I think this needs said: The framework that society shoved into us is capitalistic and it tries to teach us that the capitalistic view of reality is the ONLY view. This socialization is full of myths that aren’t actually true. There are many worlds within our biosphere of Earth, and we need to understand that “capitalism” is not the only way to live, nor is it “inevitable.”
Often capitalist societies teaches us that there are certain “laws” involving economics, technology, software, design, etc. Many of those “laws” are biased from the start, and if put to the real test of repeated experiments? They often fail. (When they fail, thousands if not millions are dying for their wrongness. See Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth for some excellent deconstruction of the “laws” of economics and technology that failed to fit actual data and reality as a whole).
Let’s question the worldview and framework capitalism gave us as capitalism’s framework fails to allow us to discuss the nuances of various topics that impact us and our lives within our current society.
What is in the capitalistic view of reality?
I’ll list three points, which are myths. This isn’t all of them either — just ones I wanted to point out because I keep encountering them the most. (I also include an essay on how no one is objective, and how we need to end that false myth of true objectivity.)
1. Corporations being neutral entities and if not neutral, there is the claim that they are what they are as that is their definition of existence, which feels to me like a really roundabout way of claiming “neutral.”
Corporations are often defined as profit-seeking mechanisms, where the people in them only seek to uphold the corporations aims. (I’ve heard this one too many times, and it’s based in a false framework. Nothing is ever neutral.) Profits before people is the vast majority of the corporation’s “game,” which is the core of capitalistic worldview, and it is harmful and deadly. This is presented as a law.
Except not all corporations put profits before people. There are some (Kate Raworth’s book mentions a few) that put people and the environment first, where they invest in regenerative designs, where generosity and biomimicry is part of their values statements; they use items made from recycled materials (that they take back after people use them, so that the items are recycled again); they use foodstuffs grown locally (or bought at a fair living wage directly from the growers in other countries, thus bypassing the larger corporate farms); they turn their sewage back into rich soil ingredients; they try to build buildings that sequester carbon dioxide and cleanse the air (often with plants grown on roofs to help cleanse the air and provide foodstuffs); they use renewable energy ( their unused energy given back to the grid for neighbors); and other regenerative designs. These corporations are not profit based. (See Raworth’s Doughnut Economics, Arturo Escobar’s Designs of the Pluriverse, and Post-Development Dictionary Anthology.)
So the law that corporations must be focused on profits? That is a myth capitalism tries to claim as ‘fact.’ This view is not based in any “natural laws” nor is inevitable. Yet, I keep seeing people describe it as such.
Corporations and the humans that run them (the Capitalist CEOs) have a parasitic relationship – one cannot exist without the other. As a Capitalist CEO cannot exist without their Corporation just as the Corporation exists because of the Capitalist CEO’s design. Thus when Corporations do unethical things, that corporation is indeed at fault just as much as the people who run the corporation are at fault. The creators of that corporation created the harm through the structure of what they built. Corporations in a capitalist system are built on exploitative and extractive qualities (and often exploitative and speculative financial). Even if those aspects are reformed, it cannot erase the impact and harm done. That impact is real and it’s harming millions. (See Raworth’s Doughnut Economics, David Harvey’s books, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney, Policing the Planet Anthology, any book by Naomi Klein, Border and Rule by Harsha Walia)
Corporations and those that run them (as in the CEOs, etc) are indeed culpable and at fault for the systems they created that caused the harm. There is no neutrality here as there cannot be, for the corporation is a construct made with human biases. If one wishes to reform the corporation into an ethical being that puts people first? It ceases to be a corporation in the capitalist sense – the original version is dismantled and its ruins used to craft something new.
Also, the claim that corporations existing and doing x or y is inevitable is rooted in this bizarre idea that “progress” is ever forward.
But who defines “progress?” What is “progress?”
Often, Capitalism is defined as “progress” in how humans create societies, and thus it was inevitable, but that isn’t true. There are many societies throughout the world that did not create capitalism. It was created via a very specific historical significance in Europe. (Black Marxism by Cedric Robinson does an excellent job of showing this history and the unique circumstances that lead to Capitalism. It wasn’t inevitable, and most other societies did not develop it unless forced by colonialism. Carol Anderon’s White Rage also explores this history.)
