How we designed a world for our own collapse
Isn’t everyone an artist trying to express themselves on the canvas of life? In each stroke, we tend to paint our underlying thoughts and desires, which ultimately shapes our entire journey on this planet.
Similarly, do you agree that as a species, we have been painting every square inch of the planet based on capitalism?
The Design of Ancient cities
Mesopotamia nurtured the world’s first cities through the power of urbanisation. They considered religion as paramount. Magnificent temples were constructed in city-centre and served as a platform for all activities – grain distribution, festivals, ceremonies, etc. Rural immigrants settled on the periphery of the city.
In contrast, Egypt was devoid of large cities, and devoted time in constructing grand pyramids for their God-like Pharaohs.
Indus Valley civilization was agriculture based and shows no evidence of monumental structures or temples. Their cities resemble agricultural fields, with the citadel at a corner and houses within highly organised grids.
What is our civilization characterized by?
Colossal slums adorning the foot of towering skyscrapers.
Is it a coincidence that our graphs including COVID-19’s spread mirror the disproportionate reality of our civilization, the same way as our cities look from afar?
Industrial Revolution and the surge of Urban Population
Urbanisation is the mass movement of people to advanced settlements for better livelihood.
Industrial revolution was a game changer for economic development. It brought in millions of workers to operate their factories. People from far and near joined along in the drudgery for higher wages. The population in cities sky rocketed instantly.
Land owners swiftly utilised the opportunity to provide cheap filthy homes to the expanding worker community. Families were crammed into constricted damp places, where sunlight hardly reached. There were no sewer systems and no clean water supply. Epidemics were rampant. Millions died despite the rich getting richer.
It’s a grim irony that in search of betterment, workers became downtrodden.
Clusters of Everyday Life
Automobiles brought in a fresh set of problems. To escape the horrors of life near factories, people tucked their family away in distant houses. Suddenly, work and home couldn’t be alongside. This lead to clustering of residential areas and creation of Special Economic Zones for corporates.
Just think about your own city. Isn’t there a designated area for offices, colonies, amusement, or shopping? Even the shops selling electronic items, books, traditional clothes, etc are found in seperate streets.
Because economists believe that clusters increase economic productivity because resources can be shared among similar businesses that surround it.
But at what cost?
We have segregated each activity just for the sake of economy. Travel has become an essential part of living a human life. An Indian spends 1.5 hours of his day just commuting, on an average. Imagine the extremes of that average. I used to travel 2-2.5 hours every day to attend college.
Advancements in air travel meant larger clusters were forming at international level, instead of remaining city-wide.
For example, India and China are exploited for their cheap skilled workforce. America and Europe are known for their state-of-the-art technology. Budding entrepreneurs say America is the perfect incubator.
To satisfy our greed for more, we flock to other countries, just like our grandparents flocked to cities.
That's how travel has become the most powerful modes of spreading infectious viruses.
The Cost we continue to Pay
Ancient civilizations were based on varied interests – religion, administrative power, agriculture or trading. But now, every nation is concerned with just one interest – trading - selling of goods and services through consumerism.
Obsession over one aspect is overshadowing all other critical needs of our civilization.
Crony capitalism has created a haystack of dried humans so dense, that even a tiny spark of a virus has the ability to annihilate the complete haystack.
Below is the list of factors that directly aid the spread of COVID-19:
1% of earth’s land is occupied by a staggering 50% of the human population.
Extensive unnecessary travel – internally, and internationally.
In America, official data shows that 0.1% of population holds about same wealth as the sum of bottom 90% of population’s wealth. As newer generations join the workforce, it will get more and more difficult to own a decent house.
The unsustainable materials that we use are so robust that even a virus can survive on it for days.
For a clearer picture of how indirectly every decision is dictated by capitalists, check out the below video:
Concepts like 15-minute Paris and London of villages are being welcomed by urban planners. These ideas revolve around decentralisation of services so that citizens can avail them within a small radius. I think it’s a wonderful idea.
But it might not see the light of the day.
We celebrate companies that propel the stock market, not the NGOs working for society welfare. We value individuals who amass wealth by suppressing their own employees. We bow down to nations with the highest GDPs.
Our definition of success is intertwined with money like it’s the ultimate holy grail of our times.
We object to anything that hinders economic growth. And decentralisation is anti-clusterization. How will companies profit? Some say digitization is the way ahead. Employees can work remotely. But again, you just need one computer virus to wipe out everything.
Yesterday a millionaire, today a no one.
So how do we solve this labyrinth?
Find out in the next story how we could have designed a holistic world.