It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. My last semester of undergrad work, and probably my last semester of college overall, has just gotten underway and I’ve been getting back into the swing of things with school. I walk a lot, and the past couple of days I’ve been listening to the audio version of Crimethinc‘s manifesto, Days of War, Nights of Love (buy the book or download the audio) and the discussion on capitalism, competition and a scarcity economy sent me off on a tangent. The authors write:
The truth is that there are simply not enough job openings for everyone to be a rock star or a syndicated cartoonist; somebody has to work in the factories to mass produce the records and newspapers. If you don’t become the next world-famous basketball star, and end up selling athletic shoes in a mall instead you must not have tried hard enough… so it’s your fault if you’re bored there, right? … Rather than all competing to be the one at the top of the corporate ladder or the one in a million lottery winner, we should be trying to figure out how to make it possible for all of us to do what we want with our lives… Thus capitalism centers everyone’s values around what the have rather than what they do, by making them spend their lives competing for the things they need to survive and achieve social standing.
In so much we do we take on the mindset that “there’s only so much X to go around, so I have to get the most I can. I have to get as close to the top of the hierarchy as possible, or else someone else will get more and use it against me.” It’s a competition and scarcity-economy based mindset. Living in a capitalist and materialist society where “stuff” is the primary god and “stuff” is finite, it is easy to see why this mindset is in place. When worth is determined by hierarchical status and acquisition of “goods” (how good are they?) then the competitive drive is what pushes you toward survival and beyond to comfort. As much as I dislike it, I can understand why such a view of the world can be beneficial within our system.
But so often we don’t limit the hierarchical/scarcity worldview to the realms of material possessions. It bleeds over into abstract concepts and emotions. You love Jim, so you can’t love Jane. That would displace Jim from his place in the hierarchy and take away the finite amount of love he gets. I don’t think anyone really believes love is finite, but when it comes to sharing love beyond the elevation of the single person to status of lover, then the hierarchical/scarcity mindset automatically kicks in. Fear takes over and there is a scramble to stop this loss of the good of love and maintain the place at the top of the love hierarchy.
And of course it doesn’t stop there. I remember telling one of my friends how physically beautiful she was to me, and she was flattered, even though she did not trust in her own beauty. Over time she became aware that I find extraordinary amounts of beauty in extraordinary amounts of people. When we came back to the topic of my finding her beautiful she remarked that it meant very little since I thought so many people were beautiful. By finding X, Y and Z beautiful, I was taking away from the amount of beauty L had, at least in her eyes. Beauty is valued, and since we are so conditioned to think hierarchically then the one who is beautiful is at the top of the beauty pyramid. When the definition of beauty, or rather, the recognition of beauty is expanded, then there is no pyramid to be on top of. In the hierarchical/scarcity mindset, this devalues the beauty of any one person by not making it the pinnacle of beauty. To this way of thinking, something is only valuable because of its rarity.
Love is valuable because it is.
Beauty is valuable because it is.
Neither can be ranked. Neither is finite! As long as we keep applying this pyramid scheme to things outside our economy all we will do is hurt ourselves and damage each others self-worth.
Come to think of it, that’s what we do when we apply it within our economy as well.