Capitalism was never inevitable. That erases a lot of culture’s histories. Nor is Capitalism “progress” as there are many ways for humans to live in a society, and all of those ways are valid. Even if they are valid ways, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are healthy ways (authoritarian and/or Neo-liberal and/or Neo-Nazi despots is case in point).
The reason Capitalism seems inevitable is because very corrupt and greedy rich folks are using whatever power – authoritarian especially — to rewrite history (this is why many do not favor education unless they control what is taught), extractive systems that eat up our world, heavy policing that destroy/lock up those that fight against their reign, and attempts to obliterate alternate ways of being. (See Arturo Escobar’s Pluriversal politics and Designs for the Pluriverse; see also Post-Development Dictionary Anthology; Staying with Trouble by Donna Hathaway; Policing the Planet Anthology; any book by Naomi Klein; and Border and Rule by Harsha Walia).
But the truth of it? The capitalists are losing. Just as the “Right of Kings” also lost. This is because of the wrong priorities being stress – capitalists stress profits. Most humans seek community, relationality, and an freedom based in our interdependent need-webs. Humans need to be taught to be hyper-competitive and materialistic; in our formative years, that is not our natural tendency. We seek community, connection, and understanding. (See David Harvey’s books; any book by Arturo Escobar; The Post-Development Dictionary Anthology; Walter Rodney’s books; bell hooks’ books; Cedric Robinson’s books; Ejeris Dixon’s books; Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s books; and many an Indigenous author)
If you really dig deep into alternate ways of being — the pluriverse as Arturo Escobar and other Global South sociologists and activists call it — that is the core root of humanity: desire for community and being in relation – both of which is interdependent, but also requires an autonomy/freedom from oppression that capitalism can never provide.
Sure, history shows authoritarians rising up to try to take various countries/empires throughout history, but history also shows how in the end they lost to humanity’s true communal nature. (See Escobar, Post-Development Dictionary Anthology, RIchard Wagamese “One Drum” or any of his works, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Carol Anderson’s books, Care Work by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Beyond Survival edited by Ejeris Dixon and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha)
We are capable of building systems that put people first, and yes, capitalism keeps co-opting to the point of destroying them. (In my eyes, as soon as a communal organization or mutual aid group or open-source item/software/code/network or the public commons is co-opted? It’s been destroyed. Privatization destroys it. There is no getting it back in its original form. We will have to rebuild it once privatization is stopped/obliterated/reigned-in. The act of rebuilding will never create it quite the same way as the old, and that’s okay. We are creative beings who can make it better.) (See Building the Commune by George Cicariello-Maher; Naomi Klein’s books; Fossil Capital by Andreas Malm; Green Gone Wrong by Heather Rogers; Rodney Walter’s books; Reinventing the Future by Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams; books by David Harvey)
2. Humans are attention/status seeking and forever in competition (or in the hobbesian version, at war with one another and others).
FALSE. Humanity is NOT attention-seeking, nor are most of us status-seeking either (maybe some individuals here and there, but as a whole? No, that’s a learned trait by society, socialized into us by capitalism so that we’d be good-little-consumers). There is a wealth of data, especially from marginalized historians and scientists, where humanity is actually RELATIONAL and SOCIAL.
