The Case for Radical Change

The sheer number of people who do not understand why Bernie Sanders supporters are so passionate is perplexing. Senator Sanders’s vision isn’t radical by any qualified definition. It’s an attempt to realign American policy with the needs of the American majority. Still, we don’t have to look far on any social media platform to see people fighting against something that there is no stopping. Whether it is through a Bernie victory in 2020, or something more radical in the future, change is coming.

That’s not some empty platitude. It’s a fact. For the first time in human history, we have the tools and technology to create the world that we’ve been dreaming of for millennia — societies that empower every human being to be the fullest expression of themselves. It’s a way of organizing ourselves and our planet that is very different from anything presently practiced, one that up until this point in time could only be considered imaginative. The case for radical change is that we’re finally at a point in our existence where we can begin the work to reshaping ourselves into fundamentally different beings.

Radical change has nothing to do with politics, although it is political by nature. It’s apolitical because the type of transformation we’re talking about transcends the historical politics of Republicans and Democrats. The focus becomes systemic, integrating technologies and policies with the primary focus of enhancing our personal and collective powers. It begins at varying levels of government within the nation-state but inevitably continues towards more extensive global networks. The process is political by nature because we need majority popular support to begin the journey in this direction.

Radical change is not the immediate and total substitution for one system for another. It’s about imagining alternatives with the present moment in mind. Understanding full well that no matter what we create today, it’ll never be enough for future generations, and that’s okay. Even the grandest ideas take shape through incremental steps. Radical change is approaching society though the same experimental process that all innovation occurs.

There are several specific reasons why one might argue for radical change: our racist criminal justice system; disproportionate educational funding; and a political system that is and always has been available to the highest bidder. These are all valid reasons, but we’re going to focus on three broad themes that cast a wide net over all of the specific issues.

The first is the climate crisis. The second is the organization of society through economic class. The third, and most important, is our present moment in time and the capacities it grants us.

In making a case for radical change, we compare all of our ideas against our current circumstances. Today leaders at the state, national, and global levels are all aware that we require significant action to address the challenges ahead. Even armed with this knowledge, they are unable and unwilling to cooperate at the level necessary to avoid catastrophe.

The Crisis

The climate crisis is the greatest threat humanity has ever faced. It is a struggle that holds within it the possibility of numerous pathways towards the decimation of our species. If left unchecked, it will create a domino effect of ecosystem collapse that will leave many without food and water. Violence and disease will follow thrusting humanity into an era of prolonged darkness. The most efficient and effective way to address the crisis is to reimagine our approach to state, national, and global cooperation.

If we were able to snap our fingers today and have 100% renewable energy on a global scale, life would still never be the same. Temperatures continue to break records, with January 2020 being our most recent “hottest month ever recorded” [1]. But magic wishes aren’t an option, and given our current trajectory, the climate will get worse before it gets better. We should expect water shortages in various parts of our country and throughout the world. The changing climate will impact what food can be grown where, and likely disrupt our entire agricultural industry. America’s destiny includes grappling with losing the ability to consume whatever we want whenever we want.

If our efforts to mitigate the crisis do not radically improve, we can expect starvation, famine, war, and disease. Now given the current state of global wealth stratification, it’s certain that the poor will suffer the most from these changes, but for how long? The ultra-rich already own bunkers like those offered by Vivos xPoint near the Black Hills of South Dakota. Still, it’s foolish to think that the majority of our planet is going to sit back and die while a handful of elites wait out the storm. Radical change is the only pathway to reshaping our institutions to handle these challenges on the horizon.

Radical change begins with reconceptualizing food and water as public goods. We bring the growth and distribution of raw food products under total public ownership. So, for example, established organizations farming fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains would be brought under social ownership, leaving room for private experimentation in new directions. It’s the best method to ensure equitable distribution and resource allocation in times of need. I intentionally did not include meat in this description because meat production is the second-largest polluter in the world, below buildings, but above transportation. Radical change is both external and internal. We cannot hope to recreate and save humanity if we are unwilling to sacrifice some comforts.

Our quest for radical change isn’t just about preventing starvation. It’s about rethinking the processes that put us into the crisis in the first place. The world already operates in a regional food production model; certain products grow better in specific locations. But these models lack the international cooperation needed to redefine food as a right. Historically the biggest problem with food distribution was logistics. It’s expensive to put food on a boat and send it to another country. As automation and green energy integrate themselves into maritime transportation, the costs of shipping food (and keeping it fresh during transport) will dramatically decline. It is a known future, which is why it’s time for a level of diplomacy that works to create globally owned and shared networks of food production and distribution. It is the most direct path towards ending world hunger and ensuring our survival in the long term.

