I set out here to write about capitalism and how it shapes our relationships to everything. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while. I had planned to write about how competition, individualism, and the insecurity of having to “earn a living” or be denied survival, defines how we approach one another and the way in which we interact with people in our lives. I started by examining the definition of capitalism. I turned to Wikipedia first and got this:
capitalism is “an economic system in which trade, industry, and the means of production are privately owned and operated via profit and loss calculation (price signals) through the price system.”
Most of my prior thinking had been focused on the profit and loss aspect and how the only valuation system capitalism uses is money. I had originally thought that I would want to discuss the lack of any ethics or social values in the definition and how that void gets filled by the profit imperative.
However, what I found myself focusing on first was the phrase “privately owned”. I was immediately writing about the concept of ownership. In the wake of three mass shootings in the US, this week, I found myself reaching the conclusion that any society which embraces the idea of private property is, at it’s core, violent. Violence is the very foundation that society. I found myself unable to focus on anything else. I realized that any system which includes any kind of ownership claim has to be violent. So, this isn’t a strictly anti-capitalist exploration. It’s an ownership exploration.
So, can we talk about how we are a fundamentally violent culture? How that’s a feature and not a bug? Can we talk about whether we want to be that? Whether we can change that?
I’ll walk you through my thoughts which led to “ownership = violence” and my not-yet-fully-formed ideas of alternatives and a vague sense of how to get there. My hope is that we spark the beginning of a growing dialogue.