- Capitalism and Alternatives -

There are reasons for pessimism -- be sure to choose the right ones

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on December 21, 1999 at 23:06:37:

In Reply to: Maybe there is no hope posted by MDG on December 21, 1999 at 16:34:59:

: The socialist revolutionaries, democratic socialists, and assorted reformers here seem to think that once the system is changed according to their prescriptions, life will get better because people will make more rational and compassionate decisions. Inequality will disappear.

SDF: Our main hindrance appears to be that we don't have a mechanism for changing society.

: Technology will only be constructive, not destructive. Sustainability and durability will replace short-term avarice and rapaciousness.

SDF: "Avarice" is a SYMPTOM -- we have to end the social systems that require it (capitalism, militarism, nationalism etc.).

: Blah. What's to stop the powerless of today, once they overthrow the powerful, from becoming oppressors themselves?

SDF: What's to empower the powerless of today to overthrow anything? At any rate, once the New World Order is put out of power, there will be some urgent tasks at hand -- converting industries to non-fossil-fuel sources of power, educating people for democracy, restoring the ecology, putting people in charge of their lives, etc.

: Isn't it possible that the traits of lust for power, selfishness, greed, and indifference to the suffering of others when faced with one's own desires are INTRINSIC to human beings?

SDF: No, the anthropological record shows that human societies come in such diversity that these traits cannot be said to be intrinsic to human beings. See for instance Robert Knox Denian's The Semai: A Nonviolent People of Malaya.

: Aren't we the dominant speices because we're the most vicious, the most willing to obliterate anything and everything that gets in our way, including members of other human tribes?

SDF: No, human beings are the dominant large mammals at present because of our versatility, of our ability to adapt to a wide variety of niches. Other animals have had to give birth to specific physical forms in order to adapt to ecological niches -- human beings, OTOH, can use their brains, their opposable thumbs, and their social organization in order to survive almost anywhere.

Too much has been made of the "nature red in tooth and claw" version of Darwinian population biology popularized by T.H. Huxley. The Origin of Species is primarily a book about niche theory, about how animals and plants find places where they can survive.

: Are the Frenchys and Doc Cruels of this world mere aberrations, or banal examples of the human race? Given mankind's history -- one of unrelenting violence and cruelty -- why the sense of optimism here?

SDF: Frenchy and DrWhatever are examples of ideologically-motivated wilful ignorance. They became that way through hard work and practice, not "by dint of natural talent".

: Perhaps our self-destruction is inevitable.

SDF: No, it's just likely unless change occurs fairly soon.

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