How Opportunists Take (Living) Space Away From the Less Opportunistic

The fate of the masses in virtually every area of our lives since the dawn of human civilization has been determined primarily by the directions taken by opportunists – people who constitute a narrow minority of our communities and societies, yet who have the most influence on our relations, our systems and the public opinion that provide the framework conditions. Whatever social system we look at in history, be it slave societies, feudalism, capitalism or the various communist experiments, it has always been basically a small group of people, the most opportunistic, who have dictated to the majority, and generally exploited them for their own benefit. This is exactly why it is one of the most important things that the majority of people need to understand in order for truly radical social changes to take place.

While in many ways our world is constantly evolving, a lot of people don’t understand why, despite this and the constant effort, there is still so much poverty, extreme inequality, war, unnecessary death and suffering. Well, this is precisely because, even today, existential opportunism is the dominant guiding principle in our societies. In a nutshell, the way it works is that opportunists will typically do anything to get themselves into the best possible position in virtually any area of life. The problem is that once they have achieved that, they mostly make decisions that serve their own ideas and interests rather than the majority of the people. And while in many cases opportunists may initially have the community or wider society’s interests very much in mind, when they gain real power, they will usually be inclined to abuse it.

This is basically the difference between everyday opportunism and existential opportunism: while the former is a mostly harmless phenomenon that we all practice every day and do little or no harm to others in the meantime, the latter tends to have a powerful impact on the fate and existence of (many) people. And when existential opportunism is systemically present or dominant in a society, disproportionate differences can develop between individuals, reflected in their standard of living, their social status and their influence on others, thus on the way things are done in general.

This is no different today, as those with more money or marketable assets have more purchasing power. And those who have much more of them than others – essentially regardless of where they got it from or how they got it – can buy virtually anything. However, this not only allows them to meet their basic needs or a decent standard of living, but also to afford a lot of unnecessary products (clothes, cars, yachts, private jets, etc.) and other luxuries (travel, various services, private bodyguards, etc.). On the one hand, this can put a radical strain on the natural environment (see carbon footprint et al.), and on the other, it deprives many other people of the opportunity to enjoy their lives and the benefits of modern civilization, even if not quite as wastefully.

Not to mention that the more money one has, the easier it is to buy the labor, knowledge, fighting skills or even loyalty of others, or even to own a significant share of the means of production, real estate, transport, weapons, the media and other strategic assets. (So a lot of money or great wealth basically leads to more influence and power.) But when all this is concentrated in one or a few hands in a society, especially when without any particular control, it is often the majority society, or other societies, that will swallow the bitter pill. In more civilized or democratic states, laws obviously limit the possibilities to a certain extent, but the wealthy still have much more power than the so-called ordinary people.

Of course, as human nature dictates, there has always been a kind of dogma present in every social form that has ever existed, explaining why it is necessary, normal, acceptable or even desirable for some to have disproportionate wealth and power, and thus to rule directly or indirectly over the great majority. Such prerogatives have been attributed to divine descent and will, to racial, gender, cultural and other grounds of superiority, or to the optimal arrangement dictated by nature. As we know, the dominant dogma of our time is the neoliberal economics that has grown out of the classical version, which puts money above all else, and considers the law of supply and demand as its main guiding principle, basically laying down the value system of our (consumer) societies.

According to this doctrine, economy and society can only function well if individuals are given the opportunity to accumulate virtually unlimited private property, which serves as a motivating force to produce as many goods and services as possible, always for their own benefit next to (or in front of) the benefit of society, and to increase their wealth. In addition, another advantage of the system is that it encourages technological progress, which is a kind of engine for the economy to keep growing. The problem with all this, apart from leading to extreme injustices and a lot of unnecessary suffering and death, is that it is unsustainable in the long term, both for the natural environment and for human society, and certainly not leading to increasingly civilized and livable conditions for all.

It is obvious that self-interested opportunism is very much present in this system, which is the root cause of extreme inequalities, as well as the unjust and unsustainable conditions in the long term, and we must take decisive action against it. At the same time, it is also a fact that we need to give scope to innovation and creativity in general – not to ensure the constant quantitative growth of the economy, but to ensure the qualitative growth of our societies, avoiding their degradation, stagnation and dysfunction. And to do this, it is essential that we allow those thinking differently – scientists, engineers, artists and others – to flourish, because ultimately they are the ones who move the world and society forward.

