The Simplest Antidote to Capitalism
For centuries, we have embraced capitalism. It has grown out of proportion and we know we control it by - rebuilding cities from scratch, restructuring businesses worldwide, and reorienting government policies.
“These capitalists generally act harmoniously and in concert, to fleece the people.”- Albert Einstein
But these overhauls would be impossible due to vehement opposition by corporations. It's next to impossible to fight with powerful classes of the society.
But, as you know, impossible itself says ‘I am possible’.
I am no economist or reformist or urban planner. I am just a designer, who knows how each small decision influences the whole.
Speed Thrills, but Kills
Every day, there is a new record being set, new invention being unveiled, new boundaries being explored.
But we are paying a grave price for our maddening quests. We are no longer sure if our data is private while using a service. We no longer fully research the ill-effects of new technologies. And we haven’t even rectified our past technological mistakes. But we still push through - for quick profits.
What if we slow down this thrill? Not turn-yourself-into-a-tortoise slow.
But just enough to bring back our senses. Just enough to know what matters. Just enough to think.
In a global poll by Gallup, only 13% of employees said they were highly engaged in their jobs. If you are among the remaining 87%, ask yourself which is better:
Running for success and questioning your unhappiness every day? Or slowing down to figure out what real success means?
In haste, we go for what everybody else wants, and fight over the same resources and opportunities. This approach makes us focus on 1 thing, and blinds us to the other 99 things.
Imagine the diversity of careers when 87% people put passion above Monday morning-blues. We’d have more Astrophysicists, Neurobiologists, Art Therapists, Wildlife Economists, Food Scientists, and other cool professionals. At times of distress, we would be equipped to tackle any problem by thinking through multiple angles, instead of relying on technology alone.
And since employees turn into specialists, they can demand higher salaries from their employers. Countries would flourish through widened sources of economic and intellectual growth.
The Myth of Consumerism
For the first time in history, factories started producing goods more than masses could consume. But we can't stop production because the prices wouldn't remain low.
And thus, Industrial Revolution gave birth to Consumerism.
Wikipedia defines consumerism as “a social and economic order that encourages acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts”.
Consumerism, contrary to what generally is thought of, doesn't benefit consumers.
Rather, it is just another term for burning a hole in your pocket, with your consent.
How do they do it?
Catchy marketing tactics and advertisements to target your insecurities.
Add new unnecessary features to well-functioning products.
Start new trends in fashion so that perfectly useful clothes and jewellery is discarded.
Purposefully manufacture a weak component in a product so that it fails fast.
Charge hefty prices to repair damaged component to increase sales of the latest product.
Set expiry dates way before the item goes stale.
Announce jaw-dropping 50%-70% off sales to clear old stocks.
Look around, can you count all the commodities you rarely use?
The only practical solution is to slow down and make thoughtful purchases.
With time, informed consumers will force businesses to divert their marketing fund to Design and Research departments. Instead of trashing the earth, corporates will focus on providing truly innovative solutions.
Heroes by Dopamine
We engage in numerous activities regularly:
play video games,
scroll through fashion, news, social media apps
Because its “dope”. Really!
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released by the brain after delightful experiences. It’s being exploited to get us hooked onto applications.
The problem begins when other physical and mental activities start getting neglected. And when entertainers are payed millions for being the ‘torch bearers of the society’. The rest of us who feed, teach, heal, fight, etc subside into darkness.
No wonder we are not well-equipped to fight when a crisis like COVID-19 strikes.
The alternative is to slow down, manage your time and not drown in the sea of easily available dopamine.
Eucalyptus versus Banyan
Capitalism uses 3 main tools to drive sales– intense competition in workplace, consumerism, and high levels of dopamine. These tools work best when we get overwhelmed, and are unable to think.
We are becoming dumber than our previous generation. Recent studies conducted in Denmark, Norway and the United Kingdom show that average IQ is declining, after rising constantly since 20th century.
Capitalism in many ways is like eucalyptus trees. Despite its medicinal cures, it’s a curse onto everything around - depletes soil nutrients and water, doesn’t let other plants grow, intoxicates animals, catches fire easily, etc. And because it rapidly grows tall, its weak roots can easily be uprooted.
On the other hand, banyan trees grow slowly and are rooted firmly. They support other forms of life. They have longer lives and provide medicinal benefits. They are tough to beat. It is the national tree of India and considered to be very sacred.
How will our civilization be transformed if we followed Banyan-ism?
People will gravitate towards meaningful activities that strengthen them, and the society at large. Instead of becoming burdensome dopamine addicts, they become beacons of knowledge. Diversity in professions would put an end to densely populated cities. We will naturally spread out for residing near varied demanding work locations. Inventions will be well researched from every angle before introducing it into the market.
In short: Less atrocities. More development.
We are lucky to be able to grow a Banyan from a Eucalyptus by just slowing down. And if we don't slow down, remember what Gilbert K. Chesterton said , "Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists."
Think about it.