Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Sharing in Revolution


Modern man suffers from a kind of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to his scientific and technological abundance.” People have “learned to fly in the air like birds,” but “we haven’t learned to walk the Earth as brothers and sisters.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Scientific and technological advances have been enormous. Thanks to breakthroughs in communications, millions of people globally routinely conduct live, visual conversations with one another. In medicine, replacing damaged or diseased parts of the human body has become commonplace. In biology, scientists have mapped the human genome and are well on their way to understanding the structure of the brain. When it comes to transport, it is relatively easy to jet around the world, while spacecraft are now being designed to take tourists into orbit. Computers have dramatically improved the acquisition of knowledge, the storage of information, and dissemination of it at incredible high speed.

Yet there is a glaring discrepancy between these kinds of advances and the social institutions that can ensure that they are used for the benefit of humanity. Despite very substantial progress in modern medicine, vast numbers of people receive no medical treatment or, at best, inferior medical care. Television’s ability to transmit knowledge, culture, and understanding around the world is employed primarily to distribute mindless, shallow entertainment and peddle commercial products. The ravages of climate change are ignored and instead, corporations roll out plans to further destroy the environment through additional extraction and use of fossil fuel. Stimulating consumer demand through the latest advertising techniques, capitalist corporations churn out a vast number of quickly-discarded throw-away gadgets whose manufacture fills the air, the water, and the soil with dangerous contaminants.  Drawing upon the science of robotics, business is beginning the displacement of millions of workers, condemning them to unemployment and poverty rather than celebrating leisure and shorter working hours. While governments press into service the latest scientific and technological knowledge to spy on the public, as well as to produce new weapons and other high-tech means of destroying millions of lives in war.

Capitalist greed has stunted social impulses.  The real question is whether people can muster the political will to reshape society to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.  

The earth’s ecological problems stem largely from the failure to share. The principle of sharing has always formed the basis of social relationships in societies across the world. We all know from personal experience that sharing is central to family and community life, and the importance of sharing. There exists a growing body of anthropological and biological evidence that human beings are naturally predisposed to cooperate and share in order to improve our collective wellbeing and maximise our chances of survival.

In fact, sharing is far more prevalent in society than people often realise. Charities and co-operatives, self-help and mutual aid organisations abound. We have collaborative knowledge sharing websites like Wikipedia and many other forms of peer-2-peer information technology.

Ecological chaos, poverty and inequality are related outcomes of an ill-managed world capitalist system. Given the urgency why are we still failing to manage the world’s resources in a more sustainable way? Every year, numerous international conferences take place and endless reports are published but the international community has not managed to remedy the problems we face. Nothing seems to change. We are unable to overcome the vested interests.  For too long, governments have put profit and growth before the welfare of all people and the sustainability of the biosphere.

Given the scale of the task ahead, it is impossible at this stage for socialists to put forward a blueprint of the specific policies and actions we need to take. But in order to inspire support for transformative change, it is imperative that we outline a vision of how and why changes to production and distribution should be based firmly on the principle of sharing. The first element is for the community to recognise that natural resources form part of our shared commons, and is for the benefit of all. Humanity has to move away from today’s private and state ownership models, and towards a new form of resource management based on non-ownership. Common ownership would embody the principle of sharing on a global scale, and it would enable all communities to take collective responsibility for managing the world’s resources. Currently, the world still lacks a broad-based acceptance of the need for planetary reconstruction. Without a global movement of ordinary people that share a collective vision of change, it will remain impossible to overcome the influence of the vested interests of the capitalist class.

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