Early in the year 2020, the dysfunctional socio-economic system we are all trapped in (ie the capitalist mode of production) was given its most profound shock ever. Within weeks the whole system of global production, distribution and consumption was exposed by a virus as being unfit for ensuring the health and safety of humanity as a whole. The ‘normal’ working of the capitalist economic system not only released the dangerous Covid-19 pathogen into commercial networks, but rapidly transported it into every corner of the globe. But by thinking within the box (ie within the existing ‘mode of production’) practically everything the systems governing elites did, made the situation worse.
A too-late lock-down, a too-soon ending of lock-down, a botched supply of PPE, testing, etc., the list of incompetent and omitted actions is considerable. The government support for salaries and wages during lock-down was a rare exception of alternative thinking. Yet knowing the virus needed human to human transmission, within a few months, the pro-capitalist elites everywhere began suggesting (in some cases compelling) working people to go back to work and socialise. In other words the capitalist form of ‘business as usual’ thinking required the calculated spreading of the deadly virus among communities – again!
These outcomes (including second Covid-19 waves) were predictable. Capitalist-centred elites could do no other than what they have done! The whole shape and purpose of the global economic system is a product of the capitalist mode of production, guided by its male-orientated elites. Consequently, their way of thinking and acting in any crisis reflects no other practical purpose than conserving the existing system. The socio-economic structure of capitalism, including the language and thinking they (and we) we have been taught to use, is based upon what is best for the elite males in production, commerce, governance and politics.
To expect them to think differently and act upon what is best for humanity as a whole is at best naive.
A crisis of the magnitude triggered by Covid-19, requires a different way of acting and thinking, but this change will not come from those who currently dominate capitalist societies. Historically, the elite male-centred view we are conditioned to accept, is most glaringly expressed in patriarchal religions, where the real world is considered an imperfect copy of the perfect creation of an all powerful male god. If the reader has never seriously questioned religion (or any other aspect) of our male-dominated cultures, that merely indicates that the critical thinking circuits of our brains have been seriously neglected. Yet the reader knows that the human brain is excellent at imagining things which could never actually exist or ever existed outside of the human brain.
Hence, an invisible male super being – who must be worshipped and served – is a taken for granted god, not simply an intellectual reflection of the socio-economic status of men.
It is clear that ideas and perceptions – even obviously false ones – can take on a permanence even when reliable, independent evidence for them is completely lacking. Without a shred of independently confirmed evidence, humans can be conditioned to believe practically anything – providing there is sufficient incentive or authoritative pressure. Yet, now more than ever, everything promoted by all elites needs to be questioned.
The danger of borrowing our thinking from within a male-focussed capitalist system is obvious. When women and men have been educated to think along male-determined, rather than humanist lines, it becomes easier to be led down paths which are detrimental to humanity in general. During 20th century socio-economic crisis periods, for example, people were persuaded to follow, Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini and Mao – just to mention a few of the many examples. The path these ruthless male-centred, dualistic thinking men led people down ended in genocidal brutality.
Dualism, is a typical male-determined way of thinking. It views the physical and intellectual world via a series of fixed opposites. In dualistic thinking, opposed distinctions are everywhere. Thus for dualistic thinkers there are good and bad people. Good people are never bad and bad people are never good and no one moves between. Most of us know that reality renders that view false, but that doesn’t mean it is no longer used. Good and bad categories are common ‘borrowed‘ ways of viewing contemporary social reality and are rarely challenged. Take the example of the dualistic opposites of black and white and their frequent prejudiced association with good and bad.
Leaving aside paint pigments, very few things in the real world are actually black or white and that includes the skin colours of human beings. Yet that does not mean that these false (and now highly politicised) opposites, including their associated dualisms of good and bad are avoided. The associated idea of ‘race’, as a further example, stems from a dualistic male-centred view of humanity. Racist ideology was invented and used mainly by men to convince both the enslaved and the enslavers that slavery was logical and just. Of course the ideology was not universally convincing, but it convinced enough to become a significant strand of the framework of empires and their subject people’s.
In the 21st century, it is still possible to hear comments such as; ‘I am proud of my race‘; ‘you are disrespecting/oppressing my race’, etc. Even 20th century European legislation forbidding discrimination, utilises the term as in ‘race relations’, ‘racial discrimination‘, etc. The continued use of the concept of race – no matter who perpetuates it – denies two important realities. First, it contradicts the real existence of our common humanity and second, it ignores the fundamental features of human biology.
The success of racial ideology – as a contemporary social force – is not down to fundamental evidence in support of it, but to the fact that – a sufficiently large number of people have accepted it as ‘fact’ and acted upon it.
On this elite male-invented foundation was erected a shaky intellectual scaffolding of black and white races and the idea that power over other humans is a product of skin colour. Yet in fact the real tap root of human power over other humans is obviously not a persons skin colour, but the prevalence of male domination. Male power over females and children and over people’s, communities and nations (ie patriarchy) is the defining characteristic of all human ‘civilisation’ – so far! And this ‘power’ is exercised irrespective of differences in skin pigmentation. So too in the case of the patriarchal development of capitalism and the power that provides. Male power over women and children is universal and exists among all skin shades.
Likewise, capitalists – of all skin shades – along with their ‘law enforcers’, are employed precisely to consolidate economic and social power over their wage-slaves – and do so.
In the present crisis, to criticise only one form of oppression and avoid challenging the ubiquitous existence of male and capitalist oppression in general, suggests a failure to escape bourgeois patriarchal ways of thinking. It also represents a failure to understand and reject the entire content of the box labelled ‘the capitalist mode of production‘. Yes ‘dark – skinned lives matter’ is an important rallying call for an end this particular form of human discrimination, but unless we (and its advocates) make it an integral part of a wider revolutionary-humanist movement – where we assert that all lives (animal and human) matter – whatever their skin colour – it will remain a one-sided demand to be ignored or watered down by the very ‘male power elite’, to whom it is addressed.
Roy Ratcliffe ( August 2020)