“All our problems are related” reads the Occupy Wall Street poster I have seen in a half dozen college dorm rooms. Indeed, all our problems are swirled into one massive enterprise, a beast by a thousand names, and so every strand of fur or piece of claw is an opportunity to attack the entire thing. Manspreading, private health insurance, catcalling, drone war, the toppling of confederate statues and intense poverty are all opportunities to rail against the now, to rise up, to create the revolution on the basis of any expression of inequality in any human domain at any time.
Given that, I think it’s a simple declaration of fact that the left is waging a spiritual war. The idea that every foundation of modern civilization is corrupted by the same factor – capitalism – is not a political doctrine, but a mythological one. Capital is the face of the beast of revelation, the antichrist, the traitor to humankind. How could it be anything else? It is the creator of all inequality, thus the source of all unjust suffering, thus occupying the very role of the fall from paradise in the Marxist narrative of history.
The project of the left is to create the kingdom of God on Earth, the ‘virgin nature’ that existed before the fall, before mortality, inequality, poverty and pain. Capital is the serpent’s head that surges through history, it is the evolutionary tree of life itself. It is genetics, IQ, the factors of life and wellbeing beyond our control, which doom some of us and bestow others with gifts.
This, of course, is why the left despises evolutionary psychology, or any appeal to biological human nature whatsoever. If we are a blank slate, if most of our behavior is constructed, then it can all be changed. The snake of capital can be twisted to become something else. By human hands, we can make ourselves more than capital. We make ourselves more than what we are. We can overcome our own nature, because we have no innate ‘nature’. We could be anything.
It’s inspiring, beautiful and magnificent. Making the kingdom of heaven on Earth is surely the only goal worth pursuing. And yet, is it true? Is it actually, factually, true that we can become anything and rise beyond our fallen nature?
Well, let’s look to the left. As a reader of leftist thought, it seems abundantly clear to me that this boundary line is firmly established – capital must be overthrown to create a better world. Yet, this critique, which I absolutely agree with, is the limit of leftist thought at the moment.
Mark Fisher’s book Capitalist Realism calls for a universal notion of worker solidarity, an emphasis on local control of industry, but none of these projects are contained within the mass consciousness of contemporary visible leftist thought. What you see in the mainstream left is opposition to Trump, opposition to Nazis, and the leveraging of identity politics against the very concepts of individual liberty and freedom of speech.
Highly intelligent left writers admit that they only support antifa and illiberal left movements out of desperation:
There is a crisis of imagination. And that is not good at all. Without a cogent imagination of what a world without capital, an actual paradise, would look like, we’re left clawing at the edges of our vision, hoping for a way out. The leftist is no better off than the world-weary existentialist.
Can this paradise even be created by human minds? I don’t know. I genuinely don’t know. It is, once again, as Mark Fisher wrote, “easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.”
If capital itself is our karma, our mortality, our suffering and our status as broken human beings imbued with a shadow, demons and angels alike, then how could we possibly rid ourselves of what we are? Can a soul carve out its dormant Satan and cast it out? Can imperialism, greed, and the accumulation of capital be severed at the root? Can we change who we fundamentally are and have proven to be for 100,000 years?
If we have a human nature, and that nature is largely inscribed in our genetics, then it doesn’t look good for the left. If the best we can do is topple statues and shout down Nazis, we aren’t even within the outer limits of a better world where capital is seriously challenged.
So what now? Ever the question. Ask it young, and pursue it relentlessly for life, and maybe you’ll find out. That’s the best I’ve got.