History has a certain rhyme to it, as Mark Twain once said, never quite repeating exactly, but tending to emerge from particular themes time and time again.
One of those themes that has consistently emerged over time, especially as a result of capitalist focused economies (though certainly not limited to them) is the gradual accumulation and concentration of wealth at the top, exacerbating the disparity between those who have, and those who “have not”.
Despite history’s lessons on how this ultimately ends in collapse for the wealthy and poor alike, our modern civilization seems oblivious to the danger, as those at the top of the economic pyramid continue to accumulate wealth, extract resources unsustainably for profit, commandeer the political process for their own benefit, and externalize all of the negative costs and pollution on to the world’s poorest.
As mankind continues to despoil the planet under the banner of “growth” like a cancer, these converging problems threaten to undo all of the progress made in the last 200 years on human rights, according to a new UN report, with the largest share of the effects of climate change placed on the backs of those with the least. What happens when millions of people have no access to fresh water? What happens when rising sea levels inundate poor countries? More refugees, more xenophobic reactionaries, more destruction, more death, more chaos.
What I think the wealthy few fail to fully realize in this scenario is that the disruption and societal chaos unleashed by their refusal to change their behavior or to take responsibility for it will ultimately destroy them along with everything else. As failures cascade up and down our complex and interconnected systems, there will be no safe haven, even for the rich.
And so we continue our blind march towards extinction.