All of us can sense it.  We can sniff it in the breeze.  We can feel it in the altered ever-changing rhythms of existence; the stresses and overwhelming sweetness of daily living; in the bizarre weather of droughts and floods; in the toxic anxiety of unfulfillable expectations; in a corrupt culture and politics; in endemic violence against the vulnerable.  In an economic system driven by greed and apparently unaccountable executive criminality; in the lack of beauty in public spaces and places; in the transformation of things, people, and the Earth itself into allegedly quantifiable “money value” or “sales price;” all also know that something is deeply amiss.  This unjust decadent unsustainable system, this arrangement of seeming reality, cannot stand.  It is falling apart.  The sound of its crashing echoes in our ears, whether we are awake, sleeping, or dreaming.

Capitalism is ending.  This is not just an economic diagnosis.  It is a cultural and spiritual one.  The “way the world works” which emerged from European feudalism 500 years ago, conquered the world politically and culturally, and now claims to march everywhere triumphant, punishing attempts at democracy and solidarity, killing people of color in the US, Europe, and over the globe with systematic glee.  . . it is over.

Let us sing praises to the Spirits!  The Beast is mortally wounded!  It will not survive.  It is already doomed.  It knows its days are few.  Its violence and cruelty, in Charleston, Gaza, Greece, the Texas detention camps for “undocumented” families, the deaths of refugees from war on the waters of the Mediterranean; in the vast oceans of silent daily suffering; all these are certain signs of the weakness of this Destructive Way.  It is over.

Although the sense that we are in the midst of “the End of the Age” has been expressed in various ways for some time (including street preachers threatening with “Hell” all who refuse to join them in a narrow and fearful worldview), a few recent reflections on war, imperialism, and economics show clearly that all previous forms are unworkable; that the Empire is declining and decayed; that ideologies, whether religious or political, will not birth a New Way; that capitalism and violence are passing.

In “The Superpower Conundrum,” Tom Engelhardt reflects on the decline of the US as a great power.  Though it once held an invincible position as the capitalist victor after World War II, it is now in a faltering and uncertain position in what is often called a “multipolar world.”  With the advent of nuclear weapons, “total war” (as practiced in the 20th Century’s “world wars” by the capitalist powers) gave way to “limited war,” with the most powerful weapons becoming useless, since they would incinerate the world which the rulers wished to control.  Even the use of “surgical strikes” in the “War on Terror,” exemplified most of all by President Obama’s favorite weapon, the “Drone,” has not defeated the current demonized enemy, “the Terrorist,” but can only destroy, leaving more corpses of “collateral damage,” constantly producing more Terrorists.  Attempting to strike fear into those who would oppose being dominated has merely created more brutal forms of response (e.g. Nigeria’s Boko Haram or the infamous “ISIS” movement).  Weapons themselves are becoming useless; even as they become more sophisticated and destructive, they cannot accomplish their stated goal. They only express revenge.  Engelhardt concludes that “military power no longer seems to act as it once did on Planet Earth.  Under distinctly apocalyptic pressures, something seems to be breaking down, something seems to be fragmenting, and with that the familiar stories, familiar frameworks, for thinking about how our world works are losing their efficacy.  Decline may be in the American future, but on a planet pushed to extremes, don’t count on it taking place within the usual tale of the rise and fall of great powers or even superpowers. Something else is happening on Planet Earth. Be prepared.”

What does it mean, to be prepared to live as human beings, in a world where all that is familiar is passing away?

Vijay Prashad’s July 4 consideration of the current state of the “Global War on Terror” comes to a similar conclusion.  Though states can be destroyed (Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Mali are current examples), “Global War” cannot build anything to replace what has been bombed and dismantled.  Even “great powers” like the US or Europe are unwilling to engage in unwinnable wars with soldiers and ships.  In situations of purposely constructed chaos, the most effective actors are NOT armies or navies of “legitimate governments,” but non-state militias like the Taliban and ISIS.  But even these provide no answer; they only offer the violence of revenge against the violence of bombs and missiles.  Neither imperialism nor religious sectarianism is workable.  A dead end has been reached.

