LEE CAMP: Pandemic is Not Just a Crisis, It’s Also a Gift

Like cancer, capitalism grows until it murders the host body. During this pandemic shutdown, it’s not getting the growth it needs and parts of it are becoming benign.

By Lee Camp
Special to Consortium News

With most of the country still on lockdown, all is quiet. For those of us lucky enough to be healthy and simply stuck at home — not in mourning; not sick or dying; not performing high-risk “essential” work; not waiting on long food bank lines  — life is on pause.

We’re held in limbo. Our existence floats nonchalantly in a bizarre stasis like the banana slices inside a Jell-O mold. Or the fish on the top of a child’s fish tank, long dead. The things we thought mattered, now don’t. The things we thought didn’t matter, now really don’t. Remember when you thought if you didn’t get your eyebrows threaded every other week your life was over? Now people walk around with eyebrows looking like the backend of a peacock. No one cares.

Remember what used to matter before this pandemic? Remember what you used to focus on? How many “likes” a picture of your dinner got on Instagram. What happened in the new episode of “The Voice,” or “The Real Housewives” or “The Walking Dead” or “The Farting Diseased.” Which superhero movie to go see then complain that it sucked afterwards. Whether that guy at work doesn’t like you even though he smiles his stupid face at you all the time.

None of it really mattered.

Visitor to pier of Alabama’s Gulf State Park. (@Gulf State Park, Twitter)

Lost in Non-Events

For years (decades?), we’ve been lost in the frenetic pace of lives based on non-events, never pausing to reassess or recess. The spastic motion of avoidance filled the ether — afraid if we stop to truly think about it, we may find our scant few years of consciousness are pissed away as slaves at often meaningless jobs. They, the pustulant corporate owners, suck away our lives. That’s what your job is – it’s a piece of your existence. And now, with life on holiday, we see almost none of it was essential.

This pandemic is not just a crisis, it’s also a gift. It allows us the oxygen to notice the things we’ve been ignoring were the truly essential:

– Learning and creating

– Enjoying clean water, clean air, clean food, and making sure every human has that right

– Forming a world that will last longer than an NFL season

– Spending a lot of time with your beautiful family (or a little time with an unsightly one)

Point is — the stuff that truly matters is the stuff we were completely ignoring, blithely pushing it to the back of our minds as our planet is eaten for corporate profit. But now, during “life on hold” the natural world reclaims spaces. Beaches around the globe teem with millions of birds and wildlife, no longer flooded by undulating masses of fleshy apes with our frisbees, and snorkels, and beer coolers and entitlement. 

Voluminous highways normally bursting with noise, pollution and jack-offs now sit empty, quiet and clean. Jack-off free. Contaminated cities like Los Angeles and Delhi breathe effortlessly, enjoying clean air and water for the first time in years. 

As reported by Mercury News, “In Los Angeles, the air quality, which is usually some of the worst in the nation, has turned into one of the cleanest compared to other major cities. Even more impressive is the fact that the city has enjoyed its longest stretch of ‘good’ air quality since 1995.“ Do you understand how long ago 1995 was? In 1995 there was a movie called “Top Dog”starring Chuck Norris and — wait for it — a dog. Yet such a thing was not viewed as unusual. And the dog won a Golden Globe. Needless to say, it was a different era. 

Nitrogen Dioxide has plummeted over China and Italy during this pandemic. Coyotes walk free again in California, eating people’s pets the way God intended. A zoo in Hong Kong has been trying to get two pandas to Netflix and chill for 10 years. And now that the zoo is shut down, they finally mated. What more proof do you need that we’re witnessing utopia? The pandas are shtupping again!

Speaking Heresy

But let’s cut to the chase — and I’m sorry if the next statement upsets you — but in order to stop climate change and create a sustainable world, it requires the end of capitalism. I know I’m not “allowed” to say that. Saying such a thing would be heresy on one of the corporate media dog-and-pony bullshit infotainment hours. If I spoke that unholy fact on CNN or Fox News or CBS or NPR, a tranquilizer dart would immediately hit me in the neck, and they’d cut to a commercial while my lifeless body was dragged off.

But let’s take our intellectual honesty out for a spin, shall we? As Guardian columnist George Monbiot said, “Capitalism has three innate characteristics that drive us towards destruction… firstly, that it generates and relies upon perpetual growth.”

Endless growth on a planet with finite resources. Such a thing is physically impossible, no more scientifically feasible than Secretary of State Mike Pompeo touching his toes. The reason we’re now in the largest economic crisis since the Great Depression is because capitalism requires nonstop growth, much like cancer. Also, like cancer, it grows until it murders the host body. And during this pandemic shutdown, it’s not getting the growth it screams out for. During this brief respite, many parts of capitalism are benign.

The second problem is “…the idea that our right to own natural wealth equates to the amount of money that we’ve got in the bank or we can borrow. So, you can take as much natural wealth away from other people as you like.”

