Unlearning Capitalism

The more I learn about Mutual Aid and capitalism, the clearer it is that we must build alternatives to replace the capitalist system. Mutual Aid is emerging as that alternative .

“Unlearning racism” refers to teaching people who believe they are white about thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and actions which they are not aware of, which support racism. Racism is so deeply embedded in our culture that most white people uncritically accept any number of norms in our society that are actually discriminatory and unjust.  The first thing white people have to do when they want to engage with people of color or address race is to learn about their own racial biases.  This is a life long process in our society.

Similarly, I believe it is urgent today that we “unlearn capitalism“.  As discussed in the post about Capitalocene, capitalism has evolved into a system that values profit over people and that has pursued extractive practices that consume resources far beyond the ability of Mother Earth to replenish them.  Capitalocene is powered by fossil fuel energy and is overwhelming our environment with toxic methods of extracting these fuels, the consumption of vast amounts of water in the process, and production of greenhouse gases that result from burning them. And those countries with the greatest industrialization consume vastly disproportionate amounts of these fuels, thus producing the bulk of the resulting pollution.

“Jason Moore in Capitalism in the Web of Life proposes that the Anthropocene be renamed the ‘Capitalocene’, since ‘the rise of capitalism after 1450 marked a turning point in the history of humanity’s relation with the rest of nature, greater than any watershed since the rise of agriculture.’”

Capitalocene points to the ways capitalism—the particular tendencies and dynamics associated with the appropriation and distribution of surplus-value, the accumulation of capital, and much else—has both made the despoiling of the natural environment (e.g., through the use of fossil fuels) central to the production and distribution of commodities and shifted its effects onto poor people and minorities, who bear higher levels of water, air, and other kinds of pollution than anyone else.

Finally, the term Capitalocene carries with it the possibility of imagining the end of capitalism, and therefore a radical change in the way human beings relate to the natural environment. To be clear, I am not suggesting that global warming and other environmental problems would be automatically eliminated with a radical transformation of the way the economy is currently organized.

Environmental concerns will require particular changes in thinking to be made central to whatever noncapitalist economies are imagined and enacted as we move forward.

I do, however, maintain that eliminating capitalism will be an important step in setting aside and overcoming many of the obstacles to creating a different, better relationship in and with the natural environment.”

David F. Ruccio Occasional Links and Commentary.

These are not a new concepts among Quakers.

At the World Conference of Friends held at Guilford College in North Carolina in 1967, some young Friends crossed over from a concurrently running young Friends conference to raise a concern that became known as Right Sharing of World Resources. The new concern recognized poverty in the world economic system as in part a systemic problem, and as a legacy of colonialism.

Finally, Quakers should become political economists because capitalism—especially industrial capitalism—is itself partly our responsibility. Just as we helped to create the modern prison system with the innovation of the penitentiary, so Quakers were the driving force behind the industries and economic structures that shaped emerging industrial capitalism. Industrial capitalism would have happened without Friends—but it didn’t. Just as we feel called to reform a penal system that has lost its way, so I hope we will be called to reform an economic system we did much to create and which has become carcinomic, an engine of unlimited consumption and growth, not to mention the blood on its hands, from the Western Front in World War I to the streets of Baghdad.

Quakers and Capitalism, Steven Dale Davison, Friends Journal,  July 1, 2006

The organization Right Sharing of World Resources is devoted to addressing global economic and energy inequalities.

I’m re-posting the following comments that were made recently after Quaker midweek meeting for worship in Indianola, Iowa.  These Quakers were describing the life they lived as children in the early 1900’s.  It is clear that people once lived and thrived in what seem to be primitive conditions compared to our lives today. We need to quickly return to a similar lifestyle.

  • We didn’t have electricity or running water.  (I might add we had a party line telephone, no television, and an outhouse for the bathroom)
  • We broke a lot of glasses that we had taken upstairs during the night (as the water turned to ice)
  • There was no heat upstairs
  • We wrapped the kids in a cocoon of multiple blankets with only their arms outside
  • We heated stones on the stove, and put them in the beds before we got into them
  • We used bottles of warm water for the same purpose
  • The first thing we did in the morning was open, and sit on the door of the stove to warm up
  • Sometimes we had to be picked up by someone in a horse and buggy when the school bus was stuck on the muddy roads
  • (There was also mention of mud-ball fights)

Quakers will only be truly prophetic when they risk a great deal of their accumulated privilege and access to wealth. Prophets cannot have a stake in maintaining the status quo. Any attempt to change a system while benefiting and protecting the benefits received from the system reinforces the system. Quakers as much as anyone not only refuse to reject their white privilege, they fail to reject the benefits they receive from institutionalized racism, trying to make an unjust economy and institutionalized racism and patriarch more fair and equitable in its ability to exploit. One can not simultaneously attack racist and patriarchal institutions and benefit from them at the same time without becoming more reliant upon the benefits and further entrenching the system. Liberalism at its laziest.

Scott Miller

I’m of the firm opinion that a system that was built by stolen bodies on stolen land for the benefit of a few is a system that is not repairable. It is operating as designed, and small changes (which are the result of huge efforts) to lessen the blow on those it was not designed for are merely half measures that can’t ever fully succeed.

So the question is now, where do we go from here? Do we continue to make incremental changes while the wealthy hoard more wealth and the climate crisis deepens, or do we do something drastic that has never been done before? Can we envision and create a world where a class war from above isn’t a reality anymore?”

Ronnie James

This entry was posted in capitalism, climate change, Des Moines Mutual Aid, Quaker, Quaker Meetings, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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