CHOICE AND SYSTEM FOR THE PLANET
A Holistic Common Sense Structure for
Liberation of All
without War Through the New Foundation for the New World Vision
Reigning in the Scourge of Extreme Capitalism
The Prophets of Greed and the Prophets of Wisdom
Writings by Charles Sullivan
The Ghosts of Misplaced Conscience
Everything about America is done to the max—super sized—including
ourselves. Americans are fond of excess, fond of glitz and glitter,
the bright beads and trinkets of capitalism; the symbols of
conspicuous consumption. Millions of us live in McMansions, drive
fast cars and hulking tanks and work at high stress glamorous jobs
that provide enormous financial reward but leave us spiritually
tell ourselves that these events signal that we have arrived and
achieved greatness worthy of respect and envy. They are a
declaration that we have played the game and won; that we have
acquired economic power that results in elevated socio-economic
status and disproportional influence over the lives of the less
successful; and those who have utterly failed or refused to
love to consume and waste with an appalling sense of entitlement.
Our lives are enacted amid heaping mounds of swelling garbage and
filth, while some of our fellow human beings pass lives of quiet
desperation in cardboard boxes beneath our nation’s highway bridges,
like beetles that move beneath the bark of trees: out of sight, out
of mind, inconsequential—or so we think.
It’s a jungle out there where only the fittest survive. Those who cannot compete must not survive to reproduce; they must be expelled from the gene pool. Modern capitalism is economic Darwinism carried to the extreme.
is a land of extraordinary contradictions. She has produced not only
George Bush and Dick Cheney but also George Carlin, Upton Sinclair,
Eugene Debs and Howard Zinn. This is a land of extremes; enigmatic
even to itself. It is a place of posh surroundings with all of the
amenities money can buy; but it is also a land of unknowable
hardship and destitution that often exists in close proximity to
Just as the continent holds lush temperate rain forests, so it also
harbors deserts where only the strong and well adapted survive the
harsh conditions of heat and drought and oscillating cold.
Surely the national pastime must be shopping, which has acquired the
stature of a genuine addiction; a disease on a par with alcoholism
and played with the passion of a competitive sport. Witness the
insanity of black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year where
people are annually trampled at the doors of Wal-Mart in the quest
for the latest incarnation of the X-Box. He with the most toys wins
and the losers are trampled underfoot, ground into dust. Possessions
matter more than people.
And we are a restless, fiercely competitive people—constantly on the
move; a people that cannot countenance open spaces or unmanaged
Hundreds of thousands of shopping centers and strip malls bear ample
testimony to our excess, as do the mountains of debt that rise out
of our spending habits like a newly spawned volcano swelling above a
rising column of molten magma. Eventually they will become our
gravestones—monuments to our lack of empathy and testaments to our
unbridled greed and contempt for the earth.
The developers cannot relax until every inch of the earth is
urbanized and paved and there is a McDonald’s and Wal-Mart on every
street corner; a development in place of every orchard and farm. We
cannot relax until everything wild and natural has been eradicated
or imprisoned in zoos and admission is charged. Imagine a continent
sized gated community for the well-heeled and the wealthy. The poor
and destitute need not apply.
More than democracy, more than liberty, more than life—give us our
shopping malls so that we can purchase happiness and fill our empty
lives with possessions. Our senses are incessantly assaulted by
merciless commercialism—we are programmed to consume and to be
consumed by our programmers in the advertising industry whose job it
is to plant the seeds of want in our all too receptive minds.
Conspicuous consumption is the cornerstone of mature capitalism and
no people in history have been more prominent consumers than we
Americans—as measured by the girth of our waistlines and the girth
of our mounting debt.
But as much as we are the products of Madison Avenue advertisers, we
are also products of arrested psychological and spiritual
development. We exhibit extreme pathologies because our lives are
not rooted in nature and community; nor are they rooted in reality.
Like spoiled adolescents, we have locked ourselves away with our box
of toys and we call the world our own. We are a danger not only to
ourselves but to the entire world. Quarantine should be drawn around
us lest we infect the rest of the world with our madness.
Oblivious to the consequences of our own excess, our sphere of caring rarely extends beyond the self and our immediate families to the communities in which we are embedded that in turn spill into the great world beyond. We have erected psychological and physical barriers that isolate us from the rest of the world which have given rise to pathological visions of grandeur and exceptionalism. And, like a run-away virus, we are replicating our madness to the rest of the world which is, thanks to the disciples of Milton Friedman, seeking to emulate our example.