You can buy all the land, water, and air you want — even as others die from starvation or thirst. It means that no matter what environmentalists do to try to mitigate climate change, the richest corporations in the world can easily undo it by buying and polluting ever more. It also means the biggest sociopaths in the room (the world?) have the most impact.

The third characteristic is the one that really ensures that people go along with capitalism, the idea that everyone can pursue — and can expect to find — private luxury.”

But of course, that’s impossible. If everyone lived the way the top 1 percent live, then the planet would collapse quickly, and in fact it’s crumbling anyway, right now, because of the resources used and the refuse discarded by a small percentage of humanity. …Sure, I admit I like to keep my private jet air-conditioned to a nice 58 degrees F on the hottest days of summer and stocked full of rare endangered fish filets. Not for me – for my five dogs who are bathed in only the freshest spring water shipped in from Alaska. BUT, I recycle the filet packaging. So, I think I do my part.

The cold truth is 90 percent of humanity will never enjoy anywhere near the soft luscious luxury that envelopes the richest among us. In fact, the World Bank says that nearly half of the world lives on less than $5.50 a day. (Not enough for even one fresh Alaskan salmon filet for your dog.)

As our planet disintegrates under the weight of consumption and greed, most people are trapped in extreme poverty. And that’s how the system of capitalism is designed. No mistake. No whoopsy. No boo-boo. It’s by design. Slightly altering capitalism will not change this reality, just as tilting a gun in a different direction does not make it a pony.

If we take away the false promises of capitalism and just say to people, “Private luxury is only for a few humans. You will never have it and won’t even have the chance at getting it” – if we admit that – then the entire justification for capitalism evaporates.

I’m not saying I have all the answers, but the pandemic shutdown has shown us the problem. It has revealed what the world looks like without as much pollution, without the chaos and roar of mostly meaningless “work” performed by the exploited, using materials stolen from the abused, for the benefit of the pampered and oblivious.

Another world is possible, and we’ve just gotten a glimpse of it. 

Lee Camp is the host of the hit comedy news show “Redacted Tonight.” His new book “Bullet Points and Punch Lines” is available at LeeCampBook.com and his standup comedy special can be streamed for free at LeeCampAmerican.com.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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61 comments for “LEE CAMP: Pandemic is Not Just a Crisis, It’s Also a Gift

  1. April 27, 2020 at 10:35

    And of all those people who say they want to prevent Climate Change how many are prepared to end capitalism?

  2. Tedder
    April 25, 2020 at 17:19

    Lee reminds me that the contribution to the origin of capitalism was the enclosure practices in England’s 17th century. After the Norman conquest, feudalism created a precarious balance of landlord rights and serf rights, such that a great deal of land was ‘common’ and used by the peasantry for their livelihood. About this time, wool came into high demand for the English textile industry. John Locke created a philosophy that proposed that ‘profit’ was the highest good, and the owning class should ‘improve’ their land. The result was the enclosure acts by Parliament that allowed the landlords to fence off the commons and run sheep and therefore make money, ie profit, a higher use than just letting a bunch of peasants graze a cow or two. The same logic allowed the settler-colonialists in America to take land away from the Indians who were not making any kind of profit at all from their land. Incidentally, the sheep pastures of the wealthy English lords seem to have inspired the petit-bourgeoise to grow lawns on their front yards.

    • A. Nerd
      April 26, 2020 at 14:44

      “Enclosure” by the rich of land held in common by communities goes back long before the 17th c. In the late 1400s a poem was posted on the door of Coventry Cathedral protesting the fate of Laurence Saunders, a respected member of the Dyers Guild in the city of Coventry who was stripped of his seat on the Common Council and imprisoned by the Lord Mayor for protesting the theft of common land by the wealthy. Here’s a fragment in the original Middle English:

      The cyte [city] is bond that shuld be fre!
      The right is holden fro þe Cominalte!
      our Comiens þat at Lammas open shuld be cast,
      They be closed in & hegged full fast.
      And he that speketh for our right is in þe hall–
      And þat is shame for yewe & for vs all.

  3. rik richard
    April 25, 2020 at 09:30

    On point, as always. What seem sto be missing, though, is a way to get the capitaless-ball rolling. Should we start going back to bartering? Make currency useless? IDK… just asking…

    • Arthur gay
      April 26, 2020 at 11:14

      Everyone turn left and right and make sure that one to your side as something to eat. It’s called love. The belief we are separate is the problem

    • April 26, 2020 at 12:33

      Thats just it. It is rolling. It is the shock threapy that the world needed to see that there has to be another way. The other way? We may just stumble into it, or it will appear bit by bit. But it does not look like it is going to go back to what it was. AND if the world sees how it has been ripped off it may just decide to use those oh so expensive militaries to collect the loot that has been so well hidden from the rest of us. it sure would be nice to see what one well aimed torpedo would do to a super yacht on the high seas. Personally I would love to see loyyd Blankfein standing on the bridge of his super yacht ( “doing God´s work” mind you) while it was dissappearing beneath the waves. Oh and to a large extent, currency is useless now. You use plastic for almost every single thing, and no one wants to touch money ( the dollar) that may well be infected with the virus. There are changes in the wind and the longer this pandemic goes on the more likely we are to see them.

