Saturday, December 14, 2013

Letter to Mother Earth News



Mother Earth News, to which I have subscribed for years, published an article about the CEO of Whole Foods, and his book on the wonderfulness of capitalism, and the many goods it provides. I wrote this letter in response.

To Mr. Welch,

I was disappointed that you could be swayed by John Mackey's paean to capitalism, as evidenced by his self-identified wonderfulness.

The "free market" that we have all been raised to believe is the only way to provide for human needs, is actually that which leads to environmental devastation and the eradication of indigenous cultures, as you mentioned in the beginning.

The eradication of indigenous cultures is not something that stopped when the last Native American was killed or put onto reservations. It is going on today. John Mackay celebrates the fact that most people today make more than $1 a day. What does this mean?

It means that the last hunter gatherers, subsistence farmers and tribal herders are being driven from their lands and forced into gigantic slums, all over the planet, in order that capitalists can expand into their traditional lands. The Amazon people, people of the Congo, Indonesian hunter gatherers, people living in the jungles of India - all under attack, whether from dams flooding their homelands, to armies hunting them down, to deforestation, to climate change. I read the account of a man forced from his home in the jungle to live in Calcutta, who said that he used to have 40 kinds of fruit to choose from, but his children have never tasted fruit. Even though he probably makes more than a dollar a day, and therefore John Mackay counts him as a success. Billions of people who never needed money to live, now are forced to, and this is a good thing?

That is a bizarre thing to hold up as a triumph of capitalism to Mother Earth News readers, most of whom are trying to live on less money, with more happiness, as I understand them.

The "free market", which means producing for profit instead of needs, has led to the horrendous environmental destruction that we see today. Capitalism must grow or die, boom or bust, expand or shrink. This is why we send our military into other countries to "open their markets". Why we keep making consumer goods long after our needs are sated. Why we are bombarded with advertisements telling us that we must buy more to make us happy. That is why there are floating islands of plastic in the oceans, along with mountains of trash on our lands.

And why, when we have enough washing machines, or TVs, or boats, the factories shut down, and people are thrown out of work.

We have 10,000,000 empty houses, and millions of homeless people. How is this rational? And the talking heads on TV and in the White House tell us "Housing starts are up!! The economy is recovering!" And we're supposed to cheer? That more McMansions are being built on former farmland or in the deserts? That forests are being razed to build houses that no one can afford? That community tax money is being spent on expanding infrastructure to the farm fields, or deserts, instead of meeting the needs of the citizens? We know damn well that those houses are not being built to house the homeless, as they would be in a rational society. No, this is freedom, right here in the USA. We don't build houses for the homeless. We don't grow food for the hungry. That would be a planned economy, and therefore anathema.

Most of the advances attributed to capitalism over the last 200 years are actually human beings finding new ways to use fossil fuels to do the work that human labor used to do. Of course, the dependence on fossil fuels is now leading to mountains being blown up, and pushed into valleys, vast oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, Nigeria, and other places, tar sand devastation of the beautiful province of Alberta, national parks being destroyed, mass extinctions of the beings with which we share the planet, and the very climate in which human beings evolved being permanently altered.

John Mackay doesn't like regulations. Which ones? The ones that protect workers? He wants to go back to the 19th century, when millions of workers were killed in the mines, foundries, factories, and railroads? Or maybe he doesn't like consumer regulations, which make sure that our milk isn't really chalk, our toys don't contain lead, and our dog food doesn't kill our dogs. Or is it environmental protections he frowns upon? Let the rivers burn! Along with our tap water.

It is unbelievable that Mackay would hold up mass education as a capitalist achievement! Are you kidding? It is governments which provide universal education, as profit-driven education leaves out the majority of the people. And revolutionaries usually put health and education at the top of the list of improvements for the people, when they manage to overthrow capitalist governments. And the US, when it attacks revolutionary governments, usually attacks schools and clinics, teachers and health workers, in order to destroy such governments. Check out Witness for Peace for documentation.

To blame consumers for the state of this planet is outrageous. Who would choose to destroy the environment? Who would choose to have a billion people starving to death, while a billion are obese? Who would choose to have endless wars to take other people's resources?

Picture yourself trying to explain our present state to a visitor from outer space. How do we organize our societies? How do we take care of our needs? Why do we spend so much of our resources on war?

Go ahead. Explain to a visitor who hasn't been brainwashed from birth about how wonderful our system is, how it "works".

I have been brainwashed from birth, being born and raised in the USA, and even I can see that this is not working. We are very near destroying our entire beautiful planet, or at least the outer rim on which we live, and it is intolerable to see my favorite magazine laud the achievement.

peace

1 comment:

k-dog said...

Conscious Capitalism: Doing Well by Doing Good

I'm assuming this is what you are talking about.

I'm inclined to agree with you. Bryan Welch read and liked the book and gave it a good review. That is understandable as he appears to be a conscious capitalist himself and he likes the good parts and ignores the drawbacks. That is what people do.

I think the problem is that 'Conscious Capitalism' redefines capitalism by picking out its good qualities, ignoring the bad and taking credit for some things it should not.

You are correct in pointing out "Most of the advances attributed to capitalism over the last 200 years are actually human beings finding new ways to use fossil fuels." Other systems also could have done the same thing and one could even argue better. But that is not what happened so credit is taken were it should not be.

If everyone were as a responsible as Bryan Welch or John Mackey and Raj Sisodia the world would be a much better place. But the reality is that unregulated capitalism allows the weakest souls among us to prosper at the expense of others. Any system that is not committed to making everyone prosper and meeting the needs of all is doomed to ruin the planet. Capitalist cheerleaders are those who do not yet get that unregulated growth is a cultural meme that has far outlived it's usefulness and is now an anachronism. The big problem now is that capitalism has taken over government, writes the laws of the land, and is systemically destroying the controls that once provided any semblance of responsibility to the people.

Rather than fight regulation lovers of the free market and capitalism should be embracing regulation that reigns it in and not endlessly extolling its virtues. To have their cake and eat it too they should be making sure everyone gets a slice.

Including future generations.