital but is also capable of organizing itself into a subject that wills its abolition: the working class. And because capital is global and universal, it can therefore only be challenged by a working class that is global and universal, as free from nationalisms and petty chauvinisms as capital itself.

If such a challenge were to succeed, it would have to create something affirmatory by way of negating capital, which means negating its basis — private property and wage labor. What would this affirmatory creation be? Nothing if not a society planned on a human basis, in accordance with human needs, interests, desires, and values. Socialized humanity; in short, socialism. So long as a Nietzschean understands and acknowledges the nature of capital, the fundamental choice concerning world-transformation is simple: one either allows capital to operate as it has until it self-destructs in some cataclysmic manner (e.g., succumbing to climate disaster) or one opposes capital with a social force as widespread and powerful as capital itself.

Would Nietzsche agree with this conclusion just so long as he had the benefit of hindsight and had been introduced to an adequate Marxism? Probably not, and that is not my claim, which would in any case be mere speculation. Nietzsche’s work lacks an explicit political program because he identified modern politics itself as nihilistic; because he sought a world which transcended politics. My appeal is not to a hypothetical Nietzsche that became a Marxist, but today’s living Nietzscheans, who have perceived, more than Nietzsche could have, the full extent of capital’s dominating tendency and its globally destructive force. Our challenge is to inject into Nietzscheanism a political content, by identifying the possibility of a political program geared towards the ultimate abolition of politics, a program that turns the products of nihilism against nihilism itself. Today, that is the only way to avoid reducing Nietzschean philosophy to a merely scholarly exercise or a pop-cultural trend; it is the only way to give Nietzschean thought material force — and an oppositional, subversive philosophy without material force might as well not exist.

Would our socialism look like the Soviet Union? No. It wouldn’t even be a variation of the Soviet system, or a reform of it, nor any merely quantitative change; it would be a categorically different society. If we go by Marx’s own analysis of capital, the Soviet Union was a plainly capitalist economy, containing all of capitalism’s basic social relations: capital, wage-labor, commodity production. Commodity production means that products are made for the purpose of exchange, and production is therefore carried out for profit, not need. For the process to succeed the profit must exceed the investment — in other words, capital must be accumulated. Capital is accumulated by means of hiring wage workers, who have no choice but to sell their labor-power, and squeezing out as much surplus-value from their labor as possible; which means that the lowering of wages, increasing of work hours, intensification of work is by default systematically incentivized, and the workers are alienated from their activity and its products. It is a system of production the standard of which is the renting out of human beings. It is by definition capitalism. We must appreciate the radical nature of Marx’s analysis, which seeks to define not this or that capitalism, not capitalism at a particular historical stage or given variation, but capitalism as such, in its most basic, defining operations, independently of all possible reforms and regulations. Our socialism seeks to eliminate each one of these basic operations, and anything short of this is inadequate; it is my hope that this work will not only suggest the human characteristics of such socialism, but also inspire the will-to-creation needed to move towards its realization.

Clearly something has gone terribly wrong since the days of Rousseau’s speculations about a future of justice and fairness. Certainly if there was an easy way of eliminating the braggarts, bullies and bastards of the world hooked on psychopathic power trips, we’d enjoy a far more tolerant, civil and harmonious world. Most indigenous societies in North American were forms of primitive anarchist communism that were tolerant of difference and eccentricity. Recall the marvelous scenes in the 1970 movie Little Big Man with Chief Dan George brilliantly playing the benevolent grandfatherly personage and the gay teenage brave in the Sioux Tribe who was admired for his idiosyncrasies. This was the first movie I can recall that correctly depicted indigenous peoples as “civilized” and the Christian white men as “savages”.

The question of the extent to which genetic factors contribute to what makes us human continues to be highly controversial within science, academia and the population as a whole. I submit that human nature, however vaguely construed, is for the most part determined by parental influences, the indoctrination of the capitalist culture and ruling elites that rig the capitalist game, their media, the schools and especially the vile dogma of churches which have become basically businesses that pay no taxes. With regard to the schools, both public and private, Noam Chomsky was right when he wrote in Understanding Power, “The institutional role of the schools for the most part is just to train people for obedience and conformity and to make them controllable and indoctrinated; and as long as the schools fulfill that role, they’ll be supported.” [2]When political and religious doctrines are internalized, they will generally determine a person’s lifelong perception of what constitutes human nature and much else regarding our world view. Yes, we are animals. But if only animal instinct drives humans and we are unable to control our baser characteristics and defer to moral principles, what is there to distinguish a human from an ape? [3] But propaganda, indoctrination and fear – including fear of freedom – have been longstanding ploys to control the masses and “manufacture consent” as Chomsky called it. Is human nature the cause of why so many ordinary working class people fly the flag and sing the national anthem for every war despite the fact it is they who will fight and die in them? The late sociologist and historian Charles Tilly describes a kind of politics, one that can justify war to the masses, as that associated with official protection rackets typical of the mafia and other organized crime syndicates. In studying the business models of war mongers, imperialists and empire creators, he noted that the profiting ruling classes and their pocketed governments often resembled racketeers - at a price of course. Their caveat was protection against evils that they themselves would otherwise inflict, or at least allow to be inflicted. The endless parade of “imaginary hobgoblins” (to use H L Mencken’s expression) was necessary to the proper functioning of the business model; provided they could be discovered or invented, the panicked uproar for national security would override and neutralize logic, criticism and dispassionate judgment.

Germane to the above are the remarks by Hermann Göring to US psychologist Gustave Gilbert while awaiting trial at Nuremberg, Germany following World War II. The Nazi second in command Göring admitted as much, in as close as any of the Nazis ever came to a mea culpa:

Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America nor, for that matter, in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship. … [V]oice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

For most people, especially political conservatives typical of Christians and capitalists, this grim perception is the society depicted in William Golding’s infamous mid 20th century novel Lord of the Flies which was a few decades ago required reading in many high school English courses. More recently, the movie The Platform (2019) an anti-capitalist dark and disturbing allegorical metaphor that graphically symbolizes our capitalist system of exploitation, greed, hierarchy, class, grotesque levels of economic inequality. Another movie that presents a similar dystopian theme is Snowpiercer (2013) from the South Korean director of the blockbuster award winning movie Parasite (2019). The sort of people capitalism produces are those who J P Sartre referred to in the introductory quote. Sartre was with the French Underground during World War II when he wrote this as millions were being slaughtered so overpopulation and wall to wall people was not the serious issue it is today. But when certain corporate and financial elites are elevated beyond the rule of law and – Donald Trump and many of our global Hedge Fund parasites, banking mafia dons and billionaire Silicon Valley tech-tyrants would be prime examples – are actually rewarded for their immoral rapacious acts and behaviors, we end up with the dystopian nightmare we are currently experiencing. But it doesn’t have to be this way as there have always been progressive movements initiated by moral compassionate unselfish people, generally on the political left, who challenge the authoritarian status quo of power, privilege, domination and autocratic rule. For the past four decades the world has been subjected to a deeply reactionary neo-fascist corporatist coup and combined with general malaise and docility of the masses and multiple existential threats such as overpopulation,  global warming and ecological breakdown, it’s difficult to foresee any way out of our abysmal predicament. We are not slaves to some deterministic animal nature (Desmond Morris’ “naked ape) or “iron law of oligarchy” but are also products of our imaginations and collective self-creation and we do not need to be coerced into narrow conceptual and ideological capitalistic doctrines. Although incurable psychopaths exist (perhaps 5% of our desecrated overpopulated planet), I’m thoroughly convinced that the prevailing political and socio-economic system, cultural and ethical norms and the manner in which we are brought up as children are the dominant factors in how we behave. We are not slaves to our genes and animal origins any more than we are enslaved by the tyranny of money, rancid greed and the hierarchies of capitalism that have created obscene levels of injustice and economic inequality. It was not always thus, as the communities of indigenous cultures have shown. We’re constantly informed that there is a thin veneer between civility and barbarism that will blow up at the slightest provocation or crisis. But I refuse to accept this interpretation; given a fair shake, a just world and the opportunity to follow their dreams, most people are caring and decent folk. In fact when times get rough as they did during World War II and the London blitz, people tend to help one another out.

Historical Considerations

During the mid-seventeenth century, political philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) famously wrote that life in the state of nature – that is, our natural condition outside the authority of a monarch or political state – is “solitary, poor, nasty brutish, and short.” Born into the insecurity of war and political strife, Hobbes’ dim views on human nature may not seem at all surprising. But just over a century later, Jean-Jacques Rousseau challenged Hobbes’ notion that that human nature is essentially selfish and immoral, arguing that we could have lived peaceful and happy lives well before the development of anything like modern states and their bureaucratic tyrannies. At first glance, then, Hobbes and Rousseau represent opposing positions in answer to one of the age-old questions of human nature: are we innately good or evil? Their actual positions are more complex, nuanced and fascinating than the stark dichotomy suggested by many subsequent thinkers. But why, if at all, should we even think about human nature in these terms, and what can returning to this philosophical debate tell us about how to evaluate the decadent unjust capitalist political world we inhabit today, a capitalist world order that is running on empty, like a gargantuan parasite devouring its host.

The primarily religious and conservative conceptions of human nature as degraded and depraved can be traced back to influential Christian clerics such as St. Augustine. Augustine’s authoritarian doctrinaire theology supplied the salvation of humankind from all the perversions that he believed largely originated in pagan immorality of the Greco-Roman Empires, focusing on what he perceived to be sexual perversions and believing in multiple fraudulent deities. In Augustine one will find all the hand wringing and petty moralizing, particularly the paternalistic anti-sexual teachings of Christianity that also eventually included Islam over the millennia to our own time. For Augustine, sex was the root of all evil, and most immorality despite the fact that without sexual desire, we’d be extinct within a generation. Atheists, polytheists and other heretics were and continue to be particularly reviled. Christian dogma has been greatly influenced by the idea that we are evil, even within our mother’s womb, born with the silly tale of Adam and Eve’s “original sin”. Therefore, we are innately immoral, selfish, greedy and depraved. But Christianity, inventing the depravity myth, has the entrepreneurial solution. Before our ultimate death one must merely have “faith” in the Christian sky tyrant and his god man son Jesus Christ, allegedly born to a virgin. Obey this order and you will have eternal life in an arcane vague inexplicable place in the sky called Heaven. Disobey Christian directives and you will burn forever in a place of fire and brimstone called Hell. This carrot stick strategy for creating obedient “moral” human beings is not genuine morality, but rather, prudence.