This philosophy was dreamed up by Hobbes and Adam Smith in the 18th century, and even in their own works, they admit they did not have data for it and were relying on conjecture. Yet, capitalists and their allies took these ideas and ran with it; creating a culture built around the idea that humans seek status and wealth; that we are always in competition. (See Hobbes Philosophy books; Adam Smith’s Wealth of the Nations; Karl Marx and Engel’s books written in rebuttal; David Harvey’s books; Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics; Arturo Escobar’s Books; Post Development Dictionary Anthology)
We seek community. We seek relations. This idea that humanity is always at war with oneself and one another (that we somehow form as self-made people who appear full independent seeking higher status and competition) is false and even Hobbes himself admits it’s a theory with no actual evidence. No one is ever fully independent — we were born interdependent, and we are always interdependent, that is the nature of humanity. (See 500 years of Indigenous Resistance; any book by Nick Estes; Arturo Escobar’s books; See Building the Commune by George Cicariello-Maher; RIchard Wagamese “One Drum” or any of his works, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Carol Anderson’s books, Care Work by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Beyond Survival edited by Ejeris Dixon and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha)
Humanity is communal. We seek community. Capitalism has distorted that, ripped it to pieces, and privatized it for exploitation and profit — just because Capitalism has traumatized and harmed us doesn’t mean the socialization of Capitalism is all humanity is. That doesn’t jive with all of human history at all. So please unlearn capitalistic and hobbesian frameworks as they are lies meant to keep you from community.
Because when we are in community with one another? When we rebuild our relations? Then we are a threat to the capitalists, and they can’t have that. That is why we must relearn what we understood as babies and toddlers: community, connection, and care are paramount.
Technology is Not ‘Neutral’
3. Algorithms (or any man-made technology) are neutral (it’s only how people use it that it become ethical or unethical).
FALSE. Technology and especially Algorithms are never neutral. They reflect the biases of their makers, and no one is neutral. No one is not without bias. No one can ever make an algorithm that is free of all bias and prejudice. Stop basing discussions on this entirely wrong framework. Bias and especially racism is very much present in ALL algorithms and software. (See Algorithms of Oppression by Safiya Umoja Noble; New Dark Age by James Bridle; Race After Technology by Ruha Benjamin; Post-Development Dictionary Anthology; Programmed Inequality by Mar Hicks; David Harvey’s books; Henri Lefebvre’s Critique of Everyday Life; 10 Principles for Workers’ Data Rights by UNI Global Union)
The same goes for ANY technology that is created by humans. The bias of the creator/designer? That will always be present. This is why diverse teams are needed to try to have checks and balances, but because of white supremacy these checks and balances fail to appear or are distorted by the false narratives of capitalistic ideas of what “innovation” is.
Innovation does not need to be rooted in society’s extractive or degenerative qualities that serve only profits — we can innovate for knowledge, to serve people, to build a more just and equitable world (See Design Justice by Sasha Constanza-Chock; Designs for the Pluriverse by Arturo Escobar; Disability Visibility edited by Alice Wong; books by Adrienne Maree Brown; Feminism for the 99% by Cinzia Arruaa, Titthi Bhattacharya, Nancy Fraser; books by Keeanga Kamhatta-Taylor; Futures of Black Radicalism Anthology; How We Show up by Mia Birdsong; How to be an Anti-Capitalist in the 21st Century by Erik Olin Wright; Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth; Mutual Aid by Dean Spade)
We need to unlearn the idea that any item made by humans is “neutral.” It isn’t. The purpose, intent, the biases (unconscious or conscious) of the creators — all those impact the final result of items and ideas and software/coding. That impact on other people matters far more than intent, and again we are subjective human beings.
Objectivity Does Not Exist
To add to this point, NO ONE IS OBJECTIVE. Objectivity requires one to be outside the systems, except no human being can be “outside” the current societal, economic, and biological systems. We reside within them, and even as “observers,” our act of observing means we become part of the system we observe. I’ll elaborate this below.
Anyone who bases their framework on the idea that they are somehow an objective and rational person about x or y topics? They’ve rooted themselves in the Hobbesian framework, which is not based in actual evidence nor is it historical accurate.
Just as I am subjective and I also cannot exist without my biases. One of those biases is a deep seated distrust of authority of any kind – why I’m an anarchist. The other biases are things I’m unlearning that was socialized into me by Capitalism’s frameworks, which are based in exploitation/white supremacy/transphobia/ableism etc. I work hard to limit these biases by reading a LOT of authors about the topics I plan to write essays on (like this current essay, ha), and by doing the work to unlearn and retrain myself in a more pluralistic, anti-racist, justice-oriented, loving, relational, and accepting way.
So why can’t you be objective?