      The American Military is expecting changes and is daily preparing to take over the country. Personnell are being confined to bases as we speak in preparation for the coup.What will it take? A food riot. A raid on a gated community. What ever. Once the military is in motion, reason does not play much of a hand.

  4. Scramjett
    April 24, 2020 at 21:18

    @Joe: Yep. But I suspect that the rich will find a way to beat it. They have the money to spend on whatever treatment they need while regular people will literally die in the streets waiting for treatment, if they can even afford it.

    @Harry: I’m a pragmatist, which to most American’s means I’m a pessimist. I suspect that the cycle of “growth and collapse,” which really benefits the rich (they get the growth and we get the collapse), will continue unabated until humans are extinct, caused mostly by the US. I have no hope left for the future. I feel bad for my kids; the world they’ll inherit.

    @Howard: Capitalism may collapse as you suggest, but I have my doubts that it will be replaced with something that would benefit the rest of us. More likely it will be some form of Neo-feudalism or a type of fascism masking itself as a democracy, kind of like how the Roman Empire had a senate that was really do-nothing once the republic fell. In any case, whatever replaces capitalism will be something that benefits the wealthy and only the wealthy. They are too powerful and too entrenched. They have learned to form a sort of democratic dictatorship so that if one of them collapses under their own hubris, another will swiftly move in to capture power and ensure that power is always concentrated with the elites and never diluted among the people.

    @Randolph: I moved you to the back because of how lengthy my response to you was. I did watch. I watched Bernie Bernie take on an entrenched DNC elite and loose in 2016. Then I watched it again, only this time, rather than a cheeky acknowledgement of Clinton’s victory, we got an early drop out from the race and a full throated endorsement of the Biden, someone who, in many respects, is marginally worse than Clinton but marginally better than Trump. Most people argue that change doesn’t happen at the top, and I agree, but change does NOT happen without someone at the top who is ok with it, or at least asleep at the wheel (Gorbachev and Nixon are examples). And it certainly does not happen unless a large enough swath of the population is willing to fight for it. But the left is to cowed with fear of how they’ll “look” to the MSM if they were to actually engage in any meaningful acts of protest. France has the yellow vest movement, we have crickets. I feel broken and defeated. I’ll probably unregister to vote. Literally no one I voted for is going to the general in November and all I’ve got is a bunch of corporate Dems who are, at best, interested in do nothing change (change that makes for a good photo op until you realize that, when you look at the fine print, it changes nothing). I just keep thinking of Howard Zinn’s quote: “Voting is easy and marginally useful, but no substitute for direct action from concerned citizens.” But that only works if you have a large mass of concerned citizens interested in direct action. Most aren’t (see above). And I expect that billionaire’s and their political lackeys will use social distancing as a bludgeon against any kind of mass protest or direct change. I’m already seeing it now with our local city council taking up controversial items out of view of the public. Covid-19 is the gift that keeps on giving, to the entrenched and powerful elite. Things will only get worse and worse until there is nothing left worth saving or protecting.

  5. April 24, 2020 at 20:38

    I am enjoying the less pollution and the quiet. It seems to be picking up again though. I am one of the lucky ones that are quarantined with family so I don’t have a need to go out. I have COPD so the barbecues and pot smoke bothers me. I love my family though and am grateful for the little blessings, Companionship, washer and dryer and food. and the internet. You my friend (Lee Camp) are one of the mainstays for listening to some truth. You help to keep me grounded in this crazy country we live in. Thank you

  6. Lawrence J Shirley
    April 24, 2020 at 15:03

    The reason we have Capitalism is that there really isn’t anything better for us as human beings. All other forms of government are simply “big brother” schemes which only work during those short periods of time where big brother has our interests foremost and is willing to work to ensure that those interests are justly and fairly met. Otherwise, big brother has all the power and can do what he wants regardless of what the people want. This may seem strange, but I have seen this at the highest levels of the US Government down to the lowest levels. Regardless of the intentions of “big brother”, shit happens. When “big brother” has to make decisions regarding “good of the people” versus “good for big brother”, guess what big brother is going to decide. The US government is simply an alternative form of a “big brother” scheme where politically elected officials have power over the bureaucracies. Elected officials are chosen by people who are heavily influenced by bullshit and entrenched big brother schemes. The whole thing sucks, but big brother is forced to pay homage to the electorate and the capitalists. Compare this with any other form of government and you find that big brother has much more freedom to do what big brother wants. Capitalism reigns over the governments only to the extent that those with money can get away with lying, but there are so many different liars in the Capitalist system that no single liar can continue to do so unchecked. Political parties believe that they “own” people because their lies are designed to be highly believable. Forcing people to belong to political parties so that they can “vote” for whichever idiot they want to be the figurehead is really a breakdown of Capitalism (where you would have many candidates not affiliated with or beholding to any “party” but rather to political causes independent of parties). Elected politicians find that they are highly limited by the entrenched bureaucracies, but at least they have the power over those bureaucracies to limit and manipulate them towards goals established by the electorate.
    I could go on and on, but the simple message is that government (i.e., the “system”) must be tempered by the will of the people. A “big brother” system (socialism for example) only consists of bureaucracies which are free to ignore the people. Even if you create some form of government that is initially much better for the people, it will devolve into a system that is much better for itself.

