To Serve (“How to Save the World” + A Socialist’s Manifesto)

May 22nd, 2010

[Aside from video games, I'm also very interest in language, culture and politics. The article below observes these interests and some rather important global issue. It's a little rough and generalis-y, but please do enjoy.]

My graduation ceremony, the systematic stage walk met with a robotic handshake and an autopilot “congratulations” by the Vice Chancellor, was not the happy day it should have been. I promised myself that I’d be out of the country long before March and here I was, sitting uncomfortably and watching a hundred visual arts students graduating into a field which this town could not afford them. Plus, my mortarboard, like all hats which aren’t beanies or custom made, ate my fringe and made my boofy mullet puff out so I look like a student about to graduate out of clown college.

Prior to the mass walk, the Vice Chancellor and an invited guest make their notoriously dull speeches. The Vice Chancellor’s speech was an expected pitch for the success and credibility of the university. The guest speaker, Dr John Adams (I think), however, gave a rather light-hearted “Save the World” message and in that stressed the importance of serving others. He said something along the lines of, “spending our lives serving others is the greatest form of fulfilment”—and I think he’s absolutely right. Without selflessness, we are very little.

I’ve been thinking about Dr Adam’s speech, and pondering the ways in which I can be of service to others and ultimately how to save the world! When talking about dramatic movement and mobilisation of a people for positive change, the first place to look is power; who has power and what are they doing with it? In this world, global capitalism is the system which distributes power, therefore the kings of capitalism are the people in power. That is the conglomerates, corporations and banks; it is these organisations which govern us.

Capitalism, as a market-driven system, gives power to those who find financial capital through business and then use this capital to acquire more capital and more power. It is a system which survives on continual economic advancement. The ultimate ends for a capitalist system is therefore to have the wealthy, powerful businessmen gobble up their contemporaries until the world is ruled by a single entity which governs a mass working under minimum conditions. This is, of course, the best way to maximise profit. Since profits are the sole imperative, anything that can be bought and sold for the sake of profit, including the environment and human livelihood, will eventually become commodities. Since capital provides power, it is easy for those with capital to use their capital to gain even more capital and more power, while those without power continue to struggle as the potential for them to gain a financial foothold diminishes. Furthermore, ist is easy for prime capitalists to persuade governments, the media and social bodies to assist in ensuring that their power is maintained. This is why our society seems to think everything is fine while we’re living in a world which worships celebritism, live off processed food and work meaningless jobs which feed “the man”’s bottom line and not our own humanity. Capitalism cannot be quelled by regulation and legislation. It is a cannibalistic system that aids those with power and not those without. Capitalism undemocratically distributes power to those who can manipulate it to gain more power (rather than “one person, one vote”). This is unjust.

Social justice, I feel, requires capitalism and its respective power structures to be dismantled and for a new system, which is built around workers and needs, instead of competition, to be built in its place. I’m an ardent socialist, so I figure that a socialist model is both selfless and democratic. Aside from need-based services, I don’t like state ownership. China calls itself a socialist country, but its socialist aspects are those which facilitate the CCP’s fascist rule over the media and other bodies. This is clearly unjust.

By allowing workers to own the means of production and company profits going towards production and the workers instead of the market place, you have a system which spreads power amongst the workers and works only to improve the conditions of the employees. The most successful businesses will be the ones which earn more money to best look after their employees. And we all know that happy, productive workers leads to a more successful business. There’s nothing fascist about this system (aside: it gives power to a working mass, how can it be?!), such claims are based on false extremities which liken socialism to communism, for which it is not. Those who work harder or work higher ranks (like a CEO) should earn their keep above an average worker. One of the criticisms of socialism is that taxing of the rich is unfair. (This is a very individualistic assertion, but it is true that socialist taxing closes the gap between rich and poor. It is in this sense similar to communism, but communism does not allow for varying levels of income, whereas socialism does). However, looking after the poor is in the interest of the whole nation. A reduction in poverty stamps out crime, the drug trade, poor housing and low unemployment rates. If you earn a stupendous amount of money, more than any normal person really needs, then you should be highly taxed. There is no justifiable reason that a society should tolerate CEOs, executives and celebrities earning millions and millions of dollars, when other parts of society don’t have access to food or housing. A socialist system governed under these rules of “spreading the wealth around”, is a system which distributes power more fairly.

This is all well and good for a lefty like myself to say, but what about changing the world, Dan? Good point. There’s not much I can do to influence change. At the moment, I’m pretty honed in on China, and for good reason. I love Deng XiaoPing for opening China to the world in 1978, but he did so by reforming capitalist values into China’s economic system. Capitalism was all well and good in an economically developing America for a couple of decades, but as China’s changes since 1978 have proven: Capitalism in a developing country with over a billion people (lest we throw in India too) is an accelerated form of global suicide.

The signs are very, very telling when one visits China, particularly the large cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Chinese society is dominated by class, pertinent to status symbols representative of wealth. China’s middle class are on an intoxicating high, just as America’s middle class were after the war, whereas beggars melt their hands to stubs to gain sympathy amongst the rattle of jewellery that clammers in the street from passers-by. The divide between rich and poor is unbelievable and has inflated astronomically since 1978. China’s mega cities are blanketed in grey, giving credence to the totalitarian regime assumed by the wider west. Going to China is like taking a peek into the future run on accelerated capitalism, and it’s very scary.

The American people will solve their problems. However Obama deals with de-establishing capitalist power in America (and lord knows that the challenge is massive), I think that he will slowly reform the country for the better. China faces a much longer road to freedom and there is more problems in China than just capitalism (including human rights, environmental degradation and overpopulation).

I would say that “knowledge is power”, but the truth is that most Chinese sense the injustice. In contrast to what most foreigners think, the Chinese aren’t stupid. They know what’s going on. They just choose to remain passive about it. The Chinese are much freer now than they’ve ever been, so why ruin a good thing? Furthermore, the Chinese are oppressed, even though they want change, every Chinese person I know believes that the people cannot create change. They believe that the CCP has more power than a billion people. I know, that’s pretty ridiculous, isn’t it?

Think about it. Imagine for a second if a movement was started, distributed online, where people would not go to work for one day as an act of silent protest. If even 1 million people took up this cause, it would some gain traction. Hell, the government can’t arrest 1 million people. A movement could bring about vast and rapid change.

I don’t intend to start a movement. It would probably get me killed, if not booted out the country for good, and I certainly don’t want to live and work in Hong Kong. I can’t change the minds of over a billion people. The Chinese have to realise this within themselves and the best way that I can help is to teach them English.

Embedded within language are value systems. Chinese Mandarin holds the values of face, ingroup relations and social kinship. As such English education is a gateway to the western world and a conduit to our most defining ideal: democracy. Assimilation of English into China is the assimilation of a value system; it is a stealthy penetration of alternative views, something which the CCP has almost entirely made absent in mainland China. If the English language weren’t attached to capitalism there would be little chance of disseminating alternative views in China, so we have to seize this opportunity to allow China to once again become globalised (before the Revolution, China was surprisingly multicultural), and change will shortly follow.

This is how I will change the world. I will take the world’s biggest problem and transform it into the solution. Spreading English throughout China will over time allow the Chinese to understand the West and from that learn from our mistakes and abandon the capitalist system which the country is currently using to the grave injustice of millions upon millions of Chinese people and detriment to our environment.