Throughout the world, public water resources sell to the highest bidder. In the August 2008 issue of The Economist magazine, DOW Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris said: “Water is the oil of the 21st century.” The Centre for Research on Globalization concluded a lengthy report about water privatization stating that, “Global water and infrastructure-privatization fever is unstoppable: many local and state governments are suffering from revenue shortfalls and are under financial and budgetary strains. These local and state governments can no longer shoulder the responsibilities of maintaining and upgrading their own utilities. Facing offers of millions of cash from Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, UBS, and other elite banks for their utilities and other infrastructure and municipal services, cities and states will find it extremely difficult to refuse these privatization offers” [2].

Understanding that a handful of financiers are monopolizing the most valuable resource on planet Earth should give every person pause in light of the challenges ahead. When it comes to water, there is no alternative besides a radical reconception of how we classify the resource. To continue on the current path does nothing to address our present arrangements, guaranteeing that the only people who won’t struggle for water are those with the resources to pay the most for it.

The argument for radical change when it comes to reclassifying specific resources isn’t some imaginative revolutionary vision. It is the most logical course of action given our circumstances. We need to decide now what type of species we are going to be. Will we allow people to die of dehydration for the benefit of profit? Or, will we muster the will and imagination to reshape our laws of property and contract surrounding water resources? The radical alternative is the total socialization of water resources in the United States and around the world. There is no other way to guarantee the fair and equitable distribution of these resources in times of need.

According to Enerdata [3], energy consumption across the globe has been steadily increasing and shows no indicators of slowing down. The data highlights a significant challenge that we cannot solve under our current legal, economic, and political arrangements. The Union of Concerned Scientists released a damning report in 2015 detailing how the for-profit fossil fuel industry has done everything in its power over the past 30 years to spread misinformation about the damages caused by our energy production and use [4]. Additionally, the fossil fuel industry is one of congress’s largest investors. According to Oil Change International, for every $1 fossil fuel organizations invest in a congressperson, they receive $119 back. That’s an 11,900% return on investment! [5]

To call the transformation of our energy infrastructure radical speaks to the lunacy of our present circumstances, yet here we are. It highlights the raw weakness of our national leadership. Ensuring that if we don’t rethink our approach to how we invest in and create energy, we have no hope of stopping the damage we are doing. The radical change that we need for electricity isn’t one of technology or resources. We already have those. It’s one of political and individual will power.

The solution is a networked green energy infrastructure that transforms American power to decentralized nodes, one where every building collects energy and disseminates the excess back into the network. Presently the Green New Deal is our most ambitious plan to accomplish these necessary steps, but even that is not enough.

When we talk about energy through the lens of radical change, we can come to only one conclusion. All collective earth societies will continue to expand their energy use and need as time progresses. Therefore the most optimal organization of energy generation and distribution is socially owned global networks.

These projects start nationally but expand continentally. The United States could be the global leader of this progress, developing cooperative research, development, and deployment strategies to integrate with Canada and Mexico. The concept of allowing private corporations to control the generation and distribution of energy in a universe of ever-increasing need is illogical and immoral.

Oligarchy — Past & Present

Throughout human history, the ruling class has always been one of extreme aristocracies. It’s a type of existence for the very few that is radically different from the vast majority. The United States and nations around the world still operate within power structures spanning millennia. For the first time in recorded history, it’s actually within the means of the collective population to break free of these structures. We can accomplish this by decentralizing economic, political, and legal power through the process of deep democracy.

History shows us that when power becomes too concentrated for too long, backlash occurs. We continue to experience record corporate profits while wages have been stagnant for over 40 years [6]. Our healthcare and education systems perform relatively poorly compared to other industrialized nations, especially when you take into account our significant resource and capital advantage [7]. Our infrastructure is crumbling, our media is openly biased propaganda, and our President is moving forward $1.7 trillion in social spending cuts [8] that would hurt the elderly and poor the most. With all this negativity, there is still one title that America holds — we have the most billionaires of any other country in the world [9].

It doesn’t take a scholar to see the writing on the wall. The United States is the new Rome. We are eating ourselves by allowing the ultra-rich to dominate our society and resources. Our current trajectory is unsustainable and will ultimately lead to collapse. It’s not some conspiracy theory. Today elites are concentrating resources with the intent of escaping into their walled gardens when the crisis becomes too dangerous. Instead of working proactively to solve our problems, they choose to wait them out. They are insulated from the struggle and strife of the majority of Americans.

Economic class is something we’re all born into. It defines our worldview and shapes the opportunities that the universe presents to us. We can’t speak about class without also discussing race because in the United States, the two are legally intertwined. With that said, the poor rural white person has much more in common with the poor urban black person then either do with their billionaire counterpart. The case for radical change in the overthrow of oligarchical rule over humanity is one that recognizes our deep commonalities among the majority. It is a rejection of otherness and a staunch belief in our ability to transcend.