  7. Alex
    April 24, 2020 at 14:43

    While I agree with everything you say about capitalism, it certainly is a cancer on the world, I’m not sure I agree with the idea that we are seeing its death throes. Just like the crash of 2008, the rich will always be bailed out. A vast widening of the gap happened then, and it is happening again now.
    If this does lead to the death of capitalism, I hate to say it, but, what it will be replaced with will not be a utopia. This is yet another push towards a full oligarchical rule, with all the resources transferred to relatively few hands. Utopia for the few, while the rest fight over the scraps.

  8. Mathew A Fascetti
    April 24, 2020 at 14:05

    Excellent Lee, always insightful creative and critical thinking this country needs more of with that Lee Camp humor we all know and love. George Carlin would of agreed may he rest in peace. By any chance is there gonna be a audio version of your book, i love to listen to books as im multitasking away the day.

    • Ron Paulson
      April 25, 2020 at 13:58

      Could not have said it better. Lee is a national treasure! Unfortunately, Alex makes great points too– a future based on authoritarian, oligarchical, fascism is a distinct possibility. Our infantile obsession with hope (Thanks Chris Hedges) has and seemingly always will prevent us from the realization that our neoliberal, hedonistic, consumer-based empire has been “circling the drain” (Thanks George Carlin) for years.

    • Ron
      April 25, 2020 at 14:41

      The various and assorted “leftist” or “socialist” groups must coalesce around a few issues, which general strikes will need to uncompromisingly demand. In no particular order, here are a few: 1) Money out of politics and “the news”; 2) Reduce the size of, and transform the military into a force for peace; 3) Medicare for all; 4) Greatly increase wealth and/or income tax; 5) Implement a radical Green New Deal.

      Finally, identity-based issues, while important, should not be at the forefront of a popular movement whose aim is a paradigm shift from the suicidal, sociopathic, neoliberal order.

  9. April 24, 2020 at 13:29

    I fully agree. The population of the earth is far exceeding it ‘s capacity to support them all. I often quoted a statement I read many years ago abut the republicans wanting to eliminate around 6 billion people world wide, but I could not remember their reasoning (if any) . I watched a movie by Michael Moore on you tube “the Planet of the Humans”. It was very dull, but pointed out many things, missteps, problem but did point to the over population problem coming.

    • Alex
      April 24, 2020 at 14:54

      It’s not that the Earth can’t support the population. It’s that capitalism won’t support the population. The issues with the environment and world hunger, for example, are not because of the size of the population, but the relentless need for profit growth. The Amazon rainforest isn’t being torn down because of the size of the Earth’s population, it’s being torn down to make more room for the cattle necessary to feed the relentless corporate need to open more fast-food restaurants. People in Africa aren’t starving because of lack of sufficient farmland. They are starving because corporations buy up all their farmland to produce cocoa, for example, for the west instead of letting it be used to feed the local people.
      The only reason the rich want to see a dramatic reduction in population is not because the Earth can’t handle it, but because capitalism can’t handle it. They don’t want to ‘waste’ money on silly things like feeding the poor. They want it all to themselves.

    • April 24, 2020 at 18:37

      My job for a number of years was head of the research dept at WGI, an artifact of Buckminster Fuller’s work. We proved on a pretty regular basis that if we redirected the distribution of food, energy, housing etc, if we used materials wisely, farmed sustainably & didn’t pour so much into war, there was plenty for everyone.

      Incidentally all the population models show that there’s been a decided slip in the growth rate of world population & beyond a couple of decades of inevitable drift upward, world population is actually gonna drop back to about its current level without any necessary intervention. Families that have kids who live tend to have fewer children, as do people as women’s education improves.

      Having said that we could always have a nice nuke war or superaggressive pandemic & knock us down a few billion cruelly in a mega-holocaust, which it seems like a lot of the population crowd would think is really peachy as long as it happens to others.

  10. April 24, 2020 at 11:39

    For over a decade, I have been searching for ANYONE who would even mention what I believe to be at the heart of most of the problems of the world. When I saw THIS statement, “It also means the biggest sociopaths in the room (the world?) have the most impact.” I knew I had an audience that was ripe for THIS article:

    possibilitymanagement (dot) org/studyingit/article/beware-the-psychopath-my-son/

    I’m 76 years old and have been searching for the true source of our international decay ever since the Fall of 1963. Along the way, I’ve often written about this accelerating deterioration and last year I put all of it together (with solutions) on a website, which is listed below. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that the ULTIMATE solution is informed education — which then leads to our compulsive and continual, massive, issue focused, non-violent REaction.

