Capitalism causes cancer,
both the kind you’re thinking of,
and another kind:
Cities are tumors on the Earth,
our precious home planet.
Jul 21 2013
Capitalism causes cancer,
both the kind you’re thinking of,
and another kind:
Cities are tumors on the Earth,
our precious home planet.
Apr 28 2013
Simple Reasons Capitalism Isn’t Your Friend
I realize our group here in the halls of orange-land are small. I think most dKos readers are truly interested in the general betterment of humankind. Most of the problem is that Capitalism has always sold itself as a merit system. Its really not. I am going to try and show you why.
First and foremost, the most basic thing Capitalism is, is an EXTRACTION SYSTEM. Buy low, sell high. Make cheap, price at the highest the “market” will bear. These are the common sense adages we have been taught since birth. How else can you make a dollar, right? Without money, how in the world would anything work; buying a place to live, food, clothing, and any amenities we enjoy for leisure time.
Yet, if you think about it – the collapse of the market, and the austerity being imposed on the people while the rich make record profits is no aberration. Its the system doing exactly what it is supposed to do. What it always does. It extracts from the bottom to fill the top. What they told you is a lie to make you work against your own interests.
The Western commercial system is extractive. It exists to extract more from consumers than it supplies in products and services. Its goal is profit, and profit literally means to make more (pro-ficere). Its goal has never been to improve the human condition but to exploit it. It works like this:
Consider two water tanks, initially each partially full, one above the other. One gallon of water is dumped from the upper tank into the lower one for each two gallons extracted from the lower tank and pumped into the upper tank. Over time, the lower tank ends up empty and the upper tank ends up full. The circulation of water between the tanks ends.
Extraction Capitalism is real, and it is you they are extracting from.
The Business Insider just reported “Profits Just Hit Another All-Time High, Wages Just Hit Another All-Time Low.”
You may, or may not have seen the viral video about income inequality. People generally think they would like to make more. But somehow they have convinced us the system is fair. Worse? They have kept it where few of us have any idea what is really going on.
Think too, about this little factoid while you view the below. Koch Brothers’ Wealth Grew By $33 Billion in 3 Years As America’s Schools Report 1 Million Homeless Kids.
“In one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression, the billionaire Koch brothers who habitually rail against government’s unfair burden on the wealthy, have almost doubled their net worth to a combined $64 billion.”
How much do they really need? They could give every kid a cool Mill, and still be the fattest cats on the block. But they won’t. They are Capitalists.
Its not just “broken at the moment.” It always has been.
Some of you may remember the kinder, gentler Capitalism that Workers demanded after the 1st Depression. But it is also plain to see the cycle began anew. In history, Empires always fall because people get tired of serving Elites. And every gain made by workers has been violently opposed by the PTB – and won with the blood of the workers.
Remember too, that while “regulation” may have been highest in the 1970’s and wages the most fair, there was still a broad segment of our society that has always endured poverty. Urban blacks, Appalachian whites, recent immigrants all have had to live on the most meager of wages because in order for profits to work, somebody has to make next to nothing. Miners. Railroad builders. The people in the fields that pick your food for you. Textile workers. Sweat shops.
There has never been a time there were not slums in this country. It is NOT because some people “don’t work hard enough.” It is not because “some people are inherently less suited to succeed.”
It really is obvious that wealth begets wealth, and poverty begets poverty. The American Dream they sold you is largely myth. It is not only the lower education system being “locally tax based” thus inherently inferior in low income neighborhoods; but higher education is economically slated to be accessible only to those with high incomes, or those who borrow from those with high incomes (bankers) and are willing to enrich them even more in both interest rates paying off that loan, and as lower level lackeys working for them to pay it off. Its more. There is a class cronyism involved.
If perhaps you have ever been, or been privy to the Upper Middle Class’s affairs: Country Club meetings, high end Golf Outings, perhaps a Gallery Opening… you understand it is who you know more than what you know. Consider that there is an almost exponentially tighter cronyism in the Millionare’s club, and the Billioniare’s? You can’t get within a “billion” miles of it.
They share opportunities among themselves, like builders in the UMC share contracts among themselves. No matter how good a architect or builder your low income cousin is? He will never get the city contract to create the new stadium unless he knows someone. Classes really help keep the next layer down, which serves the top just dandy.
This brings up a sub-point to this section. In the US the white middle to lower middle class uses the same cronyism to exclude people of color, except hiring them for the very lowest wage jobs. For extraction capitalism to work? Racism (and sexism) is part and parcel of the mechanics of it.
We have always had a caste system here, the dots are as just as indelible, but painted with the supposedly invisible ink of racism and classism. The land of opportunity keeps opportunities rare for the poor.
