We live under the constraints of a racist patriarchal capitalist society. Its not pretty. The conditions of capitalism lead to chronic individualism, commidification of the self, objectification of the other, & an underlying profit motive perspective. Chronic obsessions with the self plus greed produced by a profit motive results in a toxic condition of lovelessness. Capitalism breeds lovelessness. After reading “All About Love” by bell hooks & coming across some of the wise words of Assata Shakur I came to understand a crucial underlying message: Revolution is about love, while capitalism prospers in & demands the lack of love, lovelessness.
In a society obsessed with the individual, greed, & commodity, the way we as Westerners understand love is malformed. We see love as a mystic process that no one understands. When we use the term we refer to it as a “thing” & thus use the word as a noun. According to Eric Fromm, “Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever. A feeling comes and it may go. How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision. … Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice.” The way that Westerners understand love as a result of its malformation via capitalism is just an exaggerated or extended egotism, what many of us call love is no more than a symbiotic attachment or obsession. According to M. Scott Peck, the true definition of love is “the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” The empathetic extension of oneself for the nurturing of another is the exact opposite of what capitalism is. Capitalism is focused on the self for the intention of gain. Capitalism is only willing to extend itself for profit, only willing to interact with the other individual in regards to manipulation & exploitation in order to increase the profit margin.
In the book “Theory Toward The South” by Jean & John Comaroff, the authors discussed the “autonomous person” as a Euro-American invention. Comaroff and Comaroff also mention the West’s new wave of personal growth fixation. Comaroff and Comaroff point out the fact that the idea of the “autonomous person” is a European idea fashioned by the European bourgeois (Comaroff and Comaroff, 2012: 51). In Western capitalist societies the self is the main means of focus. People become a means to an end, tools for exploitation, discard-able objects. Capitalism comes with a number of societal characteristics: alienation, chronic individualism, exploitation, objectification, commodification, lovelessness, & dehumanization. An environment with such societal toxins breeds sociopaths. Look at the definition of sociopath, Antisocial personality disorder, according to the DSM IV (sociopathy exhibits at least 3 of these traits):
- failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
- deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
- impulsiveness or failure to plan ahead;
- irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
- reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
- consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
- lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another;
Look closely here, traits 2 through 5 & 7 are all common social characteristics found in Western capitalist society. And to a certain extent, each one is admired, especially in a corporate setting. These behaviors increase the profit motive while dehumanizing all parties involved, creating a cold society lacking community & willing to obtain a profit by any means necessary.
Love + Community = Revolution & Liberation
Let’s take a traditionally communal culture into perspective here in regards to the idea of the self as well as “we”. For example, in Chapter 2 Comaroff and Comaroff provide readers with an example of personhood from a culture/people in Africa: the Southern Tswana peoples of South Africa. Personhood, defined by the Tswana, is basically the sum of an individual’s relationships and ties to significant others. The identity of a person is also created based on an ongoing series of practical activities. Thus, a person is a sum of their interactions and relationships with others as well as a summary of their actions (whether they are achievement or failure). The Tswana’s first sense of personhood is not about a state of being; it is about a continual state of becoming. The individual is constructed as they act upon the world. Without the collective the individual can not exist. Such societal meanings of personhood create communities of love, communities of WE & not the isolated ME.
A shift to a personhood that focuses on the individual only within the context of the community is revolutionary, liberating, & humanizing. It creates a space where individuals work together, understand their need for one another, & the importance of the self in relation to the communal. Assata Shakur states that, “R/evolution is not about bloodshed or about going to the mountains and fighting. We will fight if we are forced to but the fundamental goal of r/evolution must be peace. We need a r/evolution of the mind. We need a r/evolution of the heart. We need a r/evolution of the spirit. The power of the people is stronger than any weapon. A people’s r/evolution can’t be stopped. We need to be weapons of mass construction. weapons of mass love. It’s not enough just to change the system. We need to change ourselves. We have got to make this world user friendly. Are you ready to sacrifice to end world hunger? To sacrifice to end colonialism? To end neo-colonialism? To end racism? To end sexism? R/evolution means the end of exploitation. R/evolution means respecting people from other cultures. R/evolution is creative. … R/evolution is love.”
Revolution, liberation, freedom, community, are all products of love. The will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth. When we come to understand the humanizing & empowering effects of love and community we will be able to revolutionize our interactions with the self as well as others. When we choose to love we free ourselves as well as others & begin to build healthy liberating interactions. We become willing to struggle all because of a love for the people.