some things are disappearing and we should care


“We have the ability to construct our own futures, albeit not the circumstances of our own choosing. Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they make it under circumstances directly encountered, given and transmitted from the past.”

Karl Marx


“I don’t really care about stuff, but it isn’t really about stuff is it?

No. It generally isn’t about the stuff. Even when it is. And even when the motivator is greed. Really just about having. Marking out your territory, making it bigger and bigger, and giving yourself more corners to put your stake in the ground as though more and bigger will protect you from, well, the sense that you can’t really control anything. So maybe ‘more’ is what protects you from the lack of control.”

SJ Rozan

I have stated a number of times Capitalism is simply a framework within which people make choices and decisions, therefore, we shouldn’t be discussing ‘the system’, but rather be focused on people and their attitudes and behaviors. That said. Systems do have power and do have influence and do inform how people shape attitudes and behaviors, i.e., institutional will. With that in mind, I will say that Capitalism over time has made some things disappear – and we should care.  Please note that while I discuss disappearances, in all instances there are forces on the edges fighting back, creating mini-systems to protect some things from totally disappearing.

Which leads me to larger systems.

When larger systems become more embedded, functionally as well as in people’s minds as “the way,” things begin to disappear. The biggest thing may actually be what people, naturally, collectively stand for. What I mean by that is the system subverts what people would do on their own to what the system suggests everyone should stand for. So, while the system makes some human instincts disappear, it also actually subverts actual beliefs. For example, Capitalism may despise the idea of the inequality, but usually participants success depends on it. Yeah. The larger system claims equality, but in effect is based on competition and as capitalistic competition develops, inequality grows and the moral failings and foibles expanded creating extremes n winners and loser. Now. the system can’t admit that so it cloaks inequality with identity bullshit encouraging micro-cultural-identity battles so they each compete and neutralize each other. Class struggle is replaced by cultural struggle, characterized by stark individualism, which gives us permission to ignore corruption and the flaws in the social contract. The larger system, the elites in particular, then place numbers and measurements on the system so that individuals compete against each other and the system games the numbers and, well, most substantive societal things disappear n the fog of competition and the individual quest for moral autonomy, wealth autonomy, and identity autonomy. Much of the societal good stuff disappears within the individualism capitalism espouses.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out reductive economic mathematics are the greatest hoax ever created. Fundamentally it makes the uber-capitalists pseudo intellectual bullies empty of moral or empathetic stances. And when attacked they defend with the pseudo-math and conflate their success with morality and intellectual superiority. Just to make a point, I could argue that the development of Purpose was simply the larger system’s keepers acknowledgement they had made everything but profit-seeking disappear and needed something to help maintain control of the system they have profited from. That would be the cynical suggestion of a disappearance.

Which leads me to education.

For all the general outrage with regard to useless degrees and useless education, the reality is that all humanities have been gutted. The diminishing of humanities from education has undermined common sense, moral restraint and has only encouraged us to lurch from extreme to extreme – measurement by measurement. All the while everyone continues to blame all issues on public education. But if we were a bit honest, is fairly easy to see a society/civilization grounded in mathematizing everything has failed humanity. it has made general dignity and morality disappear and everything has become career based with a focus on what skills someone will need to be able to have for a specific career. What has disappeared is the larger discussion of what education is supposed to do. The majority of the time this discussion gets dumbed down to some simplistic outcome-based discussion. The reality is education has multiple objectives. It should prepare young people for some future career (albeit identifying what that specific career is makes that a challenge). It should prepare young people to become well-rounded citizens who can participate successfully in the society, in the community, as well as the economy. And lastly it should prepare young people to be able to offer ideas. What I mean by that last one is that studies show that economies are driven by people with ideas. Ideas are the engine for progress and prosperity. I say that because if significant portions of the education system, humanities included, continue to get reduced solely to some metrics and career objectives; a wealth of potential ideas disappears.  Unfortunately, the existing education system is designed as a feeder mechanism which basically believes that our version of progress is simply optimizing the individual to have a job and create their own wealth (and procreate I imagine). Yeah. Schools, for quite some time, have not and have never been predominantly for the people or the children. Schools are and have been predominantly for the existing economy and its supporting social construct. The problem is this construct actually makes progress disappear. Education, under this concept, increasingly teach knowledge that is no longer relevant, develop people into roles that no longer exist, and craft mindsets needed to continue ways of life that are rapidly disappearing.  Progress disappears completely as a simplified stratified economic model of human behavior is constructed, a simplistic universal human value cost and benefit is defined, and a homogenized system makes cultural identities needs; not wants.

