The worker becomes all the poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and range. The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more commodities he creates. The increasing value of the world of things proceeds in direct proportion to the devaluation of the world of men.
Karl Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts (1844)
The world economy as we know it is built on the foundations of slave labour and cheap labour, with the distinction not always being very clear. This is as valid today as it ever was.
This is what Karl Marx rebelled against. The result was Communism. What was meant to be a new utopia saw a level of oppression even worse than before, and more people killed in Russia than in the two World Wars together – including the Holocaust. What went wrong?
There are a few fundamental assumptions that underlie our economy, and in fact modern society as a whole. One of the most powerful is this: Some people are stronger than/ better than/ superior to others. Through competition, those people will survive, or at least be better off than the weaker/ worse/ inferior people. This assumption was already deeply entrenched in England, for example, when Charles Darwin formulated his theory of evolution by natural selection. Darwinism eventually became the foundation for the biological sciences, but initially its main impact seems to have been on the social arena. It was Sir Herbert Spencer, a social Darwinist and psychologist, and not Darwin himself, who coined the phrase “survival of the ﬁttest”.
Karl Marx was very aware of this when he wrote in a letter to Friedrich Engels: “It is remarkable how Darwin recognizes among beasts and plants his English society with its division of labor, competition, opening up of new markets, ‘invention’, and the Malthusian ‘struggle for existence’. It is Hobbes’s bellum omnium contra omnes [‘the war by all against all’]”.
Today more and more voices within the scientific community are challenging Neo-Darwinism (effectively the integration of Darwin’s theory with genetics). As in virtually all cases where the status quo is challenged, they are often ridiculed, marginalized, refused publication, etc.
With this challenge comes the challenge of another, related assumption: That the world as we know it is purely physical and arose randomly from the mysterious “Big Bang”, and consciousness is the random by-product of the physical world.
From the earliest times sages have been telling us that it is the other way round: that consciousness is primary, and the material world is the product of consciousness. Even the odd neuroscientist is beginning to lean towards this view as science remains unable to explain how consciousness can arise from the brain.
The implications of the view that consciousness is primary are enormous. It does not mean that the Bible or the Talmud or the Q’ran or whatever is “true”. It does mean, however, that all life is one. When all life is one, in other words interconnected, no one form of life is in any way stronger or better than, or superior to, any other form of life.
The materialist view of life, which has been by far the predominant view in modern society and underlies the assumptions mentioned, sees the ultimate value in things. As Marx so clearly pointed out, the direct consequence of this is the devaluation, not only of men, but of the essence of what it means to be human and of life in general. If the workers are devalued, are not the ‘capitalists’ too?
Karl Marx may not have had the solution, and his work has been hugely misinterpreted, but he was spot-on with his observations, which are as valid as ever. We rave about modern technology, yet even our smart phones are ultimately dependent on the mining of cobalt by children in West Africa. Multinational corporations have become machines given the same “rights” as human beings. Like machines out of control, they ravage communities and ecosystems all over the word with the sole aim of more profit.
The world we know today is the extreme result of the increasing inverse relation between the value of things and the value of being human. The result is simple and clear: suffering.
Many people and organizations are “fighting” for a better world; for the rights of children and women and minorities and workers and the like, but do they really make a difference? In South Africa we have been made very aware of “racism”, but nothing is likely to change as long as we maintain the belief in our underlying assumptions. What happens in practice, as happened with communism, is that the “previously oppressed” use whatever means necessary to become the new “superiors” and, in fact, the new oppressors.
The answer cannot possibly be found in a materialist worldview. The only outcome of such a worldview is, exactly as Marx predicted, ever increasing wealth for the rich and ever increasing poverty for the poor. South Africa is apparently one of the countries with the largest disparity between rich and poor. Apparently sixty-five people – a number that could easily fit into a smallish hall – now own more than half of the world’s wealth. According to Oxfam, 1% of the world’s population now has about the same amount of wealth as the remaining 99%. Most of the very rich are resident in the UK, which happens to be the country of origin of Darwinism and may well be the most materialist country in the world today.
The answer can only be found by changing our basic assumptions: that we are all one consciousness, and therefore intimately interconnected. Only in that context does the maxim, do unto others as you would have done to yourself, make any sense. In fact, in that context what we do to others we DO to ourselves. That is why Jesus and many others stressed this. Unfortunately, with the (materialistic) religionization of Jesus and other sages, “Love your neighbour as yourself” has become a meaningless instruction from an unreliable God instead of the very means that could significantly change the world.
There’s a catch here. Love your neighbour as yourself. As more and more psychologists and spiritual leaders are pointing out, you cannot love another if you do not love yourself. Yet in a world where there is a powerful overt and covert norm that things are much more important than human being(s), we learn from the day we are born that we are not inherently lovable.
Medical science today knows that natural births are healthier than caesarians, that babies need instant contact with the mother in a safe environment, that breast-feeding is critical for both mother and child for at least two years after birth, that infants need regular physical touch, and so on in order to develop a sense of self-worth. Yet this knowledge is consistently denied and ignored in the interest of profit and material comfort. We know today, as people in ages past have known, that children learn through play. That they need to be part of a community in order to feel they belong to a community. Yet our education systems consistently separate and alienate.
Psychologists know that separation and alienation cause guilt and anxiety. Materialist society with its increasing focus on profit and things causes ever more separation and alienation, and therefore guilt and anxiety. Pharmaceutical companies are today showing some of the highest profits ever.
Our world is based on, and perpetuates fear. Nothing outside of us can change that. The only change that can have a significant effect is to let go of fear, and the only way to let go of fear is to become aware of our own consciousness. People like Eckhart Tolle may well have more effect in creating significant change than all organizations trying to change things on the surface together.
It is not an easy path, because it requires getting in contact with what we have denied all our lives: our “shadow”. It requires becoming aware of all the false beliefs we have allowed ourselves to be indoctrinated with. Yet only by realizing who we are not can we discover who we truly are, and it is in who we truly are that true salvation is to be found.
To let go of all that we do not truly want is forgiveness. The result is Love.
Filed under In the Light of Darkness