 So, simply believing in some scientifically impossible being called Jesus one can avoid eternal damnation and punishment in hell and save your “soul”, another undefined opaque religious concept. Countless writers have condemned Augustine for creating the medieval world, moral abominations and fantasies of Christianity that persist today. It ought to surprise no one that the most self-satisfied, well balanced, egalitarian, tolerant, democratic and human countries on earth are those which are the most lacking in religion – countries such as Denmark, Holland, Norway, Sweden and Japan.

Having aligned myself with the political left since my mid-teens and especially in later life in retirement by voluminous reading, study and contemplation, I’ve increasingly gravitated toward anarchism - a very much misunderstood and misconstrued life stance and political philosophy. There are many nuances to anarchist thought but anarchists all agree on at least two ideas: (1) that power corrupts and all sources of power and illegitimate authority (almost all with the exception of perhaps science) ought to be challenged and (2) the inherent goodness of most people, especially given conditions of social and economic justice, fairness, freedom and communal egalitarianism that promote good will. Being on the left politically, given the entrenched conservatism and undemocratic global corporate capitalist world order entails many frustrations, setbacks, disappointments and risks that pushes one to a position of pessimism, perhaps if only to avoid inevitable disappointment. [1a] Challenging the status quo can be a very demoralizing activity having to continually defend your position against submissive people who have never challenged anything and invariably having to play a losing endeavor against calcified conservatives - most who are Christian - and right wing limousine liberals. There are many hazards, not the least of which are being persecuted, harassed, vilified, attacked, arrested or shot by the police whose primary existence is to serve and protect the capitalist status quo of wealthy oligarchic elites, the dictatorship and hegemony of capital, mafia banks, entrenched wealth and the lap dog political power brokers of historical entitlements and interests. The failed socio-economic system of neo-liberal capitalism has created such dreadful injustices and obscene levels of widespread corruption and economic inequality that if even a minimalist ethical principle such as the golden rule was followed by everyone, it would be dead within weeks. [4]

My first exposure to real anarchism - not the distortions and outright lies regarding anarchist thought by the liberal and conservative capitalist establishment - occurred in a graduate course in probability theory focusing on Bayesian analysis taught by a professor who was an anarchist. He stressed first that anarchism is not chaos and anything goes mantra that is peddled by our ruling classes, but rather the exact opposite, recommending as an introduction that the class read Mikhail Bakunin’s God and the State and Peter Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid. I did read Bakunin’s short book and my mind was stretched to the max. Since retirement I’ve finally had the time to read voraciously on anarchism and have been inspired by its genuine conceptions of real freedom, egalitarianism, solidarity, cooperation, adherence to ethical norms and genuine bottom up horizontal democracy and unlike our current fake democracy, rules made by the people for the people. Anarchists challenge all forms of hierarchy, authoritarianism and coercion and hold to the axiomatic adage that “power corrupts”. Police and military are rendered redundant, replaced by local policing, prisons and militias for public safety and dealing with the self-serving assholes in the community. Other redundancies include gods, the state and most forms of political power, capitalism, bureaucrats and bosses since worker cooperatives will control their own productive entities, supplanting coercive corporations and other big business monopolies. 

Anarchism arose in the first half of the nineteenth century as a response to several related phenomena that included colonialism, the growth of industrial imperialist capitalism, the expansion of its political economy as a separate and distinct discipline and the rise of nationalism, patriotism, xenophobia and the modern nation state. The first person alleged to have called himself an anarchist was the French socialist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon who, in concert with most indigenous cultures, declared that “all property is theft”. Proudhon favoured cooperative workers' councils and other similar associations as individual worker and peasant possession over private ownership or the nationalization of land and workplaces. At recent history has shown he wrongly considered political and social revolution to be achievable in a peaceful reformist manner. Proudhon unsuccessfully tried to create a national bank, to be funded by what became an abortive attempt at income tax on entrenched wealth, capitalists and shareholders. His public bank was similar in some respects to a credit union that would have granted interest-free loans. After the death of his disciple Mikhail Bakunin (arguably the most famous anarchist), Proudhon's libertarian socialism (synonymous with anarchism generally) diverged into various mutations such as individualist anarchism, collectivist anarchism, communist anarchism and anarcho-syndicalism with notable proponents such as Peter Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, Benjamin Tucker, Noam Chomsky and David Graeber. These and most other anarchists were deeply passionate and highly moral people who challenged all forms of religious and secular hierarchies, dogmas and authoritarianisms. The nation state was after all, as it certainly is today, nothing more than a mechanism for promoting the capitalist classes and entrenched wealth and power of oligarchic elites and obscene billionaires. Land theft from indigenous people, slavery and contemporary worker exploitation (mere wage slavery), patents and intellectual property frauds, all manner of legal protections for parasitic banks and predatory corporations, all manner subsidies and tax concessions in the form corporate welfare and coercive police forces that serve and protect these privileges have always been dominant features of capitalism which in the past four decades have come to resemble fascist techno-feudalistic tyrannies.

Generally, anarchists are not dogmatic or essentialist; consequently they are not inclined to a inflexible understanding of human nature, if indeed they believe that such a concept as “human nature” really exists at all. They do, however, suggest that if the essence of human nature is that people are naturally generous, compassionate and kind, the state or any other form of tyranny would be redundant. If however, human nature is malevolent, greedy and rapaciously selfish, then the state, empowered with its monopoly on the use of legitimate coercion and violence, is even more toxic and precarious than anti-social or psychopathic behavior by individuals. Anarchists have attempted to call attention to this paradox not as an enemy to the rule of law, order and social solidarity, but as the indication of a need for more principled and democratic socio-economic arrangements. Even as they are the votaries of ethical behaviors such as empathy and community, anarchists do not support static orders of conservatism, regimentation and uniformity. Typical contemporary political language, especially by liberals and even some conservatives, often invoke vague notions such as the people but don’t really trust them to govern themselves. Rather, they prefer various representatives or intermediaries, all of whom quite naturally have their own interests, desires and political agendas they serve. The politicians of our putative representative “democracies” maintain the pretense that they are governing for the common good of all as they continue to support and enable those who really get them elected, the parasitic wealthy corrupt capitalist classes, the big banks, corporations and long-standing wealthy power elites as they write laws for themselves, control, pillage, plunder and rule the commons like feudalistic monarchs and landlords. Anarchists claim that when people come to understand that the game is rigged against them, the power of the ruling oligarchy will come to an end as did the divine right of kings and monarchies following the French Revolution.

Capitalism has given us precisely what its conservative and many liberal proponents warned us communism would be (although no socialist or communist order has ever existed, at least according to Marx’s principles): authoritarianism, bureaucracy, corruption, low paying bullshit jobs, endless surveillance and an ominous police state, rampant corruption, market manipulation, degradation of the environment, imperialism, endless wars, the prison industrial complex , increasing debt and homelessness, mind numbing business infused education and the banality and automation of everyday life. [4a]Ironically, what many Marxists call the former Stalinist Soviet Union is “state capitalism”; certainly for the real existing Soviet Union following the death of Lenin, communism is a misnomer. Leon Trotsky was Lenin’s cohort and ideological twin during the Bolshevik Revolution and after Lenin suffered a series of strokes he warned Trotsky about the possibility of Joseph Stalin taking control of the emergent people’s socialist state. But following Lenin’s untimely death from a final stroke in 1923 the despotic control freak Stalin did just that. Leon Trotsky was subsequently banished by Stalin from the Soviet Union and was eventually brutally murdered in Mexico by his secret police hired thugs. Trotsky, a brilliant writer, rightly referred to Stalin as the “gravedigger of the Russian Revolution”.

Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto described communism as a society whereby the state of affairs would be “from each according to his ability and to each according to his need” which is the ethical principle that all good families and communities of friendship follow and practice. Surely any decent family that ran their household as a capitalist racket, namely a rigged zero sum game based on exploitation and greed, would be deemed demented, cruel and deeply immoral.

Power certainly does corrupt and any hierarchical top down system will promote venality as it does in our fraudulent representative “democracies”
 under capitalism. Certainly hierarchical institutions and ideologies such as corporate capitalism, Christianity and various incarnations of calcified conservatism are grounded in some the worst human characteristics. Certainly they and the electoral representative forms of government in capitalist societies are only marginally democratic, if at all. But it doesn’t have to be this way – only our thoughtlessness and barren imaginations prevent us from something more fair, just and egalitarian. Sartre in referring to “other people” as “hell” was not directing his vitriol at people in general but rather capitalists, authoritarians, jerks, assholes and those privileged moneyed classes who believe they deserve everything they have either inherited or stolen. They invariably promote the “self-made man” theory as if we all lived in some fairy tale meritocracy or pre-existing system of cosmic justice. I highly recommend a recent 700 page irreverent and iconoclastic book called The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by the anthropologist David Graeber [5] and his co-author archeologist David Wengow that went to press following the unexpected death of Graeber earlier this year. This book that was ten years in the making brilliantly challenges the traditionally accepted Eurocentric interpretations of how what we call “civilization” developed, including the cynical self-centered egocentric accounts of our apparent depraved human nature that underwrites capitalist socio-economic arrangements and other hierarchical and tyrannical regimes throughout human history. [6]

Studies of the real history of the labor and civil rights movements and other efforts toward unseating these long-standing oligarchic and theocratic interests and moving toward civility, genuine bottom-up democracy and justice will confirm this. A typical cycle seemingly built into the DNA of capitalism is what I call “boom-bubble-bust bailout” and over the past two decades capitalism came precipitously close to global collapse three times. Without government intervention funneling trillions of dollars of public funds into the financial markets, banks and multi-national corporations, the system would have imploded. The 2008 financial debacle in which millions throughout the world lost their jobs and hundreds of thousands of others lost their homes was the upshot of criminality beyond anything seen before - and yet no one was ever held accountable. During the meltdown the US clown President George W Bush blurted out on national TV, “This sucker’s going down”. Without the golden parachutes of unlimited cash, it would have done so. During the fear, hysteria and nervous breakdown of the meltdown, key corporate and government players were scrambling about trying to save the sinking ship of a failing decadent capitalist system. It should have been allowed to collapse; we could have had a fresh start. But considering the rigged and bloated stock market bubble that exists today, far surpassing anything witnessed in the past, we’re heading for another collapse as during the depths of the covid-19 pandemic in the summer of 2020 US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell proclaimed he would do “whatever it takes” to save the markets. This is one of the most obtuse unethical utterances by a key government official I’ve heard in my lifetime; for the Machiavellian moral monster Jerome Powell, the end justifies the means, violating the universally accepted Kantian ethical principle called the categorical imperative; namely;  “Act only according to that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law” and “act that you use humanity, in your own person as well as in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end, never merely as a means.” In my view Kant’s imperative not only challenges the selfish and exploitive nature of capitalism in general but condemns it to the trash heap of depraved and immoral authoritarian socio-economic ideologies such as theocracy and monarchy.

