Of Hampster Wheels and Men
[the myth of capitalism and democracy]
by Charles Sullivan
October 5th, 2007
It is evident that the US or Israel is
going to launch an unprovoked attack on Iran in the near future,
just as it did against Iraq and countless other defenseless nations
within recent memory. As a result, untold numbers of innocent
people will die and huge sums of money will change hands. Both
the U.S. and Israel will consolidate their power in the Middle
East and injustice and death will follow in their wake.
Bush's co-conspirators in Congress are
standing down, leaving little doubt as to whom they serve. As
always, the mainstream media is preparing the way by serving as
an organ of the Military-industrial complex by beating the drums
of war and perpetuating lies.
Outside of a small number of citizens,
few people seem capable of plumbing the depths of our conundrum.
Under the umbrella of capitalism, business is the business of
America, and death, inequity, and misery are its chief byproducts.
Thus the rich are getting richer and the wealth generated by the
producers is being concentrated into fewer hands than ever before.
War and class warfare are among the offshoots
of capitalism. They are opposite sides of the same coin, like
Democrat and Republican. Significant change will not occur until
the people rise up in revolt and take matters into their own hands-a
state of affairs that is virtually unimaginable. Nothing less
than a fundamental paradigm shift from capitalism to a just an
equitable socio-economic system is required.
It is not difficult to know what kind
of response the present threat demands of us-yet only a handful
of thoughtful and courageous people will act appropriately against
I am quite certain that indifference,
apathy, belligerent nationalism, and dumb-foundedness are not
appropriate responses to the cancer that is festering in the Pentagon,
the halls of Congress, and America's corporate board rooms and
political think tanks.
I am willing to bet that the average American
never contemplates the inequities that capitalism foists upon
the world, or the unwarranted faith we have in the concept of
private ownership, unregulated markets, and trickle down economics.
This is a system that was created to serve the wealthy and to
oppress the majority, and it is fundamentally predatory in nature.
Championed by the likes of Milton Friedman,
capitalism and private ownership is the holy grail of the American
economic system, and they are considered beyond reproach even
by those who barely survive under their ponderous weight. The
nemesis of capital and privilege is an organized and mobilized
citizenry. Throughout America's short history, alternative political
and economic systems such as communism and socialism, long associated
with organized labor and radical unionism, have occasionally gained
a foothold in the barren political landscape and, predictably,
were thoroughly demonized by the mainstream media and its corporate
Alternatives to capitalism have been tried
but they have always been undermined by the US, which allows their
critics to assert that these social experiments have been tried
and failed. But left alone to evolve without outside interference,
other socio-economic systems that serve people and the public
interest might well flourish over for profit systems that promote
private enterprise, which explains why so much energy and treasure
is spent to undermine them.
Does anyone really believe that capitalism
would be so prevalent today if it had been so systematically undermined
by other governments as its counterparts? The playing field has
never been level. Yet, despite such intense oppression, alternatives
continue to spring up like undesirable weeds in capitalism's well
groomed garden. Left untended, the garden quickly reverts to its
natural state, which, clearly, is not capitalism or public funded
privatized wealth accumulation.
Early on, working class Americans have
been programmed to rail against any system that poses a threat
to capitalism and its attendant Plutocratic rule. There was the
era of McCarthyism in the 1950's, and long before that the constant
specter of the red menace that has always been associated with
organized labor and other social justice movements.
Any ideology that is opposed to capitalism
has always been presented to the people as a threat to democracy
itself, which is an absurd notion. Through propaganda and other
distortions of truth, the interests of the ruling clique are widely
perceived to also be the people's interest. Nothing could be farther
from the truth. Democracy is the greatest threat to capitalism
and Plutocracy; and, as history attests, it is vigorously repressed
by those in power, often by acts of state sponsored terrorism
Unregulated corporate power and the unbridled
exploitation of land and people are as far from true free markets
and democracy as anything can be.
Through the judicious use of lies and
propaganda the corporate media, aided by the educational system,
has successfully steered the collective American psyche away from
the very ideologies that might potentially be our greatest benefactors.
The underlying causes of societal injustice, including the inequitable
distribution of wealth and power, are thus kept safely out of
the public conscience, beyond the pale of moral and intellectual
discourse. Unregulated corporate power and free markets are hailed
in the mainstream media as humankind's greatest achievements.
They are marketed to the very people it exploits as liberating,
The founding fathers recognized that an
aroused and organized citizenry was the primary threat to the
ruling elite. Organized labor, in particular, has always been
perceived as a threat to the established orthodoxy. A democratic
workplace would inevitably lead to a democratic society, and thus
deny the strength of the ruling Plutocracy.
It is remarkable that for more than 230
years the Plutocracy has not only successfully kept the majority
of the people supporting economic and social policy that is detrimental
to the people, they have also kept them from thinking about alternatives
that could provide relief from the social and economic injustice
wrought by capitalism-among them, universal health care and socialized
higher education. The government is always waging a cold war against
the working class people, whatever their country of origin.
As a result, we have evolved into a nation
of imperialists addicted to war and other forms of violence, which
accrues tremendous wealth and power to the rich, while simultaneously
undermining the people's collective welfare, and the wellbeing
of the planet.
Attached to their ipods, cell phones,
their computers, television sets, and right wing media, the American
people are detached from reality. So long as they are free to
consume and waste, and sufficient entertainment is provided, the
people will not rise up in revolt.
Because of this separation from reality,
Americans do not empathize with people outside of their own immediate
families, beyond a small sphere of friends and acquaintances.