Because you can never exist without your biases, without your unique perspectives, without being part of the systems you claim to be “objective” of. You cannot separate yourself from the systems — nor from the universe. Anyone who claims they are objective? They’re lying to themselves and you. I have a whole essay on this. I’m just gonna post it here and end on this (Note: the above books I quoted in italics above? Those are all my bibliography for below. The only books I’d add to the bibliography is various books on quantum mechanics and the interpretations of quantum mechanics):
Communality and Relationality
Communality is the communion of subjects (living beings, world/Earth) not objects, and is based in the relationality of all living things and the Earth itself. What is relationality then? It is the relational way of being, knowing, and doing as defined as the socionatural configurations that arise from the recognition of the radical interdependence of all living things, where nothing preexists the relationships that constitute it.
Our atoms come from the Earth, and thus we are interconnected, entangled. As the Earth lives, we live, and we are in communion with all living beings on the planet. We cannot separate ourselves from the Earth without falling prey to the lie of ‘individualism.’ The lie of ‘individualism’ teaches that we are all independent, not connected, and are separate from the world and thus can act upon it without consequences (as we are separate from it). This is based on the false dichotomy that undermines much of Western philosophy, that we are separate and thus not part of nature.
We cannot ever be separate from nature as we come from it and we live within it and we use it – often in harmful ways for ourselves and the habitability of the planet. This individualistic philosophy severs us from the interdependence of our relationality with the Earth, thus we end us causing extreme harm to ourselves.So what is a better way to be with the Earth?
Relationality, where we recognize that we are not separate from the Earth but interdependent on it and all that live on it. Where we realize we are not objective observers outside the system, but we are entangled IN the system, and thus unable to ever be one hundred percent removed and objective. For example, in Buddhism, we, everything in life, are the result of processes of dependent coarising.
Nothing exists intrinsically; everything is mutually constituted. This belief aligns with the results of quantum mechanics, and how our atoms are all constituted of star dust — Big Bang dust, all mutually constituted, unable to exist without all the universe also mutually existing with, in, and around us. In a sense, our particles that comprise us are entangled with the particles of the universe. From that one starting explosion that expanded outward in all directions and dimensions to form the lattice of superclusters, galaxies, stars, planets, and us. From that one beginning, we were all formed. The universe made conscious in us (and any other sentient beings), burning with a curiousity to know itself.
Thus, we cannot separate ourselves from the universe. Objectivity — this cannot be done, because true objectivity requires separation and no one is one hundred percent separate from reality. This myth of objectivity poisons our relations; it claims that logic and reason must rule — as if we can separate ourselves from our emotions, from our unconscious biases, from our prejudices, from our socialization. As if one can separate our minds from our bodies, our bodies from the universe. This simply is not possible in our reality.
Act of Observing
Quantum mechanics have shown that the act of observing a system changes the system. The observation is entangled in the system being observed, where the observer becomes part of the system they are observing. When light passes through a narrow slit with no detectors to determine where it will hit and at what velocity, it does not show any interference pattern. As soon as the detectors are added, that act of observing the photons influences the system and the interference pattern appears.
The observer becomes part of the system; the observation changed the results by the sure act of observing. Quantum particles are governed by the uncertainty principle, where particles exist (and simultaneously not exist in a probability cloud, where we cannot know all attributes, such as position and velocity, at the same time and with the same accuracy. The more precise we measure one attribute, the fuzzier and more ‘spread out’ the probability cloud becomes for the other particle’s attributes.
For quantum mechanics, Schrodinger’s Equation can show where a particle is ‘likely’ to be versus ‘unlikely’ with amazing accuracy. Another interesting feature is how quantum particles’ probability clouds smear enough that sometimes they “tunnel” through barriers (Electron scanning microscopes and MRIs rely on this), but they also can become entangled so even when separated by vast distances, they still act in tandem (an example: if one particle is measured in an up spin, the other will change simultaneously to a down spin).
This entanglement is at the root of why our observations influence a system. We cannot divorce ourselves from our own particles and the universe itself. We have to include ourselves in the analysis of reality. We are interconnected and interdependent. We are mutually constituted.
