Home » Uncategorized » The Monday Rant #6 – The Increasing Fear of -isms

The Monday Rant #6 – The Increasing Fear of -isms

capitalism

One of the -isms (Photo by wallstalking.org)

The logic of offering something in return for goods and services has been tested by time. So far, aside from varying charitable contributions (or things like blogs) people haven’t discovered a way to simply make the things they specialize in available to others for free without suffering losses that lower their quality of life.

I offer much of my writing for free because the internet allows me to, but I can’t knit you a sweater just because you want one and I can do it. You have to buy yarn and perhaps the correct size needles, then we have to discuss an hourly rate or a flat rate, depending on what you can afford and how much my circumstances influence the amount I’ll settle for. Enterprise works that way doesn’t it?

In the example of the hand-knit sweater, three industries benefit fairly if they aren’t unreasonable about their profits, perhaps a fourth if the buyer wants a specific pattern I haven’t written. I don’t think capitalism is inherently evil. Capitalism is a concept, a thing. It’s the people who allow themselves to lean toward evil that corrupt it. People who aren’t brave enough to remain fair in the face of more and more profit are the ones who keep adding to the economic house of cards without caring that when the winds of fate blow, the cards fall like boulders onto those not insulated with money.

We haven’t yet come up with an alternative -ism that isn’t vulnerable to government and corporate corruption. At least capitalism, supposedly, gives each of us the opportunity to try something. I don’t want to go into all the ways its form of opportunity discriminates against many people’s circumstances, including lack of capital, unmanageable illness, personality type, and the desire to be fair without enough backing to make the decision to be decent actually work. We love stories about overcoming the odds. We seem to be easily turned off by ones that illustrate the other side. Specific groups don’t even believe the people on the other side matter.

I wish many of us weren’t afraid of all -isms that aren’t capitalism. More honest discussions about ones that have been tried, and their good and bad points, could help us make a fairer world for everyone. Maybe we could construct a new -ism that works fairly for all aspects of society instead of just for the few who prosper the most within it. But first we have to examine why we all don’t understand the ways our lives touch each other. How can we work on our fear of -isms when so many of us are more concerned with excluding parts of the discussion that include differences like gender, race, and who one loves and wants to build a healthy family with?

A young man stopped my daughter and me years ago at a bus stop outside our polling place on the first day she got to vote. He asked us who we had voted for in the congressional and presidential races. When we told him, he expressed sadness and much concern that we hadn’t voted as his pastor had suggested. He told us that the most important thing was that we make sure our government didn’t “legalize homosexuality.” My daughter and I were appalled. How do we make a decent society when folks like his congregation actually believe it helps us all to forget about war, poverty, escalating attacks on consumer choice (especially concerning healthy untainted food), and the increasing assumption that health care should only be a benefit of having the opportunity to work at a very good job? I don’t know, not when that young man was as appalled at us as we were at him.

At one time I was convinced that we could figure out how to become kinder by studying how the human mind works, how ridiculous prejudices prevail, and why so many people want to stamp out healthy decisions other people and families make about their lives. I’m realizing more and more that those studies are mostly being used to enable corporations to figure out how to sell us more stuff and services.

This one truly is a rant, because I’m blowing off a little steam without having any answers. I’m willing to keep taking part in the discussion no matter how much it hurts, because being quiet about it is the only thing worse than all the bad stuff that continues in our world. But this discussion isn’t a new one. It’s been going on in human history for a long, long time.

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19 thoughts on “The Monday Rant #6 – The Increasing Fear of -isms

  1. I think people fail to realize that our government is most effective by embracing numerous models. We need a democracy that can draw upon socialism, capitalism, and a dozen other conflicting points of view. I don’t think you’re ranting. I think you’re just telling the truth.

    • I agree — it’s the truth to me too, although I also feel like ranting about it sometimes.

      I typed out a longish comment on what I feel about capitalism, but I deleted it before posting. Traveling makes me feel a little vulnerable, and so does writing about my politics. So I’ll save that for another time and place.

      And yes… this discussion has been going on for a long time, with only partial answers each time. 😦 One thing I’m very interested in, regarding our travels, is finding out more about how the various -isms work in other countries.

  2. I loved this, Sparks, I think there actually are answers here in your post if one chooses to look for them. Sometimes questions give answers. In my mind we are entering a new economy; people are realizing we can no longer be dependent on the traditional business model. People who will thrive are the ones who learn to become shrewd business people themselves, and who learn self-sufficiency, DIY and food growing. The good news is this will crush the Big Corporations but only if enough people do it. One thing that’s interesting is how the government will handle this. Friends and neighbors have begun barter / swap meets that involve no money changing hands. Yet the IRS technically considers this income. How will Americans handle that situation? I would also be interested in how other nations handle this, because that’s the way we’re headed; a new economy. Expect the big corrupt bosses to not go down without an ugly fight.

