The incontrovertible dictates of the Gregorian Calendar state that another year is presently coming to a close, and another, laden with potential, is soon to dawn.
As earnest believers in human freedom, this is one holiday that I believe we can rally behind. A new year, a new chapter in the so far interminable story of our universe that we author for our more intimate human micro-universe.
So, 2014, another chance for human freedom!
Our present conditions on earth and their prospects of improvement are, however, to put them best, mixed.
Violence and oppression still beleaguer human beings in the majority of polities on earth, and even in the wealthiest and most industrially advanced states, such as our humble ‘middle power’, Australia, we find our government stepping backward when all ecological signs demand the urgency of action now.
The pitfalls of our economic and political orders once again have stymied effective human advancement towards dealing with the two major crises of our day: the future of humankind as free beings and, to a greater extent, the ecological crisis.
The two crises are, however, not entirely distinct from each other. Our freedom as human beings, capable of determining our individual and collective aspirations, is bound to our willpower to manage our civilization’s impact on our ecological environment.
As isocrats, libertarian socialists, democratic socialists, mutualist anarchists and the like, our central concern must be the championing of the ecological environment as the present and future of humankind. In doing so, we must shed the awful mistruth, so long dominant in the modern Western mind, that humankind can transcend our natural environment. The central lesson of the Enlightenment must be found in Spinoza and the radical minds of that age and later who stress the oneness of humankind and our ecological environment.
To reach such an understanding, we must shed the illusions (and delusions) of separateness that permeate our relationship with other living beings overall, but in particular, and more immediately, we must address the oneness of human beings as a community–species.
To that end, we must face more seriously the question of what kind of power systems should determine the fate of our fellow human beings. Thousands of Syrians have perished in the endless bloodbath within that country’s borders; thousands elsewhere have suffered under the yoke of oppressive regimes. Now, with the threat of continued hostilities, the fate of thousands of South Sudanese and of their young state demands a response.
On one hand, we must continue to scrutinize and oppose the actions of states with their ulterior motives, namely the chicanery of professing solidarity with other human beings for (barely) hidden agendas of economic and political gain. Nonetheless, we must also respond to the crises today through the systems of power that are capable of effectively tackling those crises.
In other words, we must withstand the allure of false idealism that pushes us toward inaction and crass cynicism.
Syria has long been the example: do we, as the Western States, intervene or do we allow the conflict to fester without our interference? But the dilemma is already flimsily constructed. Syria is already a product of Western intervention, nearly a century ago, and the influx of billions of dollars in the trade of commodities and arms, let alone of ideologies from our proxies in the Middle East, has escalated the conflict to its already bloody heights.
What we face, as Westerners, is whether to remain complicit in our governments’ actions or, in calling for international intervention, demand that our governments intervene in such a way that the autonomy and freedom of the Syrian people remain viable postwar possibilities. Our continued silence, or rather our sub rosa and dirty involvement thus far, has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands. In 2014, it is time to shed the shallow analysis of recalcitrant cynics and side with the power of the State to stabilize the bloodshed and oppression of the Syrian people. There is no doubt that, were the Syrian State itself to win the conflict, we would be guaranteeing the plight and murder of thousands more, innocents and militants alike.
On another note, what of our prospects of political change at home? The recent election of the Abbott government, due to the disillusionment of the Australian people with the then Labor government, reflects the ongoing crisis of progressive politics in Australia.
We must redouble our efforts to inspire the Australian electorate to share the optimism and economic and social promise of the Labor Left and the Greens, whose only respective survival lies in their mutual co-operation.
At risk is not only the ecological environment but the human, too. The dismantling of the Australian welfare state will only hamper further efforts to liberate Australians from the tyranny of the State’s dominant constituents, that is, private capital.
We must appeal to the Australian electorate’s hope in the freeing aspects of capital, which has historically effected the liberation of the human being from toil, however privileged this freedom has been thus far for a minority. Instead of calling for the destruction of private capital, we must seek ways of harnessing it as a social ‘renewable’ resource.
To that end, we must persevere with our efforts to implement a tax regime that reinvests private capital in the Australian society more broadly, as with the carbon and mining taxes.
We must also continue to explore the co-operative potential of the workplace and call for the democratization of labour relations. The American philosopher John Dewey, among many others, realized that to have a democratic polity, a society must first have democratic workplaces. And so it should remain a goal of ours to realize a democratic future for our workplaces, be they in the industrial shops, in retail or in the commercial enterprises and services of the city.
Democracy is, after all, not an institutional formality; it is a participatory mechanism, the implementation of which has enormous consequences for the organization of the family and individual relations, labour, the state and, even more generally, the relationship between humankind and the ecological environment.
We must then also call for the recognition of all living things as dignified beings worthy of our consideration as symbiotic neighbours. In this regard, we ought not only think of ourselves as guardians; our relationship to other life must be founded upon respect. Our duty to protect other living things only arises from our capacity to manipulate and destroy those same things, which has been starkly exhibited in recent centuries.
I have thus far spoken in mostly generalized exhortations for our collective action. This is primarily because, firstly, this is not a political platform and, more importantly, every action, if it is to be meaningful, relies upon imagination.
And so, as 2014 is born, I ask that you, my fellow human beings, call upon your imagination and challenge it to conceive of meaningful action in the new year. Every moment is worth our reflection and, as required, our action. Best that those two necessities are taken together, as every year moves us along to fates within and without our control. It is our prime duty then to ensure that whatever and whoever is within our capacity to improve and protect remains our central project.
Here is to 2014, here is to human freedom, here is to a brighter future for all those who inhabit our mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam!
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