by Mike Meyer
We are on fast track to redefining what it means to be human. That is, I think, the crux of the old problems that have seemingly exploded back into life from a dark hole of bigotry and ignorance. But this is a complex process with a range of components and interactions between those components. Under them all is the question of what it is to be human.
Racism and all other forms of bigotry that are clearly lacking any logical basis are emotional reactions to loss and the fear of greater loss. This is a very old reaction allowing others who are threatening in some way to be made subhuman. We all understand this well enough but are still at a loss in how to correct these errors. And still unsure of why this has reared its ugliness in the first quarter of the 21st century.
The primary focus is always to look for the most important causes and those can be seen in what the people affected by this sickness are claiming as their cause. It is well explained economically as the loss of jobs to both automation and neoliberalism. The later is seen as evil because factories move to cheaper wage countries and the greatest part of the resulting benefits of the new planetary economy have been completely captured by a tiny capitalist elite.
This is the reality of the situation but how different groups have come to understand it is heavily dictated by crude political manipulation of traditionalist opportunists fostering fear and stoking anger. This opportunism is driven by simple greed and corruption or by radical support for elements of the capitalist elite or both causes entangled in cultural history.
The focus of fear is also based on human migration resulting from the positive lowering of old nationalist borders to facilitate planetary economics, political disruptions from predatory late stage capitalism, and, increasingly, refugee movements caused by climate change produced disasters. The later includes not only floods, hurricanes, and fires but drought and famine as seen in Africa, South Asia and expanding to parts of North America.
As an incredibly potent mix of threats this is made up of things that humans have feared and struggled against throughout our existence. This leads to many identifying with traditional reactions and solutions as if they understood what was happening. But that is not the case as this is now on a planetary scale of which we have no memory.
The wild card is technology or what should be called technical transcendence. By its very nature this is not human and can only be identified with primitive mythological monsters and angry gods by those without sufficient knowledge of our 21st century economics. The logical result of this combination is, not surprisingly, a desire for some new kind of religious answer embodied in larger than life heroes.
But these apparent heroes are, of course, the old opportunists who have played this game throughout human history. They provide no hope but only exploitation at a more brutal level than the mistakes of neoliberalism that were based in partial understanding of economic change and sought general benefit. So what we have is the result of mistakes, greed, and failures to understand new systems and totally new threats that are then mistaken for old threats.
We constantly use old models and old patterns to recognize new threats but that does not work with threats that are fundamentally different in scale and effect. The pattern is to see the new people identified as a threat as diseased or inherently evil and ready to attack. Refugees are now simply people who have lost their home and perhaps there state and country. They are alone and that is easy to see. The old reactions are wrong.
How do we begin to solve the problem? We don’t have time to waste and the planetary scale means that a great majority of the planet’s population may well be forced to move. And that has already started.
This is the failure to put full emphasis on climate change and that failure will mean a far larger percentage of the population will become refugees at some point soon. But there are many problems and factors in this complex crisis that is being worsened by bigotry and opportunistic lies.
We will need to break this problem down to components and one component is the failure of capitalism. Within that large range of failures we have recognized the anger on the movement of jobs to cheaper countries leaving workers unemployed or underemployed. Many people have only begun to understand the technical transcendence of automation and robotic system expansion that will make much of this a moot point.
Somewhere between 30% to 60% of current jobs will be automated over the next twenty years. This will not mean that 30% to 60% of those people will be out of work? Unable to make a living? Not necessarily. Many jobs will be created although they will require more specific skills and education. At the same time new jobs will be created, again with more specific skills and education.
While capitalism is dying the use of markets to allocate resources and set prices in whatever value system emerges will continue. In fact the great failure of neoliberalism and the world trade debacle was not open borders and open trade with the movement of work to the most cost effective location but the failure to free workers to move.
Market economics is based on the movement of goods and services in response to need and request. Borders are the death of our future if they block the free movement of people to opportunities. This is precisely the opposite of what is being demanded and done in ignorance. The EU has shown how well that works. The failure of BREXIT is that it seeks to destroy the movement of people to where work and opportunities are possible and may be found. The failure to implement BREXIT is the result of people realizing, in an instinctive way, that this is not a way to improve employment or the decades of wage stagnation generated by predatory capitalism.
The American lurch into xenophobia is killing the longer term promise of planetary open markets in reaction to the failure to make way for rapid migration. Ironically, we are in the age of irony now, American retirees have discovered that the best solution to a low retirement income is to move where the costs are lower. If high wages have driven out high paying jobs those jobs are available in a lower cost market. The costs are lower for workers as well as corporate owners. But those owners are constantly seeking to deny workers the very freedom that is allowing them to maximize their revenue.
Is this the perfect solution? No one has ever promised the perfect solution and those that do are offering scams to enrich themselves at your expense. Is it easy to move to another culture? We may all end moving as refugees as we have failed to correct for climate change. You need to recognize reality and act positively.
Ah, but that is the real problem. There are too many people who consider themselves privileged and shouldn’t have to move to another country to work at a different economic level. Our privileges should let us dominate and avoid the pain that others must bear. Sorry. Those days are gone. Denying that they are gone can only worsen it for us all.
Another irony that is tied to American exceptionalism and white privilege. Those pitiful and criminal immigrants are different than us and we shouldn’t have to become immigrants to survive even though our parents, grandparents and great grandparents did.
The perspective should be on freedom of opportunity for us all. We are, after all, in the same boat (on the same planet) and the goal should be efficient resource allocation, sustainable usage, and opportunity. Privilege exceptions are destroying that now.