Dualism is False
Descartes, a philosopher of Western Europe, separates reality into a dualism: physical stuff (realm of science – physics, chemistry, etc) and mind stuff, that although they may influence each other, they are distinctly separate. This mind/body dichotomy would influence centuries, but in the end can easily be prove false as I show above.
There is no separation — no dualism — mind stuff and physical stuff are the same, they are entangled and interconnected. Mutually constituted. Each made of the same collection of particles, and each interdependent. We cannot have our mind without our bodies — what creates a conscious mind? The emergence of billions of particles, entangled, working in concert, where the emergence of a new process (mind-thought) can appear. The particles of our body – of which our brain is of our body — is necessary for the emergence of consciousness to even exist.
All is Alive and Interconnected
In Indigenous knowledge, Everything is Alive. All things — animals, people, rocks, rivers, planets, etc – are alive; they are emergent minds that exist because of the organization and energy of billions of entangled collections of particles. As much as we are dictated by the physical laws of the universe, made of the same particles originating in the Big Bang, the emergence of each of our consciousnesses stems from our unique configuration of collections of particles, and how our behaviors (responses to stimuli) begets our ability to learn, be creative, think, act — the higher level portion of a nested story that began with a collection of particles.
Thus, the point here is even an observer to a real-time situation is still part of that system they are observing and thus influence the system (even if their action is only to stand in observe). The person cannot be detached from their presence and impact on the system. At best, they can share their subjective experience and cross reference with those present (or recorded analogs or experiment logs from detectors, etc)_ to find commonalities, differences, and shared facts.
Free Will and Cooperation
Each of us unique in our configurations. As for WHY we are here, that is up to us to decide. I believe it is rooted in curiosity and relationality — humanity has survived NOT because of competition (it is a myth that nature is only red in tooth and claw, there is much cooperation in nature that helps species thrive), but we have survived because of COOPERATION.
We, even in the darkest and most dangerous disasters, tend toward cooperation. Even when people are looting stores in disasters, they aren’t doing it just out of selfish need (though their needs are valid and worthy of help) but also to share with their relations — whether those relations be biological relatives, neighbors, or other people in their area. This tendency toward cooperation has played out again and again and again throughout history. Even as children, we tend toward cooperation.
Society had to teach us how to be competitive (sometimes unsuccessfully and sometimes far too successfully), and that socialization is what severs us from each other, from the root of our being (our interconnectedness with the Earth), and from who we are.
What about reconciling our realities?
Let’s say we are looking at a cat in the box. The box is closed. We have no way to measure if the cat is actually IN the box or if the box is empty. We could try to lift the box and check its weight, but without the knowledge of the box weight or the cat weight, it is hard to definitely say the cat is in the box or not.
So until we open the box, we can disagree on reality all we want. It’s the act of measuring by opening the box where the reconciliation of our realities happen.
Now, because sentience is a weird thing, the person who claims there is no cat in the box, can go on doing that all they want, even as they reach in and touch the cat’s fur. (This is how conspiracy theories are born). They can have all the evidence the cat is in the box, but if their mind is so rooted in denying that reality, for them, they create their own made-up reality and may even fail to see what they are actually touching. We can trick our own minds. So yes, there is instances where we may disagree and have no way to reconcile it. Brains are funky like that, but now we’ve entered into the realm of psychology, and that’s not my forte.
Suffice to say, the universe reconciles the differences, but we have the conscious decision to reject that reconciliation or embrace it. Because our interdependence — us being part of the system means our act of observing the opening of the box causes the universe to reconcile the interior of the box for us to observe. The waveform collapses, and we see the cat or not. But because we are conscious and sentient, we can reject that reality still. That’s a decision that is one step beyond the moment the wave-form of quantum particles collapse from our observation.
We can move one step beyond and reject our truths, history, reality, and fall prey to capitalists’ false reality and socialization, but I’d love for us to stop falling for that low lying fruit. To stop and really consider our worldviews and why we believe what we believe. Where did that come from? I do this all the time. Consider this an invitation for you to join me.
Thanks for reading.