Of all the things capitalism has stolen from us, our imagination is perhaps the most precious. The system’s pernicious effect is clearly visible: people can more easily envision the end of life on Earth than we can imagine the end of capitalism. Yet we must end capitalism if we are to survive.
Preventing the complete collapse of the global ecology, a breakdown already well underway, requires we change all we do and how we think. The rulers have made clear that they are unwilling and unable to address the gravity of the crisis. We need a new politics of Survival and Transformation.
Our basic outlook needs to change, radically and fast. We must do away with the idea that Mother Earth is a dead pile of resources to be exploited for private gain. This notion dominates our entire history, starting from 1492.
Columbus’s journal entry for Oct. 13, 1492, the day after he landed, 522 years ago today, revealed this outlook, already fully formed: “With 50 men I could subjugate these people and make them do what we want.” He arrived on the shores of Turtle Island with a fully formed world outlook – hierarchy, domination and profit were foremost on his mind.
The results of five hundred years of history can be summed up, simply but fairly accurately, by saying we are all slaves of this system: wage slaves, debt slaves, fashion and shopping slaves.
From the start, capitalism was at war with the classless societies in which Indians lived, societies with communal ownership, empowered women, where people made up their own minds.
The present system rests on our passivity and obedience. The system of domination does all it can to keep us obedient, thereby to (falsely) claim our “consent.”
Three large ironies mark the great history of the European invasion and domination of Turtle Island, ironies of the past, present and future.
- Foods developed by Indigenous Peoples were brought to Europe where they nourished the population growth that enabled the invasion and seizure of the land.
(Migration to the “New World” relieved growing pressures for social revolution in the European countries, helped to preserve the system of exploitation and helped make the US the global center of reaction, “policeman” of the world. European immigrants were absorbed into the rulers’ deluded world of “whiteness,” tricked by this into submission to the prevailing order. At the same time the forced importation of African slaves was the importation of a relentlessly stubborn spirit of resistance, which laid the basis for the great revolutionary traditions of the “New World.” Slave rebellions planted the seeds of a future free from exploitation.)
- Today, as the system implanted here has destroyed so many of the original people and their ways of life, the West has reached a stage of crisis and decay where we must all look to the wisdom of indigenous people to save us.
Today, striving to learn from indigenous wisdom is a growing trend in the so-called “Environmental Movement,” which is seeking a way out of the current impasse.
To transform commodity society we need to work toward workers’ councils to take over (occupy) all the institutions of society, which will operate with delegates who can be immediately recalled – direct democracy and workers’ control. Twentieth Century revolutions developed these methods to eliminate exploitation and alienation.
Learning from Occupy Wall Street we should work for an anti-hierarchical occupations movement that occupies all the institutions in society. The only way to overcome the inevitable resistance and repression by the old order is to spread these occupations as widely as possible, so people take control of all aspects of the society.
If we succeed in overcoming the repression by the old order (there are, of course, no guarantees), we will then be faced with the monumental task of creating a new economy, but it will be one in which everyone owns everything. This truly “changes everything.”
- This would be the greatest irony of all: if our future comes to resemble the historic means of indigenous governance.
The most archaic and most modern social practice could combine to build a sustainable and just world.