What's Next? Radical Bleeding Heart image

What About the Future?

Why Should We Worry About Looking Ahead? Don't we have our hands full in the present? And what we know about the future is that we can know almost nothing about the future.

It is quite simple. We need to keep our eye on the ball. We need to stay focused on the ultimate end or we will become so twisted around and tied in knots by the contrivances and compromises of our ongoing struggle that we lose our way. Our enemies will seize upon our confusion to permit us apparent victories that are actual defeats. They are doing that right now. To prevent that we must remember to always distinguish between means and ends.

What does that mean? It is best to explain by example. Let us say you believe in unions as a way to improve working conditions and worker salaries. The union is the means; better working conditions and salaries are the end. If the union becomes the end itself, you have lost your way. Either the union will fail to achieve the real end, or you may be blinded to a better way to achieve that end, one not requiring unions. Either way you lose.

That is just an illustrative example. The point is merely that the world changes, and we must be flexible, always ready to find new ways to support our true values. What then are our real ends?

Equality. This does not mean, first and foremost, economic equality, but will almost certainly include it. When people speak of equality in a social context, they mean, as they should, that all human beings are equally valuable and respected. Throughout history, whenever one group of people exploited another, they assured themselves that those upon whose shoulders they were riding were inferior, a class of creatures only slightly superior to beasts. The narrative has varied only in accordance with who was being exploited and how.

So economic equality has always been at least part of what social equality is about. And exploitation has always been the major reason for inequality. Xenophobia and prejudice are a part of it, to be sure, but the desire of some to live at the expense of others is the arch enemy. The subjugation of women, however idealized and justified, has always been about treating women as the sexual property of men. Slaves were seen as less than human; a servant class is always seen as biologically destined to serve. And now, the poor are derided as lazy and “dependant.” The story changes; the purpose is the same.

Constancy and Change. The world changes and we must adapt. Certain things, however, are unlikely to change. The right will always be devoted to protecting and augmenting the power and privileges of the powerful and privileged. Their tactics will change with circumstances. Human beings will continue to be dependant upon one another, and there will always be those who will contrive to take without giving.

Progressives must continue to be committed to the fundamental idea of the early socialist movement: “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need” which most people associate with Karl Marx. It should be stressed that there are many possible ways to put such an idea into practice. It is emphatically not necessary, as the raving right will insist, that we all become slaves of a bureaucratic tyranny. A guarantee of a job and an education should take care of the first principle, and universal insurance is all that is need for the second.

It is curious, is it not, that while envisioning our progressive future, we should recall an ideal of the early Christians, who at least attempted to put it into practice two thousand years ago. But it is a uniquely human trait that we can dream of a more perfect future, and by both dreaming and striving, gradually make dreams reality.

[Back to Simple Questions.]

Marx did popularize the idea in his Critique of the Gotha Program, but it was a commonplace in socialist thinking of the early nineteenth century and was advocated by some even in the late eighteenth century. It appears as well a principle followed by the early Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 4:32). It makes so much sense, it is no wonder both that it has been around so long and that it has been fought so ferociously by the privileged and their minions.