Monopolyland: the Fragile Virtual World of Big Business
It’s one thing to suggest that Corporate True Believers are disinclined to live in the real world with the rest of us -- but quite another to get such folks to at long last admit that everyone, but everyone, around them is the enemy
by Donald Croft Brickner
So -- we’re not economists. We don’t need to be -- not in order to see big troubles headed their way … which necessarily means headed our way.
We’re all trapped in this deftly-camouflaged and unnecessarily deadly quicksand.
Worse, there’s no mechanism in place to head an onslaught of materialistically-driven World View Annihilators off at the pass. “Life’s all about winnin’ and losin’,” they tell us. “Get used to it.” And it’s all just a-comin’ our way, as ‘60s folk singers once used to protest.
…Greed-mongers and Wall Street’s comin’… we’re fi-nal-ly on our own …
Think Enron Syndrome: the “Smartest Guys in the Room” are utterly incapable of discerning wrong-doing, much less looking at themselves squarely in the mirror and admitting their own delusions. “Smart People” must believe themselves to be infallible: it goes with the territory, in both Big Business and in the World Markets, right? Just check out all of these participants’ degrees -- proof that they’re smart.
Is there an upside to any of this? Well, sure: it’s all about to come to an end.
* * * * *
Let’s cut to the chase: capitalism, regardless of how it’s practiced (and there’s a shockingly large variety of templates and possibilities), is a system, nothing more -- it is not a philosophy of life.
It really isn’t.
It’s comparable to empirical science, in that respect -- which is methodology first, and last -- it’s never a philosophy. Positivists have attempted to turn science into a world view -- positivism has even been granted status as a formal philosophy -- but there’s not a lot of pliability in their constructs. Positivism just has no legs.
Similarly, in the case of dueling economic systems (capitalism vs. socialism), a philosophy of sorts was concocted within a virtual reality of overblown “political science” which, despite a long history of both proponents and essays, doesn’t stand up well to a vastly more enlightened scrutiny today -- one that includes psychology.
Practicing capitalists, on the other hand, require only one piece of erudition these days to support their vacuous beliefs: that rigorously inspired, elevator-music-for-pod-people sound effects phrase we’ve all come to know as, ka-ching.
Really deep, huh?
Capitalism is a monetary system, period. The rest of it is all bells and whistles.
* * * * *
There’s a forgettable ad on TV now as I write this in which a mature, highly attractive woman nurse/doctor -- the kind you never encounter in the everyday world (never mind acknowledging that the individual on TV here is an actress) -- is smiling as she tells us that her whatever-the-name-of-her-company “wants us all to hear better.” So, if we just call such-and-such number, she and her cohorts will be there to help us achieve that goal, which they altruistically offer us from the depths of their sentiency.
There are so many lies, both hidden and in our faces, in this (very typical) ad, our synapses would have to misfire to ignore them: 1.) the company could care less if we actually “hear better” … it/they just wants our money; 2.) yes, the woman is an actress, not a doctor or a nurse -- and you’d like to think we all know that, but we don’t; 3.) this actress will not be on hand to help field our calls; and, 4.) it’s very likely, based on experience, that the product or firm being promoted are, at best, nothing special, and probably below average, or worse.
Need one go on? Such ads exist because studies in social psychology, as they relate to the human capacity to be easily manipulated, show that they work. Ads effortlessly pry our money from our checking accounts or credit cards, and mostly with consciously-stated lies. But our cultural-wide failure to care -- at this stage of our history, anyway -- keeps this cynical and crass phenomenon thriving.
At least until our nation’s next Great Depression, anyway -- which doesn’t need to happen, even though it looks right now like it will.
* * * * *
Our great grandchildren, in any case, will look back upon the Era of Manipulative Advertising with their jaws hanging open. “Mama,” one of them is sure to ask of his or her parent, “how could people back then let that sort of thing happen?!”
“I just don’t know, sweetheart,” Mama is apt to respond. “They certainly had their fair share of warnings.”
The good news is we’re almost sure to have great grandchildren, with or without Great Depression II. (That’s an entirely different subject, but something promising was crying out to be stated here.)
