Dear Dirty America

DDA

Who Framed Capitalism?

March 07
17:30 2012
CONOR MATTHEWS

Ireland
Credit:  JRLibby
It reads like a Noir screenplay. The chalked outline of a dollar symbol lines the floor, cornered off by a yellow police crime scene reel, watched from a few metres away by the crooked cops taking bribes when the victim was alive, now cawing like crows in jest at how they love the fact he’s dead. The usual suspects enter the station, each with their own stake in seeing him dead. The femme fatale of greed, the shady butler of socialism, and, of course, the spoilt Ivy Leagure rich kid of Americans. But of course, during a raid, the fuzz bust into a disgarded meth apartment. They find all they need; the murder weapon was a credit card, the crime scene was Wall Street, and the murderer…well, let’s just say the murderer isn’t the one in jail.
The romanticism of the above must be forgiven, while not appologised for. The Western world seems to be, in a poetic sense, in love with the idea that capitalism, the proposed core of America and Europe, has committed the ultimate sins in the eyes of the law; murder, rape, hostage taking, and, perhaps most insulting of all, treason. Ayn Rand and Karl Marx have gained a lot more Facebook friend requests than they ever thought was possible, updating their tweets and statuses to the delights of thousands of Tea Party and Occupy protesters…ironically on their new iPhones built by Asian and Middle Eastern kids who got the jobs outsourced to them from companies with government subsidies and tax exemptions. Everyone’s angry. Everyone’s unemployed. Everyone’s scared. The “99%” of America wants more governmental regulations on corporations, while at the same time small government and lower taxes. The “S” word is being spoken in public without Michael Moore screening a film or Glenn Beck screaming at a camera. And all the while, a sad, lonely, economic system of enterprise and market sits in a cell, on the green mile. Framed for a crime it didn’t commit. How do I know? Because Capitalism has an alibi.
Capitalism, despite what many people may think, abides by a set of certain rules, the core of which is that economics can be regulated in accordance with capital, the worth and value generated by a work force. Another rule is that businesses will emerge from a need for a niche product/demand/service, competing with each other for the majority of clientele in that market, until a handful become the most dominant in the market, with the biggest company eventually going “bust” over-time for any number of reasons, often brought about naturally, causing a void in the market either quickly filled by the next biggest company, or by a number of start-up companies responding to the demand. The cycle restarts and continues. In this instance, it can be seen that “too big to fail” is not only impossible, but rather the opposite is a natural and welcomed occurrence. Being “too big” is the perfect time to fail. This alien notion of capitalism as a growing, almost nature-esque eco-system, may sound foreign and idealistic to many Americans. And yet, this is exactly the alibi that capitalism has when standing against the accusations against it. Capitalism was nowhere near the crime scene at the time of the murder. Capitalism wasn’t even in the country.
Some time in the 1980’s Capitalism was called up to the top floor of the enterprise complex which towers in the major business district of New York City. Resembling a scene from the movie “Wall Street”, the (then clean) Charlie Sheen marvels at Gordan Geeko’s lavish and grandiose room, staring straight into the heart of the city, analysing the streaming blood vessels of the work force, shooting out of the subways, the buses, the taxis, the red light district motels, and the like, churning the butter of America’s frothy milky economy. Two words welcomed him. “You’re Fired”. The Ayn Rands of the world said it almost in sync, like they each wanted to be the heroic man with the balliest set of huevos, presuming the others wished for a mucho man to swoop in, one they would congratulate later in the billiard room with grease topped brandies and Cuban fondled cigars. Capitalism had provided them with everything, with their cars, their wives, their kids (all strangely bought in the same place). Why, he thought? Why?
Credit: Jim Kuhn
And then it came to mind, as quite a quick quip. Because Capitalism owed these people no favours, no promises, no false security, no excuse to pout out their chests and beat their nipples like the alpha male gorilla coming into his retirement years, finding a sharp rock to stab the young contenders for the throne, and putting themselves before the well being of their world. Capitalism was for the intelligent, the driven, the strong, the hard working, the every man, the regular man, the people, the same ones that not only marked the streets below but marked the pages of the Declaration of Independence.
One disgustingly satanic and vile sack of shit, cursed with a spoilt, loathsome, vinegar taste in its mouth from years of depraved fetishes, craving more and more, stood there, in the room with Capitalism. It chuckled and hurled streams of smoke up into the air from its fangs, gleaming with phallic delight at the quaking table of old, soggy executive flesh bags that prayed to it like it were Jesus, Muhammad, or any number of revered icons. This was Corporatism.
