On a Ten Minute Joyride in Space, Capitalism’s Endgame, and a Radical Imagination for the Future, by Kenn Orphan

Capitalism isn't working

Image by Cary Bass-Deschenes via Flickr

by Kenn Orphan
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Halifax, Nova Scotia
July 23, 2021

“It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” — Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?

To say we live in bizarre times would be an understatement. How else could you explain a billionaire, who pays virtually no taxes, launching himself into space in a rocket, releasing 300 tons of climate warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and then thanking his underpaid, over-worked employees for whom he doesn’t allow bathroom breaks, and the customers he fleeces, for that 10 minute joyride? Or the corporate media literally giving this stunt endless praise and more coverage than the global climate crisis? Or the near emotionless automaton, aka POTUS press secretary Jen Psaki, actually lauding this spectacle as “a moment of American exceptionalism?”

While all of this was unfolding, thousands of people have been displaced, killed or are missing from record breaking floods in Germany, China and Japan. And in Siberia and the west of North America lakes are drying up and forests are being burnt to ash (again). The type of capitalist adventurism Bezos and other billionaires are engaging in isn’t original. Capitalists of all stripes have used their inordinate wealth on extravagant displays like this for years. But on a planet with a rapidly unraveling biosphere, it is a demonstration of how disconnected the powerful are from the existential moment we are standing in.

None of this is to condemn space exploration. In fact, many people (myself included) love learning more about our solar system, our galaxy and our universe. Many of us (myself included) dream about being able to physically go to space and visit other planets. But the recent jaunts and escapades of Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson and Elon Musk, are not about that at all. This is space escapism for the ultra-rich at the expense of the biosphere we all share. It is worth remembering that it is the excesses of the capitalist class that have brought us to the brink of ecological disaster. That they would somehow be cast as humanity’s saviors by so many is the very essence of collective lunacy. But what is the alternative?

I have no definitive answers to that question. But I think we could start by looking to visionaries who embody values that are not rooted in an exploitative, capitalist worldview. Kim Stanley Robinson is one such visionary. As a revolutionary science fiction writer, Robinson presents to us a future that is distinctly different than the prevailing theme of dystopia that is in so much of the genre. There are no zombies or gangs of marauding mutants in his works. But there are the real life consequences of climate change, ecological devastation, political discord and economic disparity. Robinson frames all of these complex issues through the lens of radical imagination. He gives us a world that is post-capitalist, post-war, and post-ecological exploitation.

With billionaires competing to privatize the planet as well as space, Robinson offers us a far more appealing alternative. Viewing earth and solar system as a commons to be cared for and protected, even with various countries working on their own projects, sometimes in conflict, his books help us envision the potential of our species beyond this present moment. Without resorting to tired tropes or frequently used literary devices, Robinson pulls us in to our own collective human experience.

The expensive experiments of the uber-billionaires are not only costly to the working class, they are costly to the planet’s ecosystems and human civilization itself. But the left, and I include myself in this, has all too often relegated itself to the margins of this discourse by being excessively cynical. Doomerism has become a sort of cultish enclave for many leftists to hide in and await the apocalypse. It sees the violent ruthlessness of capitalism. It understands that this global arrangement of power and wealth has the potential to destroy everything, including our future. But it frequently fails to possess the courage and radical imagination necessary to engage with the public and entertain ideas and the steps for radical transformation. So, it should come as little surprise that people like Bezos or Musk or Branson would fill the void.

Capitalism is in its end game. And that game involves ruthlessly oppressing the working poor and the global south, as well as destroying our fragile biosphere. And it is in a race to carve up what is left of the planet and venture into space to do the same. But, as the late Ursula Le Guin once said:

“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art, the art of words.”

Perhaps it is time we took back the vision stolen from us. To imagine what the world will look like with capitalism gone. And perhaps it is time to be radical about that vision, more radical than an 10 minute joyride in space by a self-absorbed, parasitic billionaire.


Kenn Orphan is a writer, artist, antiwar and anti-capitalist activist, hospice social worker and radical nature lover living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and his blog you can do so via PayPal. He may be contacted at KennOrphan.com.

Previously published on Kenn Orphan, July 22, 2021

From the archives:

Changes In Consciousness and Belief Systems Don’t Need Decades, Much Less Centuries, To Change, by Pete Dolack

The Climate Crisis and the Intensification of the Class War, by Rainer Shea

The Phoenix Moment, by Rivera Sun

Will Griffin: Exporting Capitalism to Outer Space

Luxury Eco-Communism: A Wonderful World is Possible

The Twisted Climate Equation of the Ruling Class by Rainer Shea

Unplugged For 14 Days by Lo

Socialism: Creating a World to Change Our Lives by Sam Friedman

The Unsurpassed Power Trip By An Insuperable Control Freak by Ralph Nader

What Will A Socialist Society Be Like? by Jessica Hansen-Weaver

2 thoughts on “On a Ten Minute Joyride in Space, Capitalism’s Endgame, and a Radical Imagination for the Future, by Kenn Orphan

  1. Pingback: There Will Be No Ferries Coming To Save Us, by Kenn Orphan – Dandelion Salad

  2. Pingback: Kristinn Hrafnsson: Pegasus Spyware Leaks Show Nobody is Safe From Surveillance! – Dandelion Salad

Please add to the conversation.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s