Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Last week I presented a primitive diagram of recent history from the advent of modern class consciousness in the 19th Century, to today, dividing mass phenomena redounding from class consciousness into 3 waves: the first, the classical revolutionary communist events; the second, the parallel phenomena of reforming classical revolutionary communism in the East while fragmented identities including labor sought social and economic reforms in the West; and third, the emergent process we find ourselves engaged in at the current moment.
I’ll remind you that the three waves explanation is a taxonomy of convenience, that no one will agree that there are three waves, or that they contain the phenomena I have crammed into them; that I have trimmed historical conceptual clusters with Occam’s Razor and smashed them with Bozo’s Mallet to form of them an object susceptible to a certain brutish examination; and that quantum physicists do this to subatomic particles all the time, and everybody thinks they’re super-geniuses.
We left off with a description of our global economic system as fatally entrenched in past destructive modes of domination – domination of resources, economies, means of production, populations, and the environment. Let’s pick up there.
We know that we have to stop killing the Earth, and from the Pope to a sixteen-year-old Scandinavian girl, along with armies of scientists, economists, and community activists, all agree that unless capitalism is radically transformed or destroyed, a mass extinction, already in progress (along with massive changes in the climate that will certainly disrupt our food supply), and the inability of many millions to remain in their home locales, will change our lives for the worse, forever, and possibly extinguish them.
But we can’t ignore the threat that our side might pursue a wrong way of changing capitalism into something new. Right now cyber-capitalism is content to spy on us in order to target us with ads to manipulate and profit from our behavior and thinking. If the Stasi or the KGB had had these tools, they might have used them on the people to ferret out deviant thinking, and ultimately exterminate whoever they deemed incorrigible.
We can’t allow the desire for wealth accumulation to dictate our existences anymore. We can no longer allow it to pervert our duties to our communities, our use of land, air, and water, our system of supplying ourselves with food. It’s clearly not a choice. Capitalism as it has existed from its beginning must end if anything else we care about is to exist into the future.
But we can’t allow a privileged coterie of revolutionary leaders to abuse truth or dictate behavior, or make possibly poor and destructive decisions about the use of resources. That’s why, when I hear straight-up Marxism being bandied around without the danger of tyranny being at all addressed, without the acknowledgement that we need to come up with a real plan or at least a first principle, or even an admitted desire, for distributing power as evenly as wealth, I get annoyed.
Maybe if we want workers’ rule, rule of the people, a classless society that doesn’t lie to itself about class, we should aim directly for that, and not take a detour through a ruling party of tyrants pitting the professional and proletariat classes against each other through a bureaucratic apparatus. Maybe we can even shoot for what comes next: decentralized socialism, or whatever we decide we want.
We need to think about this seriously. Maybe if we address ourselves to the actual form of government and economy we want – I mean, Slavoj Žižek doesn’t want to grow food, he wants food delivered, he says, well, I want him to help us grow food sometimes – I don’t care how entertaining he is – or at least help prepare it, or help deliver it, or maybe just do the dishes, a very very small amount of time out of his day. He might have to teach actual little children. He might have to clean a communal toilet, and I think on some level he knows this, and we just have to be ready for him to weep and moan like a drama queen about scenes in Dr. Zhivago for a little bit. He will find helpers; people like to help. The clothes he wears don’t demand much effort, I’m sure he can ask someone nicely to weave him another sweater out of hay or golden retriever fur when the current one wears out.
And I understand the desire to reward someone for how smart and entertaining they are. It’s a hard gesture to resist: reward. It’s a way we express our gratitude for what another provides. I’m a little worried that we might just rebuild accumulative capitalism by our own autonomous post- revolutionary selves just out of affection for other people who exhibit strengths and talents that we find admirable, and who give the products of their vocations to us. We have to account for that impulse.
The binary division between male and female, imposed on us for the convenience of the rulers of a long-forgotten past, is dissolving, and those of us with issues will need to get over them. And we have to account for the fact that there are people of sexual desires that might challenge us, because human sexuality has been so mutilated by decades of materialistic concerns vying for our life energy, while all along we’re afraid to experience or even intellectually allow the many ways people can give and receive love and pleasure.
We have to account for the feelings of bigotry between groups who’ve been in relationships of exploitation in the past; and here in the West, the slavery of black people was there when capitalism first took root, without slavery, it couldn’t have taken root; thus slavery has major legacy repercussions to this day, a legacy that has to be reckoned with as a real place we’re going to be starting from. We have to account for cultural differences, and fear of differences, and antagonisms built around those differences, without losing what joy and beauty can be provided by those differences.
We have to think about how we move from this world to the new one, the one we want, the sustainable, equitable, wise, kind one. The one that’s honest with itself about power and wealth, and continuously corrects for imbalances in their distribution. We have a lot to think about because we know a revolution is coming. The violent right always becomes restless when the people are on the verge of finally putting their foot down.
We are in the 3rd Wave of class consciousness. I don’t know what to call it. I don’t know what to call a movement that includes both Thomas Piketty and Laverne Cox harmoniously. Maybe they’d both be into each other, I don’t know. And if you don’t know the names, or can’t guess from context the vague social positions, of either of the people I’m talking about, I’m sorry, you aren’t doing leftism well. And if you only know about one of those two, I would like to suggest that might be a superficial, anecdotal indication that we still have a lot of work to do, building our ... whatever we’re building here. Whatever we’re going to call it.
I guess the name is the last thing to deal with, but keep it in mind. There’s not lot of time before we’ll have to identify ourselves to each other, maybe over field radios.
This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!