    • What a horror show that the government considers bartering to be income. If they only accept money as payment, how do they expect the ‘debt’ to be paid? If they want money that bad (and we know they do) they need to figure out the employment mess in our country.

      I know you’re right about about how we can knock the corporations down to manageable sizes if we work together, but I worry about the day I might have to grow a garden. Growing food feels like a big job I’m just not suited to. I like the idea of people in neighborhoods doing what they’re each best at and pooling their resources somehow or bartering the product of their own specialty for another, or at least being able to purchase local goods from smaller local shops. Wow, this sounds like a way of life the corporations have been trying to stamp out …

    • It’s definitely not paranoia, Anna. I think asking the question and thinking about it kinda rules that out. Some insidious badness is converging on us, both political and corporate, and I feel like we need to start paying much closer attention to everything before our ways out from under disappear. As for communism, you took the words right out of my mouth. That whole “Animal Farm” effect always sinks it.

  3. Socialism and free healthcare seem to get a bad press in the US, as if it is some sort of curse on mankind. However, it generally works ok in a world where “Capitalism Rools OK” . I’m proud of the National Helath Service in the UK. It’s one those elements of our country that I would and will fight to preserve as the current Tory led coalition try to privatise as much as possible. A short story to illustrate (it was on tv); an Iranian student in London was crushed by a bus (lost in a strange country he looked the wrong way in traffic).He was literally bent double under the bus and surgeons gave him little hope of survival or of ever walking again. They described his pelvis as a jigsaw puzzle. But they kept him alive, they worked on him, they shook their heads in despair. And about 18 months later he got up out of his wheelchair and walked out of the hospital to resume his studies. That story makes me proud of our health service, not only for the skill of the surgeons (skillful surgeons are found everywhere in the world) but also because we never asked for his Visa card – it’s free if you fall. We’ll pay…. and take it from me, if you hear Republicans bemoaning Europe’s health services there’s only one answer – they’re wrong.
    On bartering skills and trades for others this happens on a small scale in some communities and when it does it seems to work fine. So long as one man’s roofing ability is not rated above a plumber’s plumbing. Cuba have been forced by the embargo to trade in bartering for their essentials. Hence, they trade doctors for oil with Venezuela, as an example.
    How we get the evil out of capitalism I don’t know. What I have tried to learn over the years though is that if I let it bring me down they have my soul as well as my money. I try to liken myself to a salmon swimming against the tide to lay more socialist humanitarian eggs further upstream. Fanciful, but I keep my soul.

    • That is such a beautiful ending to what could have been a terribly sad story. It couldn’t happen in the US, not the way things are now, and I can’t understand why so many citizens here are proud of that. Thanks for joining the conversation. I’m trying to keep my soul, too.

  4. LadySparks,
    Without an alternative option, I kind of wish we could just start from scratch. I’m embarrassed to admit that a group of kindergarteners may come up with something highly creative and perhaps even effective, because they have more of a clean slate. Clearly this isn’t a “One Size Fits All” system. It’s more like a “One Size Fits Only a Few” (1%? Ahem ahem). I have several family members in the UK, like Single Malt Monkey, who also attest to a more equitable social/economic system. Perhaps we need to send some of our politicians over there to audit?

    • I think they know, Ms. Empress, and they want to ‘win’ more than they want to do something that helps all people to shine. I don’t know what will work but I’m eager to see what does. I hope the president’s outspoken position starts a chain reaction of good stuff.

  5. Sociopaths will always be around. “An ideal society is one that can refuse” (-Ryan Harvey) their suggestions and desires. Now I personally do believe there are good alternatives to capitalism, it’s just that there’s absolutely no way to put them in place on a large scale (or even give them a try, to be on the safe side) without a shift that involves people rebelling. Everything is bought and paid for, and nobody powerful is interested in a shift that would mean less corruption.

    But if you look around, you’ll see all sorts of examples of micro-alternatives to capitalism. They work. (Random one that pops to mind: Wikipedia is completely anarchist). Capitalism is just one little philosophy in a book of hundreds, there’s no reason to believe it’s the only one as so many people do, or better than the others. There’s so many good ideas in the world. Many of them could work, or even hybrids of them, if given a shot. So I think it’s important not to let anyone narrow our minds. Those who profit too much from this world are desperate to stop people from envisioning another world. I very much want them to fail, lest they take our imaginations on top of everything else!

    Viva alternative.

    • I like how you think, Leo. I love seeing micro-alternatives to capitalism that work. Most of the time, when I’m not worn out, I have high hopes for humankind. I’d love to see more alternatives work in my lifetime. Thanks for stopping by and adding to the discussion.

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