FIRE ON THE WAY.
Relative to its impressive historical development, capitalism is presently in a crisis: no doubt. Truth be told, it has been in crisis for decades; but you wouldn’t know this if mainstream media has been your exclusive information-delivery system all this time.
Capitalism is a flawed system of economics; but then, so too is the basically simple “barter system”. In the human exchanges outside of economic theory, rarely would you find true/or objective equality. That’s because economics isn’t a pure science: the rules are human-made. Behind economic relationships are flawed human beings. We often tend to forget this as many wheel and deal, and scheme and steal (or play it straight sometimes). The honest ones are usually the naïve ones. The naïve ones often get rolled.
Look; there is always the need for human decency, some level of morality and civility, and the hope for rational actions/actors, behind the economic transactions and relations between humans. When these needs are imperative (or heightened), we usually find greed, exploitation and envy, lurking behind the partitions of said transactions. We exist in an inescapable chasm of need, goodwill, vice and greed travelling on the same economic plane. This is where we deal. This is where we reveal ourselves.
Despite its natural challenges and flaws, capitalism has helped developed the world in many positive ways: some are mind-boggling. And yet, it is theoretically susceptible many counter- arguments: like any system -wherein some aspects are- based on exploitation of one human by another is inherently flawed and doomed to eventual failure. And yet, capitalism’s dynamism has helped it survive the constant local, national, regional and international pressures to adjust and adapt. And that’s both admirable and commendable. But I am not in this column to extol the virtues of capitalism (alone), since one can regularly find virtues are nothing but vices in disguise.
Behind capitalism’s prolific successes are complications so intense that we in human societies have to repeatedly find new modes for adjustment(s). Plus, there is a nagging question that recurs like a decimal: how to mitigate between those who have a lot (some way too much), and those who don’t have much of anything? It’s a perpetual challenge for those who talk about economic justice, common-sense, equilibrium and reason. Blessed are the poor: always knocking at the friggin door.
We humans have four basic needs: food, clothing, shelter, and sex. When meeting these needs become too challenging for John Legend’s ordinary people, then the attendant stress can be problematic for any real or theoretical attempts at maintaining law, order, stability and a sophisticated society. And when we add these basic human needs, to other mental-health needs (like self-actualization, vanity, self-interest, ambition, ego, and the like, etcetera) then we start to see the profound problems any flawed economic-design can impose on civil society. When Sly Stone’s everyday people cannot fulfill all these needs and wants, then we as a society will be heading for trouble folks. This is where we are now.
I have written on all this before. I have been writing now for almost six years here. And as I write this column, economic difficulties in Greece, Spain, Japan, Ireland, Iceland, England, Italy, France, the USA, and many other nations have been taking up the front pages of daily newspapers for years unending. Truth be told, said difficulties consume the world. Since inflation never takes a day off, the wages of the working class folks are under constant hourly pressure to maintain its purchasing power, this alone can be very stressful for those who make the big economic decisions that daily impact the lives of regular citizens. Ostensibly, many of the upper-class folks who make/or influence these big decisions, ignore a specific aspect of reality (harsh or not): it is all about quality of life issues. The standard-of- living issues with which individuals grapple on a daily basis, places significant stress on humans, as we all negotiate nature’s main dictate: survival.
As I write this column, young white kids (primarily) are leading a sit-in protest on Wall Street in Manhattan. It’s nearly a month old and growing. They want it to spread all across the nation (maybe even the world). They have named it the “Occupy Wall Street” initiative. I believe they are on to something here: something rather interesting. They are challenging the status quo and anachronistic notions on economics at the same time. The protesters are of diverse age-groups and from many different walks of life.
Invariably, they march up and down NYC streets. Sometimes they march to the Village. Sometimes one or two of them smoke pot in Washington Square Park. Sometimes they get busted by the cops. Some march to Times Square. Every now and then the NYPD plays itself with mace, pepper spray, handcuffs, and whatever else they use these days (maybe tear-gas will come later), in trying to restore order and maintain “business as usual”. In order to upkeep the status quo.
In my estimation, the marchers are relatively peaceful ninety-nine point nine per cent of the time. That’s commendable given the realities of these hard times. These marchers could give NYPD officers many more problems. But the real problem is this: the status quo has been messing up for quite a while. The average worker has seen his/her wages stagnate since 1980, and yet wealthy folks have been cleaning up all this time. Profits for the large corporations are at all-time highs. Employment figures are near all-time lows. The rich keeps getting richer. The poor keeps getting poorer. The middle class keep getting squeezed. Technology keeps replacing and displacing workers.
