It is tempting for those who are dissatisfied with the present system, especially those at the bottom of the social hierarchy, to blame everything on those at the top. However, suppose that tomorrow you became the richest person on Earth. Do you think that you would be able to change the system? How would you do it?
First of all, you might be opposed by other, less philanthropic billionaires. But even if all the world’s billionaires joined forces to bring about utopia, they would still face serious problems.
One way of looking at society is that it is nothing more than the sum of its parts. In other words, society is nothing more than a group of individuals living in a particular area. In order to have a utopian society, you need utopian citizens. You need an enlightened populace. And unfortunately, no one on this planet was socialized in a utopian society.
In America, we have a problem with political apathy. Only 55% of eligible citizens voted in the 2016 presidential election. A huge percentage of the global population consists of childlike individuals who want a parental figure to think about the tough issues for them. Capitalists enjoy being ruled by Big Business and communists enjoy being ruled by Big Government. In other words, most people are followers. What we need is a society of leaders.
We need a society of strong-willed, independent thinkers. But under both capitalism and communism, the purpose of education is to produce workers. Although this is disputed, the billionaire John D. Rockefeller, who put a lot of funding into education, allegedly said, “I don’t want a nation of thinkers. I want a nation of workers.”
Malcolm X spoke some relevant words on this issue in an interview with the Village Voice:
“The greatest mistake of the Movement,” he said, “has been trying to organize a sleeping people around specific goals. You have to wake the people up first then you’ll get action.”
Wake them up to their exploitation?
“No, to their humanity, their own worth, and to their heritage. The biggest difference between the parallel oppression of the Jew and the Negro is that the Jew never lost his pride in being a Jew. He never ceased to be a man. He knew he had made a significant contribution to the world, and his sense of his own value gave him the courage to fight back. It enabled him to act and think independently, unlike our people and our leaders.”
While Malcolm X makes the case that people of color have been particularly dehumanized, I would say that this problem is not exclusive to that demographic. Most modern societies are inherently dehumanizing. We are cogs in a machine.
I’m not trying to blame the victim here. I’m not saying that the less-than-ideal status of modern societies is the fault of the masses. But I am pointing out that the masses can, should, and must be a part of the solution. The absolute power of monarchs lasted only until the people rose up and forced the king to sign the Magna Carta. And today’s oppressive systems will last only as long as the people allow them to.
But a revolution in the structure of society is unlikely to occur without a preceding cultural revolution. We need to look within ourselves and uncover the ways in which our minds have been colonized. We must also dare to face the ways in which we are complicit in the injustices of the system.
So how do we bring about this cultural revolution? In many ways it has already begun. The majority of young people in the United States prefer socialism over capitalism. (I see socialism and capitalism as two sides of the same coin. But America has taken capitalism to the extreme so I think that moving toward the socialist end of the spectrum is a step in the right direction.) There are socialist parties springing up all over America. There are plenty of woke people you can follow on Twitter.
But there is always room for improvement. What more can be done to bring about the cultural revolution? The most obvious answer is education. And I don’t just mean college education, because anyway, as most conservatives will tell you, there is a strong leftist bias in academia. We need to start getting people woke at a younger age. When your kids ask you tough questions, don’t give them bullshit answers. When they ask where babies came from, your answer shouldn’t involve the stork. Tell them the truth. Don’t indoctrinate them with stories of imaginary characters like the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and God. Theistic religions wire people to be followers whose first instinct is to appeal to a “higher power” to solve their problems.
But as long as the education system is poorly funded and controlled by the corporate state, it is doubtful that it will produce independent thinkers rather than obedient workers. Fortunately, almost everyone in America now has a smart phone. You have the sum total of human knowledge in the palm of your hand. And yet, how do people use this resource? They waste time keeping up with the latest rumors on Jay Z’s infidelity, watching cat videos, etc. So despite access to information, people don’t use it. You can take college courses online for free from Ivy League schools. Why aren’t more people doing it? Because they were never taught to love learning. They were never taught that learning is a life-long enterprise, not limited to the acquisition of a degree which allows you to get a certain job. They fail to grasp the fact that education is an end in itself, as it empowers the individual.
So how do we get people to take advantage of the amazing resources that are available to them? This is where we have to put the “culture” in “cultural revolution.” We have to make learning sexy and cool. In a way this is already being done with the word “woke.” But again, there is room for improvement.
Enter the tech bros.
Marx criticized the utopian socialists for thinking that the capitalist class could be convinced to adopt utopian schemes, but I think they can. In Silicon Valley, there is already much interest in things like seasteading and fully automated luxury communism. Admittedly, we can’t rely solely on the capitalist class to bring about utopia, but some of its members might be willing to help. Capitalism is a system, and it is a dehumanizing system for all who are caught in it, including those fortunate enough to be in the capitalist class. It is difficult to find true fulfillment in a hypermaterialistic, consumeristic culture, no matter how much money you have. Everyone, rich and poor alike, would benefit holistically from having a more enlightened populace.
So what can the billionaire tech bros do? They are already exerting enormous influence over people’s minds and lifestyles because we are spending inordinate amounts of time in the virtual spaces they create. An early investor in Facebook and Google recently condemned the companies for aggressively hacking our brains to sell more ads. Instead of using their technological influence to keep us locked into a consumeristic mindset, the tech giants could tailor the user experience to influence people in the opposite direction. They could try to turn the people whose brains they’re hacking into utopian citizens.
And if they’re not willing to do that, then we need to initiate a mass exodus from their virtual spaces and create our own.