Is there anybody who hasn't stared out of the office window of their nine to five job, and dreamed of being able to just walk out into the sunlight?
Is there anybody who hasn't - upon finding out that they're broke the week after payday - wondered whether they're ever going to find the magical balance of 'controlling their finances', or whether we're all just hamsters on giant wheels, chasing ever-elusive bits of cucumber (to go along with the hamster metaphor)?
The problem in 'polite' society of course is that you dare not think these sorts of things for fear of being branded a Communist, and who'd want to anyway? The truth is, while the Communists have some very good points, they're also scarily radical.
"Though, to tell you the truth, my dear More, I don’t see how you can ever get any real justice or prosperity, so long as there’s private property, and everything is judged in terms of money - unless you consider it just for the worst sort of people to have the best living conditions, or unless you’re prepared to call a country prosperous, in which all the wealth is owned by a tiny minority - who aren’t entirely happy even so, while everyone else is simply miserable."
Thomas More (1478-1535)The date from that quote makes me think though ... if the good Mr More could put the problems we face today so eloquently back almost 500 years ago, why can't we progress beyond this point?
I'm a firm believer in human intelligence, especially when it's motivated by good old-fashioned human greed (and we must stop thinking that 'greed' is a bad concept - it's just animal self-preservation). We're a species that managed to break the direct link between labour and reward (ironically also the root of our downfall) and thereby enable all modern technological inventions.
We can fly to the moon, develop the atomic bomb, network computers on other sides of the world, and - best of all - make our pies warm by putting them in a little box with a spinning plate, but we still can't figure out a way of escaping the negative aspects of money.
All this while the world crumbles around our ears: back in ye good olde days people just blamed poverty on poor people being lazy and stupid, while these days we're enlightened enough to blame 'The System', but it all sounds a little mean-spirited if nobody is actually doing anything to bring down the system (never mind those people burning car tires on the evening news).
I want to bring down The System in so far as I don't want to feel guilty about my own success, or what enabled it. I don't want to think that anybody is going to sleep hungry tonight because I managed to secure enough money to buy myself some luxury which upon reflection I realised I didn't actually even need anyway. I want to believe that we're all helping each other, and not just out to grab what little advantage we can before we die cold and alone.
Call me an optimist, but I believe that we all feel that way. It's not that we're not all self-interested - I just think that if we were given a choice between being happy by ourselves and being happy along with everybody else at no additional cost to ourselves, we'd all choose the latter.
Right there is the reason that capitalism IS still around: to date nobody has proposed a solution to capitalism which will not result in compromises for a large number of people (the 'Case for Communism' link provided above explains that quite honestly). Also there's the small question of restorative justice: it's not like the poor and the rich will ever be able to kiss and forgive each other of their mutual distrust.
The classic conundrum: 'He's stealing too much profit and paying me nothing,' said the worker. 'He's lazy and rude and just wants hand-outs for nothing,' said the owner. Could both be right in their anger towards the other?
So there you have it: all we need is a new system which enables us to all sustain exactly the lives we have now without resulting in harm for anybody and ideally even improves everybody's lives in a concrete manner, while still including an element of reparation to soothe the hurt feelings on both sides of the capitalist fence.
Here's another quote from the communist website above I found rather amusing in the way it provides The Answer without any specifics:
"Only when production has reached a level to supply an abundance of everything that people need, and only when the memory of capitalist or bourgeois power and culture have faded and the old ruling class no longer exists to try to reverse the revolution, can true communism be achieved. In the highest stage of communism money and wages would be obsolete. There would be enough of everything to go round. Machines would do most boring work. The remaining work would be interesting, and would be enjoyable and voluntary. There would be plenty of leisure. There would be no motive for theft or exploitation and no need for state machinery to defend the interests of one class against another. The state would wither away, the government of people would give way to the co-operative administration of things – making sure that everything needed was produced and distributed appropriately."
Good old machines huh? Come on Siri - our cellphones are starting to talk back to us, so the amazing dream must just be around the corner! As for the concept of work which is 'interesting, enjoyable and voluntary', I think that may well be the definition of an oxymoron.
Good try, Communists, but no cigar. Anybody else have any bright ideas?