Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Why Socialism is the Only Road Back Home: Reflections on the Potlatch

Is your mind spinning from the contradictory political and economic news jamming your inbox?  Not to mention horrific accounts of murders, child trafficking, opioid epidemics and political fraud both at home and abroad?  Why do I think Socialism is the only road back home? And what is home anyway?

Houses have become places where renters are ripped off by frequent evictions so the landlords can brush the place off, smear a little fresh paint around and re-rent at exorbitant prices. Young over extended owners are prone to face the reality that the bank owns their abode when lay-offs occur or unexpected an unexpected family illnesses arise. Nobody except the very wealthy or the old folks who have paid off their mortgages can call home their Home without crossing their fingers or knocking on wood.  Of course some will say but things have always been this way and that’s true.  Just not so much.  And for some many people.  People living rough (the absolute homeless) are increasing every day.

I was born in 1928 the year before the great depression of 1929.  This crippling, murderous depression lasted until Theodor Roosevelt was elected and started implementing back to work programs. Things got better and then employment opportunities opened up further for the preparation and duration or World War Two. Post war there were massive government programs in the US and Canada to help returning veterans reclaims their jobs from the women folk and return the world to its proper capitalistic, misogynistic roots.  Successfully, I might add.  And First Nations people who had not profited from the massive amounts of money made during the war by the banks and munitions factories, or even the economic wage growth for the average Jane and Joe, did not even get their long term need…clean water on their reservations and the right to cut down trees on their own lands for their own use.  They were, and remain, oh, you know, what earlier governments called out loud…The Indian problem.

I have come to believe the main reason that First Nations people remain a thorn in the side of Canada (and for that matter, all over the world) is because they have traditionally made poor capitalists.  Some have changed now, but I am speaking traditionally.  On first contact with West Coast Indigenous people the European invaders were shocked to discover that the people were socialists. Oh, they didn’t call them that. The invaders were trying to shake off feudalism themselves. They thought the Potlach custom that the Indigenous people practiced were kind of wild parties thrown in order for whoever was throwing the bash to give away a large part, if not most, of their things. The things consisted of tools needed for hunting, decorated clothing for the cool, wet climate, baskets or bowls for cooking and eating, ceremonial paraphernalia, knives, axes, blankets, whatever was considered valuable. The givers knew they would become the receivers in the future. The invaders did not understand this at all and when organized, firmly outlawed the practice.

 To this day, when the Capitalist brain stem is confronted with a society organized around sharing it begins to scream and to vomit.  It vomits up  the bile of dog eat dog, every man for himself, every man a rugged individualist,  every woman a prey (the young for sex, the old for fraud) winner take all and the man who dies with the most toys, the most money, who has eaten all of the earth he could, leaving behind a world that is poisoned with plastics and  chemicals, and who  has most ruthlessly fertilized the wide earth with the remains of the war dead, this will be judged  the greatest man in this regime of mature capitalism. The fellows following in his footsteps steel their nerves and plow ahead, knowing they have a high bar to hurdle and can’t be judged weak on war and profits.

But First Nations aren’t the only ones longing for some kind of economic system based on sharing instead of destroying. Their rights to Potlach have been legally returned to them.  I think the rest of us also need a Potlach.  While Indigenous people can practice their Potlach now they still must live their lives, as the rest of us do, within the capitalist system.  It is we, the rest of us, who have to change in order to bring about a home for all.  We have to change our larger economic system. Capitalism makes everybody sick.

No comments:

Post a Comment