I find myself to be of a similar school of thought as Subcommandante Marcos of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), a revolutionary organization based in the mountainous Chiapas region of southern Mexico. Rather than initiate violent resistance, the EZLN have preferred to wage a propaganda war against the corrupt Mexican government for the benefit of that country’s impoverished indigenous people. (Although nonviolent, the group is armed — they’re not stupid.) As a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I prefer to fight with ideas, and like a good argument. The problem that I and other content creators like me face is that large corporations have the means to access the largest possible audience, while small, independent publishers — despite the Internet — do not often have such reach. To attempt to convince somebody of your point of view, you must first get them to listen.
Various factions have long been fighting a war of ideas, which is a conflict mostly based in ideological struggles that were clarified during the 20th century. A vastly oversimplified but useful way to look at it is this: On one side of this struggle is a highly refined system of wealth accumulation, capitalism, that while modernized and streamlined is quite an old idea, created as ancient forms of mercantilism merged with 19th-century industrialism, colonial expansion, and 18th century market philosophies (e.g. Adam Smith). On the other side are a disjointed hodgepodge of liberals, various flavors of Democratic Socialists, Communists, environmentalists, and social justice advocates, all of whom (whether they know it or not) are very influenced by the writings of Karl Marx, who in the midst of the 19th century Industrial Age pointed out that capitalism was inherently unfair, a rigged game.
Modern neoliberal capitalism is a hybrid, a Frankenstein’s monster that takes the worst elements of various social and economic ideas and supercharges them into a steroid-enhanced greed machine that sucks up capital and leaves only rubble in its wake. Capitalism is inherently anti-democratic, as it gives those with money more power than those who only vote (a situation which the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision greatly strengthened).
It is a literal crime against humanity that a system exists which by design keeps a majority of humans in poverty; more than 80% of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day. How is this acceptable? Simple: Since many of us don’t see or experience poverty, we can ignore it. The world’s media keep us inside a bubble that prevents us from understanding the scope of the problem. We aren’t exposed to visuals of poverty, because it’s not seen as newsworthy; and since such poverty is unrelenting, if it given proper news coverage the images would never change — not good television. As a recent example, the streams of Syrian refugees pouring into Europe have been impossible to ignore, and so almost every major country has been forced to acknowledge the issue or directly help. And I believe that we should assist these refugees because the United States (and by extension, every one of its citizens) is partially at fault for creating the problem; aside from the fact that America has meddled in Syrian politics for decades, Syria’s agricultural system collapsed in large part due to global climate change, which led to civil war.
Climate change is the biggest crisis we’ve ever faced as a species, because other than its alarming direct effects, it also creates thousands of subsidiary effects that we can’t know until they happen — like Syria. These problems are inescapable, and increasingly costly in terms of cash, resources, and human lives. We can’t buy our way out of it, and meat-addicted, car-driving, iPhone-using consumer culture is right at the source of the problem. We’re killing ourselves through shopping and leisure.
As Subcommandate Marcos said: “It is war. A war against humanity. The globalization of those who are above us is nothing more than a global machine that feeds on blood and defecates in dollars.”
Read the original comic, Cattle Kate, in Women Outlaws #1
- The Death Train of the WTO, An official communique from Subcommadante Marcos, issued in 2003, which contains the above quote
- A Brief History of the East India Company on Wikipedia
- Not every colonialist was an asshole; read about the intrepid Mary Kingsley