Many believe our Christian and Capitalist ruling elites regarding the innate selfishness and depravity of human nature that is seemingly endemic not to their own amoral narcissistic rapacious behavior and carrot-stick morality but especially to the masses, referred to by arch-conservative Edmund Burke (1729-97) as the “swinish multitude”. For the Christian hierarchy they have the salvation plan for our “born into sin” degeneracy with their own carrot-stick bogus morality grounded in the absolutism of their invisible sky dictator. And since capitalist greed, avarice and the endless pursuit of money is also innate and genetically wired, change is futile. Selfishness, exploitation of others and other pathologically bad behavior cannot be changed, so why try? Ultimately the nefarious forms of conservatism are all about authority, hierarchy and the power hungry sociopaths that covet wealth and power as an end in itself. And within undemocratic unjust political arrangements such as capitalism, it’s the tyranny of money. Conservatives and sadly many contemporary liberals never miss an opportunity to put symbols of power on display, whether it’s organized religion, the vile decadent British monarchy, cops, military or other more subtle symbols of power such as the flag and national anthem. At one time being a millionaire was considered obscene and decadent, now it costs a million dollars for a modest bungalow as a half dozen or so billionaires now control more wealth than the bottom half of our over-populated planet. In one of the most unequal countries in the world, the USA, one-tenth of one percent have more wealth than the bottom ninety percent.This was no accident, but rather a reactionary counter-revolution to the post World War II Great Depression inspired social democracies, growing labor movements, social security programs and the 1960s counter culture. 

There continues to be a lively debate among philosophers and scientists regarding the roles of genetics (nature) and environmental factors (nurture) in our dispositions to belligerence, greed and conflict on the one hand and peace, tolerance and compassion on the other. Most of us have character traits combining both. Certainly there have been many earlier indigenous societies cited by anthropologists and others that were very much leaning to the latter. Certainly on the genetic side, our nature is not necessarily dominated by greed, rapacity and belligerence. Most children have an innate sense of unfair behavior and injustice and some of us seem to be born with dispositions toward empathy, compassion and a propensity to sharing rather than acquisitiveness. The type of society and the values we hold will greatly determine which dispositions dominate. In a culture of greed, the ugly side of our natures tends to win out even if as survival mechanisms.

I think I learned more from my caring and compassionate mother about behavior and morality than the dozens of philosophy books I've read on ethics. But our culture of greed and endless wars of conquest and plunder create self-fulfilling prophesies and work against peace, civility sharing and decency.

I think it’s accurate to say that most sports are genuine meritocracies, or at least one of the few human activities with set rules of conduct that make a meritocracy possible. It certainly does not exist in our nanny state enabled kamikaze capitalist culture of "might is right", monopolistic corporations and corruption that obliterate or assimilate the competition, bailout the risk takers who are too big to fail, the primacy of social class and "what's in it for me" ethos. I did write a piece on human nature a few years back; if the reader is interested:


Karl Marx’s conception of “species-being” implies that all humans have a basic set of attributes and needs that define them as a species that transcend the state of amoral semi-intelligent apes. Capitalists, Christians and other conservatives and even some Marxists have attempted to deny the immutability of a distinct “human nature”. To me this is patently false. Even a rudimentary understanding of anthropology and history, especially before the advent of authoritarian systems about five centuries ago, the evidence is clear. Humans are social animals having survived by collective cooperation, creative labour, cultural norms and rules of conduct and pragmatic practises of civilized behaviour. Even children have an innate sense of fair play and understanding of right and wrong behaviour, often abiding by a tacit un-stated golden rule.   

It's very difficult not to be both a pessimist and cynic regarding our messed up FUBAR world, but, despite my pessimism and the seeming increase in assholes of which Donald Trump is a paragon, I’m not a cynic and tend to lean toward the nurture side of the nature v nurture arguments. We raise our children to survive within the dog-eat-dog capitalist world that has been created and continually promoted in our culture, including both the schools and “god wants you to be rich” Christian churches, despite the reality that our chances in the lottery of life are determined primarily by the social class into which we are born. Four hundred or so years of capitalist colonial exploitation and greed which was grounded in slavery for most of those years (one could compellingly argue that it still is - anyone paid less than $20 an hour in not much more than a slave) is a major factor in the way people think about behavior and ethics. It does not have to be that way; why do we have to live like rapacious insatiable barbarians? But cynicism is not only endemic to our capitalist culture of greed but also Christianity which from the time of theologians such as St. Augustine and through Calvin declares we are born sinful and intrinsically evil and wicked – even the newborn child one day old. This dismal take on the human condition I cannot accept. For example, despite military training designed to transform young men into killer apes, only about 20% of the infantry that were involved in real war action ever fired a shot and 1% of fighter pilots were responsible for 40% enemy planes shot down. Following the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War it was discovered that 90% of almost 280000 of muskets inspected had never been fired. My father and his older brother were trained as pilots during World war II. My dad's brother, a fighter pilot, never made it home, killed at the in North Africa in 1942 and is buried near Alexandria in Egypt. My paternal grandmother never recovered from his loss. My father, who despised the military culture and because of sinus issues was posted to a Lancaster bombing crew rather than a fighter squadron. After dozens of bombing missions over Germany, including the infamous napalm bombing of Dresden, he made it back home but was obviously damaged psychologically (likely PTSD) from the experience. In fact my dad and every member of his crew were lifelong alcoholics, which was the fate of many who returned. My message to all young and typically working class men: DO NOT join any military because without you, wars of greed, silly patriotism and profit cannot be carried out. There is nothing noble about war.

My best friend and I in high school, radicalized by Mad Magazine in the calcified conservative 1950s understood by the onset of the 1960s what had to be done to become obscenely rich bastards. Other than financial security, a lifetime spent in the pursuit of the almighty dollar didn't interest either one of us. We were both "A" students without much effort and talked about our futures a great deal on our long walks to another boring day at school. We certainly did not want the lives of our fathers; both of whom were alcoholics, businessmen and extremely unhappy. I chose Honors Mathematics (not my first choice) and my electronics geek friend Rick chose Electrical and then Engineering Physics. But we both preferred radical history and especially philosophy after discovering Bertrand Russell's "Why I'm not a Christian" in our high school library. The Christian community somehow missed that blasphemous volume during their book burning excursions into our small town Northern BC high school library. I can remember many times being subjected to the infamous “strap” for my precocious inquiring behavior, once for questioning the boring morning Lord's Prayer and Bible readings (ten on each hand was the standard punishment for the wrong sort of curiosity). It was Premier Dave Barrett and the NDP in the early 1970s, finally replacing the 20 years of far right wing Social Credit corruption in BC, who abolished the barbaric practice, in addition to many other progressive changes to our draconian education system. He also introduced income supplements for seniors, the Agricultural Land Reserve and ICBC in his short three year stint as head of the government of British Columbia. But he was up against a wall of corporate money and a business biased media that crucified him daily, regardless of the much good he was doing. Davie Barrett was the best Premier BC ever had and a very honest ethical man. Rick and I, in one of our more insane moments, decided to join what we and some of our equally precocious and radical friends called The Air Head Cadets. I lasted one and my friend endured two days of hell,. W hat a humiliating experience, marching, saluting and being screamed at by some brain dead maniacal staff sergeant who I finally told to F-off. This pretty much sums up the inanity of the military:


If that doesn't cure you of a dumb ass intention to be a soldier, watch the movies The Hill (1965) and Paths of Glory (1957).

Not long after my punishment for the sin of curiosity regarding the Holy Babble and Lard's Prayer there was a constitutional challenge going on in the United States by an atheist Madeleine Murray O'Hare. She objected to the violations of the US Constitution inherent within the brain washing mind destroying practice of religious indoctrination in the public schools and eventually won her case at the Supreme Court level. This medieval practice was finally stopped in Canada as well. But religious superstition continues to pollute the minds of children and permeates every other every aspect of our cultural and political landscape. These Christian evangelicals have incredible political power regardless of scientific advancement and ineffective constitutional limits in our lame "democracies". Christianity, in addition to its superstitious rubbish and intellectual nonsense is highly paternalistic and authoritarian, promoting obedience and docility to power and authority to both god and the state regardless of legitimacy. The churches had no problem with Hitler, Mussolini or Franco; in fact they supported them enthusiastically. Merely consider the end-times fundamentalist homophobic crypto-fascist Stephen Harper who was the Prime Minister of our country from 2006 to 2015, a control freak mediocrity who had wet dreams about his agenda of turning our country into a zombie capitalist theocracy. He was a one man wrecking crew who inflicted much damage on Canada, arguably the worst crime minister in Canadian history – and we’ve had some very bad ones.

I'm working on a paper called "The Authoritarian Model" that attempts to address why people so easily defer to authority, regardless of source or justification. My position on the nature versus nurture debate would take pages to explain and I’m attempting to do that with a paper on the nature of neo-fascist monopolistic capitalist tyranny. Certainly the notion of original sin in Christian doctrine plays a strong role in the popular notion of humans being born into depravity and who therefore need salvation. It's an effective carrot and stick ruse for controlling people by religious clerics, pastors and priests who quite clearly cannot control their own animal instincts. Fear is a tried and true path to domination by those who covet power and hope to wield it over others. That's what the phony war on terror is all about. If you can't find an enemy or bogeyman like communism during the phony Cold War, you invent a new one - Cold War 2.0.

