I have to make a statement
, and I don't want to be voted upon because my ideas do or don't agree with yours, or because I can't express
myself as well as I'd like. Please don't be insulted
by what I say; I have a tendency to make rather scathing
generalizations about people when I'm angry. If you are insulted, I'm sorry
. You were warned.
I live very close to New York City. In fact, I regularly make a trip into said city, often with some enthusiasm. I'm proud of the fact that I live near New York City. At least, most of the time.
I'm going home to South Jersey this weekend, and I'm exceedingly glad that I'll be there as opposed to in the City this weekend. And not just 'cause I'm going to see my son.
I will NOT be in the City on the weekend of the World Economic Forum. I will NOT be protesting the World Economic Forum. I will NOT be joining the ranks of Another World is Possible, or the Anti-Capitalist Convergence for their "green" (ie. "non-violent", although their website tells people to bring gas masks) protests.
First off, I'd just like to point out the fact that telling people to bring gas masks is only provoking the matter. it's a vicious circle; police will see the gas masks and think something's going to happen, so they'll be extremely jumpy, and they'll react badly to anything, and blah blah blah. If you're going to bring protection, bring something that fits in your pocket. But that's not my point.
Let's think for a minute, who's participating in these protests? Are poor people struggling on welfare and trying desperately to get a job to support their four kids going to these protests? Are homeless people who lost their jobs due to economic setbacks going to these protests? Are the people who work 16 hours a day just to make ends meet going to these protests?
These people are at home, resting their tired feet. Or they're still at work, while the people who work 40 hours a week, or less, are going to these protests "on behalf of these people".
Let's think for a moment about what these people want. These poor, struggling people who work for every penny they get just to put food on the table and a roof over their heads. They want what every red-blooded American wanted in the 50's - they want a million dollars, and a big home, and someone else to do all their work. Or maybe they just want a job that will make them comfortable. You know, something they like to do that pays pretty well. Where they have time to be with their children, or clean their homes, or maybe even have enough money to have a new mattress for the bed or a weekend trip to the beach once in a while, or, God forbid, a newER car than the car that's been in far too many accidents and has too many replaced used parts already.
Kinda like what all these people have who are actually going to these protests.
Now let's think about these people who are going to these protests.
These are people who have a decent job that pays likely $30K a year or more. Something where, if they have a roommate or two, can easily afford a decent apartment in a vaguely safe area. These are people who work anywhere between 30 and 50 hours a week at most (with minor exceptions on certain weeks), doing something they like and/or are eminently qualified to do after years of schooling, and they have health care, and they have new clothing every once in a while. Most importantly, they've got time to think.
They have the time to think about their bosses, and their bosses' bosses' boss, and how things would be better if everyone could be that rich. Or if their boss had to go through what they did in order to get that far in life. And they dwell on that for a very long time, and they start to think about redistribution of wealth. And they start to think about the people who don't have any money, or who work in other countries 16 hours a day for a pittance, and how if only the guy with all the money would give it all up for 75000 foreign workers, wouldn't life be a little better all around? And they start to think, Oh my God, it's the foreign government's fault, because they just want more money for themselves so they're going to reduce pay and whip the people to death until they're making billions of dollars per shoe that these people make in the sweatshop!
Hey, I've got an idea, let's go back to when England owned half the world and the Chinese still had their kings! Maybe then, people weren't so oppressed, exploited and poor!
Uh, I mean... No, actually I do mean exactly what I said. I've got news for you -- ever heard of serfs? You think they didn't have it like shit? There will ALWAYS be oppression/exploitation, economic, racial or any other kind you can think of, as long as there is pride, greed, and stupid people. And there will always be people who think it's wrong. Remember the 20's? When people tried to turn the United States Communist? Oh, we all see how well that worked, don't we?
I've got some more news for you, folks. That whole spreading the wealth idea? You really think that's going to work? That by spreading out the trillions of dollars in today's financial market among the 6.2 billion people in the world that that will solve everyone's financial woes? That offering any and every commodity cheaply or freely to anyone who wants or needs it is going to help? It doesn't work.
Oh, my God, what a revelation! People take things that they want or need freely all the time -- it's called stealing. Spreading trillions of dollars among billions of people results in everyone in the world having about $5000 for their ENTIRE LIVES. And that's if you don't spend it at all! And you know what? There will still be people who want more. A lot more.
Hey, you. Yeah, you. The guy with the $30K a year starting salary, with the $150K earning potential. You think you could really get that in a country where the wealth was "evenly distributed"? No, you'd be making about $5K a year. You know why? Because there would still be some way for someone else to get that extra $25K of your salary. Because he "deserves it more". Or, because someone else said so.
