Hope for a Hopeless World
It’s common knowledge that the world today is in bad shape. Worldwide war, warmongering, overblown nationalism, starvation, sickness, poverty, wealth disparity, hate, racism, police brutality, recession, depression and too many more to list. It seems sometimes that the world has entered the post-modern apocalypse we always feared. Sure, we have our twitter, our iPhones, our apps and our laptops. We have our cheap goods at walmart produced with slave labor. We have our movies to entertain us and our dime a dozen novels to read on our shiny new kindles. we have our TV and our Starbucks and our glittery worship of vacuous celebrities. And it just seems so, so empty. There doesn’t seem to be any way out of the doldrums. We are told time and time again, by people such as Francis Fukuyama, that this is the end of history. There is no more progress, there is no other alternative. We just have to fall in lockstep with our system, because there can never be any other. I’m here to tell you that history has just begun.
Before we look to the future, and since we’ve taken a look at the less than stellar present, let’s take a quick stroll down history lane. Yeah, things are bad right now. The world has a lot of problems, a lot of pain, a lot of suffering. However, things are better now than they’ve ever been in history. You don’t believe me? Ask the ancient Romans, who although having running water, heated baths and paved roads, could never dream of the luxuries that we now enjoy on a daily basis. The Romans had a slave state, so if you weren’t lucky enough to be among the members of the ruling class, life really sucked for you. It was truly brutish and short. The middle ages was a time of superstition, rule by religious authority, and death. Lots and lots of death. Executions in public squares, the Black Death, autocratic kings and queens, endless wars and the feudal system. Oh boy, the feudal system. The rulers had lost much of the technology of the Greeks and Romans and Egyptians, but for the serf life was much more harsh. You could expect a short nasty life, working your fingers to the bone every day just to make the ruling class richer and more comfortable. Your wife might die in childbirth, most of your children by the time they turned 5. Then came the age of enlightenment! Oh grand theories of science and art, philosophy and exploration! (Ignoring the rape, theft and murder that came from those colonizing missions for a moment) Galileo! Copernicus! Thomas Paine! The world moved beyond the feudalistic system of old, through the new mercantilism, and right into capitalism. Once again revolutions led the way, violent or by threat of violence. Old regimes overthrown, new inventions, the moveable type, the explosion in literacy rates and on and on and on. Yet life was still nasty, brutish and short. Women couldn’t vote, there was widespread slavery and abuse, no votes for the poor, the workers who made the economy hum and grow. Then came the industrial revolution (I know, I’m moving through this pretty fast) children working in mines, Chinese immigrants in the US dying building the transcontinental railroad, while being discriminated against and denied rights as citizens. Now we are here again in the present. We have come a long way. Did that help cheer you up a little bit? If no, the next part just might.
What’s that you say? What’s historical materialism? Well, without getting into a major philosophical dissertation, it’s basically what I just wrote above, in a nutshell. You see, the universe is in constant flux. It’s always changing. Changes in our societies, our politics, our economies are no different. There is a war going on, a struggle between two things. One is called the thesis, the other antithesis. The thing, and the opposing thing. This is how things change. The fight between the aristocracy and the growing burgers, townspeople who were beginning production of goods, ended with the abolition of the aristocratic class as the ruling class. That new ruling class grew, and became the giant capitalist class we know today. And the working class? Those who, not owning the means of production must sell their labor? Well, we’re still selling our labor aren’t we? We still live in the capitalist system. However. Marx explained that we already see the seeds of the destruction of this exploitative capitalist order. We see it because of the contradictions in capitalism that will bring it down. We are once again engaged in class warfare, and history has shown us that the result of that battle between thesis and antithesis produces the answer, the synthesis. The answer to the problem. That answer is socialism, the democratic control of the means of production. You see, it may be hard to see it from day to day when you’re struggling, but we are moving forward. The whole weight of history is behind us, and we cannot lose. Things are changing, and they’re changing perhaps even faster than you think. Things are getting better. So keep your chin up comrades, and keep fighting. In the meantime my fellow workers of the world, how about uniting?
If you’d like to read a more in-depth body of work about historical materialism, or any other concept in Marxism, here are a couple of websites for you to check out:
Have a great day, and happy reading!