Look at this picture. The first three wolves of the pack (yellow circle) are the older or sick, and they set the pace for the group. The five strongest follow, and at the end there are other 5 strong wolves (red squares), both protecting the weaker wolves in the belly of the group. At the very end comes the lonesome alpha wolf, controlling from the rear.
This image that recently went viral recalled me of a quote from Lao Tze: “to lead people, walk behind them“.
It also made me think of how our traditional societies used to work similarly: the elders led the way and were respected, the strong members of the community protected the weak, and leaders took responsibility for the whole community, striving to not leave anyone behind.
In the financial capitalist system of today things work quite the opposite: the strongest lead, biting each other to be ahead, while the weak lag behind. The elders and the sick get lost on the way as they cannot keep the pace and tend to die alone and forgotten. The alphas, furthermore, are not real alphas. They become leaders only if they accept to be guardians of the system itself (thus becoming alpha slaves), while if they are not docile enough they will attract trouble.
In our current system our value as human beings is defined by our ability to produce and consume material wealth. In its mad and unsustainable pursuit of perpetual growth (which among things is endangering life on Earth) it has induced people through constant media bombardment to become extremely individualistic, egomaniac, and to desire without end.
If we had communities of people who live together, share resources, and support each other like it was in a not so distant past, it would be a disaster for this system as in order to thrive it needs people to be isolated, frustrated, distrusting and fearing each other, because in this state of spiritual misery they will consume more in a vain effort to fill the void they have inside, and in order to satisfy this endless material need they will work more and produce more. Simply put: our unhappiness is functional to the system.
We think that today we are more free than in the past, but our freedom is only superficial. We look at ancient Egypt and we wonder in awe how few people could enslave the vast majority of people and make them devote their existence through generations to build pyramids. While our material conditions have significantly improved from then, are we really free from mental slavery compared to ancient Egypt slaves?
Think about it. Thanks to our technology we live in an age of unprecedented abundance and opportunities and yet only 1% really prosper while the vast majority is either kept in a chronic state of scarcity or poverty. How could we possibly get convinced that in order to own four walls and a roof, or send our kids to school, we need to get in debt for the rest of our lives? Can’t we see that the whole system is designed to enslave us to the production/consumption cycle? Can’t we see that money is completely arbitrary and literally created out of thin air?
Have you ever thought how our system not only tolerates, but subtly promotes 5 out of 7 of the deadly sins of tradition? Specifically: greed, pride, envy, lust, gluttony. Just turn on the tv, you’ll see all of them in action. On the other hand, it devalues the 2 greatest positive spiritual forces available to us: forgiveness and compassion. It also taught us to dismiss the wisdom of the ancients as irrational superstition so if someone suggested that a great evil is in action he would be ridiculed.
We live in an age in which, for the first time in history, we can emancipate ourselves from the burden of work. Like it or not, this is the century in which machines will replace most of human workforce, it is already happening now and it will get faster and faster: 47% of employments are at “high risk” already in the next 20 years (source: bureau of labor and statistic). In front of these numbers, the typical reaction is “OMG, what are we gonna do? How we are going to survive?”, which I imagine is pretty much the reaction those slaves in ancient Egypt would have had if the Pharaoh one day announced that they were not needed anymore because he found machines that can build pyramids by themselves.
I’ll tell you what we can do: take our life back and dare to be free. Devote our life to our passions, to our community, to raise our kids, or whatever we care about, instead than spending most of our adult life on a dull job we don’t even like. Regardless of whether our activity will produce profit or not.
It is clear that in order for this to happen something must change. Specifically, what needs to happen is the introduction of unconditional basic income: free money for everyone, as birth right, enough to cover our basic needs. Our activity, and our merit, should become a way to get a surplus rather than a way to survive.
Some will tell us that basic income is not possible, that there is not enough money for it, and wherever it will get introduced those people would do anything to make the experiment fail. Don’t listen to them, they are just desperately trying to preserve the status quo. Once again, we live in an age of unprecedented abundance and opportunities, there is enough for everyone to live a life of dignity and moderate prosperity, for no child to die of hunger, and as technology evolves our abundance and opportunities will exponentially increase.
The cultural shift that needs to happen is that we start to demand basic income as our birth right. Sounds silly? Don’t forget that also asking for freedom of speech or equal opportunities for women sounded silly until not long ago.
When unconditional universal basic income will be in place, we would have broken a big fat chain tied around our calves. I am not saying we would be entirely free from mental slavery, or that all problems will disappear, it will still be quite a complex world. But if people are going to finally be in the condition to dispose of their time with freedom and devote it to things they are passionate about or that give meaning to their life, we should witness a flourishing of humanism, compassion, art, and solidarity.
People are not naturally greedy, we tend to act in a dog eat dog mode because our current system pushes us to do it, putting us in a perpetual state of scarcity, with highly competitive monomaniacs being shown as moral example to follow. Media are also to blame for the degradation of our soul, always tickling our lower instincts, always digging in the dirt and feeding us with gossip and sensation. Their behavior is also a byproduct of profit being our only horizon as their purpose is to sell more.
When we will finally be free from profit as our only horizon, when we will stop worshiping this golden veal, this greedy Pharaoh, this Moloch to whom we sacrifice our lives and the ones of our children, then we will be able to build societies that are more human. Let’s say more like the one of the wolves I was talking about, but waaaay more technological! 🙂
Our time to do this revolution is limited, we are running against the clock of technological evolution. The singularity is near. If we fail to take back our freedom, our dignity, our humanity in the next few decades, the tiny minority who controls the machines will have the means to enslave us for good.
All we need to do is to follow the 6th of the Ten Commandments for the Digital Millennium:
We don’t care what flag you’re waving
We don’t even want to know your name
We don’t care where you’re from or where you’re going
All we know is that you came
You’re making all our decisions
We have just one request of you
That while you’re thinking things over
Here’s something you just better do
Free the people now
Do it do it do it now
John Lennon, Bring on the Lucie (Freeda Peeple)