A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
As the Occupy Wall Street party gets rockin’ across the continent and the capitalist factories of China fatten their profit margins by pumping out Vendetta masks (that’s a cheap shot, by the way) I think it’s time to hit pause on the merry-go-round and take a look at where we stand. It’s obvious the Occupy Whatever! Movement has more talking heads than a defanged Hydra, but the general stream of consciousness coming out of these Babes-in-the-Woods is that capitalism is the villain – now and for all time. I’ve begged to differ on that question ever since I discovered marbles were legal tender, but having an open minded discussions with these people is like trying to teach a moose to dance. It’s just not going to happen because the moose keeps getting annoyed. The major stumbling block is a marked misunderstanding of what capitalism is, does and what it’s supposed to be. So, let’s take a look at the Merriam-Webster, shall we, and see if we can’t clarify the situation.
Cap-i-tal-ism noun: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.
That’s a pretty milquetoast definition; no mention of fangs or green saliva. And we all know that things we know to be true don’t always match what the dictionary would lead us to believe. So let’s try again.
Here’s the real deal. Capitalism is about making money – greed, if you will. It’s a manmade device that has no conscience and no morality. No other animal on this planet uses it, and it causes a distinct imbalance in the fortunes of all human beings. It has pushed people to exploit their world — physically and intellectually — to discover and fashion goods and services to sell to their fellow human beings. It’s responsible for all we see and a ton of stuff we don’t. Nothing in this world happens without capitalism having its fingers in the pie. So how did we get this way?
It all started when Grog the caveman had two spears and Eddie his neighbour had none. Grog traded his extra spear to Eddie for whatever he brought back to the stew pot that evening. It was a simple transaction. Over the course of time, Grog discovered that he could eat pretty well — without chasing mastodons all day — just by sitting in the cave, making spears for guys like Eddie, who did. It was a good arrangement. Since that time, capitalism has grown and spread throughout the world. It has gotten extremely complicated (for example, I have no idea if Hedge and Mutual Funds are even different) but, in essence, it’s still a series of simple transactions. We might think we’re 21st century mega-sophisticates, but, in fact, we’re all just a pack of Grogs and Eddies, with various credit limits.
The current problem with capitalism comes not from a freewheeling free market meltdown but from a lot of contemporary malcontents who spent their formative years at the Alec Baldwin School of Economics where they whiled away their time studying Wishful Thinking with a midnight minor in dystopia movies. They are under the growing misconception that the world has been corrupted by a select group of James Bond Super-Villains who are part of a nefarious plot to …do what?… I’m not sure. In general, I think it involves taking money from people who don’t have any – if that makes any sense. Honestly, I’m not being sarcastic I truly do not understand what the Super-Villains are being accused of – aside from just being nasty. Anyway, the malcontents have been yipping and storming around for the better part of my lifetime, raging against the capitalist machine. Unfortunately, they’ve been bitching for so long that governments have forgotten their real function and are being dragged along for the ride. FYI, government’s only purpose is to protect me and all the other mes out there, give us a good education, keep us healthy and not let us die alone in the dark. However, with all the whining, the malcontents have managed to muddy the lens so badly nobody can get a clear picture of what’s going on anymore. What they have always failed to understand, despite overwhelming evidence on a daily basis, is there is no Super-Villains’ Club, and capitalism is not the root of all evil. In fact, it’s capitalism’s benevolence which has given us the time and leisure to theorize and chatter about just how evil capitalism is or isn’t – but that’s for another time.
Capitalism, by definition, is all about making money. It has no other reason to exist, it’s not on the verge of extinction and it works in Darwinian splendour. Companies that make money flourish and grow: companies that don’t wither and die. It’s that simple. Getting upset about huge corporate profits is like getting mad at the wolf for eating sheep. It’s what they do. And it’s just as senseless to ask the wolf (on moral grounds) to stop chewing, or, at least to share; that’s a good way to lose some fingers. The only way to deal with the capitalist wolves among us is to control the one thing they’re all looking for, money – which, by the way, the general population already does. The power of the people is not standing on a street corner, holding a sign; it’s the cash in their wallets, right there next to their credit cards. If you want to put a stop to Kellogg’s, quit buying Frosted Flakes. And here’s the beauty of that. It works with every company on the planet from Grog and Sons: Spear and Arrow Makers, to J. P. Morgan, General Electric and Wal-Mart.
These Occupy the Whatever! people are just regenerated 60s activists, out there getting in the way of the general problem at hand. I agree it’s about time we put a stop to this unholy alliance between government and business. However, instead of ragging on the bankers for cashing their bailout cheques we should be outraged at the governments who wrote them in the first place. Our governments have no business going into business for themselves; that’s not their job. It’s time to make it plain to our elected elite that their time in office is directly connected to how well they manage our money. Meanwhile, it’s also time to vote with our wallets and financially punish every capitalist who took our involuntary taxpayer generosity — by loudly doing business with their competition. It’s the only thing they’ll listen to.
But until people recognize the true nature of capitalism, I’ll tip my hat to a new generation. It’s no wonder we all got fooled again.