Better the world turn away and run for their lives as if we were
infected with a new strain of pox or rabies. Better they should save
themselves and let us perish, as will surely occur when we are
consumed by the festering sewers of our swelling vanity.
call ourselves a free people but we are prisoners of our own petty
desires; prisoners of greed and excess and manufactured want; the
products of capitalism taken to the extreme—replicating with the
ease of cancer cells unrestrained by reason or empathy for others
and for the earth. The world cannot tolerate another America. She
cannot much longer sustain the one she already has. We have a carbon
footprint vastly disproportional to our numbers and we are not only
blotting out the sun; we are stamping out countless species of
plants and animals and casting them into the abyss of eternal
extinction. The ecological cost of our excess is incalculable.
go on as if there are no consequences to what we do, ignoring the
wolves baying at our door and the grim reaper peering at us through
the curtain. We tell ourselves they are only apparitions of
conspiracy theorists and alarmists, the ghosts of misplaced
Millions of Americans are experts at self-denial and delusional to
the extreme, while others are realists and components of active
resistance. But, cause and effect rarely enters our vocabulary.
History, science and ethics are not our strengths—we prefer to go
shopping or watching television, giving no thought to the kind of
world we are leaving our children and their off spring, much less
the offspring of other species. We hold that the universe turns on
its axis and we are its center; but it is not so.
a result of our excesses, terms such as ‘peak oil’ and ‘peak water’
have come into existence. Gluttony occurs on one end of the supply
chain at the expense of the other; just as food webs are affected by
events occurring at all parts of an ecological web the size of the
world. One cannot pluck a flower without also troubling a star. All
things are interconnected.
How easily we forget that commercial exuberance rests on the broken
bodies of the exploited worker; it rests on the scrolls of flora and
fauna that have been pushed out of existence because there isn’t
enough room for them and us with all of our precious, energy
Thus we live in a world that is not enriched by our example but is
diminished by us. Injustice is a byproduct of commercial exuberance
as manifested by declarations of superiority through class warfare
and other avenues of inequality. And it is felt in the dimly lit
sweatshop somewhere in the belching slums of industrialized China,
engulfed by the droning hum of sowing machines that never cease
behind bolted doors; and guided by gnarled hands attaching Nike
labels to athletic apparel destined for upscale Target and Macy’s
stores in the US.
True, capitalism has made cheap products available to the voracious American consumer; but it has also given the world preemptive war and famine, global corporatism, pestilence and wage slavery; it has stoked the fires of mass extinction, global warming and ecological collapse—all of which have acquired an unstoppable momentum of their own with unimaginable consequences that extend indefinitely into an already uncertain future. There are consequences to everything we do, just as there are consequences to inaction.
And this brings me to the main point of my essay: it cannot go on.
The age of exuberance—like the age of cheap oil—is mercifully
drawing to a close. So I will say what was never meant to spoken
aloud in the land of excess; and I will say it loud and clear so
that it cannot be mistaken: Americans must dramatically simplify
their lives to want less and learn more. We constitute less than
five percent of the of the world’s population while usurping more
than a quarter of her bounty. This is not acceptable—nor is it
No one has a moral right to take more than their fair share when that taking jeopardizes the chances of others of living a decent life, or makes nil their chances for survival—including other species.
The majority of our food should be locally grown and mass transit
must supplant the gluttonous and polluting automobile that
proliferates on our nation’s highways. Moratoriums on development
and urban sprawl must be enacted in order to protect critical
habitat and rainwater recharge areas. Cities and towns must be
redesigned and revitalized with sustainable industry. Goods and
services, including work and jobs must again, as they were n the
past, be rooted in vibrant, small scale local economies; and free
trade agreements revoked.
Technological advances—no matter how boldly they are touted as
saviors of humankind cannot increase the world’s carrying capacity
and they cannot invoke justice. The latter is entirely up to us as
sentient beings endowed with conscience. And this brings me to a
second point: we must reduce the human population through adoption
and cease to procreate for at least one generation—so that the earth
can recover her own carrying capacity. What better way to save the
Simultaneously simplifying our lives by wanting less and reducing
the human population will allow room for other people and other
beings to share the bounty of the earth. And it will almost
certainly have a beneficent rather than pathological social and
psychological consequence: it will end our isolation and reconnect
us to the rest of the world. We could finally realize our enormous
potential to become world citizens and good neighbors worthy of
respect and love.
Rather than an economy based upon savage greed and exploitation, let
us create an economy based upon justice and equality, need rather
than excess; a society that does not leave people behind but invites
the full participation of everyone and recognizes that, “An injury
to one is an injury to all.” Let it be all inclusive and worthy of
respect: where every woman, man, and child, every being of this
earth is the same under the law and equally respected and valued—a
great global community seeking harmony rather than competitive
the end, equality is beholden to the system we choose. Did we ask
that the world be run on the profits of greed, or the prophets of
wisdom? Where was that democratic choice? The profits of greed have
given us voracious greed, consuming everything in sight; but they
didn’t give us a choice; they took away our freedom and made us into
lesser beings. But, if we are to muster ourselves to call ourselves
Human one last time, where the prophets of wisdom really did have
something to say, where people and the planet are put before profits
in the Golden Rule, and where we have one large collective foot
standing on the profit of greed then maybe, maybe YES we will turn
this thing around:
Charles Sullivan is a nature photographer, free-lance writer, and
community activist residing in the Ridge and Valley Province of
geopolitical West Virginia. He welcomes your comments at
Henry Thoreau and the Patrons of Virtue
|© 2005 Planetization|