The question of radical change in relation to class in the United States comes in two forms, redistribution and reformation. Redistribution is the most commonly cited solution, but by itself, it does nothing but provide a temporary Band-Aid on a still-open wound. Reformation surrounding the laws of property and contract are the correct radical solution for changing American society. These two aspects of our legal system were designed by the constitutional founders to benefit wealthy white males disproportionately. We cannot progress as a people until we’re willing to come to terms with our history.

The power of the people to enact redistributive efforts allows us to create the systemic reforms we need through investment in ourselves. Programs like Medicare for All, free primary and advanced education for all, scientific agriculture, and so many more would lay the foundation for a transformative human experience. Is it so radical to decide together that three men shouldn’t own half of the collective wealth in the United States? The answer is, of course, no.

Oligarchy and politics go hand in hand within the United States. Since the Gilded Age, corporate donations to political actors have ensured the prioritization of the donor agenda. Until we can significantly and persistently raise the temperature of our democracy we will be unable to overcome this obstacle. It’s a central theme of Bernie Sanders’s campaign that begs the question, can we continue the momentum after 2020?

Radical change provides us a pathway to free ourselves from the dominion of a few. By reshaping our elections, corporate and property laws, and investing more in social protection packages, we allow each individual to live their life more freely.

The radical solution to our elections takes form through two programs. The first is eliminating money’s power over our political process. We accomplish this through a series of individual bills aimed at election reform. Examples include making election day a national holiday; making all elections publicly funded with set spend amounts; implementing new democracy tools such as ranked-choice voting to ensure fair outcomes; and returning to the tried-and-true paper ballot method to avoid ill actors influencing our elections. None of these ideas are radical in their character. Still, compared to our present circumstance, all would be dramatic in their impact. Reforming our electoral process increases every individual’s access to our democracy.

Beyond access, we should also consider our citizens’ agency within the process. A publicly owned election campaign platform is a direct and relatively straightforward solution to that problem. We pass a law requiring all registered candidates to publish a profile on a publicly owned candidate database. Any person can access the information of any candidate running for any office from school board to President. Features can be developed into the platform to enhance the user experience and make it as easy and convenient to identify the candidates that best align with the voter’s values. There’s no voting accomplished through this platform. It’s purely informational.

At least one non-profit has attempted this solution in the United States. American democracy depends not only on more people voting but more people actively voting for candidates whose platforms that they understand and agree with. This type of digital experience shifts voter behavior from a party-line vote to a more issue-focused approach. Additionally, it would do more to bring in the youth vote then any other initiative ever has. By communicating with our youth in a method that resonates with them, we empower entire generations to become more civically engaged.

Americans love entrepreneurship and innovation. Today the laws surrounding property, specifically technology as it relates to patents, are one of the most significant barriers to American progress. Much like economic power, we isolate access to our most advanced technologies and process to the few. If the United States wants to ignite an era of radical progress, we need to develop a method to open up access to these technologies to small and medium businesses.

We can accomplish this through multiple avenues, but I’ll illustrate with one example. Imagine two recent PhD graduates whose research has opened up a significant innovative possibility in the biomedical arena. Now in our present circumstances, these entrepreneurs begin their quest to help humanity at a substantial disadvantage. Megacorporations such as Johnson & Johnson and Novartis have access to technologies and practices that are unavailable to these new graduates. In this scenario, the innovators would greatly benefit from using these advanced tools. Still, because of our laws surrounding patents and ownership, they will be unable to. Instead, they start from a foundation significantly lower than it needs to be. The result is hundreds of wasted hours testing and exploring avenues our innovators could avoid with access to the right tools.

Radical change to the rule of the oligarchy requires us to give more people more access to the tools and technologies necessary to innovate. Mature global corporations all share one thing in common; they prioritize the financialization of their services and the retainment of their power.

We can observe this in real-time, as these corporations spend more on marketing than they do on research and development [10]. Radical change is recognizing that the laws that allowed us to reach our present circumstances are the same laws that are holding us back from creating new ones. It’s also one of the reasons that this idea will receive some of the most intense opposition. Forcing our most advanced companies to open up technological and process access to our small and medium firms removes their power to delay innovation for their profits.

Democratically expanding our social protections is another direct course of action to free us from the hierarchies we were born into. When we tie health care to employment, employers leverage it to disadvantage and threaten the workers. For-profit education ensures access to those with the most capital, perpetuating class division. Denying the necessary funding and effort towards green energy infrastructure diminishes the powerless to the climate consequences.

