What if we are all runaway serfs right now?

Robin Hood rides again

Richard Wolff wrote the book, The Sickness is the System, When Capitalism fails to save us from Pandemics or itself. Recently, he shared that there is a direct correlation between the bubonic plague and COVID-19. This is how COVID-19 is like the bubonic plague. And may signal the end of capitalism.

THIS HAS ALL HAPPENED BEFORE-How COVID-19 is like the bubonic plague

SOOO The last time we had a pandemic in Europe, the bubonic plague, that was the end of feudalism. What happened?

During the bubonic plague, millions of serfs died, and there was no one to work the lands. Also, people’s lords died.

As a direct result, serfs were cut loose from feudalism, they had no lord over them. They became wanderers, people without a place in society.

robin hood fox balancing an arrow on his hand, how COVID 19 is like the bubonic plague

(Have you seen the Hashtag #VANLIFE? People are wandering in vans because rent is too expensive, without a place in society!)

Serfs began to look for alternative ways to survive in society. The places that their parents and grandparents had occupied for centuries were no longer available to them.

(This reminds me of our parents telling us, just go to college, you can get a job and there will always be a place for you, the company will be loyal if you are loyal, and that is just NOT TRUE.)

We are now undergoing, like feudal serfs, the shock of the new ways we find to survive.

Feudalism didn’t just fall over and die. It UNRAVELED. It unravels slowly in each person’s brain, circumstances, and relationships. Is this sounding familiar yet?

Robin Hood Rides Again

Remember the story of Robin Hood? The Robin Hood myth was made of runaway serfs getting together and collectively helping each other in a band in the woods that didn’t have hierarchy.

(Sometimes I hear my fellow fundraisers talking about how they are like Robin Hood, getting money from the rich to give to the poor. But we still reproduce the hierarchy inside our organizations, we still operate under white supremacy, capitalism, authoritarianism and corporate totalitarianism.) I have a whole blog post just on what that means, how we can ask the right questions around this to change it.

We are all runaway serfs now! a woman in a robin hood costume, taking out an arrow to eat the rich! how COVID 19 is like the bubonic plague

Losing My Religion

During the plague, it was harder and harder for people to justify the dominant religion of that time, Roman Catholicism. They believed, if God loves you, and you go to church all the time, why is your husband dead? Why did you have to watch your child die? People’s conviction that the world was an orderly place with God at the head was utterly shaken.

(This reminds me that our god is capitalism, and we feel like capitalism creates order, and our belief in this is utterly shaken.) What if work was no longer our religion? WE see all of these signs saying “no one wants to work anymore” and it’s simply not true.

People are no longer willing to work so hard only to die.

The mass deaths shook the serf’s whole attitude, and you can see why historically soon thereafter there was a split in the church, undoing the glue that held feudal society together. We have had more than 6 MILLION Deaths worldwide since the pandemic started, and this is no doubt massively underreported.

Now we can see there is an undoing, an unsticking of the glue that holds capitalist society together. Now do you see how COVID-19 is like the bubonic plague, or do you need more examples? You do? OK.


Let me say this again. Feudalism didn’t just fall over and die. It UNRAVELED. It unravels slowly in each person’s brain, circumstances, and relationships. It took years. Our unraveling has already been happening for years, but the ongoing pandemic is speeding it up.

The unraveling of feudalism took a long time, but it was also a sign to people that the system they thought was ironclad (the way the world is) was a disaster, it could not protect people from mass deaths/extermination.

Feudalism didn’t know how to cope with or repel the disease of the bubonic plague. It was shown to be monumentally incompetent about literally life and death. Just like our capitalist world is monumentally incompetent about life and death during the pandemic!

how COVID 19 is like the bubonic plague-we've lost over 6 MILLION people, and here's the data on world coronavirus deaths, in purple from March to July 2022

World Coronavirus Deaths as of July 2022 6.342M

World Coronavirus Deaths Per Day 2086.00

How is this really working for us?

Take off your blinders. It’s not.

Look at how our belief in capitalism is ironclad. But we have a financial crisis every ten years! In 2000. In 2008-2009. In 2020. How many more disasters do we need to see this system for what it is? It’s simply a failed system. We keep reading news how it is a disaster, economically, environmentally, socially, yet we still have blind faith in a system has failed us. Our government has shown to be monumentally incompetent about life and death!

What if we could imagine a radical future that did not include capitalism? What would that look like? What would that feel like?

Don’t say that just because we currently live under capitalism, and engage in it, that we are hypocrites. We have to survive in the current system as we imagine and create the next system. What if we could have fully automated luxury communism?

There’s something dissolving around us and we kind of know it.

ALL OF THIS MEANS that this pandemic could signal the end of capitalism!

The root cause of the failure to adequately respond to the system is CAPITALISM ITSELF!

IF that’s the case then where does the charity sector fit into this?

We are constantly asking our donors to imagine and fund a better world with us.

We are asking them to look at the world as it is, and then change it, then maybe it’s time for us to share with them the upstream reasons for this great shift.

If we look upstream from a lot of the problems our sector sets out to solve, we come up again and again against capitalism. Homelessness isn’t a personal failing. It’s a predictable outcome of capitalism, and a government unwilling to solve it. People getting sick and not being able to afford healthcare is a predictable outcome of capitalism, which dictates we need a profit motive for everything.

Nonprofit fundraisers and leaders can help people dream a new world.

We need to dream a new world together, one that some Europeans already have in some ways.

Why Many Europeans are safer than Americans are

Look at how we are failing people right now. We have 60 million people filing for unemployment in the US, and nothing like that happened in Europe. Why? Because they did not stand for people being fired while businesses were getting stimulus checks from the government. That was the condition, you don’t lay people off if you get the stimulus. In Europe, people know that when the pandemic is over, they have a job to go back to. The leaders fear the power of the labor unions, the anti-capitalist parties, and they would never dare do what is happening here.

Europeans don’t have the uncertainty that is literally driving so many Americans to the brink, the lack of jobs, the lack of childcare, the lack of COVID safety in schools, the lack of rent and mortgage cancellation. In the US, the business community here responded by TAKING stimulus money, AND firing tens of millions of people in the middle of a pandemic. So, we’re seeing more people becoming homeless, and more mass shootings. More police violence and repression. We’re seeing a society break down.

Pop quiz everyone. Do you think that COVID-19 is like the bubonic plague NOW?

THIS IS MADNESS! We are literally self destructing because of capitalism.

When we don’t cancel rent and mortgages, extend eviction moratoriums or have universal basic income, this is a sign of systemic failure. This is why you are seeing so many more people homeless and struggling right now.

People say empty platitudes like, “We’re gonna get through this together.” NO we’re not! Some of us are gonna get through this richer, and most others are gonna be a LOT poorer!

When we look at how millions more people are going to become homeless very soon, these are signs are not just signs of a crisis with COVID, it is a sign of an economic system that only works for a few people at the top, which means it’s broken, not sustainable.

Worker cooperatives can be the answer!

I had a whole session with Shevanthi Daniel, Sean Goode and Daniel Perez at my last conference on worker cooperative ideas, creating more democratic structures in the workplace, as well as nonprofit employee unions, AND an executive director who is just paying people more, so… if you want to see that panel, watch here or below.

If you’re interested in the next wave, post-capitalist futures and remaking our sector, let’s chat.

Take a look at my speaking page, and let’s see about speaking to your group about what is next for our sector and our world.

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