Thus, we also need visionaries and innovators like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and others who have really done a lot to drive progress. At the same time, it is never wise to grant too much power to a single person, because of their control over money and resources and their position of privilege. And while to a certain extent they must be given a free hand in order to realize their revolutionary ideas, they should not be allowed to decide on key issues alone – or even with just a few of their own. So the trick is that while we provide them with the resources and space they need, we don’t allow them to grow on top of us and essentially rule us (or at least to be the ones who mostly decide where we are all headed).

To ensure and sustain democratic relations, we must therefore ensure that innovators put their knowledge and skills at the service of society, but not allow them to be disproportionately rewarded for doing so, as is so often the case today, due to the false value system dictated by the law of supply and demand. Although according to this value system, investors with significant financial resources who finance such projects have a privileged position in the system, in reality an ‘investor’ is not an existing occupation or profession, but rather a social status. To be fair and sustainable, funding should be provided not by individuals with disproportionate wealth, but by communities of people, as we are already seeing examples of today.

So we can and must develop a mindset and culture of effective community development, stopping money from dominating us, but rather using it as a tool as it is supposed to happen. And if we don’t allow some people to accumulate too much wealth, then it becomes possible to allocate the same money and resources to other areas that are more useful to society. This would enable everyone to meet their basic needs and thus eradicate poverty and deprivation, which is a fundamental condition for the creation of a truly civilized society. The achievement of environmental sustainability should also be included here, which, however you look at it, is still at best a secondary consideration after individual profit.

Far from being confined to the economy, of course, we see examples of the existential opportunism that makes our lives and securing our daily well-being more difficult all over the world. For whether it is the purchasing power of the rich or the economic, territorial, national or spiritual ambitions of tyrants, politicians, mobsters and certain military and religious leaders, it is always the majority who again suffer the consequences of the opportunists’ constant need to expand and grow, their greed, their lust for power and restless ambition. Indeed, military rule and dictatorship is a form of existential opportunism, just as are nationalism and religious extremism, political decisions, actions, purges and other atrocities at the expense of others, as are the various manifestations of organized crime.

If we look around the world, we can see many current examples of the above. Russia’s war against Ukraine is rooted in nationalist, ideological and superpower aspirations, while the recurring Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be traced back to religious and cultural differences. And looking back into the past, there are plenty of cases that serve as striking examples. When it comes to religious opportunists, one only has to think of Jim Jones (Peoples Temple), David Koresh (Branch Davidians) or the Islamic State in general, who gathered a cult of fanatical people and ended up causing tragedies that led to the deaths of many. In the meantime, the most extreme manifestations of nationalism, chauvinism and racism are still those of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, who formed their right on a racial basis to literally take living space from others who were deemed less or not at all worthy of existence – see the invasion of the Soviet Union and the mass slaughter of civilians in the name of securing their own ‘lebensraum‘.

Thus, the individual form of existential opportunism can be extremely harmful and dangerous, if only because its representatives with the right talents can easily persuade others, or even whole masses, to join them. The need to belong and to be part of a community can quite easily lead people to a collective form of existential opportunism, i.e. to join groups that opportunistically seek to impose their own views and will. However, even though it is almost always the opportunists who start the wars, they are usually not the ones who fight them and suffer the most (see the victims of wars, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, etc.). But it is true not only of wars and similar conflicts, but also in general, that the consequences of the pursuit of existential opportunism are almost always suffered most by innocent civilians.

This is how it is possible that practitioners of social Darwinism and existential opportunism typically deprive others of the various goods, the opportunities to succeed, and even the air and space to live – and they do not even necessarily have to be members of the same society. Therefore, for their own sake, every community and society must keep opportunists in check, who, like all leaders in general, must always be held accountable. If the less opportunistic majority does not want to be ruled by the opportunistic minority, and to allow them to dictate history and who, when, where and how should live or die, then only through conscious collaboration can they hope to prevent it. In fact, I firmly believe that civil societies around the world must unite against opportunists, because if they don’t, their actions may well lead to the imminent destruction of all human civilization.

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