So much for Violence, whether by States or “independent forces.” Though Violence can kill, brutalize, harm, and destroy, it cannot create.  Its power is limited, and ultimately ineffective.  War as an economic and political strategy, and the use of the barrel of a gun to express power, is fading.  The Beast is brutal, but its swords are the claws of a dying animal.

On the economic plane, some still see capitalism as the most dynamic, powerful, and adaptive system that has ever existed – and that it will continue to shift and create new forms of power and domination, even as old ones disappear or are themselves consumed by the all-consuming “Market.”  However, other writers, without discounting the current system’s power to produce immense pain and suffering, and without relying on blind or wishful hopes, are describing the current time as one of transformation and transition to “post-capitalist” human existence.  Arundhati Roy, novelist and chronicler of our current terrifying and empowering time, has carved a beautiful description of what we face and what is arising.  “The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability. Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.  Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

Paul Mason, writing in The Guardian recently, notes that leftists and progressives once thought a frontal assault by an “armed working class” would overthrow capitalism and usher in a new age of freedom.  But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the betrayal of revolution’s promise in violence and state terror, and the apparent splintering of the human race into commodities by ever-expanding individualism and isolation, these older modes of understanding have proven untrustworthy or false. However, Mason sees capitalism being transformed from within, by its own developments and tendencies, rather than by being conquered by some direct attack.  Mason sees “post-capitalism” arising from three things, all related to the appearance of information technology.

(1) The line between work and free time is blurred, as automation and machines make production costs fall, the need for regularized schedules and in factories and offices fades, and the necessity of physical labor for survival decreases. (2) The amount of information increases as the Market seeks to set prices based on scarcity.  This contradiction means that the way “supply and demand” has produced “cost” and “value” in the past is no longer workable.  (3) Forms of “collaborative production” are arising spontaneously.  One example Mason cites is Wikipedia, which is run by volunteers for free and has effectively eliminated the “encyclopedia business” reduced advertisers revenue by billions of dollars per year.  Although Facebook and Amazon are monopolistic corporate forms of Internet-based business organization, cooperatives, time banks, and other forms of shared production and distribution (like Farmer’s Markets in CA!) are proliferating, successful, community-creating, and largely outside the dictates and power-processes of “the Market.”

The Market and its servants in Seats of Power still seem to hold sway, though, in the short term.  The recent suffocation of democracy in Greece and the ongoing murdering of black people in the US show that “the System” remains strong, oppressive, and murderous.  And despite widespread awareness that more militarism, more policing, and more austerity is a dead end, which cannot be maintained as a long-term mode of life, there seems to be, in the words of Reagan and Thatcher from a former time of shifts in power dynamics, “no alternative.”

Yet, we all know that the current arrangement of low wages and high debts for the many, coupled with increasing advantages for the powerful and well-connected, will not survive.  Ever-expanding profit and greater uncertainty leads to more burst bubbles, less stability, more disturbance.  And beneath it all, the Earth Herself is responding, calling all who tread on her soils, drink of her waters, and eat of her fruits to come to balance.  Or perish in the wake of floods, droughts, earthquakes, or other expressions of her anger.

Given this situation, when many must seek to survive by earning money at low-wage jobs and taking on debts, which only replicates ancient and false constructions of apparent power, we need to seek New Ways ahead.  But the road into the New World Coming has not been built, much less paved or made smooth or clear before us.  How are we to act, when we know the present is flawed in its cruelty and dissatisfaction, but the future is completely unknown and unknowable, and the path is not apparent?

The first step on the untrod path is to claim the Powers that we do have.  Our own bodies, minds, hearts, thoughts, and energy belong to US!  Though we must sell our skills and experiences as commodities in the “Labor Market” to produce the monetary resources for survival under current capitalist economic arrangements, our real value and worth is NOT based on aspects of ourselves that we can sell.  Rather, our True Worth is Infinite.  Our physical health is not beholden to a profit-seeking “health care insurance system.”  Rather, we are healthy when we make wise choices about food, physical activity, releasing stress, life-giving relationships, and solitude which renews.  The rhythm of our lives becomes the strong and steady music of inner and outer Power.  Whatever our current situation, we can build our own Power  with constancy and care, every rising and setting sun, every moon cycle, every season.  Our own lives belong to US, not anyone else, not any other power or person or institution.

