We are not spectators of history, lacking the ability to challenge the power structures of capitalism, be they military or financial, overt or covert. It is self-deceptive, therefore, to think of ourselves as borrowers, consumers, employees, competitors, nationals, or any other category that serves to distract, disempower, or divide us. It is worth repeating that a radical reorientation of our human aspirations must do away with quite a few power-preserving categories, that is, socially and ecologically devastating historical constructions such as private property and wage labor.
Why should we follow the dictates of the supposedly free market? Why should we adapt to unsustainable living conditions? Why should we accept being exploited by others? We do not have to. We do not have to accept the unacceptable or give up our right to resist, because our lives are not for sale; the environment is not a service and our future is not a commodity. It probably takes courage and certain experiences to act differently, but if we begin to act – the sooner the better – as if capital had lost its influence on us, it is more likely that our individual and collective actions will create the necessary conditions for our own emancipation.
What is necessary is a new normality, new values, and a fundamental shift in power – a society freed from plutocratic practices, party politics, and military might. In a democratic society built on substantive equality, no one is tracking our movements, collecting and selling user data, let alone hijacking our brains for the purpose of profit; armed forces are not used to undermine the right of citizens to assemble; and corrupt politicians are not in a position to legislate. Removed from the governing of society, financial institutions would not be allowed to dictate our lives. Trapped within their own paywalls, corporate media would not be allowed to influence our sense of urgency and possibility. Stripped of their power, fossil fuel companies would not be allowed to destroy the planet and the future of our children. The list can be made longer. Capitalism is a dead-end project, but this does not mean that our struggle against state and corporate power has become less relevant, nor does it signal the end of history.
We already know that accumulation of capital and centralization of power go hand in hand with human humiliation and planetary degradation. The opposite path is yet to be followed. Although not without its own challenges, an ecological transformation of society can only be radically democratic and radically creative, giving all of us power to change, power to contribute to planetary sustainability. Ideally, democracy would go from being representative and intermittent to becoming direct and practiced on a daily basis, deeply concerned with the common good, countering all forms of oppression and violence.
What and how we create together would be framed by new rules of social interaction, providing us with non-commodified alternatives to wage labor and monopoly markets, to shopping and sweatshops, to social media and junk food. In other words, what must emerge is a social order that is incompatible with institutionalized inequality and has power to cut the ideological roots of capitalism.