The Myth of Repression.
The myth says we have the “greatest system on Earth” and “no other system can work!” We hear it all the time: Look at how repressive Russia was, how evil China is, how it brings dictators and loss of personal freedom. Those were never truly non-capitalist states, they just became state capitalists with different elites. I’ll let the scholars argue that one. This is just you and I here, regular people, considering the sanity of thinking Capitalism sucks.
I’m not going to bore you with why I think they failed. I’ll just plant one idea. If I started a company in Michigan to give away free electricity, how long do you think I would last before somehow my company imploded by outright sabotage, bad press, failed inspections via payola, if not assassination attempts on me? Nothing happens in a vacuum – and to a whole world of Elites living large? There was nothing more dangerous than the idea of sharing the wealth. They were up against that.
Now, instead? Think of the worst human rights violators in recent history. For me, Saudis come to mind. Women are stoned for being raped. The poor have their hands cut off for stealing a loaf of bread. That place is as Capitalist as they come. The rich sell the oil and live in Palaces, the poor starve.
Pinochet who killed and tortured bazillions of his own? Not only a Capitalist, but OUR Capitalist!
I’m sure if you think about it – you can think of many more.
You really cannot have a Dictator without Capitalism – because it needs an untouchable Elite with the military might to keep people from rising against it. If people are free enough to control their own destinies, they would never vote for their own oppression.
(until here and now….)
Nothing Else Can WORK!
I know, for most of you, hearing the wisdom of dead guys from a time that is nothing like what we live in now makes your eyes roll back in your head. I get it. I’ve been reading some Marx, and if nothing else he was a dry and pedantic fucker who always took a thousand words to say what could be said in few. Yet, for his time, he was brilliant and comprehensive.
Without getting all economic professor and mathy? Its pretty simple. I figure we ourselves not only create ALL wealth, we ARE wealth. Or value, or both. You get what I mean, even as an average Joe. They haven’t got shit without us.
If you light your grill with a matchstick? Hours of work went into making it, and chances are only a couple people are getting rich off of it. But matchsticks don’t grow on trees, they are made from them. Someone cut the wood, someone else milled it down, someone trucked the raw materials, someone ground the toxic chemicals for the burn tip, someone ran the machine to dip them in, someone boxed it and someone shipped them out.
A lot of hours in that puppy, which lasts only seconds. POOF! Matches are cheap, but trust me, even with mechanization, all kind of hands are on that match before you touch it. And the companies that make them make a good profit, or they no longer would.
Now the CEO of that company probably takes in 500k a year. He didn’t invent it. He didn’t design the machines. He doesn’t run the machines. He never even touches them. All he does is find ways to pay less to make the matches, and make more off of selling them. He is rewarded solely for screwing the people who make them, and the consumers into paying more than they are worth. He doesn’t “work.” He is paid for being a predator. You see, there are only 2 materials more or less (simplifying for example) so there is little budge room on that – the money is made on the fact matches don’t exist without human labor. There is no product without us; hence we are really the real producer of all wealth. All of it. We just don’t get to keep it.
So, the “greatest system on Earth” is one in which we work our asses off to get a few guys rich, while begging to be paid enough to live on while creating the products that make them rich? It doesn’t reward by merit and hard work. Really. It rewards whoever is the biggest greedhead.
Ponder it for a second: If every time you had another couple over for dinner, they raced to get the biggest steak, power-slammed your beer, ate all the dessert before your kids could even have a tiny slice… I guarantee you would not invite the assholes over again. Yet this is who we willingly serve with our work. Greedheads. Dig?
But competition is healthy!
Ahhh, the John Wayne theory of rugged individualism and the hardy pioneer. They competed, the Indians died, and they “deserve” our respect for becoming ranchers and farmers. Cue the cattle drive rushing to be the 1st to get your cattle to market! Lets be faster, tougher, smarter, work harder! Which all sounds fine and dandy until you are hungry and reaching for that biscuit you cooked, and some overstuffed idiot snatches it quicker than you, and you go hungry. That is what competition is, what Capitalism does.
Actually, deep down, you know this is bullshit. Sharing is good. You learned it in kindergarten. Thats why we donate to charities. But wouldn’t it be nice to eliminate poverty instead? We can’t get there by making more greedheads, that is, lifting the world into our aggressive form of industrial competition. To have winners, someone HAS to lose.
Here’s a thought. Maybe work isn’t the sainted ethic you think it is. Maybe we could work way less and no one would go hungry. Maybe all this work and consume, make crappy products that wear out so you have to buy more, and work to have the money to buy more is illusion – simply to keep the money pouring upward into that tower of which we spoke above.