  11. pasha
    April 24, 2020 at 10:21

    Great piece.
    If I may I’d like to expand those excellent thoughts with three simple philosopical principles.
    Economic policy: ENOUGH. Not “more”. Adequate wages for those who wish to work. Pensions for those who do not. There’s already more than enough wealth to go round. Be content with what you need, not what you want.
    Domestic policy: PUBLIC HEALTH. Not development or profit or police or prisons or environmental regulations or social services. These are all parts of what should be a single concept.
    Foreign policy: NOT OUR BUSINESS. Stop telling everybody else what to do and how to behave. Stop invading and sanctioning and subverting. We might not like what other countries do, ut then they might not like what we do. Let everybody figure ito ut for themelves.
    Thanks for listening.

    • AnneR
      April 24, 2020 at 15:01

      I so agree, Pasha. And with Mr Camp, too.

  12. anthony
    April 24, 2020 at 10:18

    thought correctly,
    sait the right way,
    presented through
    the only means
    that will allow it.
    it’s up to you to support
    the outlets that bring
    truth in living to you and i.

    thanks lee
    tony m.

  13. Adam - from UK
    April 24, 2020 at 10:08

    The more I think about this and the current situation, the more I am thinking we could be making better use of the market system (whether that equals capitalism or not, I’m not sure). The one thing we can learn from this situation is we (collectively) have a huge amount of power in this system. We just didn’t appreciate it before.

    Look what us stopping spending our money has done. Within about 6 weeks, major companies such as Virgin saying “hey guys in government, we desperately need a bail out or our airline will go bust”. So, although not a conscious effort on our part this time, we have effectively brought to the brink of extinction a very major company, just not buying their stuff.

    Let’s learn from this. Let’s WEAPONIZE CAPITALISM. We need to educate people that, once we get out the other side of this, we really can change stuff, and really fast. And if we can’t do much quickly politically because of election cycles – or maybe through a lack of real choice when we do get to eventually get to vote – we can certainly change things very quick for big business by voting with our $s (or £s for me).

    And if you think that I’m talking rubbish, just look at your own supermarket. How many more items are now vegetarian or vegan. In my local UK store there are now 4 freezer cabinets full of the stuff, whereas a couple of years ago there was probably less than one half. That is a tiny example of the power of your “voting” dollar.

    Now, with a bit more of an informed, concerted effort, we should see that we can change things. I know Lee has been going on for years about not buying from some of the big free-market villains out there, but maybe people were thinking “what’s the point?”

    The virus shows us that in under 2 months we can crush the biggest, international corporate organisations by doing nothing – and by nothing I mean just not going down the store or on-line to buy stuff. Hardly an “effort” not worth pursuing.

  14. Josh Greenberg
    April 24, 2020 at 09:45

    Hi Lee, I love your show redacted tonight. I like that you made your opening monologue into your column. The one thing I noticed that you removed, is the part about how much healthier India and China look with the before and after pictures. I thought those would look great in your column as well. All in all keep up the fight!!!

  15. Olivia Housley
    April 24, 2020 at 09:06

    I see this as the earth reclaiming itself. This is only the beginning. More pandemics will follow. Nature has a way of saying STOP. It is unfortunate but many humans will be eliminated. The humans that survive will be forced to coexist with the natural world.
    Fewer airplanes, no factory farms, no need to exterminate more creatures and habitat for drilling.
    The privilege few (rich capitalists) who generated this greedy insanity will exist in a very different form, (realize that they don’t own nature and the future.)
    We simply cannot continue on the destructive path we have followed.

  16. John Doe
    April 24, 2020 at 08:53

    Leave it to Lee to be the first one to write what needed to be said.

    • Nylene13
      April 24, 2020 at 12:29

      YES. Simple and True words.

      “Mostly meaningless work performed by the exploited, using materials stolen from the abused, for the benefit of the pampered and the oblivious”

      So Sadly True.

    • April 24, 2020 at 13:02

      Lee’s comments should help all of us realize the positive side of our new life.

    • rosemerry
      April 24, 2020 at 16:17

      Lee has been interviewed by Prof. Richard Wolff whose online videos on this and related topics are a joy to watch and to learn from.

  17. Peter Martyn
    April 24, 2020 at 07:44

    I was half expecting to see a Shoebill Stork instead of a pelican.

    • Mark
      April 24, 2020 at 11:26

      Hello Lee, glad to see you catching on. I actually believe that industrial civilization is the mega failure. Corporate capitalism is something of a symptom, like a reality star being president of the U.S. As a gardener, the weather is colder here in the southern Appalachian mountains, less growing season. I hope that you can claim some land and get veggies planted, winter squash is good vegan survival food bro!

