I’ll admit it. I’m vaguely fascinated by news reports of some of the fringe actors in the modern “protest” movement – particularly the ones that define themselves as being “resolutely anti-capitalist.”
The Cold War kid in me has definite feelings about that.
The middle aged adult me, the one with a vested retirement and decades of proven growth a tax advantaged savings account, has big feelings about it.
Far from seeing capitalism as the disease, I’ve always viewed it as the cure, though it’s far from a magic pill. I took my lumps back in 2008 just like everyone else – maybe a little more because I was determined to make good on my debts rather than just walking away from them or expecting someone else to foot the bill. Even after taking those lumps, though, I’m miles ahead of where I would have been had I opted out of capitalism to chase a Marxist pipe dream. Color me an enemy of the state for that, I guess.
I’ve long mistrusted people as individuals – and have had virtually no trust at all of large groups of them who are convinced beyond reason that they have uncovered the One True Way. I don’t have the time or energy to do anything with fanatics other than mock them mercilessly. Life experience tells me that expecting everyone around the globe to link arms, sing happy songs, and do everything out of the goodness of their collective hearts is going to do not much more than shatter the hopes and dreams of a bunch of idealistic youngsters when the realize the world truly doesn’t give two shits about them or whatever cloud castle they’re trying to build.
The history of our species is a long list of violence and blood-letting. If we pull back the curtain far enough on this wave of “anti-capitalists,” I’d speculate what we’ll find is just another group of elites who are inching along what they’ve identified as a newly feasible path towards gathering up the reins of power into their own hands.
Me? I prefer the market-based approach. It doesn’t pretend to be kinder and gentler – but a system that rewards personal initiative and risk seems infinitely preferable to one that wants to smash everyone into the mold of lowest common denominator “equality.”
One of the people I work with loves her job. I’m making that assumption anyway because most days she seems to always stick around until 6:00 or 7:00 when end-of-tour is closer to 4:30. According to her, there’s always something “hot” that comes up after the rest of us pull up stakes for the day that needs done and just can’t wait for the next morning. I suppose it’s theoretically possible that this is true, but based on my own observation of daily workload around here, I’m somewhat skeptical.
I guess someone might look at her and think the late hours were a sign of dedication. The fact is, though, we’re not a life-or-death operation. It’s probably not politic to say in a world of 9.2% unemployment and a collapsing stock market, but sometimes a job is just a job. As much as an escort sells her body for cold hard cash, I whore out my big beautiful brain for the same consideration. Maybe some people do it for the love, but me, I do it for money. I do it so I can afford to pay the bills, eat nice meals, and occasionally travel to new and interesting places. I don’t do it out of a misplaced sense of loyalty as I’m quite certain the powers that be would have no qualms about throwing me over the gunwale during a reduction in force.
Sure, there was a time when I was young and idealistic and my sense of self derived directly from my position title and placement on the org chart. I got a little older and a little more jaded and discovered that no matter how cushy, the job is pretty much just a set of handcuffs keeping you from doing the things you really want to do because you’ve got bills to pay. And we should have bills to pay. We should have to work for our supper. But we shouldn’t be working instead of eating our supper.
I’m too old to be naïve about how the world works. Maybe sticking to the ol’ eight-and-out is committing slow career suicide. Missing the next rung on the career ladder still sounds like a better option than missing out on everything that isn’t work. The only shame is it took me so long to figure that out.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date