But who controls the depravity of our religious and secular leaders? Just have faith in Jesus and let the Pope or some other cleric or political conservative such as Herr Harper do your thinking for you? Christianity has been complicit in the plunder, theft, enslavement and genocide of indigenous peoples since the time of Columbus. If you don’t know the sordid history, a must read is An Indigenous People's History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz.

I have over a hundred books on the history of indigenous people in my library and this is one of one of the best. She's a retired historian with Native American roots. Her other books are great reads as well. But the murderous pillage by the Christian West occurred throughout the world, not just the Americas. Have you ever seen the 1986 movie The Mission (1986) starring Robert DeNiro? I mention this because both my wife and I saw this brilliant movie (with musical score by the late Ennio Morricone) several months ago for the first time. It has a wonderful cast, superbly acted and filmed. The movie is based primarily on the Spanish and Portuguese slave trade in South America in the 18th century and the complicity of the Vatican in that horrific practice. Contra the Hollywood and media Cowboys and Indians bullshit we've been endlessly fed, there's no doubt who the real savages are; namely Christian White Men. The first movie I can recall that portrayed native Americans as real people while depicting the Christian white men racist rapacious mass murders was Little Big Man (1970) featuring the great Indigenous Canadian Chief Dan George who was brilliant in his role. Dan George was also featured in one or two Clint Eastwood flicks.

Sadly, people behave like sheep and the vast majority of them really don't seem to care much about important issues, even the source of their own prosperity or poverty, provided their own lives are tolerable. "The Lord is my Sheppard; what does that make me?"[23rd Psalm]  Most refuse to think at all (let alone think critically) and our various cultural mechanisms such as religion, the education system, political apparatus and the mind numbing marketing of corporate controlled mass media promote stupidity, ignorance, faith, docility, mindless patriotism and, idiotic nationalism. One cannot even watch a hockey game without military presence and the incredibly inane national anthem; I simply cannot bear to watch that mindless war mongering propaganda. Please spare us; "Oh Canada our home ON Native land"! The lyrics, as in most national anthems, are oppressive mind destroying flag waving and war mongering drivel. Our conservative and Lexus liberal masters use every opportunity to promote obedience and compliance and a readiness of the bewildered working class masses to fight the rich man's imperialistic wars.

In fact before they would ever demonstrate dissent, civil disobedience or rebel, people will adapt, work harder, buy more useless shit and take on more debt in a lame attempt to ease the neo-fascist jackboot from their necks, thus easing the pain of their precarious economic conditions. They will rationalize or internalize their oppression and enslavement before engaging in any form of dissent. The last thing most people are inclined to do is think; after all the truth can be emotionally painful and thinking is often agonizing and frustrating intellectual toil.

There already is very fragmented civil disobedience and solidarity and purpose is much needed for any possibility of change. The militarization of the police is a preparation by the power elites for that possibility. They shut down the Occupy Wall Street movement because their spot on message was getting through to the hoi polloi. Cops, who exist to serve and protect wealth and power, can now shoot anyone with impunity. Not a day goes by in the US without some poor unarmed innocent wretch (usually non-white) being brutalized, beaten or shot by trigger happy cops who in any civilized society would not be allowed to carry guns. In the US, with 5% of the world's population, the country has 25% of all people in prisons, even more than China with four times the population. It's a fascist police state; let's face the facts - and Canada with creepy Christian conservative fundamentalist like Stephen Harper and now his limousine liberal silver spoon successor Justin Trudeau in charge, is not far behind the Fourth Reich dystopian fascist police state to the south.

Closing Thoughts

Considering the continued depressing state of reactionary authoritarian politics, the endless continuance of anti-democratic governance, grotesque injustices, unprecedented economic inequality, overpopulation, rerun of fascism and the dismal toxicity of the beleaguered natural world, there seems to be no reasonable intellectual and moral stance other than pessimism and cynicism. That’s not to say that there never have been and are no alternatives to the current calamitous socio-economic world order. Many who have had visions of a much different world based on caring, community, compassion and solidarity have tried but failed for as host of unforeseen and unanticipated  obstacles, not the least of which was the powerful reactionary forces that crushed them. Any study of visionary Revolutions in the past, particularly the French and Russian variants understands this.

We as a species have likely crossed existential boundaries, points of no return whereby all we can do is prepare for the coming calamities. Every species, save we delusional humans, are in extinction mode. The current system of neo-liberal capitalist greed, uncontained growth and the mantra of “profit before all else” is destroying all life on the planet and we homo saps will be next. Back in the counter-culture of the 1960s when hope and optimism still prevailed, there were warnings by scientists and leftist economists and social scientists that if we did not resort to a 180 degree reversal of our continued exponential models of overpopulation, economic growth, our exploitive policies and immoral behavior, we are doomed. Since our governments are owned and manipulated by wealthy elites, arrogant billionaires, big banks, financial parasites and mega-corporations, nothing has been done and nothing will be done. The Godzilla-like capitalist mega-machine continues its plunder of the planet, promoting what Greek economist Yannis Varoufakis politely referred to neo-liberal ideology as techno-feudalistic fascism. In a recent essay “The War on Youth in the Age of Fascist Politics” by dual American-Canadian citizen, social critic and educational philosopher Henry Giroux was perhaps more forthright in his depiction of today’s finance predatory monopolistic world order which he described as “gangster capitalism” underwritten and legalized by enabled by necropolitics:

Neo-liberalism continues unchecked in imposing its values, social relations, and forms of social death upon all aspects of civic life that affect young people.  As a form of necropolitics, it produces a form of slow violence that delivers a death blow to the social contract, especially in regard to public health. It is the DNA of gangster capitalism, spreading destruction and death throughout the United States, nowhere more evident than in the bungling of public health services in the early HIV/AIDs crisis and more recently in the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. With regard to the latter, the CDC reported that “between April 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 over 121,000 children under age 18 in the United States lost a parent, custodial grandparent, or grandparent caregiver who provided the child’s home and basic needs, including love, security, and daily care.” This needless orphaning of children illustrates what Achille Mbembe terms the “death-worlds” produced by necropolitics, which amount to “a type of social existence in which vast populations are subjected to conditions of life conferring upon them the status of the living dead.” In neoliberal capitalism’s “death-worlds,” savage market principles are prioritized over meaningful health care for all and access to basic social provisions.

Necropolitics is now driven by a white supremacist Republican Party that bleeds life from the social contract, the welfare state, and the lives of those considered disposable, especially children.  How else to explain the attempts by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Governor Greg Abbott to criminalize and terrorize those individuals or institutions who administer gender affirming medical treatment to transgender children, including their parents?  This cruel law was introduced in spite of the fact that as Chase Strangio has noted: “In December 2021, the Trevor Project released a peer-reviewed study finding that ‘gender-affirming hormone therapy is significantly related to lower rates of depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts among transgender and non-binary youth’”. What other referent might be used, other than necropolitics, to explain that democracy-hating Texas Governor Abbot is considering challenging a 1992 ruling requiring that states “offer quality free public education to all children.” What these regressive and reactionary attacks on youth signal is that the United States now resembles a failed state in which governments work to destroy their own defenses against anti-democratic forces.

Drunk on power and devoid of any responsibility for the public welfare of children, the White power leadership of the Republican Party has abandoned any pretense to moral witnessing, social justice and the defense democracy. Manufactured ignorance, social media induced atomization, the privatization of everything, and the collapse of civic culture and the public imagination have shredded all notions of society bound by shared values, shared trust, and strong institutions. Politics is now militarized and culture has been reduced to spectacle; moreover, cruelty and manufactured ignorance have become central elements of governance.

The most free, democratic, civilized, progressive and tolerant, well educated and literate countries in the world - albeit forced to accept and participate in the global capitalist nightmare to survive, are  those that are the most secularized with universal healthcare, the best education systems,  lowest levels of economic inequality are countries that can serve as templates for others countries to emulate. These are countries that have modified forms of what one might call free market socialism such as Finland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Switzerland and Portugal. Portugal, once a fascist dictatorship like Spain, has become as close to a real bottom up democracy as any country, having even decriminalized all drugs, permitting them to dramatically reduce their police forces and revolutionize and re-educate the culture so as to consider them more social workers than gun toting reactive cops. But we can do far better than even those countries that are the best models in the world; only our lack of imagination prohibits us from doing so. In fact there are many visionaries in the past that can serve as inspiration for the kind of contra-authoritarian and genuine democratic anti-capitalist world we need so badly today, people such as Robert Owen, William Morris [6], Peter Kropotkin, Sylvia Pankhurst, Eugene Debs, Emma Goldman, George Orwell, Herbert Marcuse [7], Bertrand Russell, Tony Benn, Tommy Douglas and more recently Noam Chomsky, Michael Parenti, Murray Bookchin, David Graeber and too many other insightful great anti-authoritarian progressive thinkers one could cite. 

We live in a deeply authoritarian and polarized world as fascism has returned like an unwanted psychopathic visitor from the past. The social and political bifurcations are evident in many locations throughout the world, perhaps most glaring of all in the USA. There is a huge swath of disjointed and often fragmented progressive bloc of people on the left of mainstream political parties and a reactionary bloc prepared to support far right neo-fascism which works directly against their economic interests and liberty for their continued servitude. These people, for whatever reason, support religion, nationalism, mindless patriotism, racism, sexism, homophobia militarism and finally the military, police and imperialist wars that serve the interests of wealth power and corporate power. Moreover, many of these same people having internalized the values of the ruling classes, fear freedom and thinking for themselves, are anti-science; they reject evolutionary theory, global warming, women’s rights to abortion and even contraception, vaccinations and embrace a vast list of conspiracy idiocies such as Q-Anon, hijacked Phony Woke Culture and Great Replacement* Hoaxes, the latest forms of idiocy and absurdity. Much of the counter-culture is being hijacked by corporations in lame attempt to demonstrate their social consciousness which is basically zero. These are the same brand of right wing conservative dim bulbs that are incapable of distinguishing being criticized from being attacked, freedom v privilege and the difference between fact and opinion or knowledge and belief (I believe X, therefore X is true). [8] Ask yourself how a generally considered enlightened liberal country like Germany could have embraced and worshipped a totalitarian racist lunatic like Adolph Hitler? Moreover, the Christian churches followed lockstep, although given their rigid conservatism, authoritarianism, hierarchy, indoctrination into inherent sin, sexual inhibitions, helplessness, docility, compliance and intellectual fears, this is not so surprising.