  • · ** note: We need major changes and how we think about learning because education today cannot be primarily about achieving a functional fit if we want to reshape society to the benefit of all and a better future. I will suggest Zach Stein does a great job in “Education between two worlds” outlining how to refind some of the important things disappearing.

Which leads me to non-conformity.

Conformism, alienation, complacency are actually what a stratified capitalistic system begets. For all the talk of innovation and fresh ideas, for the most part society has conformed to capitalism. It has reduced everyone into ‘self-identity’ as the primary way to non-conform in a system conducive to conformity. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out self-identity is window dressing on the global store we all work at and shop at. It was Marcuse who said:

“Under the conditions of a rising standard of living, non-conformity with the system itself appears to be socially useless.”

In other words, why non-conform when you have been convinced conformity increases the probability of being able to participate in any wealth growth/distribution.

Which leads me to what is Capitalism -.5.

Yeah. That is a negative number. While capitalism has played a significant role in human progress, it has also created significant disparities and environmental crises. As noted at the opening, Capitalism shapes much more than an economic system. It shapes attitudes, behaviors, values, community, culture, and even ideology. At this point it is a bit difficult for the everyday schmuck to imagine alternatives that look nothing the existing capitalist system. So while we should be demanding some radical thinking, the system has made much of our imagination disappear.

With all that said.

I almost called this the de-capitalism phase. The problem is ‘de-anything’ gets crucified. So, I’m simply suggesting that capitalism dial itself back a little bit. Maybe eliminate some of the perverse incentives, maybe begin emphasizing broader wealth and value creation, and maybe think a little bit more about holistically optimizing whatever resources Earth has to offer and meeting the needs of civilization rather than just simply the wants. Maybe I am suggesting capitalism should become a bit more accountable for the things it makes disappear. Maybe I’m thinking that we should rethink happiness.

Before you think I’m suggesting something a little too squishy let me explain.

Let me begin with the father of capitalism, Adam Smith, who did not view economic growth as the path to human happiness:

“The chief part of human happiness arises from the consciousness of being beloved.”

So, if meaningful happiness has disappeared, the question is, how do you measure that?

And while any individual person’s sense of happiness might have more to do with personal disposition than the state of society at large, on average, I tend to believe if people perceive their happiness or well-being is increasing, then that suggests there is progress in that society. And happiness, or wellbeing, is grounded in housing situation, clean water, education, i.e., the basics which improve people’s capacities to do what they want to do. Below that threshold, or let’s say when one is disappointed in one’s situation with those things (that can be expectations, not reality), it is as Adam Smith suggested:

“it makes people unhappy because they feel ‘unheeded’ in their society.”

I say that because the truth is community thriving is inextricably attached to intellectual capital, spiritual capital, material capital and financial capital. And if you accept that you then begin viewing communities as managing their mental balance sheets, i.e., debts and assets.

Even those who have the feeble souls can acquire a very absolute dominion over all their passions if sufficient industry is applied in training and guiding them.


I would argue that as Capitalism has taken root in communities it has made much of that disappear under the relentless pursuit of ‘more’. The issue is that many of the things it made disappear; are reappearing (or we are noticing) – lack of meaning, social inequality, economic inequality, environmental crisis. Things are reappearing that tug at the complex weave of economic, social, and ideological dynamics. The system, and the people who run it, will do what it can to maintain its control and power and do what they can to make important things disappear and offer less important things to take our focus from the important ones. We shouldn’t let the important things disappear – especially our imagination for something better. Ponder.

Written by Bruce