Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Approaching Age of Equality

Life is change, an ongoing process. No one controls the procession of social order within cultures, societies or nations. History is marked by the flowering of world civilizations from epoch to epoch.

Western Civilization has been defined by ages - epochs marked by specific qualities and social movements. The Middle Ages began after the fall of the Roman civilization, and lasted some 1000 years until the first sparks of neo-Platonism ignited the Renaissance in the late 14th and early 15th centuries. The Renaissance lasted through the 16th century and into the 17th.

By the 17th century, the Reformation ensued. Together with the advance of the printing press and the translation of the Bible into local languages, the Reformation helped spread literacy. Because of the rise of literacy, new ideas expressed by the philosophers and political theorists of the late 17th century through the 18th century period known as the Enlightenment empowered masses of people to cry out for basic human, individual rights for all classes and individual autonomy over their lives and life choices. The Enlightenment ushered in an age of Revolution from the mid 18th century through the mid 19th century which was expressed through the clash between monarchists and liberal republicans.

A backlash occurred as the powerful elite sought to retain power, as exemplified by the spread of empires and imperial clashes for economic, political and military hegemony throughout the 19th century in the aftermath of Napoleon and because of the reconstitution of nobility throughout Europe as designed by Metternich. The Industrial Revolution, which began centuries earlier in England, eventually spread to France, Germany and the United States. By the 19th century, the powerful and wealthy elite discovered that the Industrial Revolution provided them with new avenues to wealth and power. No longer did they need to indenture people to the land and agrarian servitude, nor must wealth accrue solely from agriculture and mining. Industry meant the creation of new products and new sources of wealth.

The rise of industry fostered a movement of people from the countryside to the cities as a means of finding employment, their search for greater personal autonomy, and the opportunity to explore new experiences. A synergy arose out of the migration to the cities and the institution of assembly line production. Those conditions, in concert with the Industrial Revolution and the advance of science, including the creation of new technologies, products and services, also contributed to the synergy, which unleashed a population explosion.

Wealthy industrial magnates found a means to extreme wealth beyond their previous imagination with the proliferation of mass-produced products as well as a ready source of both cheap labor and a rapidly expanding consumer class. This new economic dynamic indentured workers to their industrial and assembly line employments, and became their only means of survival. The wealthy elite wielded a broader hegemony than ever before, and learned how to control governments with their wealth instead of having to be the governments as in the past through their status as nobility or royalty. A new, politician class arose to handle the task of governing in a sort of proxy for the wealthy elite. That new class was sufficiently susceptible to influence through their greed, corruption and narcissism, so the machinery of government was (and continues to be) easily manipulated by the wealthy elite.

The 20th century was marked as an age of devastation, destruction, sociopathic war and dehumanization. The wealthy elite broadened their economic interests by creating multinational corporations with highly diversified lines of products and services. In the wake of WWII, the advent of television, and the spread of mass-marketing campaigns designed to brainwash the public into orgiastic consumption, an excessive response to the still-not-forgotten Depression years grew. The consumption of products further enriched the wealthy elite at the same time as it plunged the middle class into permanent debt. The baby boom in conjunction with the sudden affluence within the rapidly expanding middle class of the post WWII period fed a new culture of greed and complicit corruption among the wealthy elite and their political lapdog lackeys.

Today, we stand upon the edge of a palisade precipice. Across a chasm of uncertainty lies a new paradigm. Recognizing the chasm, finding the best pathway to span it, understanding the parameters of the new paradigm, and cooperating in creating the world of the future is this generation's task.

Change is inevitable. Trying to hold on to the past will only lead to greater suffering as time ticks off the clock leading to the inevitable future. Oh yes, the wealthy elite and their strong armed governments can postpone the movement into the new paradigm through force, repression and conditioning, but that will only lead to a long battle between the classes which is in no one's best interest. Once the movement towards change has begun, there is no stopping it.