* The only “Great Replacement” that actually occurred was genocidal settler colonialism implemented by Christian European thieves and butchers that invaded the Americas and other parts of the self-styled “New World” such as Australia and New Zealand. The program was systematic theft of land and resources combined with mass murder, biological warfare and starvation to replace the Indigenous people with superior lily white “civilized” Christian people. Once settled they prohibited anyone but whites from entering the new lands - with the exception of black slaves. The current Great Replacement is the right wing racist conspiracy of immigration of non-white people who are slowly becoming the majorities in the aforementioned countries like the US and Canada. And why were they allowed to immigrate? Once slavery was abolished it was, of course, cheap labor for the capitalists. Now they simply move their operations to the Third and Fourth Worlds. Capitalists will adapt to anything since all that matters is money and profit. They were certainly OK with fascism. In North America, for example where the rich are richer and the poor are poorer than Europe, rich capitalists have long ago discovered they can easily pay half the working class to kill the other half.

We’re informed by the reactionary cynical ruling classes that humans are naturally greedy and selfish so nothing will ever change. Capitalism and its culture of selfishness and exploitation of others is the natural order of things. How many times have you heard this bogus argument against any alternative such as social democracy and revolutionary democratic socialism? These are arguments from people who have been born into wealth and privilege or the willfully ignorant who have been convinced by these dubious arguments or have simply given up on any prospect for a more just equitable world of real democracy. They have accepted the alienation, atomization and anomie of what Mussolini called “corporatism”, the fusion of the state with capitalism - his definition of fascism - which is exactly what we have today with the global ideology of neo-liberalism. Yet we have many examples of people in our midst who are generous, sharing, compassionate and caring who believe in human community and solidarity despite the fact of anomalous assholes and neighbors from hell on every street. If we were not cooperative and caring, we would never have emerged from the Stone Age. But since the reactionary revolution of authoritarians such as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Brian Mulroney it has surely become evident to anyone paying attention that the government, the capitalist state and its oppressive institutions of the police, military and surveillance systems represent a nexus of power that serve the interests of big business and the rich and are enemies of the people. 

Democracy is a fraudulent sham, having in the past four or five decades, reduced to both tragedy and farce, to use Marx’s famous words. And fascism is back with its authoritarianism, narcissism and cult of the bully and brute exemplified in demonic pathological mutants like Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Jair Boslanaro. If this is the best we can do then we are headed for extinction like every other species on planet earth.


[1a] Marx’s insights on the debilitating conservatism, authoritarianism and anti-egalitarian hierarchies created during the past 3000 years of human history are pretty much spot on. The fact that in the United States, Clinton, Obama, Biden and other corporate capitalist limousine liberals (conservatives in drag) are described by Trump, Republicans and other conservatives as socialists and communists display stunning ignorance about history and elementary political philosophy. The anti-intellectualization and embrace of bait and switch obedience to god and Christian dogma notwithstanding, perhaps the 55% of Americans who are functionally illiterate is a significant factor in their docile acquiescent lemming-like mentality. Since the days of King Constantine, carrot and stick Christianity has always been an appendage of the state, convincing the credulous sheep (The Lord is my Sheppard) that their miserable condition on earth is temporary as the Kingdom of Heaven will eventually liberate them in some magical superstitious “afterlife”. This enticement was overwritten by the adage that “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven,” and ludicrous epigrams such as “the last shall be first and the first shall be last,” not unlike the authors of the US constitution who convinced the people they were they were sovereign. It was James Madison, the primary writer of the US Constitution, who stated, “Landholders ought to have a share in the government, to support these invaluable interests, and to balance and check the other. They ought to be so constituted as to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” This principle remains intact throughout the increasingly economically unequal world and is why we never have had real direct democracy and never will. The forms of liberal “democracy” and the farcical elections and circus-like politics have been elucidated by Noam Chomsky, Michael Parenti and even social critic comedians like the late George Carlin who in one of his many brilliant skits said that we can choose from innumerable kinds of sodas and colas in the corner store or supermarket, but only Coke and Pepsi at the ballot box.

As historian Paul Street wrote in a recent article titled “The American Experiment is a Savage Nightmare”, taking a cue from John Lennon’s great song “Imagine”:

The right Amerikaner noise and hate machine has millions of its unmasked followers believing that Joe Biden is “the Trojan Horse of socialism” and Kamala Harris takes instructions from the writings of Chairman Mao!

Imagine if the USA had an actually radical Left government instead of a perverse Manchinian oligarchy well down the overlapping paths of fascination and terminal environmental catastrophe. It’s a beautiful thing to envision. In a revolutionary socialist North America, the leading financial, media, military, and energy corporations would be expropriated, nationalized, and thoroughly transformed in service to the common good. Fossil fuel extraction and burning would be massively curtailed as part of a rapid transition to renewable energy. Health care and not just health insurance would be nationalized, socialized, and otherwise transformed in service to the common good. The former US capitalist global empire would be thoroughly repurposed and radically transformed to spread global eco socialist transformation. Workers councils would be formed to coordinate with the revolutionary government to transform and repurpose economic activity in accord with eco socialist priorities. Parasitic bourgeois profits and out of control capitalist “market rule” and competition would cease to exist. The bourgeoisie as a class would be socially and historically abolished, its parties and media rendered harmless. Homelessness and poverty would be abolished. Fascists would face merciless liquidation. Racism and sexism would be designated as official societal enemies and crimes along with classism and ecocide. They would be deeply understood as matters of societal and institutional structure, policy, and practice and not merely as problems of subjective prejudice and belief. Women’s reproductive rights would be fully and immediately restored and guaranteed. Opponents of public health would face severe penalties and have zero right to spread murderous disinformation. Real and honest history would be rigorously taught from K through college and beyond, not to traumatize young people but to inspire them for the popular and democratic liberation of humanity, rescuing and properly telling real stories not only of oppression but also of people’s rebellion, and resistance.

[1] It seems obvious to me that the entire momentum of a conservative deeply reactionary counterrevolutionary movement that really began after the Second World War, accelerating into policy by the late 1970s, was part of a corporatist political agenda that garnered much support from the vast majority of elites who called themselves “liberals”. In the USA this is the Democratic Party; in Canada it’s the Liberal Party. The same people like Justin Trudeau who hypocritically raise their fists, take a knee and say they support Indigenous movements such as “Idle no More”, “Black Lives Matter” and even environmental causes they try to co-opt in order not to upset the status quo turn in any substantive way. It's not unlike the corporations who in their shameless duplicitous television ads, co-opt the counter-culture pop songs from the 1960s and 70s to peddle their mostly superfluous overpriced products. These people turn to be the supporters of George W Bush, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden who have boasted about being the architects of reactionary crime bills, the endless wars on terror, the torture tactics in hell holes such as  Guantanamo and the infamous neo-fascist Patriot Act, the root cause of the school to prison pipeline, the military industrial techno surveillance complex and so on. In Canada, as in the US, we have two corrupt corporatist parties that rotate every few years, serving the interests of wealth, power, the big banks and financial oligarchs as sclerotic stasis is the norm with fascism as backup if needed. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. These shameless plutocratic psychopathic parasites and high priests of capitalism don’t even try to hide the fact that they now own pretty much everything and manipulate not only the phony “free” markets, but are rescued with golden parachutes and “get out of jail free cards” from the financial disasters they create. When will people wake the fuck up and throw these corrupt lying bastards out?

The first big bailout of the capitalist classes occurred in the 1930s with the New Deal by Franklin Delano Roosevelt which instituted social security, promoted unions and unemployment insurance in addition to massive public works projects. But these measures were not motivated by the beneficence of the capitalist duopoly but rather designed as temporary maneuvers in order to restore the rule of capitalism. Yes, the reforms for the masses were never meant to be permanent, but to save capitalism from itself as it has done multiple times since. FDR, born into a wealthy family and every bit a capitalist, said, “It was this administration which saved the system of private profit and free enterprise after it had been dragged to the brink of ruin.” But even this was too much for neo-fascist conservatives and right wing authoritarian liberals as there was even a failed attempt at a coup to assassinate and replace FDR with a Hitler style strong man. But today the oligarchic takeover is pretty much complete as we now are ruled by a police state neo-fascist techno-feudalistic oligarchy in which less than a dozen billionaires have more wealth than half the planet. Like religion and the endless wars, capitalism is a lie and one of biggest swindles in history.

[2a] Individualism in the sense of thinking independently and critically, having objectives and dreams in life that may or may not differ from other people is generally a good thing. But within a hegemonic world order such as capitalism, this individualism (often cited as “entrepreneurship”) is very limiting in scope and choice. If one is not complicit with the only game in town called capitalism, one will typically end up with a miserable, poor brutish and short life as one can see for those living in poverty and on the streets. As Jonas Ceika explains in his book “How to Philosophize with a Hammer and Sickle”:

One of the most un-insightful, oversimplifying, and boring ways in which Marx and Nietzsche are contrasted is by labeling the former a collectivist and the latter an individualist. Such binary divisions always conceal the most important and interesting details, reducing thinkers to placeholders in a preconceived schema. For Marx, communism was nothing if not the “free development and movement of individuals,”1 while Nietzsche’s Dionysian ideal, which he held onto throughout his entire career, was a state in which one transcends the limited individual perspective. The very idea that one could simply choose between one or the other, individualism or collectivism, was birthed by modernity, and its crudeness is entirely contrary to a thinker like Marx or Nietzsche, both of whom understood that the two categories exist in a mutual dialectical relationship.

