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Thank You Capitalism


Boston Logan Airport, 30 April.

As usual, my first opportunity to reflect on this mini tour is at the airport on my way home. I think most of my creative writing has been done in equally sterile and impersonal spaces – while waiting. Two weeks of screenings almost every day, and many conversations and interesting encounters later, I'm sitting here with new questions, or seeds if you like, given to me by an incredibly varied audience. From Mexico City and Morelia to Toronto, Canada and then to Boston, USA, I've been surprised both by the different reactions at different screenings of the same festivals, but also by the similarity of responses from different nationalities.

I can make no generalization as to what country or what age group my film is best suited for, but I can see a clear connection between those who usually stay on after the Q&A and share their life story, their own project or understanding with me. So to you who shared your thoughts and feelings, whether they were about personal matters or local activism – thank you, I am processing what you shared with me now and wish you good luck!

One young mother spoke after a screening in Morelia about how she was caught between how she wished for freedom in her personal relationships and in the way she lived in society, but how she was directly limited by economy:

"The dependency on money is not a philosophical problem; it’s an incredibly real one..."

Romantic relationships are still intertwined with monetary needs, and the dependency on money is not a philosophical problem; it’s an incredibly real one for each one of us who don’t belong to that fraction of the world’s population who are economically independent. We need each other to enable our individual liberations, and as Jacque says in the film, "change is always painful." But it is also exhilarating, especially if you have got to the point where not to change is not an option any more.

It takes courage of the kind a young man in Toronto showed when he decided to leave his secure salary and job in a bank. He had started to understand how the system he was working within worked around him, and started to feel more and more out of place. Although not knowing what to do instead in order to support himself, or what other social system he would rather be working towards, he knew he had to change and took that frightening step into the unknown.

The film is sometimes led by theory, and sometimes by emotion, since this is how I think we evolve. I often get the question if I think change has to come from the inside or the outside – if we change through social reforms that shape our behaviour and feelings, or feelings that lead to social reform.

Change comes from connecting emotion and knowledge

I think change comes from connecting the two. There is enough emotion in the world to change it – enough anger, frustration, care, passion, humanism and environmentalism all wanting things to be different. And there is certainly enough knowledge – theory, science and technology that could be applied very differently, would it be redirected to do so. The problem is that the ‘tools’ for changing the world are so often not in the hands of those wanting to change it.

People can storm parliaments and riot in the streets without knowing what they want, and a scientist can create the most marvellous chemical reaction, having no idea what it will be used for. In the film Jacque points out that whenever a nation runs into problems, they call scientists to ask for solutions, and they always come up with a solution. The atomic bomb and the moon landing were both projects considered impossible at the time – but with enough funding and motivation, these projects were realised very quickly.  He goes on to point out that "we never asked scientists how to feed everyone on the planet" or to develop a new infrastructure without social stratification.

Of course this is what Jacque has done as a scientist, working solely on social change. Understanding how our economic system works, this is what we have to do: find solutions ourselves, because – unless someone can make money out of it – there is no-one who will step in and do it for us; and connect those with the theoretical skills with those who crave for them to change their lives.

This is what the project of another young man in Morelia is about. He is trying to connect the skills within the science department of his university with the local farmers who are suffering more and more from new technology imposed on them by multinational companies.

It’s of course brave to take on the multinationals for the sake of human and environmental benefits. Companies with enormous means to buy the knowledge needed to serve their cause seem to have no problem finding scientists to work for them. This man has the knowledge and wants to give it away for free, motivated by other values. We need people like him, we have always needed these kind of people.

Many major changes in history have been motivated by values other than money – it’s easy to forget this power

As the one of the students at a design school in Mexico city pointed out, it is capitalism that has enabled us to specialise and excel in our particular fields. And she is right – capitalism has given us the chance to specialise in the same way as it has enabled an incredibly rapid development of technology through a monetary incentive. But where is this incentive taking us? And what is this separation doing to our holistic understanding of the world around us and ourselves? Perhaps we needed it for a time, perhaps we have to thank capitalism for this unique chance of liberation?

If so – I thank you capitalism for taking us here, but now it’s time to let us go!

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@ tweeted this page. 2013-05-01 10:36:30 +0100
'Thank You Capitalism' – Maja Borg blogs from Logan Airport, Boston. #TVP #TZM

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