We have no sense of community, and little visceral connection
to the wild earth that sustains all life. We are reductionists
who do not appreciate the organic whole. Thus we cannot connect
the dots and think in rational terms of cause and effect. We have
commodified the earth and her people in order to exploit them
Too many Americans exist with a false
sense of entitlement and privilege that is not nearly as prevalent
in other parts of the world, where the effects of capitalism are
better understood. Confident in our right to consume, while ignoring
the misery our consumption and waste is causing others, we do
not perceive the connection between capitalism, war, socio-economic
class, cheap labor, and planetary destruction.
Dr. Martin Luther King said: "Injustice
anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The Wobblies
understood: "An injury to one is an injury to all."
But we do not easily think beyond the self and rarely see ourselves
as a part of a vibrant global community-a part of nature. We even
erect psychological barriers that prevent us from questioning
the established orthodoxy, as we witnessed in the aftermath of
9-11. We do as we are told, rather than doing what is right and
just. Americans fear the government and tremble before authority.
It is this spiritual isolation and emptiness
that allows us to comprise so little of the earth's population,
and to consume so much of her precious biological and ecological
wealth-the planetary life support systems that sustain all life.
The American worker, despite all evidence
to the contrary, and notwithstanding the lessons of history, continues
to subscribe to the ideology of the capitalist model and its empty
promises dressed in the seductive garments of the 'American Dream'.
That dream is now, more than ever, as millions of Americans are
coming to realize, more myth than reality.
Capitalism has forced a nation-sized plantation
upon the working class people of this country, and a world-sized
gulag upon people everywhere. Workers keep only a tiny percent
of the wealth they create for their employers, just enough to
keep them playing the game-a game only a select few will ever
win. Someone else always reaps the benefits of our labor.
American workers are like hamsters imprisoned
in a cage, spinning our hamster wheels with furious speed, working
harder, producing more, more, more-ever more; until our hearts
explode or our bodies wear out under mountains of debt.
Hardly a handful of people realize what
an elaborate hoax has been erected around us, what a sham this
moribund system of waste and exploitation really is.
So we go from one plantation to another,
drifting like tumbleweeds from one job to another but always imprisoned
by the same exploitive, dehumanizing capitalist system.
At some level, I believe that the majority
of the people intuit that something is terribly wrong. Thus they
subscribe to the idea of reform and resort to electoral politics-a
system that is wholly owned and operated by special interest money
and corporate lobbyists. Their faith in the vote is misplaced
and their energy is misdirected, which thus helps to maintain
the established order, and prevents us from doing anything meaningful
and direct. It assures consistency through the centuries: Imperial
wars and occupations, a widening gap between the rich and poor;
falling wages, union busting, and unfathomable environmental destruction
on a global scale.
There are no political solutions available
to us. There are no knights in shinning armor coming to the rescue.
In a system awash in money the vote has no meaning. It is a mistake
to think that the tools provided by capitalism can do anything
other than perpetuate the system that is already in place, as
history clearly demonstrates. Whether George Bush, Ron Paul, or
Hillary Clinton occupies the White House, the result will be the
same. Politicians are the property of special interest money.
Few of them serve the people.
We must stop believing that reform of
this corrupt system is even possible. Misplaced faith in corrupt
politicians keeps us from fomenting the seeds of revolution, which
are our only salvation and our destiny if we are to survive as
a people. If only we could conjure up the fighting spirit that
these times require.
People can only affect change by accepting
personal responsibility and through direct action. We, ourselves,
must become the agents for radical, revolutionary transformation.
Rather than putting our trust in George Bush and Hillary Clinton
or the sycophants in Congress, we must believe in ourselves and
directly assert the power we have. We the people, when organized
and mobilized, are the most powerful revolutionary force on earth.
All we need is solidarity, but solidarity can be as elusive as
a wisp of smoke, especially when so much capital is expended to
keep us isolated and disorganized, and propagandized.
Both voting and sporadic protests, while
they may temporarily make us feel useful, do not have much long
term effect. Let us not simply say no to war with our vote, but
with our bodies and our treasure. If we wish to see social justice
enacted, we must not merely vote for it, we must, ourselves, become
the agents of justice. We must oppose injustice not only on philosophical
and ethical grounds, but in the theater of action, with our bodies.
Democracy and justice are too important
to entrust to politicians who serve money, rather than people
and the public welfare. We must do more than give lip service
to the mere symbols of justice while doing nothing to actually
obtain justice, or even worse-undermining it by voting more Plutocrats
into office. Each of us must act to bring justice to bear. It
is wrong to quietly tolerate what is being done to our country.
Our collective tolerance for injustice
and mediocrity makes us complicit in them. We do not hold the
criminals and the real terrorists accountable and we continue
to support the system that ushered them into power by participating
in it and pretending that it is legitimate.
Action applied directly at the point of
injustice is the only force that can bring about permanent and
just change. But action, unlike rhetoric, requires courage and
conviction. It means putting the fear of god into the hearts of
the government, as ordinary people do in Europe and Latin America,
putting our bodies on the line for what we believe in. When the
state is an enemy of the people, all just men and women must become
enemies of the state.
Change begins and ends with the individual.
What we think and what we do matters only if we act on our beliefs
and are even willing to die for them, if necessary. Peace can
only follow justice; it never precedes it.
By putting faith in those who serve the
almighty dollar, rather than directly upholding the principles
of democracy ourselves, we diminish our own power-we cede it to
the corrupt and diabolical whose primary purpose is to rape and
exploit us. Let us leave the safe haven of our hamster wheels
and occupy the streets until justice reigns for everyone. There
is no other way.
Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer,
free-lance writer, and activist residing in the Ridge and Valley
Providence of geopolitical West Virginia.