“A crowded society is a restrictive society; an overcrowded society becomes an authoritarian, repressive and murderous society.”
― Edward Abbey, Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast
Ed Abbey’s words were prophetic when he wrote them, even more so now than he realized in his too short life.
We live in a world of crowds, everywhere, from the street outside our doors, to our daily work and play, in our parks and “open” spaces, we live in a teeming mass of humanity, an ever-growing technocratic occupation of every square inch of this much abused planet.
One birth every 8 seconds; one death every 12 seconds; one international migrant (net) every 34 seconds; a net gain of one person every 16 seconds. Oops, here comes another one. Scoot over and make room.
Yes, our societies have become more authoritarian, repressive and murderous. In the great bell shaped curve of human behavior, where only a percentage of the population acts badly, more people means more people acting badly. Thus increasing numbers of laws, regulations and rules, and the accompanying and rapidly proliferating number of lawyers, regulators and rulers.
Impact = Consumption X Population
The impact of the human species on every other species, and their habitats, is a function of per capita consumption multiplied by the number of human beings, both of which are increasing at a prodigious rate. Any reduction in per capita consumption is rapidly overwhelmed by increasing population.
The greatest threat to life on this planet is not climate change, nuclear proliferation or wandering asteroids. Those are distractions, economic opportunities, political footballs. The greatest threat is human growth and profligacy, overweening hubris and inability and unwillingness to consider the consequences of our own actions, and inaction.
Population control is the most defiled of all subjects for cogent deliberation and understanding, and the most urgent. It is socially incorrect, economically unthinkable and political suicide. Population control is the bastard stepchild of the global growth industry, the unquestioned acceptance of the assumption that economic viability necessitates continuous and ever increasing population and economic growth. More than the ideology of the cancer cell, human growth is the evolutionary path of the dinosaur, that had to develop two brains in order to manage their overwhelming bulk. So far, humans have only one brain, and that one only firing on three cylinders.
Homeless camps in every community, out of control crime everywhere, proliferating imperialism internationally and decreasing political capability locally and nationally, all are symptoms of a human population that has outgrown its ability to care for itself, and the biosphere that supports us.
“There is no justice, sense or decency in this mindless global breeding spree, this obscene anthropoid fecundity, this industrialized mass production of babies and bodies, ever more bodies and babies. The man-centered view of the world in anti-Christian, anti-Buddhist, antinature, antilife, and–antihuman.”
The centenary of the October Revolution (the Bolshevik Revolution) will pass unnoticed by the majority of people in the United States. After decades of Cold War anti-Communist propaganda and the break-up of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, thoughts and awareness of the history of Communism and Socialism have been washed from the brains of all but historians and the few remaining dyed in the wool socialists.
The failure of the Communist revolution had many fathers, chief among which, according to Leon Trosky, was Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin, who seized control of the Russian Social Democratic party and drove the Soviet Union into a state of repression in order to maximize modernization and industrial production. Unable to withstand external economic pressures and the West’s policy of containment, coupled with a nascent sovereignty movement from within, the Soviet Union collapsed economically and politically in 1991.
Despite the castigation of Communism and Socialism brought about by the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the imposition of extreme crony capitalism in its place, the political and cultural ideals and theories espoused by Marx, Lenin, Trotsky and Kemenev remain for study and reflection.
Here in the United States in the 21st Century, Communism is presumed to be dead, even though it lives on in the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam. North Korea continues a form of Maxist-Leninism called Juche. Communist parties continue in several countries, notably excluding the United States which persists with an exclusive officially sanctioned two-party system.
Karl Marx and later others clearly understand patterns of development of human societies and projected those patterns into the future. Marx saw capitalism as a necessary, inescapable step from feudalism to communism, with stateless communism as the ultimate goal of human social development. (Marx was not a Marxist, nor even a socialist. These labels came later, after others took up the banner he raised with Friedrich Engels.)
Looking at the political and culture situation in the United States, I begin to realize why understanding the works of Karl Marx is essential at a time when global capitalism is collapsing. Marx saw that capitalism contains the seeds of its own destruction, and we see those seeds coming to flower today, in our federal and state governments and even in local county and minimal governments.
Our federal government is no longer a representative republic, but has evolved into a corporate oligarchy dominated by crony capitalism and an entrenched elitist political class. Government is no longer able to maintain public infrastructure, nor to respond to natural and human caused disasters.
“Unable to expand and generate profits at past levels, the capitalist system would begin to consume the structures that sustained it. It would prey upon, in the name of austerity, the working class and the poor, driving them ever deeper into debt and poverty and diminishing the capacity of the state to serve the needs of ordinary citizens. It would, as it has, increasingly relocate jobs, including both manufacturing and professional positions, to countries with cheap pools of laborers. Industries would mechanize their workplaces. This would trigger an economic assault on not only the working class but the middle class—the bulwark of a capitalist system—that would be disguised by the imposition of massive personal debt as incomes declined or remained stagnant. Politics would in the late stages of capitalism become subordinate to economics, leading to political parties hollowed out of any real political content and abjectly subservient to the dictates and money of global capitalism.” Chris Hedges – Karl Marx was right
I certainly see it in the small town where I live on the Central Coast of California. Our community is overrun by what is euphemistically called “The Homeless,” who are, in reality, those who have fallen into the cracks of the decline of social services. With no mental health facilities, no economic or cultural support structure, increased drug addiction as a result of capitalist medical prescription of opioid drugs, in a capitalist economy based on tourism with no manufacturing base, those in need find themselves living on the streets. (This is not to discount the contribution of the “lifestyle homeless,” those who choose to live rough for idealogical reasons or just plain laziness.)
Our county and state governments no longer have sufficient budgets to maintain and repair existing infrastructure. Based on constrained property and declining sales taxes, the local economy is unable to provide sufficient funding for simple structural maintenance of existing roads and public buildings, and for continuance of even the most elementary social services. Yet they continue to build more, because capital construction is funded by grants, which, by the way, provide overhead for a bloated departmental bureaucracy.
Politically, the bizarre circus atmosphere in our nation’s capital makes federal government increasingly remote and unapproachable. Fewer and fewer citizens participate in the obviously corrupt and manipulated national electoral process, dominated by an official two party system that excludes all other political affiliations. Increasingly, citizens, if they vote at all, prefer to focus on local politics where they can have real influence.
Increasing public dissent and resistance across the country gives me hope that all least someone is paying attention. Even so, there is no hope of a popular insurrection at any time in my increasing short life span. The system of repression, distraction and control of public opinion developed in past decades is successful in diverting and diffusing organized political opposition, through control of media, infiltration and isolation of organizers and outright militarized police oppression of Constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of assembly and speech.
This is not a call to rise up and storm the barricades, it’s just observations of what is arising of itself in the United States and the rest of the capitalist world.