By Abraham Entin
When the Second World War ended, the Free Market Capitalism of the West and the State-driven authoritarianism of Soviet Russia (alongside of Chinese Communism) emerged as opponents for a new world order. During that period, lasting from the late 1940’s through the 1960’s, the leaders of the “Free World” made promises to the people of their own countries and, through them, to the whole world. If we trusted in science and the technology, it developed in service to industry the future would lead to three world changing developments.
These promises were demonstrated through a series of “World’s Fairs”, culminating in the development of a permanent World’s Fair at the EPCOT Center at Disney World in Orlando, FL. The “world of tomorrow” was sponsored by ATT, General Electric, General Motors, Kraft Foods (and later Nestle’s Foods) and other major corporations. Monsanto sponsored a large scale exhibit in Tomorrowland at Disneyland in California. These promises were reinforced by corporate advertising and public relations campaigns that stressed “progress is our most important product” and the benevolent nature of commerce and industry.
These three promises were at the core of the world unfettered Capitalism would create for us.
The first promise was an end to hunger.
The “Green Revolution”/ Industrial Agriculture was based upon mono-crop farming of genetically altered seeds and the lavish use of pesticides and herbicides.
For some time this system seemed to be working. Over the last several decades, however, the effects on bio-diversity, the eradication of species, the loss of nutritional value in food and negative effects on the earth itself have been recognized as significant “downsides” to the success of this revolutionary approach to feeding human populations. Simply put, we have come to realize that, while there may be short term benefits, the system itself is not sustainable and creates more problems than it solves.
The second promise was an end to disease, based upon pharmaceutically created medicines. Antibiotics emerged as the most important and effective discovery emerging from this approach. Its short-term effectiveness was indisputable and led to a vast overuse/dependency on these medicines. The result is that, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) ” Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest public health challenges of our time.” Again, the short term successes of the approach have yielded crises that threaten not only the effectiveness of the remedies but human health itself. The current pandemic and the clamor for a vaccine to “fight it” is the latest incident in this deteriorating situation.
The third promise was “power too cheap to meter”.
The “peaceful atom”–the civilian use of the technology developed for the creation of the atomic bomb–was going to give humanity a source of unlimited energy. On-going concern about the storage of spent fuel followed by the disasters of Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukashima. as well as the failure of nuclear energy to lower the costs of power have soured this promise as well.
These failures to deliver, combined with a growing understanding that a system based upon unlimited growth cannot work on a finite planet, has lead to a growing disillusionment with Corporate Capitalism and its leadership.
This leadership is increasingly viewed, especially by young people,
as defending a status quo that is simply based upon power and wealth
staying in the hands of the wealthy and powerful with little, if any, benefit
trickling down to ordinary people — or the “99%”, as it is often characterized.
The result is that the new promises of modern technology, rather than being experienced as hopeful and liberating (as the promises of the 1950’s were) are, instead, visualized as contributing to a dystopian vision that pervades our culture today. Robotics, artificial intelligence and other developments of science and technology are experienced as threatening, rather than ennobling our lives and the range of human possibilities.
What do all three of these promises have in common? What is the thread that connects them all?
Violence is the solution to our problems.
Violence will feed our hungry, heal our sick and power our world.
Pour on the poisons to grow food.
Declare war on disease and destroy the bacteria.
We insist on vaccinating our young against every disease we can, but auto immune conditions emerge and increase exponentially.
In support of this world view, the United States maintains 800 military bases in 70 countries, supplemented by 420 bases on U.S. soil.
54% of federal taxes support this military-$700 billion in 2018.
And yet, if we are to believe our media and politicians, the world is an increasingly dangerous place. School children (95%!) participate in “active shooter drills”–far more frightening and immediate even than the “duck and cover” air raids of the Cold War era. All this money has not made us any safer. We seem to be in desperate need of superheroes with magic powers to save us from the hordes of villains out to get us.
One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. By that definition our addiction to violence as a method of positive change in the world is clearly insane.
And yet, here we are.
The world is demanding a new paradigm–a new set of assumptions and working principles upon which decisions are made that affect us as individuals, communities and global inhabitants.
This old paradigm — the “old story” — is based upon a view of human beings as essentially violent and competitive. This view is not a “fact” — it is a hypothesis or assumption upon which decisions are made and policies implemented. It is neither scientifically derived nor based upon any “sacred” source.
The use of “Godless Communism” as an enemy was created by an economic system whose worship of money was — and remains — as godless as that of any committed Marxist.
We can choose another paradigm–another hypothesis or assumption upon which to base our decisions as individuals and communities. This assumption would be based upon a view of humans as fundamentally “a little lower than the angels” rather than “a little higher than the apes”. It would see non-violence as a working principle for dealing with the rest of creation–both human and the earth itself. It would not necessarily be more “correct” than the one we are working with now, but it is likely to yield results more in keeping with human survival and a thriving world than the one that we are currently employing.
It could be hardly be worse.
Abraham Entin is a singer, songwriter, and storyteller who dances at every opportunity. He is a long-time student of Rudolf Steiner’s social ideas and is particularly interested in how spiritual perspectives influence and help bring about positive social change.
He is the author of Living on the Fringe: A Memoir