  18. April 24, 2020 at 07:21

    Thank you very much Lee. This is one of your best writings.
    Please go the next steps: “Another world is possible, and we’ve just gotten a glimpse of it. ” Okay Lee, pull off the covers!

    This is more than a fourth turning, or the end of capitalism, or another greater depression.
    This is even more than the collapse of an empire (like the Roman Empire collapse).
    There is only one first time when a dominant species exponential growth hits the limit and this is it for us.
    Another world of agorism exists for those of us who escape the matrix in the cities, where most friction from the hit exists.
    We need to build out self sufficient resilient communities wherein notions of capitalism and corporate and 1% melt away in a vibrant reality wherein each person provides skills that harmonize with others in a noble shared purpose of living. Some of us have already started on this path, but we are unseen and ignored. Us rural dwellers are too stupid and too poor to pay attention to. This is a great situation and is the optimistic future filled with freedom for those who walk away.

  19. April 24, 2020 at 00:30

    So true, Lee. I’m reminded of a bumper sticker I see occasionally and appreciate. “Live simply so that others may simply live.”

    The reason it’s so difficult to bring the change of personal philosophy we all need is because it’s not about those bad rich people are sociopaths and are too willing to exploit other people and nature just to live in pampered excess, those people are most people, given the opportunity most people would and do behave the same and have throughout human history.

    Until people stop WANTING to be rich, powerful and pampered things won’t change much. We need a mass recognition that happiness, accomplishment, resourcefulness, and unselfish integrity are the things we should strive for.

    • Tom Kath
      April 24, 2020 at 01:42

      Thank you Lee. The way I have put it is “The loathing for billionaires is directly proportional to the desire to become one”.

    • April 24, 2020 at 13:05

      I fully agree.

      An article I read today, the rich are moving to New Zealand. Poor New Zealand!

    • Stephen
      April 25, 2020 at 17:22

      A little bit of sage advice I found online:

      Some months before Albert Einstein’s death in April 1955 an editor of “LIFE” magazine named William Miller visited the famous scientist at his home in Princeton, New Jersey. The journalist was accompanied by his son Pat Miller and by Professor William Hermanns of San Jose State in California. Einstein responded to the son’s desire for guidance in life.

      “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.

      Never lose a holy curiosity. Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives.”

  20. Scramjett
    April 23, 2020 at 23:34

    And yet, we’ll jump right back into the “old world” and forget everything we learned with this respite from chaos. We’ll lie to ourselves and convince ourselves that we’ll remember our lessons and work towards incorporating at least some of that going forward. But it will be a lie, and in a month or two, we’ll go back to the cancer of capitalism eating us from the inside out until there is nothing left. “The devil shall take the hindmost until foremost is the hindmost. In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul. For the human species; selfishness is extinction.”

    • Joe B
      April 24, 2020 at 07:40

      The US learned nothing from the Vietnam war fiasco, except to keep wars for the rich more secret.
      The virus fiasco brings sympathy to those capable, but the rich and their opportunists are not capable.
      There is already nothing left of the former US democracy and “culture” which had been nothing much.
      The foremost will never be hindmost until they are overthrown. May the virus be brought to the rich.

    • April 24, 2020 at 12:19

      I’m not sure of how many more times this cycle of deep recession, to apparent wealth, to deep recession again will continue before people actually catch on. The simple fact is that the American capitalistic system guarantees that the cycle will continue. It’s like continually piling brings on the penthouse level of an apartment building, that began with a weak, unstable foundation. Eventually, it is bound to collapse. So, unless we change how we build, the cycle of growth and collapse will continue until this globe, itself, grows old and dark.

    • April 24, 2020 at 13:10

      It could happen that way. You could watch and help guide us to the America we all thought we had. Like Bernie.

    • April 24, 2020 at 15:13

      I have thought about the situation we are in, in the same manner. But then too, I realize that this virus could continue for a long time. In the pandemic of 1918, travel was quite restricted, no interstates, few vehicles and planes. And it lasted for ONE YEAR. Today, we have capitalism operating worldwide. What if this virus, just keeps traveling around from one area to another for months, then years? Could it do so? A vaccine will be developed but that too will take years to implement. I really think people will continue to die because the cities will open up too soon and the infection will just jump around from area to area. Capitalism could actually collapse, as it did in the 30’s.

  21. Paul
    April 23, 2020 at 22:56

    We need to check out Jacque Fresco and the Venus Project and learn about the resource based economy… It’s time

  22. April 23, 2020 at 22:54

    So, after the pandemic is over will all of the poorest people in the world will be richer? Capitalism, however that is defined, will end and replaced with what? Perhaps the same command and control government officials that have been managing the economy defined as “capitalism” will manage this new economy with some new name. Whatever happens, I won’t expect much change from what the ruling establishment has given us for the last 100 years or so.

    • bob lich
      April 24, 2020 at 09:11

      I tend to think capitalism will reign until the younger working class becomes so demeaned, poor, and desperate they revolt. The question is how.