It is clear that the real intellectual wealth of the individual depends entirely on the wealth of his real connections. Only [communist revolution] will liberate the separate individuals from the various national and local barriers, bring them into practical connection with the production (including intellectual production) of the whole world and make it possible for them to acquire the capacity to enjoy this all-sided production of the whole earth (the creations of man). All-round dependence, this primary natural form of the world-historical co-operation of individuals, will be transformed by this communist revolution into the control and conscious mastery of these powers, which, born of the action of men on one another, have till now overawed and ruled men as powers completely alien to them.

Marx and Engels, The German Ideology

What has been made of the ideal of “individualism” is an example of the cunning ingenuity with which capitalism tries to justify itself. The reason individualism has come to be such a prized value in the first place is precisely because of how much we are denied it, starved of it, how actively thwarted it is — it is because people are denied the pleasure of being individuals that individuality has become such an important concern for people, such a strong selling point when advertising products and such a strong standpoint from which to condemn socialism. What is ingenuous is that the ideologues of capital will use this very ideal that capitalism actively makes unattainable as a means of justifying capitalism!

When people speak of the desire to be an individual, what do they mean? Clearly, we are not speaking of a neutral term here, nor something assured by default — we are speaking of individuality as an ideal, as something that can be realized to a greater or lesser extent, that can be acquired or lost, maintained or prevented. The term is vague enough that its meaning will vary in emphases, shades, and details from person to person (an ambiguity often utilized to great effect), but there are some shared generalities that can plausibly be suggested. When a person wants to be an individual, they want to feel in-control, autonomous, capable of making decisions in matters that affect their own lives; they want to feel like the parts of their personhood unique to them are significant and treated as such, and they want the ability to express these with dignity; finally, they want to be able to develop themselves in all the ways that distinguish them, to engage in endeavors that they value, to pursue activities they hold dear, and to expand all the talents, skills, powers, and capacities they consider to be essential to the person that they are.

It is safe to assume that at least one of these factors would be deemed important in the common person’s ideal of what it means to be an individual, and for the vast majority of humans, capitalism thwarts all of them. Most people spend the majority of their adult lives following the orders of managers and bosses, typically to the point of having less control over their working life than a medieval serf did, with no say in what they wear, when they eat, or even the manner in which they stand, let alone decisions concerning organization, production, and distribution. Of course, few people are promised autonomy or control in the workplace, and even fewer are naïve enough to expect it. The political sphere, on the other hand, adds mockery to the mix, parading as the peoples’ one true chance to make a difference, an opportunity to engage in decision-making, even to participate in the running of the nation! For the most part, all this comes down to is a miniscule influence over which masters shall represent one’s country for the next few years, picked from an almost non-existent range of options, barely distinguishable wherever differences can be found at all, and having little accountability except to those who sponsor them with capital.


Capitalism, more than any previous system of social relations on Earth, is thoroughly impersonal, by no means in the sense that it is irrelevant to people’s personal lives, but in the sense that it operates independently of all personal wishes and wants, regardless of all personal attempts to plan and gain control, pushing these aside as mere externalities in its relentless drive towards capital accumulation. To say that capitalism is uniquely impersonal is not, first and foremost, a moral judgment, nor does it entail that capitalism is the “worst” or most exploitative social system in history; rather, it is a claim about the objectively marginal status of the individual, any individual, under capitalist society. In slave societies, the master subjugated the slave; in feudal societies, the lord subjugated the serf; in each case, the working person was exploited for the sake of the personal wishes and desires of the ruling individuals. Under capitalism, it is no longer a person who subjugates the worker, but the social relation of capital itself which subjugates humanity. In a slave society, the master expressed their individuality at the expense of the individuality of the slave. In capitalism, capital enacts its laws at the expense of individuality as such. It is in this sense that it is uniquely impersonal. We cannot straightforwardly condemn this social condition as being “worse” than all previous social systems, because it possesses a double-sided potential: on the one hand, this impersonality threatens the very existence of human autonomy, and even risks leading us down into complete self-destruction; on the other hand, this same impersonality showcases, in alienated form, the unprecedented acceleration and expansion of human powers; it presents us, therefore, with the first class society whose overcoming cannot consist in the establishment of a new class society, but must end in the total affirmation of human autonomy.

As the preceding points already suggest, development through rewarding activity, the pursuit of fulfillment in one’s daily endeavors, is not easy to come by either. Most lives are spent in workplaces that operate by actively barring all possibilities of personal development and fulfillment, whereas the very purpose of advertising is to repeatedly promise fulfillment to potential customers, which must be renewed again and again without ever being satisfied. For most, daily life is so exhausting that even free time is often spent merely recuperating in preparation for the next day, when it’s not spent engaging in escapism, not infrequently through harmful and self-destructive methods. For yet others, engaging in rewarding activities is too costly, or the free time allotted insufficient. And this is not to speak of the innumerable people on Earth whose living circumstances are so wretched, whether lacking shelter, food, or a basic sense of security, that even the concept of free time has melted into an undistinguished stream of mere survival.

Practical activity, even if it is done primarily to satisfy a need, can often be empowering and enriching, but wage labor operates precisely by removing this possibility — by separating the fulfillment of needs from empowerment. The tedious, dominating, and constraining nature of labor under capitalism makes it so that a person can spend a decade at a given workplace and still feel no more developed or richer in their individuality from it.

Presupposing private property, my individuality is so far externalized that I hate my activity: it is a torment to me and only the appearance of an activity and thus also merely a forced activity that is laid upon me through an external, arbitrary need — not an inner and necessary one.

Karl Marx, Notes on James Mill

[The worker] does not affirm himself but denies himself, does not feel content but unhappy, does not develop freely his physical and mental energy but mortifies his body and ruins his mind. The worker therefore only feels himself outside his work, and in his work feels outside himself. — Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844

It should be obvious that the social relations constituting the world market have little to do with fostering individualism, and that the social structures found in each particular country, however wealthy, deny the privilege of a proud individuality to the majority of its inhabitants. Wherever increases in the freedom of individuals were won, they were won through sweat and blood, most often that of the working class, who had to spill blood not just for the betterment of their daily working conditions, but for the expansion of political participation and free speech, for the rights and dignities of disenfranchised minorities, for healthcare and education, as well as against the tyranny of the state; against its violence, suppression, and surveillance, against unlawful arrests and mass incarceration, and against the condemnation to fight a despicable war against your will, to murder people who you have more in common with than you do with your own rulers. Each one of these victories were small steps towards the realization of individual freedom — each one constituted the acquirement of new options and new horizons towards which individual self-realization could be pushed; or at least acts of resistance against the state encroachments on the possibilities already existing. Such victories were so violently resisted and suppressed precisely because they threatened state and capital — the ultimate enemies of the individual. But if it is true that capitalism opposes the development of any substantial kind of individuality, how is it that it successfully hijacked the language of individualism for its own ends? It did so by first taking up the social atomization created by capitalism (which, in truth, is itself one of the main obstacles to real individuality) and turned it into the prime ideal of what individualism is: the absence of interference on one’s life as an isolated social atom; a purely negative conception of freedom and individualism.


Capital restrains the individual at every step — it casts its shadow over each and every person and answers to no one. It pits people against each other in competition, forcing them to fight over resources in a zero-sum game, so that the mass of people, rather than complementing one’s individuality, are constantly experienced as potential impediments to it. In our social interactions, capital makes us interact primarily not as individuals, but as the replaceable representatives of thoroughly impersonal entities — property, classes, labor power, commodities, brands. In the desperate search for an identity, many resort to nationalism, which they mistakenly see as representing their home, childhood memories, closest acquaintances, and their heritage, only to drown deeper into a faceless mass, which disguises its impersonal nature with a national flag.

Does socialism devalue the individual, so that the collective may be strengthened? No, socialism has no need of doing that, because that devaluation has already been thoroughly accomplished by capitalism. Individuals under capitalism are reduced to slaves of capital. Yes, even the propertied are such slaves. Capitalism is not a society where the suffering and the toiling of the many allows powerful individuals to posit their values and to shine forth as ideals — where an Aristotle rises on the backs of slaves. Who could possibly look at an Elon Musk or a Mark Zuckerberg and see in them the manifestation of the Übermensch? One may be a worker, sacrificing one’s body and efforts to produce wealth, or one could be an owner, sacrificing one’s ideals and principles to manage successfully, but, in either case, what manifests itself is the denial of life, absolute inhumanity, total subservience to capital: “The possessing class and the proletarian class represent one and the same human self-alienation.”

Some people fear socialism as an anti-individual system, because they believe it deprives people of what is theirs. But they forget that capitalism has already deprived the vast majority of the global population of their property, that those lucky enough to have shelter are most likely to be renting it from some unaccountable landlord, or that most people spend the majority of their lives working in a building that is not theirs, with tools that are not theirs, enriching a company that is not theirs, in exchange for a meagre crumb of the wealth that they helped produce, which will likely never be enough to afford property.

Supposing that we had produced in a human manner … [m]y work would be a free expression of my life, and therefore a free enjoyment of my life. In work the peculiarity of my individuality would have been affirmed since it is my individual life. Work would thus be genuine, active property. — Marx, Notes on James Mill

For us, socialism is nothing if not experienced as empowering from the standpoint of the living individual. Indeed, it is created and developed by individuals, who create the conditions of their own self-affirmation. A socialist world, in which the means of production were managed socially, would be one in which the individual has a say in the process of production, organization, and distribution, and can affirm and empower themselves through this process. Only then can the individual have freedom, not just in the negative, life-denying sense, but positive, real freedom. And it is only then that one can become what one is, as the Nietzschean motto goes. Only when virtues can no longer be bought or rented, when they can no longer be commodified, marketed, or advertised, only then can one’s virtues reflect what one is. People doubt that such a world is possible, but its possibility is proven in revolutionary moments such as the establishment of the Paris Commune, which allowed each individual the possibility of political participation, or the spontaneous emergence of revolutionary workers’ councils around the globe throughout the twentieth century, which took the means of decision-making back from the claws of capital, and placed offices and factories under human control. In such moments, the individual feels themselves affirmed and empowered, not against a collective but in and through a collective, and our goal is the creation of a world in which such moments are the standard.