* * * * *
Money isn’t based on anything of intrinsic or meaningful value. Even if it were backed up by gold reserves -- it’s not -- gold itself has no real value: you can’t eat it, nor do much of anything else with it except create ugly dentifrice.
Dollars themselves are made of paper and cloth, credit cards are made of plastic, and bank accounts are nothing more than a collection of numbers in cyberspace. (At the conclusion of the U.S. Civil War, Confederate dollars, one should note [no pun intended], became worthless, almost overnight -- even in those Confederate states where they’d had significant value only the day before! Think about that!)
On those grounds alone, our (now global) economy embraces little of substance.
The only reason Big Business/giant corporations wield any power over the rest of us at all -- shame on all of us for letting that happen, too -- is because we agree with their validations of all of the variations on the theme of money(s).Take away such appraisals and all one is left with is slight-of-hand in a virtual reality that simply doesn’t exist -- in any of our seen (and unseen) universes.
Money is a total contrivance today. It’s all fake. It’s all illusion.
The current Bush administration appears to understand that concept -- amazing, because it clearly fails to understand much of anything else. It prints money off of its “very own” money tree (the U.S. mint), without even considering a tradeoff like taxation. All-but-everything that is of frivolous or selfish value to this group gets funded, then, while intensely serious and long-ignored social problems at home and abroad are blown off without apology, or dumped off on our individual states that had no means for funding so many much-needed social programs in the first place.
Isn’t it clear that some sort of “adjustment” (read that, bottoming-out) is headed our way?
Wait until the covert bills start poring in from the War in Iraq, the rebuilding of New Orleans (everybody remember that? -- it’s still ongoing, with only marginal accomplishments), and building what looks like will be a 2,000-mile-long fence (!) as a “tool” in the War against Illegal Immigration. Oh, and there’s so much more.
How about the falling-through-the-cracks middle class, whose retirement benefits were either transformed into dubious 401(k) investments, or removed altogether – or: how about an already retired population that has to choose between paying for unjustifiably overpriced medical prescriptions, or eating something besides Wal-Mart macaroni and cheese in the coming week(s).
Is there any doubt, in any Wall Street gavel-thumpers’ minds, that Americans are ready to embrace an already-silently-declared war toward them with any and all of our ideologue economy’s-doing-just-fine corporate proponents?
It isn’t doing “just fine.” The rich are getting richer, the poor getting poorer, and “the economy” has little to do with people anymore, to begin with. It’s all about profits. What American over the age of 6 doesn’t already know that?
Aren’t we dancing ever closer to, you know -- a Loss in Consumer Confidence?
A lot of people have already learned how to say, ”Loss in Confidence over the War in Iraq.” So realistically, it requires only a hop, skip and a jump to express the former -- and then the free money game played on Wall Street is really over.
Free money game: The brunt of Americans who have lots of money get it for free -- by investing it, say, or squeegeeing it out of the fingers of the not-so-well-off.
You want money? Well, here’s a truthful aside: you need money to make money.
* * * * *
The final bootstrap kicker is this, as regards to the corporate world and its supporters. (And this is a logical point of order, if it’s not already been determined to be a demonstrable fact:)
If you are either the owner, or a highly supportive participant (related to the daily operation) of a big business, you must necessarily acknowledge that everyone around you is the enemy. And that applies to everybody, at every level, of the operation -- all of those above you, and all of those below. Including customers.
Have you not noticed the increasingly flagrant disrespect you get from almost all companies now when you call them to file a complaint? They never “liked” you -- but now they’re much more open about it. They wanted your money, you gave it to them -- so what’s there to complain about?: “…In our “free” capitalistic system, consumers pay, corporations reap. (Why are we even having this conversation?) No one likes whiners. You should just go away. You’ve expended your utility to us.”
Business is no longer just one big competition, either, in this new millennium. It’s become a war -- one that’s no more profound an undertaking than playing a one-note game of Monopoly. Everyone participating, from the CEO or the board of directors, all the way down to the consumer, has agreed to the terms-of-war that are entirely unspoken, but powerfully implied -- just as they are in Monopoly, whose simple endgame is: everybody loses, but you.