    • Harry S Nydick
      April 24, 2020 at 12:56

      No, but at some future time (hopefully sooner than later) there will be a global revolt against the ruling establishment. It is inevitable, because it’s not just an economy, or a pandemic, that is crushing people everywhere. It is that the apparently successful economies of the world will eventually end up in totalitarianism – and eventually slaves revolt. Just like capitalism to recession and back again ad infinitum, that is a cycle that has been repeated many times throughout history.

    • April 24, 2020 at 13:20

      I doubt if the poor will instantly become the rich. But there are encouraging signs that our economical system will go thru major changes towards a socialist ideas. We can only hope we can learn from what Russia went thru and do better. An article today reported the rich are moving to New Zealand, that should help America recover.

  23. rgl
    April 23, 2020 at 22:44

    Too many people consuming too many resources too fast.

    Do the ‘math’ … infinite human growth = infinite consumption – finite resources.

    In fact, it is the human species that grows and grows and grows unchecked that is at the root of our problems. We humans are the cancer. Greed is simply a symptom. We spread, expand, consume, and when everything is eaten, bought or destroyed, we move to new areas and renew the process.

    Too many people competing for too few resources. Nobody sees the problem with this.

    • Sam F
      April 24, 2020 at 09:34

      I’ll suggest that most see that overpopulation is a major problem, but it is not the root problem.
      Over-consumption and militarism are also major problems, but not the root problem.
      Those problems may be traced to human nature, like crime, but that is not the root problem either.

      The root problems cause corrupt governments and cultures, that cause over-consumption, militarism, and failure to produce the foreign aid to eliminate the poverty, ignorance, malnutrition, and disease that lead to overpopulation.

      The corrupt governments and cultures of the West are caused by allowing those who rise in its unregulated market economies, those who lie, cheat, and steal their way to wealth and power, to control mass media and elections. That is the root problem.

    • Jared
      April 24, 2020 at 22:21

      “The corrupt governments and cultures of the West are caused by allowing those who rise in its unregulated market economies, those who lie, cheat, and steal their way to wealth and power, to control mass media and elections. That is the root problem.”

      This is close to the root problem, but not quite it. You are still only describing a symptom. The root problem was described by Karl Marx in 1867. It is their private ownership of the means of production: the factories, shipyards, food-processing plants, lumberyards, mines, distribution centers and farmlands from which the capitalist class derives its economic and political power. It is that power that makes it possible for the ruling class to control mass media and elections. If we want capitalists out of elections and out of mass media, then we will have to address the source of their political power: their massive hoards of wealth and their ownership of the means of production.

    • Sam F
      April 26, 2020 at 12:55

      Jared, I agree that private owners2hip of the means of production leads to problems, where it is unregulated. But a sector of the economy based on a Regulated market with Regulated ownership of means of production adds a great strength, which is that it harnesses the self-interest of producers to increase production and innovation. As long as regulation protects the public interest, and influence of wealth upon government is eliminated, such a competitive sector improves a socialist economy. China discovered this to its advantage in the 1980s and moved from poverty to wealth in two generations. Whether they made the best choices is another issue.

      Of course one can imagine an incentive system for higher production and innovation, even where the means of production are not privately owned, but it might have to offer very high incentives to encourage hard work and risk taking by workers.

  24. Tom Kath
    April 23, 2020 at 20:39

    Yes Lee, it’s not “The economy, stupid!”, it’s VALUES. So far, there are still only two being considered, dollars and lives. Maybe with some more lockdown, death, and starvation, we might come up with something more valuable.

    • April 24, 2020 at 13:39

      What I saw was the VALUES of the rich not the Americans I grew up with. The entire government needs a good house cleaning and the corrupt republicans jailed. I do have a design that could help get people back to most jobs. I call it an isolation suit. Basically a form of decontamination suit with filtered air input and output. It requires a small decon station put at the home and possibly at the work places. I am working to reduce the cost as the government said we will require something like this for about 2 years.

  25. Tobin Sterritt
    April 23, 2020 at 18:58

    I wrote a longer answer to this, then ditched it when I realized that it was ballooning with baseless optimism. I am optimistic, but I think there’s some credence to the canard that most people can more easily envision the end of the world than the end of capitalism. If enough of them come away from this period having learned that those things are not mutually exclusive, I think there could be opportunity to discuss something new. When people are hit with big trauma, directly or indirectly, they tend to lose some fears that prevented them from countenancing things they wouldn’t have dared a year ago.

    • Mark
      April 24, 2020 at 11:27

      Hello Lee, glad to see you catching on. I actually believe that industrial civilization is the mega failure. Corporate capitalism is something of a symptom, like a reality star being president of the U.S. As a gardener, the weather is colder here in the southern Appalachian mountains, less growing season. I hope that you can claim some land and get veggies planted, winter squash is good vegan survival food bro!

    • April 24, 2020 at 13:43

      I would have liked the longer answer. Personally I hope the people will have learned a great deal over this last 3 to 4 years and be ready to implement major changes.

