Why is it so hard to imagine something better than capitalism?

Canada’s recent heat records, wildfires, and over 450 deaths are the tip of a quickly melting iceberg. And only a week earlier someone leaked an IPCC draft report which warns of just how close we are to a cascading failure of our precious ecosystems. So what’s the response from our so-called ruling elite? A performance…best described as spectacle, sympathy, and silence.

First, the corporate-controlled media pounces on the opportunity to attract eyeballs and show pictures of heat-exhausted people, volunteers handing out water, and towns devastated by wildfires. Next, corrupt politicians (puppets of the .0001%) offer sympathetic looks, promises to help those in need, and platitudes about how Canada is working hard to address climate change. And finally, in the last act of this cynical performance, we get deafening silence as to why we can’t seem to engage with this emergency in any meaningful way?

Why Are We So Stuck?

First, let’s be clear — it’s not you and I who are stuck. We’re not driving the failed policy. That psychopathic effort is being driven by the planet’s new de facto political leaders; the corporate elite and billionaire hoarders who are fighting to keep their capitalist wet dream alive.

Secondly, let’s not confuse where the problem lies. It’s not a technological problem — we have the solutions at our fingertips. It’s not a business case problem — that’s a ruse — a distraction to avoid or delay costly regulatory changes. It’s not an investment problem — governments have made it clear that they can borrow as many trillions as they want when it comes to starting a war or paying corporate bailouts. The problem is one of ideology, culture, power, and greed.

Wealth and Privilege

It feels good to be at the top. To have all the money in the world. To make the rules or at least to be consulted about them. It’s like being a king. People don’t give up that kind of power. They fight for it using every tool at their disposal, and that’s a big war chest when you control trillions of dollars, mainstream media, and most politicians from around the world.

Worldview

Let’s assume for a moment that those with the power, the .0001%, aren’t complete psychopaths. They understand that the planet is warming but they see it through another lens. A lens that’s a result of their life experience — a world where deregulated capitalism, low investment taxes, offshore accounts, markets, and money can solve any problem.

It’s understandable. They grew up in this system or at least lived in it for the better part of their lives and they’ve benefited greatly. It’s the system from which they achieved their wealth and status (or inherited it). It’s intertwined with everything about them; their home(s), their job, their possessions, their friends, and the ego and power that comes from succeeding in that system. And since most people are inclined to favour what they know, it’s no wonder that they have difficulty envisioning a world that doesn’t look much different from the flawed system that lies before us.

Self-interest and greed have merged with the dangerous fantasy that the toxic system that created the problem will somehow save us. And this ideology has infiltrated the policies of nearly every government and corporation on the planet.

The bottom line is that the elite live in an ideological echo chamber of wealth and privilege and it’s the foundation of their worldview. It’s also important to understand that a big part of that echo chamber is to convince themselves that they deserve everything they have. Their success is due to hard work and their cunning intelligence, and that your lack of success is due to your laziness and nothing else. It’s your fault — not ours. After all, we live in a meritocracy…don’t ya know. It’s a nice little fantasy if you can get people to believe it.

Culture, Narrative, and Ideology

Now let’s step back and look at the bigger picture. We live in a world that has spent decades building and reinforcing a culture that glorifies and celebrates the capitalist ideology. A culture that pushes the narrative that unfettered capitalism and free markets (that suit the .0001%) are the greatest creator of innovation and wealth that the world has ever seen. A culture that uses the corporate-controlled media to parade psychopathic billionaires in front of us to promote their self-serving ideas of how deregulated capitalism can find win-win solutions to even the most challenging environmental and social problems (we’re still waiting on this promise). A culture that peppers us with the idea that by reducing taxes on the investment savvy rich, we will spontaneously create jobs and build wealth for society as a whole. And of course, all of this is weaved together with the ongoing drip of propaganda that tells us that government is wasteful and that you cannot trust them with your money. To believe anything else is communism.

Power and Greed

We are stuck staring into the headlights as climate change comes racing towards us. Those who have the largest say in how we should address this challenge seem either unwilling or unable to conceive of a system that doesn’t place them firmly at the top. The need for urgent and disruptive systems change is being blocked by the most powerful people on the planet.

Let’s review 3 indisputable facts.

  1. The corporate elite and billionaires have captured an enormous amount of political and economic power.
  2. They want to protect the system which has allowed them to amass their fortunes.
  3. We are in a climate emergency. Delay is no longer an option.

Before I continue, it’s fair to ask, don’t the ruling elite fear an unraveling climate like the majority of humans? Of course they do, but greed and a cult-like adherence to capitalism is clouding what should be a clear path forward.

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