Capitalism: A Death Story

"Democracy", Paddy Chayefsky wrote in the terrifyingly prescient movie Network, "...is a dying giant." I cannot say if that's true exactly, as it still functions moment to moment and day to day and on very human levels of engagement. I would instead offer the heretical notion that it is Capitalism which is dead. It has either failed completely--or reached its utter perfection. Either way, as socioeconomic philosophies go, it is the most soulless of systems, one in which the fortune of one individual is most often possible only at the expense of another. Mutual gain is not so much assured in any transaction as it is casually alluded to in the pamphlet extolling Capitalism's virtues.

It's like the sales pitch for Trump University.

It's hard to talk about this idea, which has been simmering in my brain for some time. It's just based on observation and the experience of contributing daily in a capitalist society and participating in it with gusto; it's based on my own memories of national themes and memes which I saw steadily changing through the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and Aughts. I see far more commercials for pharmaceuticals than reminders to "be all you can be--read". But the theory of Capitalism as it pertains to the United States of America seems to have been piggybacked on the American mythos, which combined pioneer spirit and constitutional guarantees of life and liberty with Capitalism's version of the pursuit of happiness--a nice, workable collaboration; one hand washes the other and both hands wash the face (thank you über-capitalist Ralph Kramden for that gem).

But in its steady acceleration toward its natural refinement, it has managed to cut away the elements which were always impediments to achieving Capitalism's ultimate goal, which, simply put, is Profit. The impediments of which I speak are:

Humanity.

Compassion.

Tolerance.

Mercy.

Generosity.

Civility.

In the conscious pursuit of capitalistic perfection, the very things which make full use of the fruits of being able to exist profitably are in fact lost in the pure exercise of said philosophy. At least in Socialism and Communism (in their pure theoretical forms, rather than the repressively highjacked incarnations which, ironically, are actually thinly cloaked versions of Capitalism) there is a human component which ensures mutual satisfaction and survival: a transaction benefits not only the individual but fans out toward the collective. It is a mechanism built into the details of those socioeconomic concepts.

In Capitalism, however, no such event is necessary. "Trickle Down Economics" was always a jerry-rigged and ill-fitting concept tacked onto the cruel reality that money which was made was most often hoarded and rarely if ever made its way back into the very society from which it was generated, a poetic misnomer basically concocted to put a human face on an increasingly humanoid one. After a while, this system (whose most successful beneficiaries increasingly sought ways to streamline) moved further and further away from the idea that pumping profits back into people would increase the people's desire to participate in this system and thus enrich everyone. By removing all regulations to profit, most of which were originally put in place to prevent the very excesses and abuses which also serve, ironically, to limit it, Capitalism has produced a society which no longer focuses on cooperation but on individual gain at any cost. It is a society which now prides profit over prudence, compulsivity over compassion, technology over tactility.

And Trump over truth.

The corporate approach to nearly everything in our society has elbowed out the very idea that happiness can be attained without needing to have as much money as possible; that decency is even less attainable without dough. It has brought us a media which manufactures news programming on a par with reality TV shows in their contrived narratives and addictive 24-hour cycles which lay the groundwork for mass ingestion of racy conspiracies and random unchecked punditry. The "I got mine so fuck you!" approach to life is not only exacerbated by unfettered Capitalism, it's celebrated and leads to the state of affairs in which we are now embroiled. Division and fear are sown, compliance and desperation are reaped. And as always, there's a profit.

The idea that a tragicomic archetype such as Donald Trump has managed to become the standard bearer for the Republican party is no surprise given the smothering presence of money in the political process. And it's arguable that that same process hasn't effected the Democratic party as well, though it is clear that it's the capitalistic cancer in the Republican party which has metastasized first and Trump is it's most visible tumor.

Don't get me wrong, I am not arguing for Capitalism's end, only its repair. One need look once again to Howard Beale's homily on television circa 1975 : "Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn't come out of this tube. This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation; this tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers; this tube is the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people..."

Ah. People. I miss them.