On Complex Problems and Simple Solutions

Ruminations on why capitalism feels hard and alternatives feel too easy


As I’m going through the stories for the upcoming release of the first issue of Novitas Magazine, I have gone through the usual cycles of self-doubt and excitement. I’m sure this is one that you’re probably familiar with: excitement for something new, dedication to seeing it come to fruition, questioning whether it’s good enough, doubting whether I have the capacity, wondering whether it even matters, pushing through to the next step, and the cycle begins anew.

In those moments of doubt, I have found myself asking whether these stories even really provide the inspiration that I claim they will. A path towards anti-capitalist living sounds like a tall order to deliver. And it is.

There seems to be a false dichotomy that I’ve stumbled across on this journey. When asking how to dismantle capitalism, there is a clear picture forming in our collective consciousness. I’ve spoken of this before: prioritizing collective liberation and rejecting capitalism’s need for efficiency and profitability above all else. Centering the knowledge and experience of oppressed people. Re-imagining systems of participatory democracy. Re-localization and bio-regionalism. These approaches point directly at tangible, real solutions and pathways that will help us divest from capitalist ideology.

In reading these stories and thinking of the people who have shared them, I don’t always see huge revolutionary jumps from the status quo. This is not to say that the work they are doing is not revolutionary. What I mean to say is that it is actually quite attainable. It’s not rocket science, and it’s not conflated. It’s simple. It’s straight-forward. It makes sense.

But at the same time, there is a feeling that this work cannot possibly be enough to topple a system that is so all-encompassing and so all-pervasive that it dictates every facet of our lives. We have been brainwashed by it. We cannot imagine a world without it. Can approaches that are so simple overthrow something so massive?

I believe that this feeling comes from a belief that suggests that the size and complexity of the solution must necessarily be proportionate to the size and complexity of the problem. I have spent years learning and understanding about capitalism—not just the economics of this system but the culture it creates and the way that culture speaks to us, influencing our ideology and ultimately the whole way that we see the world around us. Recognizing capitalism for what it is—a system of economics and not the natural order of the universe—is an incredibly challenging task. But the solution? These solutions proposed in the stories folks have shared with me feel simple, elegant, and natural.

I recently listened to an episode of the Upstream podcast where host Robert Raymond and colleague Carlee Gomes dive deeply into Mark Fisher’s book Capitalist Realism. The two-hour conversation is a great exploration of Fisher’s concepts, especially as it relates to media consumption. But at the end of the pod, Gomes speaks openly about the nature of capitalism as it relates to the human experience:

“Not only is capitalism not the best way for things to run, and I think we have lots of evidence for that being the case […], but it is also deeply anti-human. It constantly, at every turn, forces us to suppress what is natural and tells us that that suppression is actually what’s natural. And it’s not. It’s why we are terrorized so often by feelings of overwhelm and distress, because you do want to do something when you see someone hurting. It’s unnatural not to. Humans are not inherently bad. Humans are bad under capitalism.”

Carlee Gomes
Capitalist Realism with Carlee Gomes: An Upstream Conversation

I love this positioning of capitalism as inherently at odds with what feels natural. Because what feels natural IS EASY. It’s not hard. Existing in capitalism is the hard part, but the solutions—once being able to see capitalism for what it truly is and being able to at least partially escape its clutches—are not at all hard. They feel good. They are grounded in connection, something we are all desperately lacking. They feel gratifying in a way that is not at all tied to accomplishment. Participating in this type of connection leaves you feeling a sense of satisfaction that money literally cannot buy.

I don’t want to suggest for a moment that ditching capitalism as a social and economic structure is going to be easy to do. That brainwashing bit? Yeah, that makes it really hard. And having a system so completely in control of our lives… that makes it really hard too. Ditching capitalism is not at all simple. But the solutions that we find to slowly dismantle our reliance on capitalism? I have found that they are simple. They are not complex or convoluted.

And I’m so incredibly excited by this understanding.

Because it means that the more we step outside the box and start writing our own stories to share, the easier and simpler it will become to break out of this harmful system in which we live. And this brings me hope.

Bet you’re itching to read more about these stories from community members around the world! You can order a copy of the upcoming issue of Novitas Magazine now through the Kickstarter campaign. All proceeds from the magazine will be distributed democratically among all the contributors, and you’ll be able to hear more from each of them as we dive into the podcast portion of this project. So stay tuned for more!


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