Inequity and poverty are monstrous achievements, reflections of a world created without global consent

The future belongs to all of us, though precious few of us get to really imagine it for ourselves. Not millions, but billions of us are left out of the global equation, relegated to the tattered edges of the universal dream.

Destitution, malnutrition, starvation, insecurity, foreclosure, wage slavery, militarism, fractured landscapes, futures-on-hold – these are not accidents. They’re conditions of a game that wasn’t designed by the majority, but for which the majority has nonetheless been scripted a devastating part.

Inequity is a product of extreme corporate capitalism and inherited privilege. And it’s all held together by a set of rules designed by, and for, a tiny elite. By controlling money systems, spreading false ideas, grabbing common resources and relentlessly centralising wealth and power, this tiny elite are impoverishing billions and destroying the planet.

It’s not some far-out conspiracy hatched in the secret corridors of a dark mountaintop castle; it is the rational outcome of a system built over centuries to serve self-interest and an insatiable need for more profit and economic growth.

But at its heart, the power of this system is an illusion, and it depends on all of us acting out our parts in a story that’s we’ve all internalised over time. It goes something like this: humans are self-centered, selfish, and individualistic. They don’t need help from anyone, they’re all out to get one another, and when catastrophe threatens, the market saves the day. Most importantly, the winners are justified in their gains, and the losers deserve the worst this world has to offer. Yet unlike how we like to think this story ends – riches and paradise – the vast majority of us are the losers. And what’s worse, we tacitly agree to it. Or at least that’s what we’re led to believe. But hold on a second … did we really agree to this? Who does this story benefit?

We have the power to change the rules.

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Trump: Join us in connecting the dots

The election of Donald Trump has left millions, maybe even billions of us in shock. Although we may be looking with bewilderment at the US today, we should remember that he is not an isolated phenomenon. He is a symptom of a sickness that is raging all around the world. People are hurting, disillusioned with mainstream politics and increasingly angry at a neoliberal economic system that is destroying lives and the planet with increasing ferocity. And in their desperation they are willing to consider extreme measures to make themselves heard.

Demagogues thrive amid fear and insecurity, which is why they paint the world in such dark terms. It’s a strategy that has put right-wing populist leaders in power in an Axis of Egos: from Brazil to Turkey, the Philippines to Russia, authoritarian strongmen like Trump are on the rise. Meanwhile, many centrist liberals, like the Democratic Party in the US, have been so intent on rejecting left-wing populist solutions, and so sure of their ability to beat anyone running on a white supremacy platform with its misogyny and homophobia, that they opened the door for Mr. Trump to walk straight through. Their preference is always to maintain the status quo that has served them so well.

As dangerous as the election of Trump is for the world, we can also see in this moment the truth that we simply cannot rely on the electoral political system to save us, because it is designed to prevent the fundamental change we need. Its own survival is at stake and it will marshal all its champions and resources to defend itself and stop the emergence of a new system. But when we work, or continue working for change from the ground up; when we build or keep on building new ways of living and being with each other where we live; when we construct or keep constructing the future we know is possible with our own hands, rather than hoping distant leaders will build it for us, we find our true power. Finally, when we combine that with the unbending hope that has powered change through the ages, we know our power has meaning.

A 400-year-old economic system is dying and another is struggling to be born. Change on this scale is not going to be smooth or easy. We should not be surprised, then, that moments like this — where the establishment is dealt a body blow — become more and more common. We can despair when that blow comes in the form of right-wing extremists, or we can step-up. We are the ones we are looking for, who can and must grasp the opportunities in these crises that are undoubtedly there.

So it’s time to come together, taking time to remember the earth. Remember all the successful struggles for justice that came before us, and imagine all those to come. Remember that social movements are growing all over the world and realising the common struggle. Remember life. Then, organise. Find each other and help midwife the inevitable transition that brings forth from the ashes of neoliberal capitalism a system that works for the good of all life on Mother Earth. This is not just activism; this is our responsibility as human beings alive as this all unfolds.

This is why we are here.