    • Tobin Sterritt
      April 24, 2020 at 14:44

      The gist of the longer answer–minus the baseless optimism ; ) –was that I learned a lesson about what did and didn’t stick after the Occupy Wall Street movement had passed. I figured “this will be a referendum on capitalism for many”; didn’t quite go that way. I don’t think so of this period either, though there are concrete lessons I am convinced people will take away from this on how the system actually works and who it serves. Also, my personal wish is that serious discussion and debate on alternative frameworks, socialism and communism as economic systems, rather than in terms of archaic ideological constructs that tend to be road blocks–might be revived. It was years before I understood what took me so long to get to where I am now. I have no illusions that I can “bring” someone along who isn’t ready to go there. More often it’s circumstances that bring them to some of the groups and organizations I work with. Some of the things in Lee’s article I’ve been saying for a few years, so it’s clear we’re looking at some of the same stuff. I agree with what you said, Randolph in that there are some changes that can be made and need to be made coming out of this, that are currently within our reach. Only if we’re in it for the long haul, tho’.

    • April 24, 2020 at 23:19

      “When people are hit with big trauma, directly or indirectly, they tend to lose some fears that prevented them from countenancing things they wouldn’t have dared a year ago.”

      Very true. At the same time, dissipation of fear doesn’t take place in a vacuum, and embracing a new paradigm requires that a new paradigm be fashioned and presented clearly, cogently, forcefully, comprehensibly, within boundaries of “acceptability”. People have to believe things can get done and doing them will not destroy basic safety and compromise survival.

      This is indeed an opportunity. So enough with wining and dining change. How about some actual proposals? Step-by-step plans? How about someone just offering the next one or two steps toward this potentially magnificent future? Every profound journey begins with a single stride. Sitting around congratulating ourselves about how great things COULD BE is not progress or activism. It’s exactly why we progressives all appear so quixotic and clueless most of the time.

      Here’s one hint what the next step might look like: Making pretty-please requests for change from the people who are responsible for the current disastrous state of things, is like asking a serial killer to try being a nicer person. WE NEED TO REPLACE EVERYONE NOW IN POSITIONS OF POWER BY WHATEVER MEANS ARE NECESSARY. Everyone! Hopefully we won’t have to resort to violence.

  26. Sam F
    April 23, 2020 at 18:51

    Well said, although I refer to unregulated market economies rather than Capitalism, to avoid rhetorical retorts. Market economies can be regulated to achieve the common good together with socialist services, but unregulated market economies have destroyed democracy and the interests of the people.

    Allowing gold to control mass media and elections, an understandable error in our Constitution, has allowed those who rise in the unregulated market economy by lying, cheating, and stealing, to control the tools and institutions of democracy. They do not have a concept of progress for humanity and do not care about domestic or foreign populations at all. It has left us no democratic way to restore democracy.

    • Daniel
      April 24, 2020 at 10:46

      Between the article and your addition here, Sam F., I think that says it all. I share the optimism of those who see this moment as a great opportunity, one we could not have without the near-complete shut-down we are living through, and also understand the skepticism of those who question whether we will seize it. All one can do is his/her part, as the writer and yourself do here: speak your truth as best you can and encourage productive discussion. Neither of which occur on cable news, BTW. New structures and methods of citizen engagement are needed. On many fronts. Now is the time to discuss them.

    • Sam F
      April 24, 2020 at 15:20

      Thanks, Dan. I am designing a College of Policy Debate, that will conduct moderated text debate between tens of thousands of university experts, protecting and challenging all viewpoints in all policy areas worldwide, producing commented debate summaries for public access with mini-quizzes and discussion groups, and a dramatized lower level for those unwilling to study the issues.

      The key problem is always the creation of an incorruptible administration. Structural issues of incorruptibility include the use of triple-redundant boards in each administrative area, which vote on each issue ,and dissolve biased boards; rotation of trustees among the boards; etc. These require a fairly large organization. Attempts to simplify this in the US federal government “checks and balances” scheme did not work.

  27. jo6pac
    April 23, 2020 at 18:50

    You cover it for me. Today I got in trouble at another site for spelling Amerika with K. I was asking if Amerika doesn’t change then we’ll see it end as we know it and that might be a bad thing except the powers to be have their own army, navy, air force to use against us on Main Street.

    Thanks Lee to moving to CN and thanks CN

  28. Michael
    April 23, 2020 at 16:53

    Brilliant, and well said….but while the virus has been a temporary relief for many of us who can telecommute, or live in non-crowded conditions, most of the working class are, as usual, getting the shaft. As noted by economist Michael Hudson at his website, the government “bailout” or more accurately giveaway to the banksters will make the sociopaths more powerful, as they will foreclose on independent businesses properties in about three months when the rent/mortgages are due, and the world will be a much poorer place. It is designed that way.

    • Tins Wilson
      April 24, 2020 at 21:20

      Yes! Thanks, Lee!!

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