I don’t agree with the notion of extractive, rogue, exploitative, degenerative capitalism. You know, advancing wars around the world to reward investors, chasing dividends. Earning a reasonable profit in a manner that is sustainable, generative, and humane, I support. Mom and pop businesses all over the world, I support.
I recently read an article from an expatriate who has lived in a foreign country for twenty years. His statements shocked me but rang true. He simply stated that in living in the USA we have little idea of how steeped and deep we are in the capitalistic mindset until we are able to remove ourselves from it. That’s been his experience.
The challenge with rogue capitalism is that it’s one-dimensional, though we live in a multi-dimensional society. Rogue capitalism can’t rest and must expand. It is an infinite economic system framed on a finite planet. Rogue capitalism equals “make money at all costs.” Rogue capitalism equates quantity over quality.
For me, quality of life is important. Unlike the rogue capitalist, I find quality in life without chasing money. Work for my hands and a woman to love, meals with family and friends, quiet time for writing, reading, and reflection, hiking in nature, creating art, raising happy and healthy children, etc. Do I need much more?
It’s very clear to me that I am not going to change an entire economic system. I must, to some degree, accept the system I live within. Though I stand in deep admiration of the Nordic countries (I know that they, too, have their faults), it’s not my context and not likely to be. As a result, I’ve decided that to be true to myself, I must take micro-actions, small acts of resistance, to align my behaviors with my beliefs. I want to be less capitalistic while living in the USA.
This is why I think the “revolution will not be televised” rings true. If enough people were to take small, collective actions, we really could change how we relate to each other and our world. We could become more people-centric and value quality of life, over money-centric quantity of dollars and material items.
With this in mind, I would like to share 13 micro-actions that I have taken that have helped bring congruence and harmony to my life. They are listed in no particular order.
1) Minimize and simplify your life. To be very succinct, I’ve spent years cultivating a spiritual life that has lead me in the opposite direction of material gain. My efforts are to reduce material items to only those necessary, beautiful, and enjoyable. Minimalism and voluntary simplicity are “long-view” processes. They do not happen over night, but they do happen with intentionality. The two most important works that I have read on minimalism and that I continue to re-read in my life are: Less is More: An Anthology of Ancient and Modern Voices Raised in Praise of Simplicity selected and edited by Goldian VandenBroeck and Journeys of Simplicity: Traveling Light with Thomas Merton, Basho, Edward Abbey, Annie Dillard and Others by Philip Harnden. If you are new to the ideas of minimalism, I recommend Essential: Essays by the Minimalists by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.
2) Take the long-view. I am afraid that many rogue capitalists today look to the next quarter stock earnings statement and fail to take the long-view. For example, take a look at The Long Now Foundation, which seeks to foster long-term thinking and responsibility 10,000 years into the future. If we look to our children’s children’s children, and we take actions for them today, we might be more responsible in how we consume, realizing that we are on a finite ship.
3) Move your money into a local Credit Union, as opposed to a big, national for-profit bank. Credit unions are customer, member-owned financial cooperatives controlled by its members. This action step is not going to save the planet, but it does move your money locally where you have more control.
4) The capitalist mindset assumes that money must make money and that over the long-haul, the best way to do this is by investing in the stock market. I am not going to deny this, if money, quantity, were the only metric that mattered. But what about “investing” in tangible assets in the local community that are helpful to society? I’m not arguing that a person can’t make money in the stock market, they certainly can. What I am presenting is that sometimes it’s possible to invest in quality of life, looking seven generations out, and simply not worrying about a return on investment. Return on investment (ROI) is capitalist mindset. Investing in the local community with an eye toward sustainability and future generations is a generative mindset.
5) If you have money to lend, and you decide to lend it, considering lending it at no interest. A shocking statement. I’ve lent money to my children for college and I only expect them to pay me back what I originally lent them. Yes, I know, I suck as a capitalist, and I am content and happy nonetheless. The point is that debt, compounded by interest on the loan, is a noose that many good people hang by.
6) I would do everything in my power to not incur debt or take on loans, especially for material items that are neither useful, beautiful, nor enjoyable. There are likely hundreds of options a person could take instead of incurring debt in many situations. Think about it long and hard, consult with confidants, look deep inside yourself before taking on debt. Where I think reasonable debt might be worth it is investing in yourself. I think it’s usually worth it to invest in yourself, even if one takes on reasonable, responsible debt that they know they will be able to pay back.
7) Related to the above, live within and if possible, below your means. When we live below our means or within them, we do not have to take on debt and become financial slaves to financial institutions. Buy the small house, buy the used car, go to community college first, take care of your health, etc. The rogue capitalist wants to atomize you, make you an individual, isolated consumer.
8) Support your labor union, get involved, pay dues, unite. More importantly, if you are in a labor union, do more to work with local progressive movements and understand how they all tie together. All of the various movements have so much in common, what is needed are more platforms to bring “the people” together.
9) Re-consider value and cost. Yes, you can save money by buying books through Amazon. Trust me, I’ve spent more than my fair share. But one could also pay a bit more and buy books through their local, private bookseller, or check them out at the public library. It’s important to think about companies and organizations that are smaller in scale, rather than large corporations, because on par, small, local organizations do less harm to the environment. The impact is distributed and absorbable. Eat locally, shop locally, play locally.
10) Support progressive candidates, hard. Vote hard. Vote harder than you have ever voted. Get involved in politics, start somewhere. It’s our complacency in the political process that has led to this current situation. Never again can we let this happen. In a democracy, we can’t fall asleep at the wheel, we have to be active.
11) Read. I can’t express enough how important it is to put down the social media, the television shows, and read books on topics related to the movement. Do you really understand what’s happening in our present environment, how it came to be, where it desires to go, and how we can stop it? Read, read, read and know what’s happening. One of my favorite reads in 2017 was The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein. At present, I am reading Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered by E.F. Schumacher. I’m loving it.
12) Reconsider social media, cable television, and various monthly subscriptions. They are all part of the system; the Machine. Internet Service Providers, cable television, phone service, social media platforms, search engines, software developers are all nodes in the larger web of capitalism. For example, I don’t have cable at my home, I buy used DVDs from the thrift store and watch them when I desire to watch television. I buy books from the local public library, where they have a little book shoppe. I’m not ignorant, I know that some technology has it’s rightful place and is helpful, but I think it’s important to moderate.
13) Finally, if you’re in the job market or considering a new job, consider a public job in the public domain, a worker cooperative, or working for a private company that is not publicly traded and chasing shareholder value. As I stated in my previous posts, the public domain matters, public service matters, the community matters, people matter.
Listed above are 13 micro-action steps that I have taken that lend me a sense of peace in what I consider to be an otherwise tumultuous environment. The actions steps I have listed are all legal and scaleable.
I live in the United States, it’s my home. I don’t agree with many facets of our economic system, mostly the greed and desire and focus on money, as if people didn’t matter, or that quality of life was not important. Further, it’s very clear to me that our economic system favors those with financial means and the various structures of society continue to adapt toward those with economic means.
Because I care about all people, but especially the poor and marginalized, I have taken these micro-action steps to bring congruence to my life. They are not perfect, I know. They are not changing the world, I know. But they are action-oriented and I think this is important.