In Part One I reflected on the links and roots of racism in the capitalism that benefits from it. But, why are our governments seemingly unable to deal with racism and the inequality that is linked to it? They are faced with 1% of the world’s people owning more than 50% of the world’s wealth. Governments function under the pressure of capitalism. Why do our governments turn a blind eye to racism and inequality? Most ‘democratic’ governments have become ‘quasi democracies’ where the real power lies with the powerful bullying wealthiest 10%. If we do not serve them they will hurt us. They will destroy jobs and disrupt lives and communities. . For the richest 10% it will be a minor inconvenience, one they can endure and recover from. Between March and the end of May, while millions lost their sources of income, billionaires in the US increased their wealth by 19.2%
1.1% of US billionaires are black. In Canada there are no black billionaires but we do have a billionaire descended from indigenous people. The US has 585 billionaires, Canada 45. Ending racism is not a high priority for the almost entirely white 10%. Surely we will look at the bullying power and the luxurious life of the few beside the poverty, suffering and powerlessness of the many and ask ‘can we allow this modern form of slavery to continue?’ Why are black, brown and indigenous people, women, healthcare workers, janitors and so many essential workers so poorly paid? Why are so few of them in the bodies where decisions are made?
I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. Optimists tend to believe all will be well no matter what. Pessimists see a desperate future. I am a ‘hopefulist’. One who hopes we will begin to recognize the madness and self-destruction of capitalism and the racism, inequality and climate catastrophe it is brewing. I hope we can have the courage to rein in the greed that fuels it and build a different economy. It is possible to imagine another reality. Three of my wonderful children are black as are eight of my grandchildren. They drive my hope.
Can we imagine another reality? Is capitalist culture an expression of the dominant trait of human beings or is it a reality humanity has been duped into? Is it the inevitable expression of human progress or is it something we have been seduced to accept as capitalism slowly normalized evil. What happens when societies face catastrophes? They pull together. Beautiful acts of kindness emerge by the millions as we take care of each other. Sure, a few mean actions emerge, but the vast majority pitch in to help each other and then go out on their balconies to sing, play music and bang pots and pans for joy to celebrate the kindness. That is how all but a tiny minority of humanity spontaneously responds to catastrophes and pandemics.
How did people react when George Floyd was tortured and murdered? Around the world millions of people took to the streets in, almost without exception, peaceful anger. Black people and white people and brown people, indigenous people, people of all faiths. Young people and old people. This is the heart beat of humanity that self-centered capitalism has put its knee on. Imagine a culture which celebrated the needs of people and communities being met rather than celebrating the greed of billionaires. Imagine a culture that rejoiced more over acts of caring and compassion rather than hoarding and exploiting. Imagine a culture in which the inborn inclinations of the 99% dominated the self centered desire of the 1%.
Imagine a society organized around people rather than money and the understanding that we are part of nature and that to be fully human we must love and respect nature and each other. Imagine a society organized to work together to meet its needs. Imagine a society where altruism and caring for each other, as most people do in times of crisis, were seen as far more important than wealth, competition and self centered action. Imagine if we really learned from Darwin that co-operation among cells and species and within species was a more effective winning strategy than competition. Imagine a world where humans saw co-operative winning as a better outcome than competitive efforts that produce few winners and many losers. Imagine a society where our children and grandchildren would be judged as Martin Luther King so eloquently hoped, by the beauty of their character rather than the colour of their skin.
There is an alternative economy and culture possible. Worker co-operatives, consumer co-operatives, producer, community and small business co-operatives all draw on the best of human nature. Voting control is based on one person one vote rather than one dollar one vote. Their purpose is to meet member and community need rather than maximizing return to the wealthy shareholders.
Are co-operatives perfect? No they are human. A worker co-operative may exploit consumers. A consumer co-operative can exploit workers. Farm co-operatives can exploit both. They exploit less often but it does happen. A solidarity co-operative, where the key people involved are all members and involved in decision making, makes exploitation even less of a problem. An elder care co-operative, for example, would have residents, workers and family members engaged in membership meetings and electing the board with representatives of each group. There are hundreds of these co-operatives in Europe and a growing number in Canada.
With capitalism, the 1% are at the table leaving the 99% to do their best to gather what scraps fall or are thrown to them. We need a society where not only white people but black, brown, indigenous, people with accents and those of all beliefs are working together in structures that gather them at the table, involved in decision making and sharing the benefits of their work rather than scrapping for crumbs.
Co-operation requires a cultural shift. Immersed in and forced to interact with a capitalist culture that is mindlessly individualistic and just ‘focused on me’ hinders, warps and limits co-operation. We need to grow and nurture the spirit of ‘let us work together on this’ that has always been strong in human society. We need public policy that rewards co-operation and inhibits and discourages the cult of the selfish individual. Co-operation’s strength flows from the reality we are truly both individual and social. They are two sides of each of us. We cannot separate our individuality from our social nature. Co-operation not only allows both, it celebrates both, and gathers all around the table not based on their wealth but on their shared humanity.
We have a choice to make, between going back to a normal capitalist economy, or setting in motion a fair green democratic economy. What will we do?