We are in the middle of a crisis. A crisis that has put on pause many aspects of our lives. This pause makes us think and perhaps question things around us or look for answers on previous questions we had. One of the questions that I often ask myself is how broken the state of modern capitalism is, and what can we do to redefine it. This is of the main questions behind the Designed For Life philosophy that I created a few years ago as an attempt for this necessary redefinition…

We are in the middle of a crisis. A crisis that has put on pause many aspects of our lives. This pause makes us think and perhaps question things around us or look for answers on previous questions we had. One of the questions that I often ask myself is how broken the state of modern capitalism is, and what can we do to redefine it. This is of the main questions behind the Designed For Life philosophy that I created a few years ago as an attempt for this necessary redefinition…

One of the key “anti-theses” to the Designed For Life Philosophy as we see it is what we refer to as “un-conscious capitalism.” In other words, the version of capitalism we experience in our everyday life. The version that promotes short-term growth as the ultimate goal, without considering strategies for sustainable growth. To be clear—even though Designed For Life may feel “earthy” or progressive, the DFL philosophy is not anti-capitalistic. I am an entrepreneur and an unapologetic capitalist—totally in support of free market practices, (mostly) unbridled economic growth, and the good old-fashioned American dream.

It is no accident, however, that even in America of late, socialism has emerged as a legitimate approach that is increasingly attractive to many, and that there is a growing backlash toward all things “capitalism.”

In fact, Greta Thunberg, who has recently garnered tremendous international attention as an outspoken champion of environmental concerns has been sharply critical of the modern world’s complacency with the state of things—arguing that it is the very concept of never ending economic expansion, which, which is the unspoken baseline assumption or outcome of this modern capitalistic society we have created for ourselves. According to her (and many who share this point of view), it is the root of all evil and the driving force behind climate change, socio-economic disparity, and a thousand other ills of our time. [Checkout the book Natural Capitalism, one of my favorites on this topic.]

Some say that Greta is simply wrong. Growth is good, and aggressive, ambition-driven, economic growth is the ultimate driving force for good in the world. Economic and technological growth the driving force behind human evolution in the recent centuries? But how did the pursuit of growth brought us to this version of capitalism? Others see it as self-evident that Greta is right. Unchecked capitalism (un-conscious capitalism) is undeniably to blame for many of society’s ills today. It is my passionate belief that the only way to have both—robust economic growth and a healthy, sustainable world where all can improve their condition together, will be achieved by shifting to a more conscious form of capitalism and allowing human ambition to be the driver of innovation, creativity, improvement, and growth it is naturally meant to be. [Checkout the book Conscious Capitalism, one of my favorites on this topic.]

So what does any of this have to do with the COVID-19 outbreak?

There are many who point to the fact that endless human expansion has pushed our society ever closer to the boundaries of nature, and that as we continue to encroach on the habitats of wildlife, we will be continually subjected to new viruses, health, and ecological ramifications that come from this proximity. I don’t fully accept this explanation—but I do accept the basis for it. Since the age of the agricultural revolution, when humans traded in our hunter-gatherer existence for a more sedentary and communal way of life, people have been clearing fields for farming, expanding dwellings, building cities, digging sewage systems, and generally taming nature successfully to support the growth of our species. Evolution in every possible way, sometimes even in bad ones is integral part of human beings. Evolution is an unstoppable process that defines our lives from a micro to a macro level. [Checkout the book Homo Sapiens]

I have spent a big part of my life living and working in China. I am fluent in Mandarin Chinese and my love and respect for the culture and people of China is deep and lasts for more than 20 years since my first trip there. I have personally sat at hundreds of endlessly long, elaborate lazy-Susan meals where the apparent goal of my host was to impress everyone in the room, with a smorgasbord of the most unique, extravagant, over-the-top, expensive, rarely experienced, and sometimes outright strange dishes and meats imaginable.

Before I was in a position to attend such banquets, I ate on the streets, off of carts, and in people’s homes every day for years there. The food that Chinese people eat day to day at home, or even in restaurants is incredibly good, generally simple, healthy, and interesting—with all kinds of diversity in flavor and ingredients no doubt. Typical meats consist of chicken, beef, pork, and fish—lots of fish. I love it. I still crave it.

But it is my observation that one fringe example of the type of mutated outgrowth from Capitalism running unchecked in the world, is the example of this almost competition amongst the wealthy (usually business or government class) to one-up each other with the more elaborate meal, offering up strange meats, wild animals with exotic preparation methods that are frankly unnecessary and apparently downright irresponsible for the world.

Considering that many experts say that COVID-19 came out of a “wet market” in China making the rare but obviously possible leap from animal subject to humankind, I get to ask myself if we need to eat Peacocks? What about the hundreds of thousands of sharks ruthlessly slaughtered and dumped each year just to harvest their fins for soup? the Shark fins? We need not eat Peacocks. We need not try to cultivate bats, vipers, hawks, eagles, chinchillas, pangolins, or anything else we’ve never heard of or seen outside of seafood and the few animals we’ve carefully domesticated for thousands of years for consumption. Nobody does. I have seen these poor animals in cages, alive, ready for butchering outside of these specialty restaurants in China, and while it can be excused as quaint or cultural or perhaps even under the banner of tolerance—in real life, it is somewhat horrifying and simply unnecessary.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

We certainly don’t need the exploitation of these exotic species but most importantly we don’t need the underlying greed for consumption of every thing, in every possible conceivable way. The “Wet markets” of China might be the origin of Covid-19 this time, but China is not the problem here. On the bigger scale, the problem isn’t even the “wet markets”. Wet markets, and all sorts of trades worldwide are the example of a problematic relationship between sellers and buyers.

Think of all the terrible trades there are everywhere in the world that exist just to support some human vice—fueled by money and the personal freedoms that have become synonymous with capitalism and the “anything is possible” attitude. I don’t blame the poachers, or the sellers—many of whom have unintentionally put themselves at great risk or even passed away now in the pursuit of this trade. I blame the pull—I blame the consumers—I blame this and a thousand other unplanned and unpredictable mutations of human ambition, desires, and capitalism run amok. I blame the need for overconsumption. I blame the push for quantity over quality. I blame the focus on unsustainable growth.

It is time to ask the right questions. Even make a few suggestions. It is not about pointing fingers. It is all about identifying opportunities for improvement. It is time to rethink and act. It is time to reduce future risks. If we believe in a conscious version of capitalism, now is the perfect opportunity to get the conversation going.

Please comment, criticize, or share…

Shawn

About Shawn

Founder & CEO of Lovesac, a Designed for Life furniture company. I have a goal of building products that are truly sustainable. Would you believe, I won a $1 million investment on Fox’s “Rebel Billionaire” show in 2005 and became President of Virgin Worldwide with Richard Branson’s companies for a time. Since then, I'm growing Lovesac to a 65+ store chain, recognized in Furniture Today as America’s fastest growing furniture retailer. I'm becoming known for my invention of Sactionals® Lovesac’s industry-disruptive sofa invention. Check out my vlog on YouTube! Get Off The Couch, with Shawn Nelson of Lovesac

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