A people lose their ability to survive as soon as they lose their capacity for empathy. And our society forgot that a long time ago. The modern oligarchs have gone further than simply dividing the oppressed by race and gender; under neoliberalism, authority tells us to accept our lack of economic and civil freedoms outright, using the toxic Randian philosophy of one’s wealth always reflecting their personal judgment and the poor and oppressed therefore being objects of contempt.
This is how the corporate state’s adherents are made to condescend to and mock the suffering of the poor; to side with the elite-controlled police forces as they see anti-war, environmental, or economic justice protesters get beaten, maced or attacked by dogs; to revel in the destruction of nature for corporate profits and the massacre of people in U.S.-invaded regions.
Something like this last happened with the rise of corporate fascism in Italy during the early 19th century authoritarian drift. And the human costs of the new fascist turn are the same as the last one-they just aren’t so well noticed. At least 10,000 suicides have been tied to the financial crisis; tens of thousands of Americans die each year for lack of health care; middle eastern wars have killed over four million Muslims since 1990 alone, and hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from the imperial wars since World War II; then there are the 100 people who die from opioids every day largely as a result of them turning to drugs amid poverty, the thousands of Americans who die each year from unemployment, and the rest of the not easily accounted for population that’s suffered or died because of the way our economic system is designed.
Yes, what’s different about this holocaust is that its casualties happen in undeliberate settings throughout the global south and the impoverished community, with people made complicit in it through an effort to hide or trivialize these genocidal realities. In place of healthy grief over the tragedies neoliberalism causes, there’s an attitude of callousness-not exactly a gladness for what’s happening, but a rationalization of it enforced by “capitalist” orthodoxy, misleading political language, and a vague disdain for the victimized groups.
So society’s moral failures go unacknowledged, making these failures come back to us in the form of collapse-government shutdown, economic unraveling, resource depletion, world war, climate catastrophe, and anarchistic violence have all begun, and their being sure to accelerate in the coming years shows just how civilizations built on lack of empathy self-destruct.
Then comes the possibility we tend not to consider during our relays of the “collapse will lead to the oligarchy’s demise” prediction: that the power structure will find a way to survive the fall. That the elites, who are already well-equipped for breakdown with the many luxury bunkers they’ve been building in recent years, will leverage the following calamity into the ultimate seizure of power. It’s how many dystopian stories describe the rise of their dictatorships, such as how multiple atomic explosions allowed for the takeover of the regime in 1984, and it’s what could happen in the next few years. The corporate state has the military forces, propaganda skills and wealth to do this, and the Trump administration’s “shock doctrine” tactics hint it’s being prepared for.
The neoliberals are doing everything right towards making their revolution permanent. Yet as we all know, they’re going to fail.
They’re going to fail because human beings do and will always have an almost logic-defying ability to find empathy. This is what history has shown, no matter the mental conditioning that’s been put up against people’s attempts toward doing what’s moral and humane. There have been the slave owners, taught all their lives to think certain people are inferior and deserving of captivity, who’ve changed their worldview when seeing evidence against that; there have been the many Nazis, taught through a rigorous groupthink that certain populations were threats that needed to be exterminated, who’ve turned that belief around when seeing these were in fact other human beings; there have been the American soldiers in Vietnam, who’ve suddenly decided to disobey their authorities in the U.S. military when ordered to kill small children. And on the examples go.
Whatever the efforts to kill the empathy instinct, it’s always shown itself to be able to come back in people, with profound inner change taking place in as shortly as seconds. It doesn’t ultimately matter that that the transformations mentioned happened amid a vast majority of other people consenting to their programming, for the same reason it didn’t ultimately matter that the anti-slavery, women’s rights, and civil rights movements begun amid a vast majority of people accepting the status quo. This shows no propaganda system, even one as ingenius as neoliberalism, can hold faith forever.
Which shows whether or not the present self-described “political revolution” of an effort at overthrow succeeds, whether or not the uprisings are suppressed by the corporate state’s apparent plans for dismantling a free press, and outlawing organized protest, and winning consent through extreme shocks to the system, overthrow will happen. The consequence, though, is that a lot of people who aren’t already awake to the system’s injustices will have to go through a painful realization period before joining the effort-a transition that will be more difficult the longer the system lasts. But that transition will be worthwhile, because its final form will be what our society needs even more than a political revolution: a healing for the damage that’s been done.