Capitalism: Is this the Beginning of the End?
Many thought the history of ideological development ended with the emergence of secular democratic capitalism. It couldn’t get better than this they all thought. Since the Crash of 2008 and with the continual economic instability impacting the lives of many ordinary people, capitalism has lost its self-evidential status and assumed legitimacy. People are not falling for the idea that this is the fault of a few greedy bankers in an otherwise good system.
The wall-street protests inspired similar protests throughout the world against the capitalist system. People are not asking for a tinkering around the edges or for some minor modifications but for a fundamental paradigm shift away from the status quo. One of the challenges of the protestors is to arrive at some specific demands. I believe one of the reasons this is particularly challenging for them is that people have been starved of any real public discourse and debate that probes into the system as it currently stands and to possible alternatives. The system has been bubble wrapped from receiving any real critique since those who benefit from the status-quo are the richest and hold most sway over the agents of change like politicians and the media. In addition to this the whole system of financial transactions are deliberately obfuscated to prevent an easy analysis. It has reached the point where not even the highly paid slaves (stock market traders) doing the dirty work on the trading floor even know the reality of what they are buying and selling, all they know are a few basic rules about how the ‘casino’ works and off they go.They are portrayed as highly intelligent and I’m sure they feel as such, the public are assured that they are integral to our nation’s economic success and do an immensely complex job, and consequently, this justifies the grotesque bonuses and salaries they enjoy. In reality the big money on offer simply makes them play the casino harder and faster and gives them less time to consider the repercussions of what they are doing.
The instinctive gut feeling a Muslim should have is that these protests are healthy, and in fact we should be trying to help fill the void in monetary ideological thinking that the current protests lack. For instance, a very simple demand should be that people are taxed according to their retained wealth and not their income; this would mean the poorest pay no tax at all and those with more money stashed away pay more – similar to the system of zakat. Furthermore Islam has guidelines on trading that would prevent the speculation in oil and basic food stuffs that are rampant in stock market trading. The volatility this creates in pricing is literally the cause of starving people in poorer parts of the world. One thing is for sure, for these protests to actually get anywhere they need to make some clear demands before they are fobbed off with the gesture politics of minor banking reforms that do nothing but rearrange the chairs on the proverbial titanic.
The important thing to understand is that capitalism is not just a dry system of economic policies – a neutral set of edicts which we just so happen to have adopted. Rather capitalism is a system propped up, watched over and run by its rich influential guardians who manipulate economies and markets by tugging on the mechanisms the policies were created to provide them with. This makes removing capitalism much more difficult because you’re not simply removing one theory of economics for another, rather you’re trying to remove people who have power and authority from positions they like to be in.
A famous Chinese curse translated says, ‘May you live in interesting times’. The thing Muslims living in the West should fear is being turned into the scapegoats of present day economic hardship that people find themselves facing. To deflect attention from the system that has served them so well one should expect the heat to be turned up against the ever present danger of the ‘Muslims of Europe’ trying to take-over from every corner. In a recent al-Jazeera interview given by Slovenian-born philosopher Slavoj Zizek, he mentioned his fear of a new type of fascism taking root in Europe. He stated that he didn’t fear the Muslims of Europe but the false protectors of a Judaeo-Christian legacy. He said, “be aware Brevic (meaning Anders Brevic who recently went on a killing spree in Norway) is the clear case of something paradoxical emerging now – anti-semitic Zionists. He went on to say that Brevic was not a lone madman, rather he had the basic attitude of many American conservative Christian fundamentalists today. More interestingly he went on to say, “Are the representatives of the state of Israel aware of what they are doing? They sold their soul to the devil – they made a deal with those political forces in the west which are by definition anti-semitic. They told them you can play your racial games there so long as you let us do the same with the Palestinians.”
As for the current protestors they should be congratulated for seeing through the smoke and mirrors and realising that it is the system itself which is at fault. What is now required is the support and engagement of Muslims, especially if we don’t want to be made sacrificial lambs for the crimes of those that run the capitalist system who are at one with Zionist ambitions.
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