We live in a world wherein a mere 62 people own as much wealth as half of humanity. Of this exclusive bunch, the 10 richest billionaires (the fact that billionaires exist at all should itself be a cause for concern) possess $505 billion in combined wealth, a quantity which exceeds the total sum of the goods and services produced by most nations annually. Similarly, the recently leaked Panama Papers have brought to light the over $21 trillion in assets being hoarded by the world’s wealthy elite in offshore tax havens. Meanwhile, rampant poverty and malnutrition persist, and in the U.S especially, wages continue to stagnate despite increased worker productivity, average cost of living continues to climb, and if America’s youth want to pursue a quality education, they will incur a debt that will hamper them for nearly all of their lives. While such obscene levels of inequality are most pronounced in countries such as the U.S and the UK, they are virtually a global phenomenon resulting from the structural dynamics of global capitalism and its ceaseless quest for profits. Proponents of this system often fetishize such pathological traits as hyper-individualism, greed, and competitiveness, touting the pervasive yet false notion that these traits are natural features of human nature in order to create the type of social atmosphere that would not only fail to oppose the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of an ever-diminishing few, but would at most simply brush it off as an inevitable consequence of modern life.
“The ancients were excusable for sneering at the commercial power while still in its infancy, but at the present day the whelp has become the lion; it is a new power which disputes authority even with governments themselves. We have seen the Civil power contend against the colossal influence of the clergy in the Middle Ages, but now…a new tyranny- that of the strong box and the monied interest, the worst of all tyrannies- would seize in its grasp kings and peoples…the mercantile colossus, that parasite which, without producing anything, appropriates to himself the wealth of nations, and forms in the industrial system a new influence, more potent than that of potentates themselves…”- Fourier, Harmonian Man
Ours is a world increasingly dominated by the ecological consequences of our cancerous socioeconomic system. Each new year shatters the global temperature records of the previous one, and the projections for 2016 promise a continuation of this pattern. Industrial expansion for such activities as mining, logging, and oil exploration threatens half of our planet’s natural World Heritage Sites, unique wonders that are essential for the wellbeing of wildlife and millions people worldwide. Similarly, the present, largely human-induced 6th mass extinction is seeing rates of loss of around 100 times the natural background rate as well as those of the previous 5 mass extinction events. Everyday, popular news sites such as The Guardian are plagued with such heart-wrenching stories and images as those of scalded orangutans desperately fleeing their burning forest homes which have been set ablaze for conversion to palm oil plantations. This mass devastation seems to have become the new ‘normal’, inevitable externalities of ‘progress’ and ‘economic growth’, or so the proponents of neoliberal economic orthodoxy would proclaim. However, this is not normal; this is madness. There is a better, saner way to organize society.
The wonderful truth is that we are not a mere assortment of atoms who must viciously compete against one another in order to survive. This ill-conceived idea does not hold true in nature and it is not only false but dangerous with respect to social species such as ourselves. What’s more, environmental devastation is not a sign of progress or an inevitable consequence of development but a portent of profoundly dysfunctional and unsustainable trajectories. In light of such developments, it is difficult to maintain hope and to conceive of alternative arrangements. Politically, many of us have become disillusioned, and for good reason. We’ve been let down and deceived by so many politicians time and time again, people who should be representatives of the many but simply wind up being the watchdogs of the wealthy elite. However, two presidential hopefuls offer a refreshing gleam of hope in their exposure and relentless criticism of the profound injustices and depravities of our current system: the Green Party’s Dr. Jill Stein and democratic presidential hopeful, Senator Bernie Sanders.
“[The American political system] is extremely corrupt…It serves the interests of oligarchy. It puts people, planet and peace—it subjugates those critical things—to profit. We have a political system that is funded and therefore accountable to predatory banks and fossil fuel giants and war profiteers. Those are the interests it serves”.
“What I’ve been calling for is declaring a national emergency. We did it after Pearl Harbor, and it’s not just one harbor being destroyed, it’s all harbors, all coastlines, most population centers. We think we have a migrant crisis right now? It’s peanuts compared to what we’re looking at, with 100 million refugees or more. And that’s just beginning.”
– Green Party presidential hopeful, Dr. Jill Stein
Both Sanders and Stein are refreshingly brazen in their stances on a number of important contemporary issues, and each boasts a healthy past of civil disobedience and protest that demonstrates their unwavering determination to uphold their ideals. Both are staunchly against war and foreign belligerence, both advocate a woman’s right to regulate her own body, both view access to health care as a fundamental right of all citizens, both pledge to dismantle the corrupt oligarchic tumor that has wedged itself in the heart of our society as well as all over the world (Stein plans to redirect wealth flows and revitalize our social infrastructure by slashing the U.S military budget in half!), and both, especially Stein as green issues are a focal point of her party and campaign, emphasize swift, sweeping, and concerted actions to mitigate climate change and ecological destruction.
“In the last 30 years there has been a massive — we’re talking about many trillions of dollars being redistributed from the middle class to the top one-tenth of 1 percent. It is time to redistribute money back to the working families of this country from the top one-tenth of 1 percent.”
“Please don’t tell me that the United States of America, our great country, cannot guarantee health care to all people. Don’t tell me that every person in this country should not be able to get all the education that they need regardless of their income.”
– Democratic Party Presidential hopeful, Senator Bernie Sanders
I often muse on the joyous potentialities of a Sanders-Stein coalition. Here at last are two presidential candidates who are true champions of equality, justice, and all that is beneficial for people and planet. Sanders and Stein have consistently proven their willingness and ability to struggle for the wellbeing of all rather than a select few. They are incorruptible, they cannot be bought. In an age when politics tends to be used as a mere tool for the protection of the status quo and its beneficiaries, Sanders and Stein remind us that the political process can be a powerful force for change, and that a better way is not only possible but well within reach. They awaken us out of our disillusionment with their bold visions of a truly prosperous future. Yet they cannot bring about change on their own. The task at hand is revolutionary in nature. They need our help and support, the support of the many. Capitalism and the present political establishment have failed us tremendously. The equitable, vibrant, and sustainable world that is our birthright awaits us just beyond the limits of ‘The Thing That Is‘. As the timelessly resonant words of British poet Percy Shelley urge, it is time to “rise like lions after slumber in unvanquishable number; shake your chains to earth like dew, which in sleep had fallen on you. Ye are many, they are few!”
Content by Heather Alberro