Only now that our economies have been to the brink (and almost back again – twice) are politicians, governments, corporations (actually, not corporations) businesses, action groups and citizens beginning to question (or are daring to ponder questions) the “good intentions” or positive elements of a capitalist system.
One may argue that we are better fed, clothed, treated (medically), transported and entertained – amongst other things (add to this list, whatever your vice, want, need, pleasure, necessity or escape may be), but what of the side effects? Surely a system that survives on fear and consumption, would rather you didn’t fear its own nasty aftertastes and insidious poisons?
Moreso, how would you know anything about our species’ decline, when all the machine is reporting, is our ever-extraordinary rise and success, our much-needed latest conveniences or any infinite propoganda (good or bad) to ensure you keep feeding its money-hungry metabolism?
So here are a few things to note:
- An American today, is between 3 and 10 times more likely to suffer from depression than in the 1950’s. Whether that is because they are constantly being told so (to the advantage of multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies) or because the pressures inherited by capitalist society are stressful or simply too much (or both) is an interesting thought.
- In 2001, there were 4000 executives on Wall Street, earning more than a million dollars a year. The average salary of the chief executives of the top 362 companies was $12.4 million a year – six times higher than a decade before. More often than not, these salaries are completely unrelated to a company’s performance.
- In 1979, students from families that were in the top quarter of earners, were four times as likely to finish university and obtain a degree than those in the bottom quarter. Today, they are nine times as likely. – And this is part of a “fair” system, which is regulated by “free” markets. – What?
- Currently, those living below the poverty line in the US are less likely to climb above it than Canadians, the British, Swedish, Dutch or German. If they are lucky enough to do so, they will most likely be falling back into its dire straights within 5 years.
- When the British (through Thatcher in the late 70’s, and her willingness to employ – exactly – the capitalism that was doing so well in the US) embraced today’s capitalist agenda, the UK enjoyed child poverty climbing from 19% to 31% of children, massive inequalities in income, an unbelievably poor amount of reinvestment in industry (how can industry get any funding, if all monies are being channelled towards the tiny top percentage of society?) and a majority contribution to the current demise of the UK’s rail, health and welfare services.
Those on the right-wing will certainly offer the argument that household incomes have risen. And its true: That’s because wives began to work as well, as we all sought lustingly, after capitalist trappings – a need that was slowly but surely filling our conscious and subconscious minds.
- In 1968, if your family had children in it, your combined working week was on average, 53 hours. 30 years later, it was 64. Thats in the USA. Today, in Australia, we currently work the longest hours in the developed world.
Lets have a look at some of the (many) reasons why:
- Average mortgages increased by 70% between 1991 and 2001. The average value of a mortgage went from 2.4 times the average wage in 1994, to 4.2 in 2004. Personal debt went from A$40 billion to A$110 billion. National debt soared from A$196 billion to A$393 billion between 1996 and 2004.
At this time, consumer credit and home loans were deregulated. That enabled us to dwindle our personal savings below zero, and acquire three times as many credit cards (each) as (less capitalistic) Western Europeans. Thanks capitalism.
To coincide directly with this “growth”, studies then found that those who were severely distressed to the point where they would require urgent treatment, saw an increase of two-thirds, in only the 4 years from 1997-2001. For women, this rate had doubled.
Its little wonder then, that the average city-dwelling, selfish, capitalism-materialistic office frequenter, who talks about nothing but business, profit, investments, property, assets, possessions et al – whether on lunch or at a barbeque and drinks at the weekend – is overly (or primarily) concerned with means to facilitate selfish capitalist mores and hence, (in my experience) much more prone to social retardation – for example – or other emotional or mental problems. We’re just trying to keep up with the “Joneses” after all, aren’t we? Or just swimming twice as hard. Struggling – only to keep our head bobbing above (and below) an ever-rising tide?
Maybe capitalism’s scruples haven’t been investigated enough for your liking? Well, here is an excerpt from Oliver James’s ‘The selfish capitalist – the origins of affluenza’ where most of the statistics you just enjoyed were extracted from. I thoroughly recommend you read his book(s).
Quoting an “informer” of sorts – who worked for a massive infrastructure company – outlining how he was instructed to do his job (building means to supply electricity and water – for example – in developing countries) James reveals, quoting his source:
” .. his job would be to justify huge international loans to developing nations for massive engineering and construction projects, which would funnel money back to [his company] and other American companies; and to bankrupt those countries by committing them to projects far beyond their means, so that they would be forever beholden to their creditors, enabling [them] to call in such ‘favours’ such as military bases, UN votes, and access to oil and other natural resources.”
Sound familiar? Honest? Scrupulous? Transparent? Healthy? Beneficial to society as a whole? Free (as in a “free” market)? Just? Justified? Honourable? Forthright? – Clearly, capitalism rapes the vast many, to satiate the few.
It’s time people spent more time thinking and less time-consuming. Be less materialistic. Put less pressure on yourself and your children to achieve materialistic things. Get in touch with life outside of capitalist trappings and what it is telling you you want.
It’s time people knew more, saw more and made more noise.