The propaganda of times past painted socialism in the grimmest colors. We were told it was the antithesis of free will and independence. We were told it was a tool of control over the masses to make them all the same and subjugate them to the will of an ominous and oppressive government. This dim light it has been seen in by Western eyes plays tricks on their fragile minds. The emotional appeal to drive fear and stir panic run deep and have lasted longer than the wars that spawned it. The worst part of it all is this fundamental lack of knowledge about it.
Mechanisms of control are abundant in all forms of government because corruption is not from any school of thought. It strikes anyone and everyone who gets to enjoy power for long enough. It has nothing to do with philosophy or mindset, and everything to do with the individual’s greed and selfishness. It presents itself readily in Capitalism no less than in Socialism. Corruption cannot be blamed on the style or type of ogranization. It’s an entirely human shortcoming that stems from deep-seated fear or resentment.
As with any other form of cooperative living situation, Socialism fills a need for governmental organization. At some point it would be ridiculously cumbersome for each of us to be truly independent. Creating our own roads and schools might seem fun, but it sure would be hard to maintain. There are some things that most people agree should be handled by a central agency. Emergency services, infrastructure and foreign policy are just a few examples of industries best left to experienced professionals.
In that most basic sense, Westerners have Socialist tendencies – because it turns out it’s nice to be able to rely on clean water and consistent energy. Managing the larger and more complex social issues requires a body to tackle things in search of solutions. As great as it is to have a competitive market, it leaves much to be desired in meeting ongoing biological necessities. We all need certain minimums met to survive, and those needs should never be subject to the volatility of the free market if we can help it.
A funny part about it is that Socialism may be a more truly representative form of government than the republic Westerners love to hang their hats on. It’s a broad term to use, as are so many words, but for the sake of this argument we’ll narrow it to mean the widely known idea of “Democratic Socialism”. Shared ownership of the production of the necessities of life does not preclude anyone from participation in their dreams. It acknowledges humanity’s mutual destiny of living together forever. Westerners often don’t realize that they agree with a lot of it, but Socialism just calls for collaborative achievement.
Politics and culture intertwine, they can be difficult to distinguish, and they are quite strongly connected. Leaving a Capitalist mindset is frightening for those who have known nothing different, but that system comes with cultural values that are damaging to humans and the planet. The excessive abundance that Westerners crave is a comfort for those living in a world subject to change without notice. For whatever reason, it doesn’t occur to them that the entirety of the purpose of Socialism is to meet everyone’s basic needs, virtually eliminating that unpredictability factor. The emotional security that comes with market stability can significantly reduce unfulfilling, wasteful excess.
When they are told that commodities could be regulated, they fear heartless mechanization (funny coming from Capitalists, living that way each day right now). They expect to see every label on just a white field, with bold black typeface, plainly unformatted. They are told that if the group controls distribution that it means they have to wait in line for a handout. What people don’t see is a greater possibility that more likely, what it means is a wide seasonal variety. Instead of drab uniforms given out on a regular basis, it’s getting bespoke clothes that have been tailored just for each us (but maybe buttons wouldn’t cost so much).
People coming together to make decisions that benefit the total populace helps balance the inconsistencies we all experience, especially when those people are knowledgable. When we collectively organize by committee to manage industries, it means those in the know help control the flow of wholesale ingredients and materials. A certain amount of public control would be in place in terms of critical functions – like clean water and safe roadways. It enforces the application of skilled or experienced professionals in decision making processes that affect everyone. As admirable as it is for privatized versions to do their best to keep up, certain basic functions need to be consistent more than new and different. Letting everyone reinvent the wheel may honor their independence, but it does no honor to the rest of us who still have basic necessities.
The instability and volatility of modern markets is fine for many traded products. But it is deeply irresponsible to subject society to fragility in availability of necessary basics. People can continue to exercise freedom in a majority of industries. But focusing on infrastructure, human health and wellbeing should be considered vital to everyone. Let’s come together to gain agreements on our prioritites as a society in terms of universal similarities. When we have steady sources of life’s necessities it’s easier to spend time on frivolities.
Aside from assuring stability and security, there’s other reasons to change our minds about how we run things. The Capitalist cultural value of unending economic growth turns out to be in an immense burden on the proletariat, and is completely unsustainable in the long term. The cultural shift needed to accompany a Socialist governmental change is to one of respectfully caring for ourselves and our belongings. When we get to a place where we make things well the first time, and we’re willing to repair items before we replace them, we can move away from frantic overproduction. Convenience, planned obsolescence, and fad buying lead to constant depletion of the little resources people manage to obtain.
They don’t see that they’ve been run into the ground because Capitalist culture tells them that they are only temporarily embarrassed millionaires. The point that’s missed by the whole worldview there is that if we aren’t running away from the specter of poverty then it wouldn’t be so important to hoard every penny in fear for our lives. Instead of wishing and dreaming of being rich so we’re not poor, Socialism dreams of a world without poverty, so we don’t have to fear that worst case scenario. Instead of dangling the carrot of ascension to fortune at others’ expense, it dangles the carrot of relief from oppression at the expense of the perpetrator.
We all know it’s the right thing to do, to ensure that if people want access to society’s benefits, that they contribute their fair share too. It’s distinctly more fair and equal for all since society carries the poor, be the burden divided proportionately or not. Inevitably when I get to this part of the argument, a Capitalist must jump up and shout, “but the world wasn’t fair to begin with!” and I’ll tell you the same thing I told my mother when she wanted to placate me with cliches that explain away the world’s inadequacies. I looked at her, less than 12 years old, and said, “but the pursuit of justice is a worthy cause.”