Freedom: To Oppress and Exploit?

“Not freedom for all, not equality for all, but a fight against the oppressors and exploiters, the abolition of every possible oppression and exploitation–that is our slogan.” -V. I. Lenin

Everyone believes in “freedom” but how many people actually think critically about what that word means? I doubt anyone would advocate ABSOLUTE freedom of the individual, because that would have to include the freedom to murder and rape, which most people agree is unacceptable. But where then do you draw the line?

It was once acceptable to “own” people as property, as slaves. We now see this as abhorrent. Will we eventually realize that the capitalist system of wage slavery is also abhorrent? Should individual human beings have the “freedom” to “own” the resources we ALL need to survive, and to withhold those resources from people based on their ability to “pay” with a currency they “earn” by selling their labor? Is that the highest form of “freedom” our species can envision or attain? I certainly hope not.

Questioning Political and Economic Systems

(This is essentially a continuation of my previous post. It began as response to a comment on that post but I think it deserves its own post. Again, respectful and thoughtful comments are welcome! I really want this to be more of a dialogue. Let’s struggle through these questions together!)

It is definitely true that there is no way that all the people in a certain nation will have the same opinion. And it is also true that if the system were to change there would be people forced to live under a system that they do not believe in. But… isn’t that already the case? Many people are forced to live under Capitalism though they despise the system. In fact, on a global scale, I would say the MAJORITY of people living on this planet do not wish to be living under Capitalism (because for the majority of people on this planet, Capitalism has been detrimental to their lives). And of those who ARE ok with living under Capitalism, how many feel this way merely because it is the only system they know? How many have been brainwashed to believe that this is the best of all systems?

And although there will never be a complete consensus of opinion, shouldn’t we at least be striving to find a better system? If we find a better system (better in terms of overall benefit to humanity and the planet), shouldn’t we then try to explain to people the merits of this system over the one we have? Because although there probably is no “perfect” system, surely there must be one that works better than what we have. Or at least better for our current situation. Maybe Capitalism worked for the past few hundred years to get us to progress technologically, but now Capitalism no longer makes sense. We now have the technology that would allow us to provide a decent living to all human beings. We are now capable of forming a truly global community. Capitalism at this point is actually harming human life, indeed all life on this planet. When our economic model leads governments to pay farmers to NOT grow crops, when it wastes up to 1/3 of its food supply, literally throwing away food it cannot sell, when this is REQUIRED in order to keep the system going, isn’t it time to rethink our economic model?

I also agree that human beings will find a way to corrupt any system. But does that mean we just give up and leave the fate of the world up to those few corrupt individuals? No. We must continue to fight against corruption and continue to develop the best possible system, one that minimizes the potential for corruption and remains vigilant in guarding against it, while also providing the most efficient, fair, and prosperous economy possible. The question then, of course, is: which system provides that? Which political and economic systems can provide the most fair, efficient, and prosperous models for human civilization? It certainly seems that a move away from Capitalism is necessary. But does that mean Socialism?

I guess I don’t have enough information to make that decision yet. I guess right now I’m still learning about history and political theory and economics. I do not yet have a sufficient foundation in those areas of knowledge to make an informed decision. So that is what I’m focusing my efforts on right now, absorbing information and struggling through the thought processes that lead to true knowledge.

Ideology of Truth & Justice

I am a seeker of Truth and Justice. I will not put political ideology above either of those things. I will not defend someone who uses dishonest means, even if I agree with their ends. Propaganda is propaganda, no matter who spews it. Violence is violence, no matter who the victim. You reap what you sow. Simple as that.

I want a revolution. But if a revolution is based on violence, dishonest propaganda, and/or dogmatic ideology, I want no part of it. Because a TRUE revolution is one that has the courage and creativity to break free of the prescriptive chains of ideology. Anything less than that is just a change in regime. Do I think that some form of Socialism or Communism would be better for our world than Capitalism? Yes. Will I do “whatever it takes” to bring Socialism/Communism into being? No.

First off, such blind allegiance goes against my commitment to TRUTH. If all of my debates use a particular political ideology as a springboard, then I am not really seeking truth, I am only seeking to reaffirm my beliefs. Do I see truth in the theories of Communism? Yes. Will I continue to question them even as I attempt to bring them into action? Absolutely. Because all ideologies are flawed. And yet we all must live according to ideologies in one form or another. We are all guided by beliefs. But the question is, do we cling to our beliefs and ideologies as omnipotent, indestructible absolutes? Or do we use them to guide us towards an ever-evolving truth and understanding? I choose the latter.

This stance is not only consistent with my personal core value of seeking Truth but I also believe it is the only way to build a successful revolution. A legitimate revolution must come from the masses of people. The existing masses of people have a wide variety of backgrounds and beliefs. In order to unite, we must respect each others’ opinions and work towards consensus. This includes listening to and considering the opinions of people we instinctively disagree with. Because no individual is in possession of complete or absolute truth. We must recognize and resist the tendency in ourselves to preach and to indoctrinate others to our beliefs. Our collective knowledge and creativity is what gives us strength. If we do not approach one another from a position of openness and humility, we cannot unite. It is not an easy task, but our humanity demands it.

Moreover, our humanity demands that we remain committed to JUSTICE. Committing to do “whatever it takes” to bring a particular political ideology into being goes against a commitment to justice. The ends do not justify the means. The intentional killing of another human being is never OK, in my opinion. So if it takes killing and oppressing “capitalists” in order to bring about a better system, I will not support it. We must find a way to break the cycle of violence that plagues our species. Oppressing our oppressors does not make us free, it just changes our role in the continuation of oppression.

Some say it can’t be done, non-violent revolution. I say that attitude is selling ourselves short. I say that attitude is cowardly and amoral. We must stick to our principles, even in the face of certain defeat. Because what is the worth of a victory gained by contradicting your own moral values? It is no victory at all, in my eyes. As Gandhi said, you must BE the change you wish to see in the world. When all human beings can BE what they say they wish the world to be, THAT will be the real revolution.

*I appreciatively welcome respectful comments, counter-arguments, and cooperative discussion.*