Ever since 2018 began, more articles than usual have been dedicated to Karl Marx. It shouldn’t be a wonder, since May 5th this year will be the 200th birthday celebration of the renowned mathematician/economist/philosopher/journalist. People’s opinions are divided, of course, from one extreme to another. And that’s just scratching the surface of his genius: he did not leave anybody indifferent, so even those who were against his scientifically-based analyses got themselves thinking.
Marx’s disciples are quick to defend, while his detractors are happily rubbing their palms in delight. Okay, that last one might be an exaggerated caricature… but kidding aside, his detractors must at least be smirking because evidently, the global community has not evolved into a socialist system (even though some countries are leaning towards this tendency). Their enthusiasm is such, that they are willing to throw away a solid, logical framework explaining (and pointing out the weaknesses of) the capitalist system, just because his ‘prediction’ is not yet coming true.
Regardless of whether Marx (and Engels, and Co.) predicted or strongly wished for a global socialist system (socio-econo-politico), there was one thing that everybody’s overlooked: the fact that even before the invention of private property, human nature has always been frameworked by greed (need for survival?). This means that regardless of the prevailing system, as long as it risks falling into the hands of a human being, it will always be doomed to failure. So let us leave the socialist aspiration aside and discuss this topic with the least possible “noise”. Let us only refer to a global community. Bear with me, my point will come in 2 minutes (3, if you’re a slow reader).
Remember in history class? when our teachers would point out that in pre-historic times, everybody had a function in the community? Every member: man, woman, any child that has undergone his or her rite of passage, would contribute to everybody’s well-being. It might be as a hunter, a gatherer, a builder, a witch doctor, etc…
Do you remember when we were taught that back then, vulnerable groups such as children, old people, the sick and pregnant women were protected and prioritized during the distribution of food or resting area?
When private property was invented, people started to increasingly go berserk accumulating, using their talents and abilities for the purpose. It didn’t matter whether it be for their family’s security, or for the joy of it because it had become the standard for success. This way, the concept of “common good” started to be pushed back to satisfy individual interests, something still strongly rampant until now.
So, how can we currently aspire for a society (that doesn’t even have to be global) that protects the weak, when we are made to understand that doing so could go against our best interests?
This pursuit has crossed borders, spreading worldwide, inciting men to take ownership of lands (and other resources) not their own and making them resort to plunder, leading to oppression.
Historical events have eventually shaped the world as we know it, and have allowed for material accumulation be enough to end hunger, poverty, and guarantee education and free health for all- maybe threefolds, even. So if the global material requisite is already present, why the delay in evolving into a society concerned with the common good?
Becuase of us. People. The ones that make up a community. Competition had gotten us scared to the point of resisting wealth redistribution, and insecurity had convinced us to support leaders who will defend our current and comfortable status quo.
How can there be a global community (socialist or otherwise) when each time a revolution is won, its leaders seem to forget about the people whom they fought for?
Furthermore, it must be recognized that this material accumulation we are witnessing have been achieved at the price of great pain and injustice (slave-trading, economic protectionism, illegal occupation, etc). And no matter how far back we trace, its implications are still carried around genetically, socially and culturally by the exploited populations.
So again: how can there be a global, humanitarian community when people are hesitant to be united because there has not been/is not a sincere desire for closure for past hostilities? How can this closure be achieved in the first place, if aside from not owning any accountability, the offenders have not shown/do not show an earnest intent for restitution?
Why is this even important? for the simple reason that for a global community to function, people must be convinced to participate and commit to it, worldwide.
So if we can’t even count on people’s interest to advance the common good under “normal” conditions, within their immediate environment, how could we aim for the same after a great change such as a systemic shift on a global scale?
I guess Marx had too much faith in mankind: he really believed we would evolve to become these compassionate, critical and “learned” race, who would not tolerate inequality and social injustices. But the truth is that we are only replicating past mistakes. Worse, those mistakes haven’t really been solved in the first place, they were just well-hidden from the ever-insensitized public.
Did he consider ceteris paribus with regards to the society’s disengagement to a capitalist system? He clearly didn’t expect the rise of the numbed middle-class, lured into consumption, competition and accumulation. Numbed to the point of believing that they too, are rich and belong with the elite; sedated to being oblivious towards their surroundings, let alone their neighbor’s suffering.
Marx’s prediction is not yet coming true. But will it ever come true? Some people, in their own little ways are individually exerting an effort to break away from the current systemic order. Some countries seem to be keen to experiment with the idea of wealth redistribution as the base for progress. It just might work. Who knows?