As outer structures swiftly change and many dissipate or disappear, we can become Shape-Shifters in a world of incessant shifting.  Being flexible rather than fixed is essential.  Being unattached to particular forms, and watching what rises and falls, takes shape and passes away, we learn to discern ourselves, others, and arising opportunities for new forms of work and life.  We must be ready to adapt, rather than settle for or accept what IS.  And even if we wished a part of external life would last, it will not!  Change is constant, and its pace is always increasing.

As the stream of life flows by, we must be true to ourselves, our deepest desires and hopes, our thoughts and visions.  This is best cultivated, enriched, and manifested by engaging in creative outer life and a deeply engaged and exploratory inner life.  The Source for all things is Within Us.  Crafting a rhythm to our lives that uniquely balances quiet and sound, stillness and motion, exertion and rest, while being certain to turn our gaze inward to the terrain of Spirit and Soul, we find the best Way to continue our journeys fruitfully.  We can plumb the depths of our Inner World, bringing up riches to guide and empower us, while learning to WATCH the outer world, and respond to it wisely and well.  Some features of a wise person are perfectly described in the ancient-yet-timely lines of the Tao Te Ching:

Watchful, like people crossing a winter stream.  Alert, like those aware of danger.  Courteous, like visiting guests.  Yielding, like ice about to melt.  Simple, like uncarved blocks of wood.  Hollow, like caves.  Opaque, like muddy pools.

Who can wait quietly while the mud settles?  Who can remain still until the moment of action?

As the outer world, shifts, changes, disintegrates, and takes new forms, we must watch, be still, and move, all at the right time – which we will always sense rightly if we learn to discern, grow in patience, and respond from within.

Creativity, too, is absolutely necessary.  What we love to do, most of all, is create: to express ourselves truly, in whatever form or style best comes forth from us.  As capitalist systems of politics and culture destroy, we create – and are creating the post-capitalist world as we do so.  The less we participate in oppressive economic, political, and personal forms of domination, the less energy we give to the fading and dying ways which are unsustainable.  Giving time and energy to creative activities whenever possible, in ways most expressive of our ever-unfolding inner truths, in images and forms that arise from within us and our relationships, rather than being imposed by the outer worlds of marketing and advertising – this gives us joy, and is our contribution to the New World Coming.  It breathes as we breathe.  It takes form as we give it form.  Creating a culture of care and beauty, emerging from our Inner Power and not the fading powers of Money, Markets, and Weapons – this is our task in these days.

We must also collaborate with other Creators.  Those with whom we are meant to Co-Create will  appear for us.  Whether we create music, dance, healing, writing, acting, teaching, learning, or enterprises of shared work — all these forms and shapes of human expression are meant to be shared, not sold as commodities.  As we create, and continue to seek Inner Realms and find rest in Inner Quiet, the Spirits will provide Co-Workers with us and for us.

Finally, we must dare to imagine a different world.  And then proceed from vision to actualization!  Our imaginations arise from our dreams and visions, whether sleeping or waking.   As we act based on imagining the future rather than fearing it, our work and play, our loves and learnings, will bring the New World Coming into Being.  The path is not easy or obvious.  And yet, it rises up to meet us, becoming clearer as we take each step onward in time and space, inwardly and outwardly.  We need not fear the fading powers of the Old Ways.  The New Ways are already stronger.  They simply need nurturing.

Rhythms of Spirit-Practice, providing Power to Adapt, Shape-Shift, and Sustain.  Dreams becoming Visions Made Real.  Inner Exploration guiding Outer Discernment.  Learning and Teaching.  Sharing and Building.  Above all, Creating and Imagining.  Let us proceed!

Advertisements