Two of my favourite soliloquies from film are focused on capitalism and the effects of industrialization. One is affirmative and one is critical and yet both are brimming with truth. I was unable to locate the clips on Youtube, so I mashed them together and vimeo’ed them for your viewing pleasure.
Albert Einstein, in one of his many insightful writings in Ideas & Opinions, asserts that the greatest tragedy of the 20th Century is that automation and mechanization (extensions of the Industrial Revolution) were used to create new forms of work, rather than liberating man from labour. This envisioned liberation would enable men and women to pursue their passions (be it art, science, theatre, poetry, writing, philosophy) without the requirement to earn a living from it. To paraphrase Sir Ken Robinson’s words this would enable every individual to pursue their Element thereby contributing to society at their highest capacity. Robinson argues that this is our best strategy for surmounting the cacophony of crises that lie ahead. This thinking of course is an extension of Jungian philosophy, but taking the focus away from the transformative power of art, to the transformative power of passion. More specifically the transformative power, both for society and the individual, of individuals following and being successful in their passions.
So standing on the shoulders of giants where does this leave us? Capitalism and Industrialization should be encouraged to the extent that they enable opportunities for people to pursue their passions and lower the costs of living for all. As these mechanisms begin to encroach on personal freedoms and engender the extreme consolidation of wealth and power in the hands of a few, they should be eschewed.
There is an irony lurking here. Part of the cold war sales pitch of unfettered capitalism was the dominance of the individual over the state; it’s apparent that the dominance has quickly left the hands of individuals and is now firmly grapsed within the hands of economic necessity. “Don’t be a painter you won’t be able to make a living at it”. Perhaps that is the sad truth now that the Government assistance that sustained Poluck and Rothko in the early days of their careers has ceased. This failing of our societal mechanisms must be corrected… but how? Transform our systems of education? media? democracy? How do we affect a system with so much inertia, and vested short term interest? I suppose the only answer is to lead by example, follow your passion and encourage others to do the same… There’s nothing quite like the smell of utopia in the morning.