The Armchair Activist: Late-stage Capitalism
"The brutal reality of politics would be probably intolerable without drugs."
Hunter S. Thompson
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking where's the lighthearted and mostly nonsense filled Tales of a Yorkshireman living in Texas? You don't need to worry. My usual blog series hasn't gone anywhere. I'll still be regularly posting about my adventures in Houston, but I've decided to try something new.
Those of you who know me well, know that I like to ramble (see also, rant, rave) about politics every now and then (see also, a lot, all the time.) I've had a lot on my mind recently, and I was trying to think of a way to incorporate my thoughts into my writing and blogs. I do it a bit anyway, but I had an urge to write something a little more concentrated on politics, and maybe some philosophy and general weirdness as well. So, here we are, the debut of The Armchair Activist.
Now, you might be thinking, why that title? That's what I like to call myself when I get into a particular agitated state about politics. I like to get a bit ranty after some event or after reading an article that's got me all hot and bothered. I'll fire out a few likes and maybe send the odd message or tweet, but that's about it.
So, you see, I sit in an armchair (it can also be a stool, or bed, or even occasionally standing up) and get all political, but I never leave the safety of that comfort zone. Obviously, the activist part is a joke! I'm far from it. I'm just another bloke with a lot of shit to say without the qualifications to back it up (unless you count a BA in History from the Open University, which I guess most people won't, I certainly don’t), but that's the world in a nutshell. We're all experts, until we find out we aren't. I'm certainly not an expert (except possibly on eighties American wrestling, but that's about it.)
Although it's quite obvious if you've ever read any of my work where I see myself politically, but if you don't know, I'm a very cynical left-winger. I'm a member of the UK Green Party and Progressive International, and I consider myself to be a socialist, but also like to think I'm a bit of an anarchist (clearly, I'm not though, but it's nice to delude yourself every now and then isn't it?) I also took a few politics tests which told me I'm a Libertarian Socialist, and I'm still not fully sure what that really means. I’m a full-time atheist, part-time existentialist, and occasional nihilist. I'm all the things you'd expect, a regular stereotype. What some people like to call a Snowflake, but I'm not sure I quite fit into that mould very easily. (Also, there's no such thing as Snowflakes, just like there isn't Gammons, or Libtards, or whatever, these terms are used to generalise, when the truth is always a little more nuanced than that.) Although saying that, I reject all labels, so ignore this paragraph.
So, if you have absolutely no interest in politics, or don't want to hear me babble on about it, then I'd suggest you leave this blog where it is. Honestly, I won't be offended. I do get it; it has become a lot recently. That being said, I hope that my political blogs are a little more on the satirical and lighthearted spectrum, rather than me banging a drum, so hopefully, people less inclined towards the subject will be able to enjoy them.
Anyway, enough of that. On to Late-stage Capitalism. I follow quite a few political thinkers and modern philosophers on my various social media accounts. Recently one of my favourites, Yanis Varoufakis, wrote an excellent article about Post-Capitalism and the decoupling of nations economies and their stock exchanges. Afterwards, he tweeted the following: Warning to those of us looking forward to a time after Capitalism: Postcapitalism may very well end up a hideous dystopia. I've been thinking quite a lot about this recently, mostly because I've seen it mentioned so much. I largely agree with Varoufakis, except I'd take it one step further.
The basics of it is that Capitalism is reaching its final form, which is why everything is getting so fucking crazy. The capitalist model is based around the idea of infinite growth, but that has hit a wall because we live on a finite planet. We can't continue with the GDP model when the environment is collapsing around us. It's just not feasible, but the whole system we live within is based on the assumption that we can. The big fear is that if the system fails, we'll all be fucked.
This is why we saw our so-called leaders shitting in their designer pants when COVID hit at the beginning of the Year of Shit, aka 2020, and the Great Machine momentarily began to grind to a halt. Suddenly, economic growth of any kind was slowing (and continues to slow) and no one can come up with a viable solution that doesn't consist of just turning it off for a few months (but that would mean admitting that it could be turned off for any unknown future reason, or even that it could have been in the past.)
I was thinking about this the other day when I went out for a walk with the dog (like you do.) I was gleefully contemplating the fall of Capitalism, and what Utopian wet dream might follow, from my comfortable position in the suburbs (aka cloaked within it) when I suddenly realised something. Capitalism, as we believe we know it, doesn't really exist.
Now, you're probably thinking, what is this twat talking about, but hear me out. Capitalism is kind of like that old saying, pull yourself up by your bootstraps. We're all supposed to follow the rules that society has laid down and, in doing so, we'll ascend to the heady heights of the middle-class. There, we'll have a lovely house, a partner, a child, a pet, a car, a big TV with Netflix, and possibly a decent garden, all without being mired in the deep black hole of debt. It sounds like bliss, but it's built on this idea that it's all achievable if you just put in the hard work, play by the rules and do what you're told. The issue with that, of course, is that its total bullshit.
The primary assumption of this concept is that we live in a Meritocracy, which is that you progress based purely on your ability and skills. Now, I'm not saying that doesn't occasionally happen, but mostly, progression is based on who you know, not what you know. Everyone knows that.