[2b] Wealth that flowed for centuries from literacy, science and mathematics we all own and share as natural rights. How could this be otherwise and why does it not apply to everything in the universe. For mathematics, one of my areas of expertise, this includes addition, subtraction, multiplication, division set theory, number theory, deductive logic, theorems, proofs, algebra, geometry and all the way to calculus with partial differential equations and probability theory with one of its fascinating sectors called Bayesian Analysis for which I did some graduate work over fifty years ago. These are ideas nobody owns, everyone shares and that are outside the phony economic human constructs and dogmas of capitalism – as everything else ought to be. No one owns Pythagoras’ or Bayes’ Theorem. One does not pay to use numbers, theorems, formulas or the alphabet. Intellectual property is a myth, merely a ruse for theft of the commons. No one invents or creates anything out of a vacuum; there are always precursors and prior knowledge that one must employ as a base on which to build, calculate and create. Intellectual property rights is one of the biggest scams ever concocted but being surpassed by the epidemic of financial swindles via telephone and internet .

[2] George Carlin, echoing Noam Chomsky, but in his own irascible caustic manner, remarked in one of his grumpy brilliant skits: “There’s a reason education sucks, and it’s the same reason it will never, ever, ever be fixed. It’s because the owners, the owners of this country don’t want that. . . . They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. . . .You know what they want? They want obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork. And just dumb enough to passively accept all the increasingly shitty jobs.” As Chomsky has repeatedly and correctly maintained in the past, corporations are internally totalitarian power structures that replicate the absolutist hierarchies such as monarchies and theocracies abolished in the political realm by democratic revolutions in the past three or four centuries. As the anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker insightfully observed, liberal democracy was “shipwrecked” on the rocks of class hierarchy; so long as one oligarchic class monopolized wealth, resources and control over the means of production, democracy ended as soon as one stepped over the threshold at the corporate workplace. And so it has always been; indeed, no less than the “Father of the US Constitution” James Madison argued during the 1787 Constitutional Convention that the proper role of government is to “protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.” This was vividly expressed by the truism of the rebellious French protester’s graffiti in the streets of Paris during the spring and summer of 1968, to the effect that “those who make half a revolution dig their own graves.” This was not only true for the Paris rebels of 1968 in their own attempted anti-capitalist revolution, but equally true for the American, French, Russian and German revolutions. Since 1968 the authoritarianism of fascistic corporatism and its ideology of neo-liberalism have taken us to the current dystopian tyranny of monopolistic finance capital, oligarchy, billionaires and techno-feudalism.

The point here was that, in not addressing underlying economic autocracy, or instituting economy democracy at the same time, the door was left open for growing economic monopoly power to consume political democracy from within. Such fears are being borne out in the emergence of culture wars as a way of shoving the kind of ideological conformity necessary to the protection of the minority of the opulent from the majority down the throats of the population in the name of preventing it; the imaginary hobgoblins aid the construction of new empires and new fascist protection rackets.

Corporate dark money-funded think tanks with millions of dollars exist to innovate on conspiracy theories necessary for explaining why transnational corporatism, the enslavement and destruction of the planet, and protecting “the minority of the opulent against the majority” is the fault of anyone who notices. In demonstrating the great value of conspiracy fantasies to the project of defending “the minority of the opulent from the majority,” we come back full circle to H L Mencken’s observations about “the whole aim of practical politics” being “to keep the populace alarmed (and hence in a perpetual state of fear and clamoring for security) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary,” and Charles Tilly’s observations about empire-builders operating on a stand over racket business model.

The difference here is that the biggest ones have a coat of arms, logos, flags and their own marching band and corporate songs (most hypocritically hijacked from hopeful radical and counter-culture pop songs from the 1960s and 70s, thereby violating their own sacrosanct rules of intellectual property rights) and, thanks to corporate capture of governments, a trademark in being wholly owned subsidiaries of Wall Street titans like Goldman Sachs and Black Rock. Under the late capitalist culture war driven protection racket of the capitalist state, we can enjoy “democracy”, “freedom” and “civilization” freed from the nagging responsibility of ethics, moral constraints, logic, critical thinking, historical consciousness and political dissent. The protection of the minority of the neo-fascist corporate oligarchy and billionaire classes (the 21st century “opulent”) against the majority is at least as hierarchical and authoritarian and oppressive as any monarchy or theocracy of the past.

Such was a characteristic feature of the dark days of the induced fear mongering and global moral panic during the so-called infamous Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) and the phantom Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), the dark decades of trepidation and moral panic over communism (and the ludicrous Red Scares that followed both World Wars) during the farcical Cold War and the dark centuries of moral panic over Brides of Satan during the European Witch Hunts. Like all wars that have ever existed, each of these periods of ideologically-induced fear and hysteria was based on a conspiracy theory that fed into a stand over racket business model of political and class control, profit and money making before all else; each aided empire-building, the demolition of workers movements and unionization, smashing of resistance, rebellion and dissent, and the protection of the minority of the opulent from the majority, as per the prescription of the author of the revered phony American Constitution.

This latest iteration of conspiracy and fear mongering is certainly nothing new. While claiming to defend “democracy”, the totalitarian corporate capitalist insurgency routinely conflates individual freedom and privilege. It reverses the democratic burden of proof such that left wing critics of totalitarianism, in both its corporate and religiously fundamentalist forms that are misconstrued to be attacking individual rights while a culture-war powered corporate and theocratic totalitarian insurgency attacks them as if they were fact. As billionaire Warren Buffett quite openly admits, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” Buffett, who pays one tenth of one percent of his income in federal taxes (that’s 0.1%) while the rest of us wage slaves pay on average 30%, has won the war hands down. While they perpetrate class warfare creating a green house heat dome over a baked planet in the process, the minority of the opulent making class war and winning remain very deeply invested in victim hood identity. This runs so deep as to distinguish neither between criticism and attack, individual rights and class privilege, nor personal consciousness and ethics and the policing of morality while claiming to oppose it.

[3] Political and religious conservatives, reactionaries and other proponents of hierarchy and authoritarianism have long touted “human nature” as the stumbling block that frustrates attempts to improve the human condition by appealing to egalitarianism, compassion and empathy. This argument has been used repeatedly by not only capitalists, but intransigents of various stripes to maintain and defend the status quo of an existing order. This ruse has sustained countless repressive and tyrannical regimes throughout history. The Nazis made use of a distorted form of evolutionary theory called social Darwinism to rationalize their racist theories and genocidal practices. Hitler was himself a Catholic; consequently the Nazis combined quasi-religious ideas and pseudoscience with mythical and mystical conspiratorial gibberish to gain and hold onto power. Yet, despite the rich history of humanism and enlightenment values by the German populace, their intended 10000 Year Reich was highly successful for a more than a decade, raising many questions of how and why they were successful in their demented tyrannical ideologies at all. Psychologist Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) examined the characteristics and qualities that must be met to make us truly human, to separate us from our lower animalistic instincts. Maslow’s humanistic hierarchy of holistic needs were security in the form of both physical and psychological necessities, truth, curiosity and the intellect, love and compassion, responsibility, meaningful work, esteem and play that lead to what he called “self-actualization”.

[4] It is increasingly difficult not to be both a pessimist and cynic about our FUBAR world, but, despite my pessimism, I do not consider myself a cynic (although some people conflate these concepts) and lean toward the nurture side of the nature v nurture debate. We raise our children to survive within a very competitive individualistic socio-economic order, at least for anyone not born into wealth and privilege. This mantra of a just world hypothesis, competitiveness and meritocracy whereby everyone gets their just deserts is continually peddled in our culture by power elites, including the schools, “god wants you to be rich” Christian churches and the corporate media that never misses an opportunity to display wealth and power, particularly the decadent debauched British Royal family. This horse manure is promoted despite the stark reality that our chances in the genetic lottery of life are determined primarily by the social class into which we are born. Four hundred or so years of capitalist colonial exploitation and greed which was grounded in slavery for most of those years (one could compellingly argue that it still is, as anyone paid less than $20 an hour is not much better off than a slave) is a major factor in the way people think about behavior and ethics. I don’t believe it has to be that way; surely we do not have to behave like rapacious insatiable barbarians?  There have always been more horses asses than horses as my nature loving WW II vet and PTSD alcoholic father informed me as a pre-teen. I wasn’t sure what he meant at the time but I certainly learned about the assholes of the world soon enough. There’s one of these difficult to ignore entitled psychopathic asshole jerks in our Chilliwack, BC neighborhood that lives right across the street from us, the first really unpleasant bad neighbor from hell we’ve experienced in all the many places my wife and I have lived in the past 55 years.

Growing up in small town Northern British Columbia, my best friend and I figured out by junior high school what we had to do in order to become obscenely rich bastards. But the pursuit of the almighty dollar and becoming obscenely rich didn't interest either one of us. We were both bored stiff straight "A" students without much effort and talked about our futures a great deal on our long walks to school. We did not want the lives of our fathers; both were alcoholics, businessmen and extremely unhappy. At University I chose an Honors Mathematics program and my friend Rick chose Electrical Engineering. But we both preferred history and especially philosophy after discovering Bertrand Russell's "Why I'm not a Christian" in our high school library. The Christian community somehow missed that blasphemous volume during their book burning excursions into the public school libraries. The book provided cogent arguments against the plausibility of gods and the supernatural that we believed intuitively. I can remember many times being subjected to punishment for my precocious inquiries, once for questioning the boring morning Lard's Prayer and holy babble readings (ten on each hand with a razor strap was the standard penalty for the wrong sort of curiosity). It was Dave Barrett and the NDP in the early 1970s, finally replacing the 20 years of Social Credit corruption in BC, who abolished the barbaric practice of corporal punishment, in addition to many other progressive changes to our draconian education system. He also introduced income supplements for seniors, the Agricultural Land Reserve and ICBC in his short three year stint as Premier of BC. But despite Dave’s integrity and progressive reforms he was up against a wall of corporate money and a big business biased media that crucified him daily no matter what he did. Barrett was an honest ethical man with a great personality and sense of humor, the best Premier BC ever had. After Barrett it was downhill back into the sewers of far right wing corporate cronyism and corruption.

