Returning to the Dark Ages
How end-stage Capitalism is dragging us into a Feudalistic nightmare.
It took just six months. Six months for the world order to collapse. Rising from the ashes, apocalyptic scenes of overpacked hospitals, mass graves and rioting: Exhausted nurses working wards in bin-liner scrubs, gravediggers in hazmat suits, protestors fighting street battles against armed mercenaries in the shells of a burnout municipalities. All this, is taking place, on a wider tapestry of global unrest. It’s forecast in the next two years, 35 countries will experience armed conflict — an increase of 56%. Meanwhile, 71 million people will be pushed into poverty.
We are now entering a new Dark Age, complete with it’s own Black Death. However, something more dangerous is also happening.
This surface-level disorder, is indicative of a deeper problem in society. A widespread malaise and absence of hope, born of structural inequalities now too blatant to be ignored.
In this late-stage Capitalism, we’re seeing the return of Feudalism. Ironically the dream of Communists, was not brought about through Marx,but the free market. Capitalism, which has turned in on itself in a devouring act of auto-cannibalism.
Right now, we are witnessing rise of a property-less underclass trapped on hand-to-mouth wage packets in insecure low wage economies. Society’s cooks, cleaners, child-minders, and cashiers, resemble 14th century tenant farmers, living in insecure accommodation, working to serve high-earning technocrats who masquerade as the landed-gentry. They are backed up authorised by an ecclesiastical class of experts: Accountants, solicitors, doctors, and marketeers, who like the Medieval clergy give legitimacy to fin-tech fiefdoms, who’s power and influence is the expense of workers rights.
This is not solely down to decline of manufacturing, or the rise of job automatisation. Feudalism is the result the process by which the market undercuts state sovereignty.
Governments operating in Globalist world, have no choice, but to favour monopolies who bequeath nation states power through profits. However, it’s the wrong sort of power. The giants of Silicone Valley — Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft — are worth more than every country in the world combined, (barring the US, China, Japan, and Germany) and this gives them political clout. In the game of global trade money is money, and elite economic actors are therefore pushed to the top, while the rest are buried underneath.
Capitalism thrives on healthy competition though; how then did companies get so big so they’ve begun to stifle it?
We are now transitioning into a click-bait economy which aggregates power based on traffic. This analytical data, is extracted from the consumer, much like a manor overlord would extract labour from a tenant. Its then used it to expand reach. ‘Likes’ operate much like company shares: Market value and intrinsic value are distinct, and people invest in platforms quite literally because they like what they see, not what they know, and so others follow suit.
The more traffic, the more data, and the greater the results. This isn’t just social media, but all digital channels. The click-through-ratio is creating an uneven playing field, where some companies are pushed to the top, while most are left floundering.
This is not solely a problem of Left or Right; but both Conservatives and Socialists blame each other. The sin of Conservatism is the belief success is a personal attribute and so individuals who break through – The modern entrepreneurs heirs to medieval artisans — are held up as an exemplars of hard work and aspiration. Pre-existing wealth, networks, and security are discounted. Hierarchies are justified, even to the new peasantry who believe if they only work a little bit harder, they too can climb the career ladder of success.
As for socialists their sin is to blame the state. Recent protests, suggest, a modern day Peasants Revolt; and yet the aims of protestors are disparate. From the United States to Hong Kong, BLM to extradition, those dissenting are bonded by the desire to fightback against oppression; nevertheless they’re segmented into various groups based on personal characteristics, causes or local areas. This identity factionalism and fragmentation along state lines, reinforces Feudalism. It allows nationalists to unify their base by dividing already splintered groups still further — an us versus a very divided them mentality.
Conservatives are attached to the past, Socialist’s to the future; when either side is hijacked by extremists it leads to violence. Both sides claim to be against Fascism, while nevertheless resorting to Totalitarian methods of control. The winners are those with guns; and just like the Peasant Revolt led to the execution of lead conspirators, the current political agitation is likely to lead to equally unpleasant results.
Which brings us on to the coronavirus. The 14th century Black Death arose at a time of global instability; much like today, the world was wrought by war, political turmoil, even climate change. These are all known risk-factors for pandemics brought about by the mass movement of pathogens. The virus spillover event, of animal to human transmission, also proves a societal tipping point, which in this case has led to a global collapse.
While the 14th century Great Plague wiped out of a third of the world’s population in the long run it helped spark the Renaissance. Surviving peasants now had leverage to barter better terms from overlords, who suddenly found their workforce so depleted, and farmland so decimated they had no choice but to acquiesce, and so workers gained more rights. Today, COVID-19 is playing out in reverse; all conditions are intensifying inequality. A new Dark Ages is upon us, hidden by the spangled lights of digital innovation, we are now all Medieval cotters.
Beyond this global crisis, are a multitude of mini-crises for each family or individual, which consumes their entire world. The postmodern writer, and reader for that matter, neutered of their power, has only one job and that is to perhaps to witness the changing world. Yet they can hardly be detached. They too, belong to this process, enmeshed in it; even complicit in it. Like everyone else they exist digitally another potential class of experts.
None of this is done intentionally; in fact most people, including those at the top, want a fairer and juster world. But that’s the nature of late-stage Capitalism. Not dissimilar from a virus, rampant and out of control; while none of us are immune, those with means, fare better than the rest.