As we struggle against capitalism and the ways that it stifles our livelihood and crushes our human potential, we overlook the ways that it is ingrained in us and how we have made it a part of counter culture. Not only are we victims of capitalism, but without even realizing it, we are perpetrators of it. Capitalism is rooted in competition and views everything that facilitates profit as an asset and everything else as opposition. The whole idea of profit has been ingrained in our psyche. Within our everyday interactions we are constantly asking ourselves, “What’s in it for me?”
The conditioning starts as soon as we’re brought into this world. In our first year of life most of us are forced to sleep separately from our parents and we are weaned off our mother’s breast before we’re even a year old (if that). Our parents are convinced that they are doing what is best by preparing us to “fend for ourselves” out there. Society conveys the idea that if we rely too much on our family (or anyone else for that matter), we will grow up to be weak and unable to climb to the top of the consumer pyramid. We cry out for love, safety, and comfort from the isolation of our crib, but we learn that unless we are hurt physically, our cries will be ignored. A whole culture of capitalism surrounds us, sterilizing almost every form of self-expression and interaction. It plants a backwards version of individualism inside of us, teaching us that everything is competition. Trust nothing and no one.
We go through life feeling an unplaceable sense of loneliness and isolation around or disconnection from everyone and everything. As we get older it gets harder to express ourselves, listen, and understand each other within the rigid limitations of consumer culture. But everyone around us seems to be finding the key to fulfillment with their new cars, video games, television, and computers…. then it hits us. “No! It’s all wrong! I need more than this putrid, uninspiring, detached existence!” We start to understand that there is something very shallow about the whole cycle of competition, consumption, alienation, winners, and losers. We decide that we need something much more engaging so we reject society altogether.
But we need to take it a step further than just rejecting the crooked strategies of a capitalist society. Many of us get caught up in making ourselves victims of capitalism, using it as a way to explain away the dissatisfaction that we might still have with our lives. We make capitalism into some kind of scapegoat that exists “out there,” and deny that it exists inside of us. To call capitalism some kind of economic institution is to simplify the complexity of what is really going on in our society; the economic institution is an outcome of it, but its creator is far more wretched.
When we as punks rejected “society,” many of us pulled its evils even closer and immersed ourselves further in The Competition. How often do we put labels on others who are not a part of “our community” or tighten up when some stranger approaches us to offer kind words? Does that voice that says “what do they want from me” still speak in our heads? We make moralistic judgements about people we know nothing about, those who we feel we can’t “profit” from, and we perpetuate the abyss of alienation that we rejected in the first place. As we try so hard to climb out of it, we don’t even stop to notice that the beast we’re escaping from is clinging to our backs and pulling us further into the pit of judgement, competition, and isolation.
In order to break down this system we need to challenge that capitalist variety of individualism-based-on-competition within ourselves. While embracing our autonomy and self-direction, let’s learn how to trust each other, open up to others, and build deeper connections with all of our interactions . . . with everyone. When we deconstruct our own judgements and stereotypes we can see people as they really are, with feelings and needs much like our own, and this is a huge step toward making the fear-based, cold-hearted system crumble.
But our inner capitalist destroys much more than our relations with others; it is far more knifing than that. In society, we are constantly told that we are under qualified; we need to work more before we can get that position that we want, we need to get a degree before we can have the right career. Our personal capitalist takes this demoralization to a whole other level. It tells us that we are too under qualified to actualize our aspirations and dreams, we won’t be good enough, and that we will FAIL. It tells us we need to have more experience, be older, more educated, less stupid, etc.. To protect ourselves from potential failure as well as the dissatisfaction of not realizing our dreams, we tell ourselves that we will do it someday…and when that day comes we will be happy, but not just yet.
We put off joy constantly. Then we die.
I’m writing this as a sort of call to action. I have a very profound need to obliterate capitalism and its destruction of the human spirit and the only way that I see that happening is by starting from the deepest level. Once we embrace life and all of the possibilities that it offers us, the Revolution will be easy. The realization of our dreams is a political act, an insurrection from the soul. Go! Travel around the world, move out into the woods, go back to school for the simple purpose of learning, drop out of school, stop paying rent, write that article or book that you’ve always wanted to, quit your career, start a career, bike across the country, move to Antarctica, strive for the end of all capitalist wars, do what works for you, just look inside yourself and ask: “What are my deepest desires?” and take action! Do it with the passion of knowing that you’re not a victim of the demoralizing machine anymore. Don’t wait, because your little capitalist will jump into your head whenever it gets a chance and soon you could be dreaming of tomorrow again, living from your armchair, and denying your incredible potential and life’s endless possibilities.