“Come See the Violence Inherent in the System!” Capitalism Reveals Its Ugly Truth
As the name should imply, capitalism is all about who owns capital, whether that’s money, land, factories, banks, energy, or politicians. We are taught to believe that capital is doled out by merit, or how hard people work, which is so laughably and obviously untrue that it has required centuries of brainwashing to overcome. To whit: Southern plantation owners did not “work harder” than their slaves any more than the CEO of Walmart works harder than the immigrant who picks your strawberries. But I digress.
“It takes money to make money.” Ever heard that phrase? There’s a reason that’s true. If you have more than your neighbor, it’s going to be easier for you to acquire more. More money means more leverage and influence: you can pay the higher prices that your neighbor cannot. If you own land, you can rent it out and make more money. If you own the factory, then you can decide who gets to work there and for how much. It’s all pretty straightforward. But fair and merit-based, it is not. Ask yourself how it is that you can own the land your house sits on, but not own the mineral rights to what lies beneath it. The people with the capital sealed that up long ago.
Of course, just as the lords of the manor needed serfs to work their land, capitalists need expendable labor to produce whatever they sell. Workers get no say in how the business is run, or what the conditions of work are. Labor unions corrected this for a time, but the capitalists have very successfully shut most of them down. If they want to pay you practically nothing in dangerous conditions for long hours, they can pretty much get away with it. The worker’s choice is simple: accept the corporate lord’s fiats or go hungry.
It should surprise no one that American capitalism began in slavery, because obviously, the most efficient worker is one you don’t have to pay and whom you can force to do almost anything for you 24/7. This is why Americans no longer have well paying jobs, as we all know, because people working for pennies a day in Bangladesh are a much more desirable option for corporations who want to keep profits (which they take for themselves) high and expenses low. Prisoners in corporate prisons who are paid pennies on the dollar and have no choice in the matter are also incredibly attractive and lucrative in our corrupt system. The modern American worker, who hasn’t had a pay raise that keeps up with inflation in decades, is in turn kept in debt and hungry enough to be scared of losing their job. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you’re much less likely to go on strike. We are a nation of wage slaves, disempowered and working for crumbs.
Of course our government knows what the problems are, because they created them. High rents combined with a scarcity of low-income housing didn’t happen by accident. There are things our government could do to address the problem, but again, if you’re always on the threshold of losing the roof over your head, you’re not likely to be agitating for social change or a living wage. Why create Medicare for All when the people who write the legislation are invested in and work for the very people who profit from NOT having it? Capitalism is a vulture economy, in which people die and the oligarchs pick their bones clean and grow fatter by the day.
A system that requires people to generate wealth for already wealthy people, while getting no stake in the profits themselves, can only be described as a form of black magic. Capitalists are like vampires, sucking the blood out of their workers, and throwing them aside when they can no longer produce. And you can tell who can no longer produce by what little value we place on such people. The elderly, the sick, the mentally ill, and the disabled are the first to be sacrificed for Mammon. Even now, politicians are trying to do away with the last remnants of a social safety net that helps exactly these people. Their deaths mean nothing to the capitalists in charge, sociopaths who long ago buried their consciences, never to be found again, like the remains of Jimmy Hoffa.
Indeed, if you ever doubted that capitalism was cruel and inherently violent both to people and the earth, the Covid-19 pandemic should show you otherwise. Rather than do what needs to be done to save lives and help everyday people who are very much in distress due to the economic carnage (which capitalism is incapable of addressing), the oligarch-owned politicians and talking heads are now saying the quiet part out loud: LET THEM DIE. Sacrifice millions so that corporate executives can get their bonuses, so that the stock market doesn’t go off a cliff, so that the worker peons can resume making THEM money. Because without your labor, they have nothing. They can produce nothing. They can move nothing. They can sell nothing. WE are the cog that makes their wealth-generators turn, even though we get little in return for it.
Perhaps it had to get extremely ugly for people to wake up and see beyond the propaganda, to understand that “the market” is a religion that will willingly sacrifice every last one of us if it can. Is this okay with you? Is it? Should you get no say in the work that is done by the sweat of your brow? Should you have no stake in the profits? Is this corporate hierarchy of managers and bosses really the best way to run things? The guys with the degrees in finance should call the shots and divvy up the money among themselves? No, we can do better.
In the meantime, as the obituaries come daily and while people suffer unnecessarily because they are about to be (or are) homeless, hungry, and likely sick, we should reflect on what kind of a society would truly be loving, helpful, kind, and egalitarian. One that would cherish the contributions of everyone, no matter how small, and share the bounty as one tribe. Or we can continue the race to the bottom and trample all of the bodies along the way. There are no winners there.