As the self-aggrandising consumerist society continues blundering through its first tangible threat since its inception in the early 1900s, a swath of individuals throughout societies around the globe are scrambling to attach themselves to any source of revenue. Some are better positioned than others, but multitudes of people are dependent upon the the economic polices destroyed by the capitalist system: socialism.
As exemplified by the introduction of the goods and services tax in Australia in the 90s, and the gradual squeezing of the lower and middle classes, the case for taxing children, the unemployed, the disabled and the elderly can be accomplished by a rich and powerful section of society. However, as the pillars of the rich and powerful become eroded, their eternal struggle to maintain their affluence must be paid for: wealth does not come from no where.
The driving message delivered by society to its constituents essentially reads as ‘you can have it all, too’, yet this is a fallacy. The structure of capitalism must needs be a source of unpaid labour. Whether this element of society is not paid or is kept in perpetual debt is not relevant. What is relevant is the conditions to which people are willing to lower themselves to, based on the assumption or hope that they will no longer be so unfortunate.
The 2020 pandemic is a clear reversal of fortunes for the rich, at least in the short term, as billions in tax revenues are being returned to citizens worldwide, a complete reversal of the 2008 collapse where trillions in tax revenues were handed to the banks. In many conversations and in personal research, I have encountered the attitude that the economy and business is the reason why we all have such a high standard of living in industrialised nations. I have also discovered that many socialist nations lead better lives.
Rather than engage in a baseless debate of relative merits, the consequences to the capitalist singular necessity of unlimited growth is being defied and reversed by the inability for people to use their cash to support expenditure. Many people no longer even have money to engage in the most consumerist of activities, shopping. Thusly, social welfare payments have become an emergency measure to ensure people do not starve to death, or worse, riot against the rich.
Capitalism has provided for the creation of a lot of shopping opportunities and self-aggrandisement, where, naturally enough, a few benefit far more than others. Regulating the market place and regulating taxation to ensure an economic slave class does not result, this is the definition of socialism. However, with Covid19 undermining the profit propaganda machine, our critically injured one-trick pony is being consumed through another vector: climate change.
Beyond socialism is sustainability. After the bubble burst in Japan, the banks and government worked tirelessly to prevent a collapse akin to TUSA, resulting in a virtual non-growth economy. Only in the past five years have the Japanese begun reviewing post-bubble economic policy, but all that has been hurled out the window now. The static economy, carefully planned, worked very well for most Japanese, and I attribute this to centuries of sustainability as the foundation of the Edo Period economy.
Currently in Australia, some areas are experiencing a brief recovery from lockdown where even the ‘news’ has become a platform for companies to advertise their goods. The invasion of consumerism is wholly noticeable, as the content is presented not as an indicator of a failing economic paradigm, but a sparkly hope of returnIng to how things were before February. There is no analysis of even short-term impacts for the economic system with Covid19, let alone the mid- and long-term effects of climate change.
This pandemic has highlighted the basic failure of capitalism to maintain a society, as social welfare is the vital necessity maintaining our civilisation in both 2008 and 2020. The result of not providing welfare as exemplified by countries like Lebanon and America, such as riots and starvation, is the reality of consumerism with the veil of hope torn away. Perhaps production can be reoriented to profit from the exponential destruction of infrastructure, yet there will be not only a point of diminishing returns and ROI failure, but the inability of a society to support expenditure.
The 1990s was the critical juncture for our globalised industrial civilisation to pivot away from eternally increasing profits, to at least put a price on environmental change and damage. Rather than informing citizenry of options and educating people through the news and current affairs, the ‘great opportunity’ of GST was pushed through as a way for everyone to pay less for VCRs. There was minimal attention or support for solar power, and the SUV became the fashion item if V8 engines were not. Sometimes both were dangled together as the right choice for shoppers.
We currently have a wilfully obtuse populace in many nations completely ill-equipped to even understand the concept of reducing our carbon footprint, and a small but noisy element in society who will vehemently defend their lifestyles and shopping habits. Socialism is connected to sustainability, but sustainability is the conscious effort of society to ensure there is a society continuing on into the extended future. The world we enjoy today, with the strengthening effects of warmer atmosphere, land and oceans shall be unrecognisable by the world thirty years from now.
Socialism and regulations are there to prevent the unmitigated disasters which must occur through unchecked, unlimited growth, but it is simply too late to implement such measures now. The lightning-strike of Covid19 has provided each of us, as individuals and nations, a unique opportunity to learn how to function with greatly limited resources. Against the backdrop of climate change, which guarantees the permanent extinction of resources, sustainability is our only recourse.
Try reducing energy usage by one-sixth for a month. Teach yourself to measure how much less is necessary, and what energy use is vital, rather than merely convenient. News services have been subsumed by consumerist principles, and everyone is desperate to return to their previous levels of affluence. That is the path which has led us to our deteriorating reality now, and hence, we each have to make this course correction by ourselves for a sustainable civilisation into the far future.
Our one-trick pony had its leg chopped off, and we collectively are holding up a drawing of a leg next to the pony, exclaiming that everything is perfect and excellent. I reckon the pony is bleeding to death, and we need a different response mechanism which does not rely on covering up the truth.