The Mental Disease of Late-Stage Capitalism
Posted on 01 June 2016
by Joe Brewer
I’ve been talking with a lot of my friends recently—in private where they felt comfortable letting their guard down—about the dirty little secret no one is supposed to talk about.
The shame people feel when they can’t find a job…
…or pay their bills.
…or go to the dentist.
…or that they have to move back in with their parents.
…or they can’t afford to have children.
We are supposed to pretend, in this stupendously individualist culture, that it is our fault. The buck stops here. I am responsible for my failings in life.
Of course this is demonstrably not true. We are merely living through late-stage capitalism and our parents lacked the foresight to warn us about it. When a population explodes—as the human one did throughout the last century—eventually all manner of social institutions become over-crowded. From there, it’s simply a numbers game.
Want that awesome job? Stack your resume next to the hundreds of other people applying for it. Hoping to get into college? You’ll have to pay out the nose in student loans (if, that is, you were fortunate enough to get through admissions). Thinking of buying a house? You’re too busy paying rent in a skyrocketing market of housing prices.
But yeah, be sure to blame yourself. It’s obviously your fault.
Seriously though, we should have seen this coming. Build an economic system based on wealth hoarding and presumed scarcity and you’ll get what was intended. The system is performing exactly as it was designed to. That is why wages have stagnated in the West for 30 years. It is why 62 people are able to have the same amount of wealth as 3.7 billion. It is why politicians are bought by the highest bidders and legislation systematically serves the already-rich at the expense of society.
A great irony of this deeply corrupt system of wealth hoarding is that the “weapon of choice” is how we feel about ourselves as we interact with our friends. The elites don’t have to silence us. We do that ourselves by refusing to talk about what is happening to us. Fake it until you make it. That’s the advice we are given by the already successful who have pigeon-holed themselves into the tiny number of real opportunities society had to offer. Hold yourself accountable for the crushing political system that was designed to divide us against ourselves.
The mental disease of late-stage capitalism is shame, the devastating feeling that we failed ourselves in the Land of Opportunity.
This great lie that we whisper to ourselves is how they control us. Our fear that other impoverished people (which is most of us now) will look down on us for being impoverished too. This is how we give them the power to keep humiliating us.
I say no more of this emotional racket. If I am going to be responsible for my fate in life, let it be because I chose to stand up and fight—that I helped dismantle the global architecture of wealth extraction that created this systemic corruption of our economic and political systems.
Now more than ever, we need spiritual healing. As this capitalist system destroys itself, we can step aside and find healing by living honestly and without fear. They don’t get to tell us how to live. We can share our pain with family and friends. We can post it on social media. Shout it from the rooftops if we feel like it. The pain we feel is capitalism dying. It hurts us because we are still in it.
But those billionaires who rigged the game don’t get to tell me what I should or shouldn’t say to my friends. If I am struggling financially it is because the financial system is morally corrupt. This truth is a mantric elixir—repeat it to yourself every time the habits of your mind whisper that it is your fault.
You are not to blame for the wealth hoarding of others. That is one burden you don’t have to carry any longer. Be healed. Find your strength. Speak your truth. And let the cascades of change unfurl across society.
We cannot begin the work of building new economic systems until we take off the mental shackles of the old ones. So let your shame fall away. Remember your pride in learning and growing as a person, loving life and other people, being with friends, and pursuing your dreams. Then hold tight to these feelings as you set clear intentions about how the future must be different from the past.
We can do better. We must do better. It might be true that capitalism as we know it is going the way of history. I say good riddance. Whatever good it might have done is in the past now. Moving forward will be a grieving process—and each of us needs to pay close attention to the feelings inside of ourselves. We are the capitalist system right now. But not for long.
The pain we feel is like that tugging of skin for the serpent as it sheds an outer layer. Deep inside ourselves we are human beings, which is about so much more than the money we have in the bank or the things we buy at the store. As we shed ourselves of the immoral economic ideology of insatiable greed (that has made the elites around the world very sick indeed!), let us remember our true nature and begin to heal.
Onward, fellow humans.
I am a change strategist working on behalf of humanity, and also a complexity researcher, cognitive scientist, and evangelist for the field of culture design.
The Mental Disease of Late-Stage Capitalism originally published on Medium.