So you say that capitalism is the problem. And when I say capitalism, I do not speak of those who wish to achieve success from their own labor but those who achieve success by exploiting the labor of others. The only real solution to that in my experience is to stop being a capitalist, stop rewarding those who are capitalists. This is not easy. In fact, it damn well may be impossible to escape the capitalist system entirely. But it is not impossible to find ways to withdrawal support from the system. And the more you practice it, the more alternatives you will find. You will find these alternatives not to be sacrifices but far superior ways of relating to the world than the purely financial relationship you now have with it.
The more you follow a different path from the one capitalism has blazed, the more you stand out as a model for something different. The more joy you experience apart from the corporate capitalist model, the more attractive alternatives will appear to others who find themselves miserable and desperate in a model that offers no hope or joy, but only fear and desperation. A capitalist system offers many rewards — status, physical comfort, a sense of accomplishment, a sense of superiority — but it will never grant you joy or connection. If you are able to be happy without the so-called rewards that capitalism provides, if you are able to feel secure without living in a gated community, if you can feel you are successful and your life has meaning without driving an expensive vehicle, if you are able to find hope in the future without millions in investments to fall back on, you are giving lie to the dream that capitalism offers.
I have experienced it in my own life. When I’ve dared to walk outside the lines society has proscribed, I’ve reconnected to life in simple but amazing ways. And when I step outside the lines, I am often congratulated by others who don’t like the way things are and are looking for different ways of doing things. More than that, I start to build bonds of community with those who think likewise, so that together we are able to build further alternatives. Not only that, in walking a path outside the mainstream, I come across those whose examples humble me. I am inspired by the actions and commitment of ordinary everyday people. People whose efforts I would never even notice if I had not begun to stray from the path that has been well-paved for us.
In all my life, I have never felt myself to be a part of a larger community. A large part of the reason for that is because I’ve never really felt that I myself have had something to share with others. That is why it is necessary to work on oneself rather than find solutions in systems. Find ways in which you can live a life of meaning, and you will find ways to connect with others on meaningful levels. Find the strength and power and beauty in yourself and you will for the first time be able to fully appreciate the strength and power and beauty others around you exhibit every day. Once-ordinary people will begin to reveal their inner heroic nature to you. Life will begin to take on a nobler aspect. It will no longer be a game of survival but an inspired vocation.
When you find yourself, you find community. When you find happiness, it cannot but spill out into the world at large. Because the greatest feeling in the world is love, and that is not a feeling we can keep to ourselves. Love is a feeling that reaches out to the entire world, but it comes from the inside of each of us. Oh, and you can’t buy love. You can buy admiration, approval, envy, sycophancy, and obedience, but those aren’t the same thing.
A cynic will tell you there is no such thing as love, that the rewards wealth brings are the closest thing you’ll get in this life. A cynic is never happy. A cynic does not believe happiness is possible, and to prove it he will do whatever is necessary to prove himself right, believing that being right will make him feel better. It never does.
Where does love fit into the capitalist model? It is the purchase of a piece of jewelry, the ability to reward loyalty, the need to acquire wealth so that we can attract people to admire us. This is not love, this is fear and attempts at manipulation. This is an unfulfilled desire for love playing out. Love is the recognition that we are part of the universe. It is allowing the joy others experience to heighten our own joy. The capitalist’s need for acquisition and dominance has at its root the fear that we are ultimately detached and alone from the world and every living thing, that the world is essentially hostile to us. This feeling may spur accomplishment and success, but it will never bring happiness, contentment, joy. Joy can only be experienced accompanied by the sense that we are not at war but at peace with the world.
There are two paths we can walk. We can work towards deeper connectivity with the world, or we can find our place within a system where we allow ourselves to be dominated and manipulated by some so that we can in turn dominate and manipulate others. We can be motivated by our fear that there is no such thing as love and that we must do whatever we can to provide for ourselves, or we can be motivated by the faith that we are part of this vast and beautiful universe and will find meaning and connectivity by being a part of it. Broken down to its essence, we can either choose fear or faith and joy. If you’ve ever permitted yourself to feel either fear or joy honestly, there really can be no doubt which is the decision to be made.