Samain and the moon of Thanksgiving
Sunday gratefuls: The Wind. Snow. The Stars at Night through the bedroom window, between the Lodgepoles and the Aspen. Kate’s good day yesterday. Conversation with Marilyn and Irv on Zoom. Seeing their two Puppies. Biden wins Arizona and Georgia. Living in the Rocky Mountains. The Snow fall yesterday. Beautiful. Holiday feeling. Talking to Joe yesterday. Murdoch and his eventual trip to Hawaii. Brenton. A very good guy.
Before falling asleep last night the zeitgeist kept coming up. Yeah, I know. But, what are you gonna do? The mind goes where it wants sometimes. I leaned into it. Tried to see the world from 90,000 feet. What’s really going on right now that’s unique to our time, transformational? I came up with four core things: late stage capitalism, climate change, identity politics, and covid. These four drive, I believe, the forces that make our time so chaotic. This is not the first chaotic time in world history, nor will it be the last, but it is ours.
Late stage capitalism. I’m no Marxist. I don’t know enough about Marxist economics. But this idea, at least as I understand, seems true. In the latter stages of a capitalist economy a funny thing happens on the way to store. You get a consumer driven economy. That’s the end result hoped for and now realized in the U.S., getting there in China, Europe’s there, so is Singapore.
Here’s the problem. It’s the Gordon Gecko, “Greed is good.” dilemma. Sure, greed drives a lot of imaginative innovation. Sure, a capitalist economy delivers a lot of stuff to a lot of people. And, yes, greed has lifted a lot of people out of poverty. Greed is the dirty intimate secret of the last 75 years, not often discussed in polite conversation, but felt in by so many of us. The problem with capitalism is that it doesn’t understand the concept of enough.
No, this is not a screed against profits. Profits are necessary for businesses to, well, stay in business. I get that. The problem lies in the so called mandate to always deliver the most value to the share holders. Or, the mandate to collect as much as you can in cash and other assets from whatever business you choose. That means you gotta drive wages as low as you can. That’s a major cost factor. But. The lower wages go, the less an individual can consume. It’s the classic ouroborous moment where the snake begins to eat itself. But, the mandate is to collect as many profits as possible. Greed, shareholder value, whatever floats your boat, The Good Old Rationalization. It’s a yacht, no doubt.
The endpoint of this process is our current Gilded Age where money and assets get driven up the class structure until we have the patently absurd situation where the top 10 percent own 70 percent of U.S. wealth and since 1989 the top 1 percent expanded their wealth share from 24 percent to 32 percent. Statista. Then comes a recession. Or, a covid based contraction of the economy. Suddenly the consuming classes no longer have jobs and begin bleeding out any assets they may have accumulated. The economy tilts badly. The more wealth at the top, the less there is for consumers to use to drive the economy. And, this is driven directly by the logic of capitalism. Greed, Gecko type greed. That is late stage capitalism working its way toward a time when the 70 percent have so little share in the economy that they can no longer participate or their participation level becomes insufficient to support a consumer based economy.
Running right alongside late stage capitalism is climate change. Late stage capitalism is, I believe, the primary driver in the authoritarian political renaissance. Workers and families whose share of the pie decreases are ripe for exploitation by demagogues. Make America Great Again. Economic tension also raises the stakes for racists who see the other as taking away what that small piece they have. And, in their minds, are entitled to. Well, it is also drive climate change. The mad dash for profits funneling wealth up to the top 10%, the top 1%, is literally fueled by fossil fuels. Any major transition away from fossil fuels eats into profits. This makes even those who understand the science behind climate change hesitant to incur the costs associated with renewable energy. It means the existing energy system, which has concentrated a lot of the wealth, has a political stake in the status quo.
Intersectional identity politics, that is, getting and retaining justice for persons marginalized by the broom sweeping money upward, and/or marginalized for some other reason, has taken hold. A core demand of the new era will be an economy and a social structure that includes the other: the person of a different color, a different gender, a different belief, a different nationality, a different economic status.
And, finally, covid. Of the four it is the least important over the long term and by far the most significant over the short term. It makes thinking about how to move forward so difficult. It kicks so many out of work. It kills so many and disables so many others. And, for each of those killed or disabled, there are families harmed. It will not be easy to dig out from under the after effects of covid. Though I do believe it helped push the Donald back where he belongs, out of the presidency and hopefully into prison. It also ups the ante for late stage capitalism. In many ways.
Anyhow, that’s my spirit of the age thoughts from last night before I went to sleep.