Just look at old dirty Donald Trump. How else is he President of the United States of America? It's not like he's the best man for the job. His family is wealthy; therefore, he's wealthy (despite his best efforts not to be. He was "gifted" $60 million from his father and then proceeded to go bankrupt multiple times, and as we’ve recently found out he’s not been earning enough to pay tax for years – this must be this Art of the Deal we’ve heard so much about), so he already had both feet well up before he needed to pull his metaphorical bootstraps skywards.
Another example is the old flip-flop king, Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson. A man so clearly out of his depth as PM it's painful to watch, but because he came from the right family (this "man of the people" has a family tree filled with earls, sirs and aristocrats with silver spoons jammed firmly up their arses) and went to the right school (Eton, aka the Tory Party Twat Factory), he's now leading the country.
You see this time and time again. People from rich, influential families get all the best and well-paid jobs (I'm talking all the top jobs, like CEO's of multinationals, not department manager for an office), while the rest of us get whatever is left. (And when I say rich, I mean millionaires rich, not someone in a comfortable position with a decent house and two cars. There are two classes, the Working Class and the Mega-Rich, and that's it, thinking otherwise is just delusion.) Sometimes a few really talented people slip through the net, much to their credit, but they are few and far between. It's been the same old story for years. Why else has it been so hard for women and minority groups to break through the glass ceiling? The true path to progression and power has been locked out for the working class and those that don't quite fit the bill, aka the whole lot of us.
Obviously, there's still a hierarchy within that formula. It's easier for a white man to scale the western model, but also its much easier for a "westerner" to ascend the global model, but there's still a ceiling. You have to be one in a million to breakthrough. This is based on my observations as well as the books I've read and podcasts I've listened to (all within my echo-chamber, I might add!), but it makes sense to me. Those in power will not easily shed it.
It's become clear to me that the system we live in, Capitalism, protects this hierarchy. So, if the meritocracy, which this is based on, is already a flawed system, then it means that Capitalism is fundamentally flawed as well. I'd go further to say it's just a cloak to hide the systems pure form, elitism: protect the mega-rich, the billionaires, the aristocracy. They have the money and the influence to shift politics around to their whims. And I'm not talking about some mysterious Illuminati pulling strings in the shadows, that's internet bullshit (of which I have dabbled in the past, but eventually I realised I was an idiot.) There's no point worrying about fictional New World Order's when the evidence of who runs the world is right in front of our faces anyway, and always has been.
In the end, it's all just the same thing, we consume to feed the powerful, and occasionally, depending on their moods, we get a few morsels thrown down from the big table. (Some more than others, it's clear that we get much more in the so-called West compared to most of the East and the Global South, but there's still a COLOSSAL divide. Read Jason Hickel’s The Divide, if you want to know more.)
When I realised this, I thought to myself, well, we need a new system, or at least we should try one of the others that are and have been around, like say Communism, but I abruptly realised that that had been tried before and it ended the same way.
The Russian Communist experiment ended with Sovietism, which had at its apex a few wealthy people who ran things for themselves, and eventually, it collapsed. The current Chinese version of Communism doesn't seem to really be Communism at all, it's more of an authoritarian capitalism. It has the same issue, a few wealthy and powerful people controlling everything from the top. Fascism? We all know how that one turns out (despite a lot of people at the moment seemly forgetting this painfully obvious fact.) It ends the same way. It's the same story told over and over again—different sides of the same coin.
So, what happens now? How do we break away from that?
Will we choose anarchism which promotes decentralisation and revert back to small city-states and away from nations (which have only been around for a few hundred years anyway) which could potentially open up those mini-states to attack from larger countries?
Or do we head for full Globalisation and risk handing the whole world to the few people and corporations that run it anyway?
Or do we do away with centralised government of all types and use high-technology to run the country ourselves with true full democracy, but run the risk of it being manipulated like the internet (I will eventually write a book about this.)
Or do we hand it to A.I and hope they don't Terminate our arse?
Or do we just carry on as we are, shagging Capitalism until the world implodes, trapped in easily accessible debt, spending our hard-earned (and also, not so hard-earned) cash on shite that we don't need, hoping one day that we'll get that big, mythical break and escape from it all?
Honestly, I have no fucking idea; I'm as much a part of the system as anyone, I'm just as hyper-normalised as you are.
So, my final word on the matter, is that I wouldn't worry about this possibly being the end of Capitalism, because the idea as it’s been sold to us might have never really truly existed anyway. What will most likely happen, is that the system will change names but still be geared towards the benefit of a small percentage of people, just the same way that it always has. Capitalism, Communism, Authoritarianism, Fascism, or whatever, it's based around wealth, consumerism and "progress." Until we realise that those things aren't important, we will forever be trapped in this system. And as Yanis (first name terms) has so cleverly pointed out, the system already seems to be adapting, but not the way we, or at least some of us, would hope.
That was a view from the armchair and is in no way meant to antagonise. These views are mine, and mine alone, and can be ignored without causing offence. At the end of the day, I don't know what I'm talking about really, just like you.
The Armchair Activist