This is entering the bizzare “evil twin brother” cliché story arc of many half-cocked, trigger-happy soap operas and telenovellas, or even the strange silver age comic plots of superheroes involving alternative dimensions and negative universes. They look similar, Capitalism and Corporatism, with familiar mannerisms, speech patterns, and super powers. It would be forgivable to mistake the two, and may even lead to why there has been such wide spread condemnation of Capitalism in the general public in recent years. But like the cliché story-lines, there’s always a scar behind the ear, a birth mark, or even a moment where, just as the evil twin and the lover of the real brother are about to get married, the real brother bursts into the chapel, reveals that despite his evil twin brother cutting his brakes of his car and causing him to drive off a cliff, the real brother was able to swim back to land, even though he suffered from amnesia, worked at a convent as a gardener for several weeks where he fell in love with a young nun before regaining his memories and racing off to stop the wedding, leaving behind the now pregnant nun (this is actually a story-line in a telenovella!).
Corporatism differs from Capitalism by having the profit and existence of the corporation as its main focus, rather than the production of capital. Where capitalism rewards hard work and individualism, Corporatism rewards cuts, down-sizing, and any excuse to pay less to works, claiming the money saved, not the money earned, as profit. Capitalism calls upon the simple mantra that a day’s work deserves a day’s pay. Corporatism sees other’s labour as their own by right of might. Capitalism holds up the importance of efficiency and economics, with investments into productivity, safe working environments, and a larger work force being a must. Corporatism cuts corners at any given chance, lobbies for the laws that limit its rule to be abolished, and even expects the maximum amount of effort for the lowest possible wages.
Imagine you bought a pizza from Pizza Hut, or Dominoes, or one of those “best in town/best around” pizzeria joints, formally owned by an Italian American family, now financed by a middle-aged white guy who’s going through a “I’m gonna own my own business” mid-life crisis phase. Imagine you paid the full amount. Imagine you worked hard at your job all week, cashed the check that weekend, and went straight to that pizzeria, and brought home your meal for you and someone else. Your wife, husband, brother, sister, parent, friend; imagine you peeled a slice away from the greasy Pac-man’s mouth, and slapped it on your [insert whoever is there here]’s plate, and you watched them with glee as they sunk their teeth into that hot slice. Now imagine the FBI busted through your house, knocked you and your…whoever….onto the floor, guns held to your temple, all because you shared a product with someone who hadn’t paid for the product, despite the fact you paid for it; the ingredients, the manufacturing, the packaging, as far as capitalism is concerned, your capital (i.e. your work and value) was translated into currency, which was then translated into that pizza. Ergo, the pizza is your capital, and yours alone, no matter who made the pizza, because the capital they once possessed, (i.e. the pizza) had too been translated into currency. Corporatism, however, claims that they still own the capital of the pizza, despite now owning the money paid for the pizza. This is a crude allegory for file sharing; an offense now with a punishment more harsh than rape.
As a card carrying member of this “I-Generation” (a term I hope I invented, because if I didn’t I will cry a little from both failing to be original but also that the world is so defined by branding that a generation needs to be named partially after a phone, much like how a celebrity’s newborn child shall be named after some vaguely new-age, pseudo-cultural, voodoo like “Still Waters” or “Blorgi” (pronounced “OOOOOH” and spelled with two H’s)), I hold some ground where I say I can see the perfect Capitalist opportunity to cash in on file sharing. A major factor in file sharing isn’t due to its cheap, mostly free nature, nor its nonchalant mantra, but rather by its simplicity. It’s re-enforcement of a bizarre postmodern notion that Consumerism is a right, and that we, no matter how poor, deserve a standard of living that only the rich merely 30 years ago would have expected. We have a right to things NOW! I don’t have to get off my ass to buy a movie, or a video game. I deserve it to be handed to me, placed upon my lap, by Nyan-Cat, or whatever meme I’m blaring out of my laptop. Who do you think I am! A Chinese person? I’m an American! I want to watch my favourite show NOW! Not when you say so! Not when the DVD comes out! Not when Netflix or Hulu manages to get the rights! NOW!