The wisest course ahead for humanity would be to recognize that we can ease our pathway into the new paradigm, save the best of our current civilization, and reduce the potential suffering for the greatest number of people by uniting our efforts, cooperatively, through the coming social evolution. We can accomplish common goals and effect a positive outcome by embracing change and integrating it systematically rather than fighting it and undergoing tumult and turmoil, enmity and struggle, and a great sociological soul-sickness which would derive from a consequent division of humanity accruing from any great class struggle for power, wealth, position and prestige.

There are signposts everywhere which indicate the nature of the coming new paradigm. Four movements which began in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s offer insights into the nature of the new paradigm: the peace movement, civil rights, feminism, and environmentalism. A fifth presents itself out of the 1980s movement of people in the primarily southern hemispheric regions for basic human rights for all people, even in the so-called underdeveloped nations. Other factors continue to arise: climate change, the development of information technologies in conjunction with the internet, the continuing population explosion, and the current popular demands for an economically just and equitable system - including a more reasonable distribution of income and wealth.

I look across the chasm and see the new paradigm as the Age of Equality.

How do we get there from here?

First, we must address climate change and the types of energy we will use in the future. Humanity cannot maintain a sustainable culture, economy and civilization if it continues to invest in petroleum products for its primary source of energy. However, by immediately initiating a change to clean and renewable energy sources, we can not only abate the worst effects of climate change in the future, we can also start to clean the environment, reverse climate change, provide a better world for our children, grandchildren and the generations beyond them, as well as employ masses of people in every city and town with careers that will be sustainable as far into the future as one can imagine.

Second, we must rethink the whole notion of a global economy. The point of the global economy is to further enrich and empower the already wealthy elite. The whole premise is: corporations can produce products where ever and everywhere costs for production (especially for labor) are cheapest, and these corporations can ship those products to markets where ever and everywhere prices for the products can be set at their highest level.

This system is designed to put the greatest amount of capital into the hands of the wealthiest people, and extract as much of that capital as possible from the hands of everyone else. This system explains why American jobs have been exported overseas, why the debt of most Americans has increased, why the jobs which remain are generally underpaid (the glut of available workers creates an employers' market, so they can pay what they want for labor), and why the accumulation of wealth among the wealthy elite continues to grow at rates higher than ever before.

Third, people of all genders, colors, races, creeds, ethnicity, classes, and cultures must be valued equally and treated with equal respect and consideration, while also being offered equal opportunity for prosperity. If everyone, everywhere, is paid the same rate for their work, while at the same time is taxed equally without loopholes or deductions favoring the wealthy, then income, wealth and prosperity will redistribute naturally - easing the burdens on the poor and middle classes, making affluence available to all, but also denying ostentatious wealth to anyone. Cooperation, understanding, respect, appreciation, acceptance, interconnection, and mutuality become the bywords for the ethos for this new society.

Fourth, in such a society, where everyone is included and valued, the new ethic of community and mutual prosperity will naturally create a need for, and engender a commitment to, peace. Nearly all the wars fought since, and including, the Spanish Armada attack on the British in 1588 have had as their root cause economic competition, religious intolerance, and/or ethnic or racial prejudice. These root causes would be naturally eliminated by the social changes which are inevitable as the world moves into the new paradigm.

Finally, in order to better foster all the prescriptions for change, and to best create a sustainable civilization in the future, population levels must decline, probably by about half - not by execution or war, but slowly, evolving naturally, through education, removing the social stigma on contraception, making contraception widely available and affordable, and the rise of a common understanding regarding a mutual need to reduce waste, reduce the strain on our natural resources, and create a climate which will increase each individual's affluence in the future.

To assist in these goals, a redistribution of the population is also advisable. In smaller communities, where local production of products can supply and satisfy local needs and appetites, everyone's contribution becomes necessary. That leads to everyone being equally valued. At the same time, every community will have a local investment in employing wise, ecologically sound methods and materials, waste will be reduced to a minimum, and individual participation will be maximized. Those conditions will also lead to a more even distribution of labor, affluence and prosperity. I am not talking about capitalism, communism, socialism, or feudalism. I am suggesting that the new paradigm will be based on community, cooperation, respect, mutuality and equality.

Yes, the Age of Equality awaits.

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