Ramsey Nasr is a Dutch poet, writer, actor and director. He is also an eloquent voice in a swelling choir that claims something is fundamentally wrong in Western (neo)liberal capitalism. If I only look at the books and articles that I read over the past two years, Nasr’s message fits in a pattern also covered by Mariana Mazzucato, Noreena Hertz, Bob de Wit, Yvon Chouinard, Paul Mason, Kees van Lede and Joris Luyendijk, Anand Giridharadas, Jeroen Smit and Jaap Winter. This indictment of the system that we have created needs to be taken seriously. It might even be a sign of a paradigm change from our current form of capitalism into something new.
Our capitalist system with its obsession with profit, growth and financial returns has eroded the foundations of our society, Nasr writes in his new book. We are destroying our grandchildren by saddling them with a destroyed planet; they will ask us many years from now if we didn’t have a conscience. Nasr writes that our behavior will go down into history as irrational, amoral, egocentric, irresponsible and criminal. Current multinationals will be mentioned in the same breath as the East Indian Company: they brought prosperity but at a high price. Historians will judge CEOs as guilty of moral misconduct.
Happiness cannot exist if other human beings or living creatures suffer in order to achieve that feeling of happiness, Nasr writes. He thinks it is impossible to make everyone happy simultaneously. Someone will have to pay the price: future generations, labor at the bottom of the pyramid, other species; and finally everyone because everything is connected.
Nasr writes movingly about the meat industry. He is a vegetarian himself and he is convinced that eating mass-reared meat will be considered equally morally unsustainable in a century from now as slavery. His indictment of neoliberal capitalism is the backbone of the three essays in this booklet, but he also writes about the value of art and the mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis by the Dutch government.
This is our last chance to stave off a world compared to which corona was only a joke, Nasr argues. Read this well-written accusation of our system.
Ramsey Nasr. De fundamenten. De Bezige Bij, 2021