Yet when you win at Monopoly, what do you have to show for it? There aren’t any more players left -- so how does that not equate to a stalemate?
Lone winner, over here … losers, over there. Never again the twain shall meet.
Big Business has determined that its consumers owe Big Business their (usually exhaustively-earned) dollars -- because if folks don’t pay the corporations what they’re expected to pay, that corporation will make up the money from the public in some other fashion -- or, it just may face faux “bologna bankruptcy,” and that might theoretically “hurt the economy” -- thus everyone, including the consumer, must in turn strive to keep the Creed of Greed alive … or the very foundation of our society collapses like tent in the wind -- and the poorer consumers (easily half of the U.S. population) will then be pushed out on the street, as designated “losers,” without any means of making an income. They will starve.
They will die.
It sure won’t be these chieftains of mega-commerce. They believe they’ve got their safety valve fortunes brilliantly socked away. As happened less than 80 years ago, they may well be proven to be fools; maybe sooner, rather than later.
Too many of such “corporate leaders” seem to be privately convinced they’ve got the general public, corporation employees, and consumers alike by the gonads.
Some bleeping “leaders.”
* * * * *
There are also wonderful heads of corporations, who don’t buy into any of this nonsense for a second -- and it is on their brave, visionary shoulders that some workable foundation for a capitalistic democracy is likely to remain intact.
Even after another Great Depression. Even if it must come to that.
Unfortunately for all of us, such individuals as yet make up only a very small minority inside the world of commerce. That must change.
There is also no longer anyone in business or in U.S. government up to honestly policing the misbehavior of these wayward chieftains of megabucksdom. And that must change, too.
* * * * *
As stated in previous essays, all of these issues and concerns fall back onto two primary beneath-the-surface umbrella headers: psychological (which is to say, emotional) health, the subjective element; and objective world view -- how one views him- or herself in relationship to the physical or multidimensional reality they believe they live in.
And all of that leads to the underrated and widely ignored philosophical “field” of ontology, by the way … which, in actual practice, doesn’t readily exist. University philosophy departments remain fixated on “the classics,” instead: the often-inebriated ruminations of centuries-old existentialists.
You know -- history’s original Smartest Guys in the Room.
* * * * *
Look: the Great Depression II doesn’t need to happen.
If only the heads of industry will come together to admit their failings, embrace what (at this stage, little) good they’ve already brought to the table, and then to embrace their human capacity and desire to enact a meaningful humility -- as in recognizing that, as leaders of industry, they are but stewards of wealth, health and economic vitality, rather than mere lunkards rolling dice in a Monopoly game.
World view is huge, because it gets down to the core notion of the human being as a viable and important participant in global economics, however that system is ultimately determined to be constituted. Again, capitalism is but an economic system. In any event -- how can the achievement of a much more humble view toward the viability and value of human beings, then, not be justified?
* * * * *
We weren’t put on this Earth to “kick ass” -- a phrase that, more often than not, is just a lot of bravado hurled threateningly from behind a mask that hides its own fears and shortcomings. A good offense beats a good defense, and all of that.
There is not one tenable argument to be made to suggest that the purpose of life is to be a “winner” -- particularly in counter-relationship to being called a “loser.”
What’s wrong with being a loser? At various times in our lives, we all qualify for being labeled that. It’s built in to our physical reality, if not our DNA … and every sporting function ever conceived.
We’ve forgotten, or never yet have gotten quite right, our purposes in living life. It all begins there -- a clear acknowledgement of all of our foundational intentions.
Regardless, commerce has transformed from a “mere” friendly contest into a war in barely three decades. It started with “brilliant” intermediaries called credit card companies -- and then this (then-unanticipated) war just took off like a firework.
Still, the history of how we stumbled into our present circumstances is a topic for another day.
For now -- isn’t it clear that this battle must end really soon, or capitalism is lost?
Capitalism run amok will destroy us. And how do we make up for the loss of us?
That’s not just a valid question.
Isn’t it getting exactly to the point?
Tags: Philosophy , Sociology , Psychology , Economy , Wall Street , Greed , Media , Politics
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