The current capitalist system has failed a lot of people and nobody sees an easy and practical way to fix it. So we are still careening down a slippery slope with a wishful thinking that somehow our foothold will catch or we will miraculously land in safety. Meanwhile, the casualty keeps piling up and being ignored on the sideline. It speaks to the stranglehold of capitalism on our everyday life and our existence, and the corrupting and damaging influence of money and profit on our civilization. However, if we choose to look and think carefully, we believe there has to be a way to turn this bad situation around.
When capitalism values and prioritizes money making potential, human capital only matters if it can create profit. However, money making potential is only one small piece of the human capital repertoire and we have been squandering way too much of the rest. Human capital is actually the most valuable, versatile, dynamic, reusable and renewable resource available to us. Humans are capable to think, adapt, change, learn, create, invent, improve, improvise, collaborate, share knowledge and responsibilities, teach, plan, solve problems, use judgment, tell right from wrong … on and on from an infinite list of known and unknown skills.
Humans are also endowed with the abilities to fix things that are broken and prepare for the future. Of course we are fallible too, but we can learn from our mistakes. These unique qualities are very powerful and almost make us invincible against all the odds in our history. Now that we have messed up the stable climate pattern that allows us to thrive and prosper, it is time to fix it without making the same mistakes again and prepare for the eventual and inevitable consequences of our past actions.
Technology cannot resoundingly overcome our climate change quagmire. Humans can. Technology is only one of our many tools. More importantly, human creativity knows no bounds. A creative mind is a powerful weapon, the power so potent that once harnessed can reshape every facet of our surroundings. To make things better or worse is our choice. We believe the key to any successful solution is to unleash the latent human potential to the fullest extent possible for a better world.
How can we go about to do that? We suggest a three-pronged approach that is human, humane and humanist. The human angle is obvious but complicated. Our current dire predicament is created by humans ourselves. By means of our collective human behavior of unfettered carbon pollution, we have brought onto ourselves this unintended dramatic consequence of long term persistent climate change that is going to harm us for decades if not centuries to come. The main human culprit is our innate weakness of self-interest exacerbated by greed that is enabled and exploited by the capitalist opportunists to adopt and pursue a capitalist economic system of endless production and consumption of goods powered by relentless burning of fossil fuels. There may be four offending prospects here: human self-interest and greed, capitalist opportunists and the capitalist economic system, endless production and consumption of goods and relentless burning of fossil fuels, but addressing the primary one, human self-interest and greed, is fundamental in shaping the other three.
To undo all the damages we have brought on ourselves has to begin with understanding our human nature with regards to human self-interest and greed. Climate change apocalypse is not compatible with human self-interest while avoiding it is, so there is a link that can realign them for good. After the link is established, there are ways and means to restructure and rearrange the capitalist economic system, the profiteering incentive and the money-centered motivation and reward for jobs. Once we are free from the ‘capitalist money leash’ and the ‘Hamster Wheel of Capitalist Progress,’ we can start rehabilitating old negative, destructive and harmful behaviors to be substituted with new positive, regenerative and benevolent practices, so that collectively, we can rise to the challenge of resolving all the problems we have created and of assuming our rightful place in nature to coexist peacefully and sustainably with all other life forms on Earth.
The humane angle centers on the aspects of humans favoring a socially cohesive living arrangement and as such, we should be kind and compassionate toward one another. We are hardwired to live in a hive, a flock, a community, a society. We are stronger as a group and healthier if we are connected with others. No man is an island and we benefit from each other, as in the African concept of ‘ubuntu,’ or “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity,” according to Wikipedia. Boyd Varty, the South African wildlife activist, defined ‘ubuntu’ as “I am, because of you. Or, people are not people without other people” and where “our own well-being is deeply tied to the well-being of others.”
In the current divisive and polarized political climate, especially in the U.S., we need to unite behind e pluribus Unum, Latin for ‘out of many, one,’ the traditional American motto, to forge a common solution to a common problem, no matter where you live in the world. Therefore, we have the responsibility to treat each other compassionately, fairly, equitably and humanely because we need one another. Dan Siegel, in his 2013 book titled Brainstorm, The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, also puts forward two apt ideas: the concept of ‘mwe,’ a combination of ‘me’ and ‘we’ that we are all profoundly connected; and this idea of integration and integrated identity of self, through the conscious process of linking different aspects and levels of our inner and interpersonal selves extending outward to all the people touching us, that can create “equanimity, compassion and emphatic joy within us, between us and among us.”
We cannot rely on a genetic lottery that predetermines most winners and losers at birth to generate leaders who will dictate and maneuver the future of our existence and civilization. We need every human to be able to fully develop his or her potentials and contribute his or her best for our continuous survival and prosperity successfully. As a matter of fact, we cannot afford to neglect even one single person. As much as humans have so much potential to do good things, they are as capable as doing bad things. The only way to prevent them from doing bad things is to give them no reason to do them in the first place, by upholding justice and treating everyone equally. As Lao Tzu said in Tao Te Ching, “Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself.”
The humanist angle is concerned with human interests, human values, human dignity, human curiosity, human reasoning, human fulfillment, human welfare, human possibilities and all things human as a species that are benevolent and have a higher purpose. We have to take advantage of the ethics and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, for the force of good. When humans are at our best, we can make the most wonderful and beautiful things happen. Being the most formidable force on Earth, we can attain the improbable, as much for good as for bad. What we value is important as it will direct the human race toward either a good ending or a bad ending. That is why we have to make sure that we value and measure the right things, definitely not money but goodness, and definitely benefiting not just for a few but the masses.
Capitalism values profit and has no moral standards. It does not care, other than the bottom line, about how many lives it can save, how many hungry mouths it can feed, how much human suffering it can erase, how many people it can help, how much public good it can do to protect the people and the environment, etc. Humanism does. It is our humanist selves that lift us above our primitive origin that still prevails in the wild animal kingdom, catapult us to the top of the food chain and allow us to rule the rest of the natural world. Now, we will look to our humanist selves with our continuous inherent drive toward self-actualization and creativity to lead us out of our current quagmire.
Let us imagine what if…