The objective of American labor in our new knowledge economy must be to allow every individual to pursue the type of work that ignites their passion. It’s no secret that those who seek their work with genuine interest also make the most profound impacts. Radical change is extending social protections to include food, water, communication, transportation, education, and more. It’s not an argument to remove struggle or merit from the human experience; it is an argument to redefine what struggle and merit mean within that journey.

Here Bernie Sanders does not go far enough. That’s not a critique on him or his campaign, because all change is incremental. The case for radical change is that as our universe continues to evolve rapidly, so must our institutions. We need to continually reconceptualize what is and is not a human right and then cooperate on a national and global scale to develop these ideas into reality. Radical change is the prioritization of the needs of the vast majority above a tiny minority that currently holds all of the power. It’s a commitment to ourselves and our families to build a world that allows every person to express their identity and vision within the world more freely.

Because We Can

The most compelling argument for implementing radical change is that we can. For so much of human history, we have lacked the communication, transportation, and energy infrastructure needed to bring about change at the scale we need. The case for radical change in the context of our ability to create it is an argument for following the natural course of the universe.

We begin with questions. Why not dive deep into building a better planet for the entirety of humanity? Why not foster radical cooperation, education, and communication across all people on this planet? Why not attempt to develop a more transcendent form of living? A way of living that expands our humanity instead of a life that belittles it. Is the broader vision significantly different than today? Absolutely. But we cannot allow fear of the unknown to stifle our self-actualization as a species.

Consider what we can observe today. Technology is growing exponentially, and the time between leaps is shrinking. We understand phenomena that contradict everything we thought we knew. For example, the pace of universal expansion is accelerating, which defies our most foundational understandings of physics. We now have artificial intelligence that is diagnosing diseases and developing cures that have long escaped our most advanced doctors [11,12]. The truth that so many fight to resist, is that change is coming whether we like it or not, and it’s coming fast. The case for radical change is to embrace this trajectory and use it to reshape the world and ourselves in a new image. The alternative is a futile resistance that only brings chaos and confusion.

Much of the resistance to radical change is across generational lines. These holdouts are fighting a battle that is both unwinnable and unnecessary. Consider that people born into the world today will never experience the linear change previous generations did. As communication deepens through technological advances, we can expect that the participants in that society will undergo similarly expansive cultural shifts. Our challenge is developing the social, economic, and legal arrangements to support and foster this transformation to the highest degree.

The thing with radical change is that we can’t pin it to any single human vertical. Each new progression opens up new opportunities for advancement in multiple directions. That’s why we focus on what is radical in the immediate present. Policies like a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, decoupling education funding from municipality taxes, and others are all bricks in a much broader foundation of transformation.

Embracing radical change as a philosophy isn’t the want or desire for wholesale and immediate change. Not because it’s a bad idea, but because it is unfeasible, given our present circumstances. Even worse, the widespread substitution of one system for another would most likely occur through violence. The progressive must beware of using violence to establish a new order as it will only perpetuate the ideals that we are trying to eliminate. Instead, we take radical vision and break it down into experimental projects and policies that allow us to take a focus and cumulative approach towards transformation.

The most crucial requirement for radical change is the belief in our ability to create it. Radical progressive change isn’t coming. It’s already here. What we see today is a shift in the universal consciousness primarily around generational lines. Bernie Sanders is the first step of many towards this new vision of who we are and who we can become, but it certainly doesn’t end there. The case for radical change is an argument for the profound belief that is within our collective capability to be better. Better for ourselves and better for the other.

[1] January 2020 hottest on record, EU climate monitoring system says By Brooks Hays United Press International Feb. 4 2020

[2] The New “Water Barons”: Wall Street Mega-Banks are Buying up the World’s Water by Jo-Shing Yang Global Research 12/2012

[3] Total Energy Breakdown by Country — Global Energy Statisical Yearbook 2019 Enerdata Accessed 2/29/20

[4] The Climate Deception Dossiers Union of Concerned Scientists Jun 29, 2015

[5] Oil Change Internationsal Report

[6] Wage Stagnation in Nine Charts By Lawrence Mishel, Elise Gould, and Josh Bivens Economic Policy Institute Jan 6, 2015

[7] U.S. students’ academic achievement still lags that of their peers in many other countriesBy Drew DeSilver Pew Research Center Feb 15 2017

[8] Trump Just Proposed Cutting $1.7 Trillion From Social Programs To Pay For $1.5 Trillion In Tax Cuts: Reportby Lance Perriman Political Dig Feb 12, 2018

[9] List of countries by billionaires Wikipedia

[10] Big pharmaceutical companies are spending far more on marketing than research by Ana Swanson Washington Post Feb. 11 2015

[11] AI discovers previously unknown features linked to cancer recurrence Knowridge Dec 26, 2019

[12] AI discovers antibiotic that kills even highly resistant bacteria by Jon Fingas Feb. 22 2020

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