Editor’s note: This is the ‘Letter from the Editor’ from this week’s newsletter. We have decided to republish it here. Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters so you receive them directly in your inbox.
The Australian election is just around the corner and I’ve got my head buried in political news, planning the editorial calendar and analysing media bias and fact distortion. Since the LNP (Australia’s version of the Republican Party and who is in control of the federal government) announced its budget, I have been thinking a lot about how Wealthy White Men of European Descent continue to control the political and economic narrative and set the political and economic agenda in Australia (and in fact, the Western world).
I have also been pondering on how capitalism is at a crossroads and needs to evolve as wealth is being concentrated more and more in the hands of a few and inequality is rising. The state of the economy and how it’s affecting people (with the rich getting richer on the one hand and on the other, people working more hours than ever before but not getting ahead financially because of stagnating wages, rising living costs etc) is why I am not at all surprised that the masses are fearful of ‘outsiders’ taking their jobs, and reacting by embracing protectionist policies and tougher immigration policies, and voting in ‘strongmen’ like Donald Trump and Jai Bolsonaro.
Now the basis of economic rationality is one key assumption: that the human behaves selfishly and always acts in his or her self-interest. The health of our economy is always measured in the way that “self-interested” humans behave with metrics such as gross domestic product (GDP), the monetary value of the the country’s modern ‘capital’ and other similar ‘success’ metrics. But as we know, measuring the economy is not the same as measuring the health of our societies, the health of our environment and the strength of our community’s social fabric. These are separate things.
Currently, there is very little (monetary) value given to altruistic behaviours in our economy; things such as childrearing, caring, volunteering etc. After all, our current system rewards those who are self-interested and exploit other humans and the Earth’s ‘natural capital’ and because the system is designed this way, it continues to perpetuate more of the same narcissistic, hedonistic, selfish, exploitative qualities that view people/planet through ‘quantification’ only. This system is also designed to push humans faster and more competitive, ignores ethics and ecosystems in pursuit of ‘self-interests’ (the accumulation of capital) and frowns on leisure and creative time that isn’t billed or billable. In this system, slowing down seems not an option.
Related Post: The Art of Slow Living: Chasing Less, Living More
But we’re living in the age of sustainability and the systems that have gotten us to this point will need to be questioned if we are to move our economies forward in a way that respects humans (and human health and well-being) and our natural environment. We need to start questioning the basic assumptions that make up the foundations of our economies.
Believing that we can improve the state of the world without changing the destructive nature of the man-made systems that govern it, is to be naive. Isn’t it better to roll up our sleeves and start doing some hard work on improving or finding better alternatives, then pretend that our individual ‘eco’ actions will actually change an unfair and unjust economic (and political) system?
- How to Challenge Neoliberalism’s Mantra of Consumerism and Infinite Growth to Save the Planet
- 10 Advocacy Dos and Don’ts to Help You Become a Better Social Justice and Environmental Advocate
- The ‘Sharing Economy’ Simply Dresses Up Our Consumerist Tendencies in a More Palatable Ideology
- The Triple Bottom Line and How It’s Transforming Capitalism
- Individuals in the Developed World Consume More of the Earth’s Resources. Here’s How to Consume Less…
All images via Shutterstock.