A simple minded twit can see the endless opportunities that are abound with file sharing. For example, Micro-Pricing (again, hopefully my idea, though I doubt I’m the only clever-clogs about). Micro-Pricing is a concept which involves offering a “free” online streaming service, where the user only has to register their IP address. From registering that address, the website will take note of the views you clock, and micro-charge you for them (e.g. 1 cent for every 30 minutes). Instead of asking for money directly, it will send the charge to any online service you use, adding the price. So those $14 shoes you want from eBay become $15.76, that World of Warcraft account goes up a couple of cents, and maybe the website you run has a slightly higher monthly rate than last year. Another example would be the traditional advertisement revenue scheme. Simply upload the files with advertisements edited into the sequence. This would work especially well if the episode in question were either an online upload a week ahead of the television run, or even an exclusive online episode, forcing die-hard fans to go to the website and watch the video. The higher quality and smaller the file size would definitely deter pirating websites. Or hell, you could just go for the offensive tactic and spam these pirate websites with viruses. Word will spread that the websites aren’t safe, and people would rather pay the $20 instead of paying a couple hundred for a pc repair.
But no, that would be the capitalist thing to do. Like I mentioned, corporations cut corners. They don’t compete, they defeat. Just look at the difference between start-up companies and corporations. Can you think of a single law passed or attempted to be passed in the last number of years that helped the major corporations that lobbied for them that didn’t harm someone else or limit certain freedoms, the latest ones being SOPA and ACTA? Can you think of a single instance where a small start-up company had enough funds to lobby ANY politician in the government? Can you think of a single instance where a corporation wasn’t in the news for suing someone over a trivial matter, like Disney suing a play school for children for having Mickey Mouse painted on their walls, or for an ethical issue, like how the Asian factory that makes many Apple products responded to a surge in employee suicides, due to the extreme workload, by placing nets to catch them, which led to the would-be jumpers having their pay deducted and then being sent straight back to work? When’s the last time you heard a self employed mechanic asking the government for a bail out? If you stand in the social security line, still looking for a job to feed your family, you’re called a leech. When you make selfish, idiotic, moronic decisions, and ask for money because you’re “too big to fail”, you’re called a job creator.
But where was Capitalism at this point? Well, he decided to return to his roots. He went back home to Kansas, helping his family started a crop based bio-fuel plant. He took a bus to Los Angeles, to help many young, independent film makers generate Youtube content, using cheap, affordable equipment. He stayed over with some friends in Florida, starting up an app programming company. He caught a flight to Chicago, to catch up with an old friend of his, an engineer working on a new, safer material to use in construction. He then got a call from an artist designing quirky and fun t-shirts in New Jersey. Capitalism felt a new vigour, a new surge of oneness, of American virtues and standards. Food you worked for tasted better. Sleep as a relief and pleasure after a day’s work. The sweat from your brow became a symbol of greatness. You felt healthier, your felt compelled, as if cheered on with some perfect mixture of life and community. You were your own, and yet you were also humble enough to take the surplus on the side and fund it throughout the system, so you could help some other people realise their potential.
Some time, around 2006, Capitalism took a waltz through Wall Street. It seemed like any other day. Sun was out, the NYPD were making the rounds, bagels creamed out of the sides, leaving small clumps of cheese on the pavement for the pigeons to nibble at. And just then, capitalism had a glint in his eye, as he saw an old friend walk his way. It was The US Economy. He looked terrible, distraught, perhaps hooked on some drug called “oil”, and he scratched at his bruises. Their eyes met. There was a moment; the prodigal son had returned. Time seemed to have slowed down as they ran to each other. The pigeons flew off with cheese caked around their bills, the sun dimmed, and the NYPD had their backs turned, just as Corporatism emerged from the shadows and stabbed the Economy in the ribs with a credit card, twisting it and ripping it back out, as if swiping it at a check out, before shoving it into Capitalism’s hands, marking it with his finger prints, slipping back into the shadows. The blood pressure dropped faster than the stock market. The value of the dollar drained from the Economy’s eyes, leaving America to mourn both the death and the debt of the economy.

Conor Matthews can be reached at: matthewsconor@hotmail.com, and at Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/conorelmo

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