We are in an age of extreme pollution, overpopulation and quickly dwindling resources. The Capitalist model would rather have your local grocery chain throw out half their produce every week than lower prices. Heck, some places have made it illegal to collect rainwater, and certainly Monsanto wants it to be impossible to grow your own food. Remember Victory Gardens? They were before my time – but now you couldn’t plant one to feed your kids without paying someone royalties. Does this seem sane to you?
We have the technology to produce lasting products, to create free renewable energy. We have the capacity to not only grow, but deliver food to every person on Earth. Picture buying a car or refrigerator than never broke. A battery that would last forever. Less landfills, no payments. There is a reason we cannot have these things. There is no profit for the very few in it.
There is a reason in the US, we send jobs to places like Bangledesh and let them toil for pennies in factories that kill them. More profit for the few.
Here’s a question. When garments were made in the US by Unions, they were still cheaper than they are now made for pennies. Where did the “value” of their abuse go? To you? Hell no. To the rich, and we enabled it on their blood.
Socialism means Too Much Government
The government you have now? Or the government by and for the People? I see nothing wrong with using our collective pool of money (and that is what taxes are supposed to be) to serve ourselves the things we could not have alone.
No one but the insane would want more of their already dwindling money to pay for taxes, right? Yet, it is true that places with the highest taxes have the highest happiness ratings. They never worry about illness – they have free healthcare. They get free education. They have no homelessness, while we now have more empty foreclosed upon homes than homeless here.
Right now, nearly every Social agreement we have has been PRIVATIZED – and we are doing worse than ever. How is that “market” working out for you? Not only that? The profits – are theirs alone (private gains) while we bail out their losses! (publicize loss) What a rip off!
You are not getting your money’s worth now for a reason. The rich not only aren’t paying taxes, they are taking the lion’s share of our collective bank account out in subsidies and overblown contracts, all abetted by the Politicians they have purchased.
This what Capitalism does. It funnels to the top, then uses that money and power to codify laws to keep the power and money flowing to the top.
Socialism is DEMOCRATIC. It does not allow for a system where private, self-interested people can accrue that much power. Now, it doesn’t make you nationalize your small flower shop. It does create laws where you have to pay fairly and caps profits to a reasonable level. It does nationalize the things that meet our basic needs: BANKING, (so it cannot be predatory) utilities, education, health and housing.
To ever get to a more Communist world, Socialism is a necessary step. People need to feel safe enough and become educated enough to create their own systems of cooperative effort. I know, I know, the Capitalists are cringing and the pure Marxists are annoyed by that. This is my opinion. While the idea of people taking over factories is good, and owning their labor and sharing the fruits of what they create is grand – Marx was working toward Industrialization as a goal. We need to become post-industrial. Once we are, there will be less need for a Centralized Goverment.
Once we have a system that is more green, based on stability and sustainability, owning production would be a natural result. Instead of “making a profit” for town A and competing for the market with town B – the goal should be providing said product A for their area and receiving product B in return for our own.
Still? Less is more. There is no reason in the world that people need to work more than 20 hours a week – either in a field of their “calling” or as rotating voluntary service to keep infrastructure running. While no model will ever cover the shoe fetish of some, nor the video-game addiction of others? These extras could be “paid for” with labor.
I realize this is simplistic – but my goal here is to open eyes to the possibilities of another way, not argue to dust the minutia of implementing it.
But what of the lazy leeches?
“I want to do nothing when I grow up!” ~ said no child ever.
Prior to the industrial age, people had what I lovingly dub “callings.” Healing, mechanical, building, music, art, a love of animals, or growing things. I don’t think anyone ever wanted to be a miner. But think – the need to dig in the earth for fossil fuels would be gone, and the value of rocks for pretty things – gold, diamonds, etc – all symbols of classology – would become far less valuable. In a better world, who are you and what have you done to improve the world would be the bastion of esteem over what trinkets you own.
Sure, there will always be less desirable jobs. Garbage removal. Sewer maintenance. Cleaning. Those should be either paid a premium, or be mandatory volunteer for a short period in everyone’s life to access the benefits of society. If you think that is ridiculous, the model of restaurant management makes sure that to be hired to that position, you do every job in the place for weeks before you get to manage it. You have to have hands on empathy and the ability to provide the service to run a restaurant. Mostly done in case someone calls in? It has created respect for the people they manage.
If you are using the public education system to be a brain surgeon? Wonderful. It won’t kill you to have to serve as janitorial staff for a semester part time while starting in your field. See how that works? Everyone begins to have mutual respect for the shoes of others.
