In this post I want to elaborate more on DK’s comment from my last entry:
…Pre-capitalist tribes had examples of both success and failure, perhaps equal measure of both. The key principle to these types of cultures succeeding is the principle of superabundance. There is strong correlation to the disappearance of superabundance and destructive tendencies…
In his essay ‘Are Wars Inevitable?‘, William T. Hathaway explains that modern research has shown that scarcity of resources acts as a trigger for social strife and that violence and war is NOT a genetic predisposition of humans:
…research, however, led to a key discovery: The chimps who invaded their neighbors were suffering from shrinking territory and food sources. They were struggling for survival. Groups with adequate resources didn’t raid other colonies. The aggression wasn’t a behavioral constant but was caused by the stress they were under. Their genes gave them the capacity for violence, but the stress factor had to be there to trigger it into combat. This new research showed that war is not inevitable but rather a function of the stress a society is under. Our biological nature doesn’t force us to war, it just gives us the potential for it. Without stress to provoke it, violence can remain one of the many unexpressed capacities our human evolution has given us. Studies by professors Douglas Fry, Frans de Waal, and Robert Sapolsky present the evidence for this.
Militarists point to history and say it’s just one war after another. But that’s the history only of our patriarchal civilization. The early matriarchal civilization of south-eastern Europe enjoyed centuries of peace. UCLA anthropologist Marija Gimbutas describes the archeological research in The Civilization of the Goddess. No trace of warfare has been found in excavations of the Minoan, Harappa, and Caral cultures. Many of the Pacific islands were pacifistic. The ancient Vedic civilization of India had meditation techniques that preserved the peace, and those are being revived today to reduce stress in society...
Now DK goes on to say that in the absence of plentiful resources, the only logical and sane option is to give up our current exploitive and pathological economic model of capitalism and replace it with something that reflects today’s reality of rampant resource depletion and environmental collapse. Modern weapons of war are infinitely more destructive and, in and of themselves, pose a danger to all of mankind and global civilization; hence the need to get rid of capitalism is even more imperative:
…When superabundance is (inevitably) rendered invalid, it must be supplanted by a means to re-appropriate surplus in a fair and equitable manner- devoid of exploitation and informed by tangible limits, such as those posed by the environment and population limits. Such a system is not compatible with profit seeking, as many in the environmental movement are now discovering- nor has it ever been put successfully into practice.
One could say that mankind’s ability or inability to successfully transition away from the self-destructive nature of capitalism will determine the fate of the whole human species. Tragedy of the commons, as I said previously, is on a global scale now. Hathaway goes on to elaborate a little on capitalism’s dog-eat-dog tendencies and the need to move away from this paradigm:
Our society, though, has a deeply entrenched assumption that stress is essential to life. Many of our social and economic structures are based on conflict. Capitalism’s need for continually expanding profits generates stress in all of us. We’ve been indoctrinated to think this is normal and natural, but it’s really pathological. It damages life in ways we can barely perceive because they’re so built into us…
…We can create a society that meets human needs and distributes the world’s resources more evenly… But that’s going to take basic changes…
These changes threaten the power holders of our society. Since capitalism is a predatory social and economic system, predatory personalities rise to power. They view the world through a lens of aggression. But it’s not merely a view. They really are surrounded by enemies. So they believe this false axiom they are propagating that wars are inevitable.
In the past their predecessors defended their power by propagating other nonsense: kings had a divine right to rule over us, Blacks were inferior to Whites, women should obey men. We’ve outgrown those humbugs, and we can outgrow this one.
Of course, as Gail of ‘Wit’s End’ pointed out, we will inevitably need to address the problem of overpopulation:
…although once upon a time some tribes (arguably) may have lived cooperatively and harmoniously (although the opposite is certainly more common) the only reason they could do so is because their numbers were so low and food was plentiful and relatively easy to obtain. Once human population outstrips resources, things get ugly no matter what social or cultural system is in place. And I don’t know of a place where human population didn’t eventually overrun the environment, with the possible exception of cultures that practiced infanticide, or had the ability to export people willing to emigrate.
It seems to me the problem is that we have filled every corner of the globe that is remotely habitable, and then some, and yet our population and levels of consumption continue to increase. There is no place left to emigrate to. It can’t last.
Resource constraints(i.e. peak oil, peak fertilizer, peak water) on our fossil fuel based agricultural system as well as environmental degradation(i.e. climate change and ocean acidification) are going to cause an epic population crash during this century before we have time, or for that matter the cooperation and agreement, to implement any sort of voluntary population reduction.
As far as implementing this egalitarian distribution model, I also agree that the odds of that happening are slim to none, as DK said:
…Such a system[egalitarian and respective of resource limits] is not compatible with profit seeking, as many in the environmental movement are now discovering – nor has it ever been put successfully into practice.
Nor is it likely to be.
Unfortunately, the world’s stockpile of thermonuclear weapons may not stay on the shelf forever, especially in a world where the Four Horsemen of Industrial Civilization are quickly converging: Climate Change, Peak Net Energy, Ocean Acidification, and Peak Water. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try everything we can to stop what seems to be our inevitable fate; I’m just saying that the prognosis is grim.
For my family…