You can't tell me that trading between countries is the root of all the eploitation/oppression people experience around the world. You can't tell me that an international meeting that is trying to find a way to GET MORE JOBS and pay people MORE MONEY is going to hurt and exploit those oppressed people MORE. You can't tell me that communism, or socialism, or imperialism, or any other anti-capitalist revolutionary concept is going to give all these oppressed and exploited people what they need. I could examine this: Canada -- not entirely socialist, but they got the health-care thing going -- their financial standing? Multiply by nine, divide by five, and add 32, man. It's the Fahrenheit dollar to our Celsius. (Hey, look, the one thing we do decimally.) Russia -- a month's pay for a loaf of bread? Yeah. Right. China? China can't even control its population, let alone its finances, or its government for that matter. Why do you think Taiwan wants out? Why did the Soviet Union fall apart? The most successful Communist country to date is Vietnam. A real poster child there. Look at Afghanistan. Or, wait, don't, at least not until the land mine explodes .... okay, now you can look. Look at what essentially a religious oligarchy did there.
Now look at the United States. A massive capitalist "empire" where people have rights, people have money (most of the time), and people have at the very least an opportunity to get what they want or need. What's the difference?
The difference is, capitalism is about using the money you have to make more of it. Money flows; otherwise it's worth nothing. Money flows via trade; we are not, by far, a self-sufficient country, nor should we be, and money is the way to get what we want and need as a country and as a society.
Capitalism is what allowed you to have the time and the freedom to go protest itself. Capitalism, and a free speech clause.
And no, I don't worship capitalism. Capitalism is not THE answer to everything. There is no one answer. The real problem that no protest, no petition, no boycott can solve is this: humans are fundamentally flawed. We are not perfect. Were we perfect, there would be no oppression, no needless suffering, no poverty. Were we perfect, we wouldn't need anything. We are NOT perfect. We are greedy, selfish bastards who want distribution of wealth simply because it means more for us.
I am a poor person. I am a white chick who grew up on a farm on the outskirts of suburbia in New Jersey. I am a graduate student making $14K a year (with $50K in debts from school alone) and struggling from paycheck to paycheck in a dual-income household with my fiance, the unemployed sysadmin who makes 2/3 as much as I do on unemployment. (Which we wouldn't have without capitalism, by the way. Did Russia pay people who didn't work? I don't think so.) My fiance grew up in the ghetto in New York City. My parents have worked all their lives at a job that keeps them in the red every single year and yet, because of legal restrictions on land use, they can't ever give up on. And yet, I refuse to protest the international trade that could result from the World Economic Fund, and the World Trade Organization, and FTAA, and NAFTA, and all those other related groups, because I know that in some way, it will benefit me by the simple fact that there's going to be a chance for me. I know that I will be able to make the money that will allow me, and my fiance, and maybe even my son, to live a better life.
I can say that confidently, because I know that trade encourages money flow, which encourages job creation, which encourages opportunities for everyone. I can say that confidently because I have the balls to be thankful for what I've been given. And I can say that because I accept the ramifications of the choices that I make.
It's not the system, it's the administration. Protest THAT.
And by the way, if it weren't for all that capitalism and foreign trade, there'd be no New York (founded by the Dutch and conquered by the English), no Statue of Liberty (a gift from France), and no little New York City souvenirs (made in Taiwan). So it's not all bad.
After a couple more hours of discussion on this issue after this writeup was posted, there are a couple of distinctions I think I need to make.
First of all, Capitalism does NOT mean Big Business. In fact, I'm kind of anti-big business. Think about this; who really wants a Microsoft for every single commodity on the market? Capitalism is the only system to genuinely encourage free enterprise. That is, if you've got an idea that's marketable, you can open a business! Yes, even if someone else had the same idea, if you can sell it, you can open your own business! Now, you might get bought out, but that's laissez-faire capitalism for you.
I'm not saying that's a good thing, either. Big business causes suburbs, and at the rate we're going with our Big Business Mania (Target, Wal-Mart, Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, Costco, brand-name outlet store complexes, etc.) the only open spaces left in fifty years will be parks or the Midwest. I actually left a Trader Joe's today because it was riddled with yuppie family time. Trader Joe's!
But I'll save my small business garble for another rant, another time.
I'd also like to try to clear something up about government intervention. There is no way to have an economy without the government. The government HAS to be involved. Defense contractors, education, national debt, it's all part and parcel of economic flow. One of our many problems as a nation is that our government is too busy regulating our bedrooms, our uteruses (uteri?), and our chosen states of mind to bother enforcing ethical business practices. Of course, that's also probably adversely affected by the fact that most politicians make six times as much money from donations from big businesses for purposes of "looking the other way" as they do from their government salary. We need to tell our leaders to take charge before it's too late; the Microsoft anti-trust case, which you can read about for yourself, is a prime example of "too late". Half-assed efforts are not what we need; look at all the anti-trust lawsuits in the early 1900s because the government "looked the other way". Again, another story, another time, but you can't avoid the fact that the government has to be involved in anything that can affect the economy. Look at Enron. On second thought, don't; they'll claim you shredded papers.
Maybe the answer is to have a bunch of poor people set up a new capitalist, democratic system and see what happens when people who suddenly have a glimmer of hope of having money someday do with that feeling. Or, we can wait 10 years and see how Afghanistan does.
I think that's all I have to say for now. Thanks for listening, and don't forget to tip your waitstaff.