Wealthy folks have nearly always done well in economics; some start doing well while in their mother’s womb. On Wall Street, folks with big money manipulate the financial system. They are”making a killing” while poor folks are suffering all around them; some are dying slowly.
At no time in the 235-year history of these dis-United States has the gap between rich and poor been so widely pronounced. While inflation and devaluation reduces the purchasing power of workers, the wealthy and super-wealthy say: let them eat cake. The top 500 richest families in this country, own and/or control more wealth than over ninety-five percent of the population: that’s over three hundred million folks. You tell me if you think such a system will stay in place indefinitely?
When bonuses come in and add to salaries, Wall Street big- shots routinely make one hundred thousand dollars to every single dollar a Wall Street office-cleaner makes annually; sometimes that disparity is even doubled, tripled or more than quadrupled in individual case studies. When tax time comes on April 15th each year, the cleaner pays a higher percentage of his/her income in taxes, when compared to said Wall Street big shot. You tell me if you think this system can work indefinitely?
In Seattle, Washington, about fifty thousand people protested the meeting of the World Trade Organization, back in November of 1999. The cops had to use every weapon in their arsenal to maintain order. The protests escalated into mini-riots. Mainstream media ignored the signs on the wall: many people are disgruntled with the many ways capitalism isn’t working. Over the last half century there have been sporadic signs of this widespread disenchantment, via protests and demonstrations in countries all over the world. It’s happening again.
As I write this, there are plans for a semi-universal display of frustration with the international economic order, by people from many developed countries all over the world. The aim is to co-ordinate a massive day of protest to show solidarity with the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters.
Some critics have wondered aloud whether or not these protests are for real. They don’t see protesters placing concrete demands on the US congress or the US president. They don’t see structured leadership and sophisticated communiqués from protest headquarters. They don’t see slick ad-campaigns. They don’t see corporate-sponsorship. They see an inchoate movement of rag tag semi-hippies. They don’t get the point: a whole lot of people are sick and tired of being sick and tired.
If you were to survey the crowd in Zucotti Park (the home of “OWS”), you will find your local barber, beatnik, and butcher, all rubbing shoulders. You will also find your child’s school teacher, the school’s security guard, the school’s kitchen-workers, and the school’s principal, all hand in hand. You will find union workers and politicians; cab drivers and pastors; lawyers, dentists and doctors; construction workers and blue-collar workers; people from all walks of American life. You will find the young and the not so young. You will find black, white, read, brown and yellow. You will find the unemployed, the underemployed, and those who are employed in full time angst while on their precarious day jobs. It’s a microcosm of the country‘s mood. It’s a reflection on the country’s health and psychology.
As I said before: a whole lot of people are sick and tired of being sick and tired. The ninety-nine percent of those being screwed by the top one percent in this capitalist system are pushing back. It would be foolhardy to ignore them. Revolutions were spawned by smaller stuff.
And then there is the question of Congress, plus the various state and local legislatures. It appears that most of our elected officials are now bought and sold: like ten dollar whores haggling with over-sexed Johns, and anachronistic pimps, on some sorry street corner. The wealthy folks are the pimps and Johns at the same time. Many of the elected folks are the whores. We the people are being screwed daily. The real dirt is the big-shots have no conscience. They make the rules; they bend the rules. Whether it’s the legal system, the educational system, the political system, and especially within the economic system: rich folks get over like the fat rats they are. Regular fools are left the crumbs from their ravenous killings.
So if ordinary folks have no day-care or health-care: so what! So if everyday folks have no food on the table, no roof over their head, no bed to sleep in at night, no chances for a decent education, no job to go to: so who gives a damn! So if regular folks have little or no influence on the legislators who create the unfair tax codes: don’t even try to complain. You tell me if all this can go on indefinitely.
In the good old US of A, there is a reckoning coming. It may be decades from today but there is fire on the way. I have suggested many times that we will eventually have to modify the capitalist system further to incorporate wages, prices and profit controls. Many so-called economic-thinkers suggest I am going out of my head. We shall see.
If we don’t make some serious adjustments to capitalism the way we know it, the way we have been doing it, the way we have been viewing it, then 1789 will return and it won’t be de-ja-vu. The French nobility didn’t even see a revolution walking up the street to storm the Bastille even when they heard the roaring crowd. They were that inured. It’s happening again. It’s happening right here.
Stay tuned-in folks.