[4a} Despite writing in the mid 19th century, Marx’s critique of capitalism remains as valid as it was back then. Although Marx could not have foreseen the technological advances that are now being used as mechanisms of control, considering this and in many other respects the neo-liberal mutation of capitalism has become far worse. Corporations and the capitalist state have hijacked pretty much anything and everything including many socialist icons such as Che Guevara and Martin Luther King, distorting their revolutionary messages for marketing purposes and perpetuating the status quo of capitalist predation. Moreover, as Noam Chomsky has pointed out, the gross contradictions of the USSR have been exploited by the capitalist classes and conservative elites to prove that socialism does not work, despite the fact that it was not a “workers utopia but rather a Stalinist state capitalist dictatorship, suppressing workers’ strikes and dissent. As Leon Trotsky, who was warned about Stalin by Lenin before his death in 1923, was deported by Stalin in the late 1920s and later stated in one of his many books that “Stalin was the gravedigger of the Russian Revolution”. And consider the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), a putative “workers’ socialist party” during the German Revolution of 1919. The German Revolution’s failure was assured when the SPD collaborated with capitalist conservative elites who were responsible for World War I, the military hierarchy and proto-fascists to massacre workers in revolt and murder socialist intellectuals such as Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, the two leaders of the Spartacus League, a genuine democratic revolutionary socialist party. The reality of the USSR is that was not a “Union”, not “Socialist”, not composed of “Soviets” (worker’s councils) and not a “Republic”. Far too many Marxists have betrayed the message in the Communist Manifesto and other of the many works by Karl Marx, calcifying his program into a rigid theology rather than a process by which the masses can be transformed and liberated. This was a key aspect to the message of Che Guevara’s idea of the “new man”, another uplifting idea mangled by both pro-capitalist conservatives and liberal political propagandists and hacks.

[5] The legalized gambling of hedge fund operators and derivatives traders (even derivatives of derivatives are traded) underscore an important if all but forgotten truism about the dissolute economic system of capitalism and the debauched nihilists that play its smarmy games. In recent years betting and gambling have spilled over from the casino capitalist markets as both lotteries and online gambling, including betting on pro sports, have been legalized. In today’s amoral world of the worship of money, anything that makes someone profit is considered legal regardless of how debauched. These colossal wastes of time and money are now are repeatedly peddled on TV by ignoramus wealthy money grubbing degenerates such as Wayne Gretzky.  It wasn’t too long ago when baseball great Pete Rose was crucified in the press for allegedly betting on pro baseball games; which at the time like all gambling was against the law. Rose would surely be in the hall of fame had it not been for this silly indiscretion. Gambling and lotteries after all, are for idiots who clearly don’t understand simple mathematical probability theory and have nothing productive to do with their diminishing spare time. It’s perhaps unsurprising that many on both the political left and the right harbor common misconceptions about capitalism - that is; both conceive it as a system of a “free market”. For the leftist, this mistake leads them to blame markets and competition for systemic economic chaos and inequality – in addition to the inevitable market collapses financial meltdowns and taxpayer bailouts. Capitalist are against socialism but not when it benefits them in the way of trillions of dollars they are granted to save their sorry asses for activities (crimes) that are prosecutable offences. The right wing, on the other hand, is prompted to elicit convoluted apologetics for repeatedly failed outcomes under existing capitalism, believing that in doing so they are defending sacrosanct markets and competition.

But both the left and the right are wrong to treat capitalism as “free markets” since the entire system is gamed, manipulated and rigged. Markets and reciprocal exchanges have always existed, free and otherwise, but certainly not under modern capitalism that was founded on land theft, slavery, genocidal colonialism and genocide. The typical narrative of today’s left is profoundly bewildered in that it regards the power of capitalists in society as the result of free markets, that is, of too much market freedom and too little government intervention. Nothing could be further from the truth: capitalists are in fact the recipients of welfare from the capitalist state and systematically protected from genuine competition and systemic failure by a monopolistic legally rigged global system of infinite economic growth which is destroying our finite natural world. The Martin Luther King, a socialist and anti-capitalist, was right when he described the system as “socialism for the rich and dog eat dog capitalism for the working classes.”

Historical American anarchists understood the capitalist bullshit game defined by MLK all too well. For example, the American individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker wrote that capitalists are “afraid of their own doctrines,” preaching the glories of the free market even as they practice legal and regulatory protectionism and monopoly. Tucker was a strong advocate of the unrestricted freedom of competition, referring to capitalists “a band of licensed robbers.” He harbored no delusion that capitalists were just the victors in a rigged system of freedom of exploitation and bogus competition. To free-market libertarians like Tucker, government itself was just the result of the capitalists’ conspiracy - in the formal, legal sense of a group of crooks banding together to commit a heist. It was created to protect the interests of wealth, capital and privilege to enable the exploitive predatory and parasitic rules of the few over the many—not to protect the ordinary primarily working class citizens or institute the rule of law for all regardless of class and status.  It is the police, and if required, the military, that uphold this horrific criminal capitalist ideology which has precious little to do with free markets, “free enterprise” or freedom before the law in general – other than the freedom to rob, plunder and pillage.

[6] Atlantic writer William Deresiewicz on Graeber:

Many years ago, when I was a junior professor at Yale, I cold-called a colleague in the anthropology department for assistance with a project I was working on. I didn’t know anything about the guy; I just selected him because he was young, and therefore, I figured, more likely to agree to talk.

Five minutes into our lunch, I realized that I was in the presence of a genius. Not an extremely intelligent person—a genius. There’s a qualitative difference. The individual across the table seemed to belong to a different order of being from me, like a visitor from a higher dimension. I had never experienced anything like it before. I quickly went from trying to keep up with him, to hanging on for dear life, to simply sitting there in wonder.

That person was David Graeber. In the 20 years after our lunch, he published two books; was let go by Yale despite a stellar record (a move universally attributed to his radical politics); published two more books; got a job at Goldsmiths, University of London; published four more books, including Debt: The First 5,000 Years, a magisterial revisionary history of human society from Sumer to the present; got a job at the London School of Economics; published two more books and co-wrote a third; and established himself not only as among the foremost social thinkers of our time—blazingly original, stunningly wide-ranging, impossibly well read—but also as an organizer and intellectual leader of the activist left on both sides of the Atlantic, credited, among other things, with helping launch the Occupy movement and coin its slogan, “We are the 99 percent.”

On September 2, 2020, at the age of 59, David Graeber died of necrotizing pancreatitis while on vacation in Venice. The news hit me like a blow. How many books have we lost, I thought, that will never get written now? How many insights, how much wisdom, will remain forever unexpressed? The appearance of The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity is thus bittersweet, at once a final, unexpected gift and a reminder of what might have been. In his foreword, Graeber’s co-author, David Wengrow, an archaeologist at University College London, mentions that the two had planned no fewer than three sequels.

And what a gift it is, no less ambitious a project than its subtitle claims. The Dawn of Everything is written against the conventional contrary accounts of human nature and social history as first developed by Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau; elaborated by subsequent thinkers; popularized today by the likes of Jared Diamond, Yuval Noah Harari, and Steven Pinker; and accepted more or less universally. The story goes like this. Once upon a time, human beings lived in small, egalitarian bands of hunter-gatherers (the so-called state of nature). Then came the invention of agriculture, which led to surplus production and thus to population growth as well as private property. Bands swelled to tribes, and increasing scale required increasing organization: stratification, specialization; chiefs, warriors, holy men.

David Graeber, anarchist and former professor of anthropology at London School of Economics who died in 2020, and Wengrow, professor of comparative archaeology at University College London, take a dim view of conventional accounts of the rise of civilizations, emphasize contributions from Indigenous cultures and the missteps of the great Enlightenment thinkers, and draw countless thought-provoking conclusions. In 1651, cynical British philosopher Thomas Hobbes proclaimed that humans require laws and government authority because life in primitive cultures was “poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” A few decades later, romantic French thinker Rousseau wrote that humans in a utopian state of nature were free until they acquired property that required legal protection. Graeber and Wengrow point out that these conceptions of historical progression dominate the opinions of many experts, who assume that society passed through stages of development: hunter-gatherers, farmers, urban-industrial society, and so on. Graeber and Wengrow maintain that no scientific evidence supports this view, adding that traditional scholarship says little about “prehistory,” during which supposedly egalitarian hunter-gatherers roamed and foraged until about 10,000 years ago, when they purportedly took up agriculture and things became interesting. This orthodox view dismisses countless peoples who had royal courts and standing armies, built palaces, and accumulated wealth. As the authors write, “there is simply no reason to assume that the adoption of agriculture in more remote periods also meant the inception of private land ownership, territoriality, or an irreversible departure from forager egalitarianism.” Many early cities thrived for centuries with no sign of hierarchy, contradicting scholars who assume that authoritarian rule appears naturally whenever large populations gather. The quest for the “origin of the state,” given scattered and contradictory evidence, may be a fool’s errand. Graeber and Wengrow, while providing no definitive answers, cast grave doubts on those theories that have been advanced to date.

[6] A great quote from William Morris that perhaps explains one of the key failures of so many progressive revolutionary efforts of the past:

I pondered all these things, and how men fight and lose the battle, and the thing they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name - William Morris, A Dream of John Ball

Many failures can be attributed not to the intelligence, integrity and dedication of progressive empathic freedom loving men and women who once having tasted power, succumbed to its intoxicating lure (a power which so often eventually corrupts) and what Robert Michels over one hundred years ago called “the iron law of oligarchy”. 

[7]Marcuse as expressed in his 1964 book One Dimensional Man was one of the most insightful modern observers of Marx’s concept of capitalist alienation. He analyzed and explained the neurotic conspicuous consumption, obsessive fetishes and “false needs” driven by aggressive marketing that filled the spiritual void, atomization and increasing loss of community. The endless products and technologies “indoctrinate and manipulate”, promoting a “false consciousness” which is immunized against its superficiality. The upshot is a comatose society of fiat, listlessness drug induced consumerism and amusement, devoid of creativity, critical thinking or any semblance of an intellectual life. If only Marcuse were alive today to observe the dysfunctional distracted and mass OCD cell phone addictions.

[8} Devout Catholic, war criminal, partner in deceit with George W Bush in the illegal and immoral invasion of Iraq and destroyer of the Labor Party in Britain, Tony Blair clearly did not understand the distinction between knowledge and belief when he said in 2004, “I only know what I believe.”


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