Most people who do not work would prefer to. They are just ill-fitted or ill-suited for the dehumanizing, unappreciated work they do. Marx called this alienation. I call it round peg in square hole syndrome. I would love to teach teenagers science, but never had the money for college. I love working as a gardener, though it doesn’t pay well. I have enjoyed working in inventory management and tool repair for the big three. I am now too old and sore, but rocked out waitressing. I hate cubicles and offices – I am entirely unsuited for sedentary work. I prefer to have to move around during my day. I used to love to work on cars, and can fix nearly everything.
Yet? I cannot find work that will provide for my son and I in any of those fields. Capitalism made them all too low paying. Again, it’s what it does.
Instead, most of us are related to producing or selling crap we don’t need to people who can’t afford it, who in turn have to do the same. All to never really be SECURE in our homes or food or illness – so some few can be Bazillionaires.
A safety net for the infirm or those with special needs is a wonderful thing. Is a person born with disabilities less worthy of food than you?
Its Capitalism that is crazy, not we, the Anti-Capitalists.
Consider two water tanks, if you will, sharing an endless cycle of refreshing one another.
Thats what we are about, really.
Its not scary.
Its not rocket science.
Its not un-doable, though those in the top tank would love you to think so.
Its having security, self-worth, cooperation, more free time and a greener planet.
Its about never, ever stamping someone into poverty to get ahead.
We have to end this insane extraction system and unify to “all of us”.
Join the Anti-Capitalist Group.
Here be Sanity!
Jun 24 2012
In the first part, I talked about the false comparison of Orwell to Huxley and how features of the writing made it easy to mistake each author’s purpose and scope. However, there is something else. Neil Postman was not alone in thinking, in 1984, that we dodged a bullet and instead took a pill. I understand the feeling and shared it. It seemed like, as Lord Boyd Orr had said in 1966, “Give the people a choice between freedom and sandwiches, and they’ll take the sandwiches,” but we had already been shot but did not know the blood stain.
We were aware, then, that the public of democratic nations was placidly accepting outrages that would lead to atrocities, but I would propose that it took 2003 and George W. Bush to demonstrate to us how well television and the fragmented Internet have made every year 1984. Indeed, the television, which Postman saw as an abstracted medium that forbade long-form discourse and non-pictorial conceptualizing, would eventually resemble the view screen of 1984 as much as the Soma of Brave New World, especially cable news, where anything not at full volume and alarm was mere caesura for a day of emotional extremes and informational abbreviation. The Memory Hole was far easier to achieve by accident than plan.
I criticized Postman for a misplaced emphasis on the fiction of 1984 whereby he missed the systemic critique of the novel. The novel’s appearance in the midst of a nation enacting a policy called Austerity, where everyone was to “pitch in” to get “England” back on its feet after the war, is conspicuous and screams out for a comparison. Specifically, within the fiction and outside of it, a System of power is above the people, and the people are the enemy of power itself. Big Brother is an image or visage for a system, but the true power is no person or party — just the continuing flow of resources and labor from the people to an indifferent end. This is what is frightening. The group in charge was never fascists or Stalinists or Churchill or anyone else: it was capital.
Austerity today (the “new Austerity” in Europe and deficit mania in the U.S.) is different in cause, but the same in effect. Both ask nations to turn their GDP over to repayment of debt rather than intervention in markets to stimulate employment. The language used in both instances is similar, too: “Get back on our feet” and “recovery.” However, nation states and capital have had quite a bit of time and learned a few lessons.
We can see, in the gap of attitudes and responses of the public, the effect of social and cultural mutation. If we can see a greater or lesser increase in the effects of social control, then we can understand, I believe, just how thoroughgoing Orwell’s book was a description of an ongoing project that has now succeeded.
Nov 16 2011
The hotel shuttle pulls up to San Francisco’s airport half an hour late. I push a dollar into the driver’s hand and grab my bag. Less than an hour remains to negotiate San Francisco’s ever present chaos to make my flight. I join the line snaking back and forth through an infinite channel of nylon belts and down the backs of airline ticket booths, tapping my finger impatiently on the handle of my bag. There are no other flights to Albuquerque until late tonight and that would mean missing work.
I make it past the first ID screening and still the line crisscrosses for a mile in front of me. Then, the Goddess of Travel intercedes. Right in front of me, a TSA officer unclips the nylon belt holding us at bay and announces they are opening a new screening area. I thank the Goddess, and follow the woman beckoning with her hand.
“Can we get to United’s gates from back here?” a man asks, mirroring my own growing unease as we travel well past the last ticketing booth.
“Yes, all gates from here,” our guide replies with confidence.
Finally, we round a bend in the deserted hall and stop. I suck my breath in and curse the Goddess of Travel. That witch, she’s tricked me again. The Rape-U scans have finally come to San Francisco.