Death can be very painful and confusing. This is true for economic systems just as it is for personal loved ones. Moving on is just a hard thing to do.
It’s really tough to work through all the difficult feelings we have about loss. Will I see my grandmother again? What am I to do now that my father is gone? How does this change who I am as a person?
The same struggles we feel losing a family member are present — in their own way — as a society goes through the deep rifts of change when a paradigm comes to an end. How will I find work now that there are no living-wage jobs? What should I study in school? Should I even go to college? Does it make sense to start a family in a world where global warming is changing everything?
Questions like these are painfully real. And every single one of us alive today has to find our own answers.
So let me ask just one more… will the 7.4 billion humans alive today be capable of letting capitalism die with dignity? I’ve been writing a lot lately about how the pain we feel is capitalism dying, that the mental disease of shame and humiliation is due to late-stage capitalism, how a healing process is needed, and the brokenness we feel in our own lives is what makes it possible to seed a better future.
What I haven’t written about — until now — is the flip side of this massive upheaval. In order to create something new, we have to let go of a dying world order. And death is painful. It hurts a lot.
Many people aren’t ready to admit to themselves that the capitalist system we are living in has created mass poverty, unprecedented wealth inequality,systemic corruption, and is damaging the ecological systems of the Earth so much that our civilization is in peril. The drive for monetary profits — greed in its purest form — is literally killing us. So we have a choice to make. We either cling to the death and decay within ourselves and go down with the sinking ship. Or we do the hard spiritual work of facing death with loving grace and let it go, freeing ourselves to begin the long process of building a new life for ourselves.
The harsh truth is that there is no turning back now. It’s too late to “get back to better days”, a pattern of denial that refuses to acknowledge that things have fundamentally changed. While many people still cling to the past — as we can see in the current US election where many want to keep outsiders at bay, hold onto outdated ideals, and return to a prior time that only exists in their minds — it is essential for us all to wake up and look around.
Everything has changed. And it is only changing faster, with an intensity unlike anything that has come before. None of our ancestors lived on a planet at ecological capacity. No one has seen the collapse of ocean fisheries, or watched global markets crash with spectacular consequences, as we are seeing today. We are now in the crucible of change. Natural disasters strike urban centers that grew exponentially in the last hundred years. Our feet are stomped down on the accelerator as we race into the future whose past will not be an adequate guide.
Can we do it? I believe we can.
My optimism is hard-won. I have stood next to my dying mother and held her hand as the last quiver of life faded away. I have buried family and friends, standing over cold graves on frozen earth. My heart has broken many times before and somehow in those dark trials I’ve found new resolve to carry on that I scarcely suspected might hide deep inside of me.
I suspect that many of you have felt this too. We have all experienced loss. It is this part of our lives that can guide us forward. We can feel into the uncertainty and pain. We can find ourselves in the most unexpected of places. And we can carry on.
When we do this, we might even discover that the future is better than the past. That a world that doesn’t hoard money confused for wealth, a world that doesn’t see nature as a body to be raped and spoiled, a world that treats all human beings as worthy of dignity (not just those in our own tribe)… such a world is possible. Yet it is not inevitable. It must be intentionally built brick by brick.
And that work of building a new world cannot properly begin until we let go of a dying past and move on.
Onward, fellow humans.