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Capitalism Stinks

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Jl hefollowing essay consists ofinsights derivedfromthirty-eightyearsofrecklesscareful research her e in the landofgimmegimme. Iwish to acknowledge the influence of poetradicalfeminists Barbara MorandLindsayForbes. Without theirvision, Iwouldnever have developedanything like this article orany ofmy recent writings. Not long ago, a biochemist presenting a lecture at one of America' s most prestigious universities offered up a clear and concise example of why capitalism is no goddamn good. He didn't say "capitalism stinks" - he simply described the tragedy of malaria. Said it kills more people worldwide every year than practically any other malady. The punchline? Get this: Hardly any research is being done to update the cure for malaria, because most of the people who suffer from the disease would not be able to afford the medicine. Here he shrugged and said something like "that's the way things are." My own reaction, (and I bring it before you today), consisted of these carefully chosen words: CAPITALISM STINKS. Saying CAPITALISM STINKS doesn't mean I don't own or want to own wonderful things which make me happy and make others happy when I share. Because I am a soft touch. When I've got something I am most likely going to share it. (If you' re not gonna share, what you got it for, anyway?) Speaking out against systemic inequity doesn't mean I don't want to live comfortably in a quiet place, working hard and trying to save some money for later on. What I'm voicing is a healthy dissatisfaction with organized crime, which is to say, capitalism. I say it stinks. Capitalism, be it Soviet State Capitalism or Corporate American Capitalism, means hierarchy. And I regard hierarchies as criminal. Ashley Montague, author of The Natural Superiority ofWoinen and The Anatomy ofSwearing, explainsin hisbrief butenlightening study, The Idea of Race: "... the dangers inherent in hierarchical thinking are several, among them being the error of taking the abstraction for reality . . . ." Hierarchies, says Montague, do not occur in nature, but have been devised by humans. And I say: Capitalism is a fake structure which has nothing to do with our natural place on this planet. People think it's real! Stake their lives on it. But it's a lie, contrary to who we really are. CAPITALISM STINKS. Capitalism has solid gold roots up there in the Vatican. Check that catechism. "Q: Is the Pope infallible? A: The Pope is infallible." Got some nasty old roots in the Inquisition, and you know the inquisition bone connected to the slavery bone. Wage slavery, domestic slavery, and the notorious slavery of colonialism. This is all connected. It's an outgrowth of the same principie, false and deadly. Sexism and racism are completely intertwined. There is no separaúon. CAPITAUSM STINKS. Out culture is shaped by marketing decisions. This is not okay. It is an unhealthy mistake. Exhibit A: What is wrong with the woman on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine? She looks wealthy but seems to be suffering from malnutrition. Gaunt, uncomfortable, sickly . What is going on here? 1 1' s got a lot to do with capitalism. Why do the radio and televisión stations play the same commercial seventy-five times per day? Has anyone considered the detrimental effects of repetitive marketing? Of selling out the alternatives? (Even the word "altemati ve" has become a trademark, as it were.) None of this is okay. CAPITALISM STINKS. Which brings us to the annual "Art" Fair which paralyzes Ann Arbor during the summer, when we should all be catching our breath and preparing for autumn and winter. This event has gotten completely out of control. It has become a ghastly embodiment of one of my favorite 20th century adages: "Growth for its own sake is the ideology of the cáncer cell." Bigger is not only not better, it is getting lots worse. Over the years we have seen deeply gifted artists denied a place at the fair, while peddlers of worthless crap seem to be gaining the upper hand. It' s actually a Retail Fair, during which local businesses struggle to tum over lots of merchandise in order to make ends meet. I do wish all independent merchants the best of luck düring this grossly overdone festival of commerce. U's confusing that Art is supposed to be central to the events at the Fair. Most of us have trouble finding the art we know lurks somewhere amidst all of the regulated mayhem which takes over the streets in the name of capitalism. This, too, stinks! So we' re frantically celebrating Revenue again, chintzing it up in the name of culture. Very insulting and stressful for residents and particularly nasty forworking people. Ann Arbor offers regular laborers an interesting mix of outrageously high living costs and insultingly low wages. Resentment? You bet. Look into the eyesof the hiredhelp. Can you picture how you look to someone who' s working a ten or twel ve hour day for peanuts? Not a pretty picture. Now, aquote from Julián Beckof the Living Theatre: "There will be no condescension in the art that speaks to the people. The bourgeoise are flabby because they are conditioned by a flabby way of life: and their flabbiness of mind, spirit and body expects, wants, condescension from art, from everything." (from The Life of the Theatre:TheRelationoftheArtisttotheStruggle of the People, City Lights books, 1972) Angela Y. Davis, in her bookWcwin, Culture & Politics, (Random House 1984), quotes Karl Marx (from nis Theories of Surplus Value): "Capitalist production is hostile to certain branches of spiritual production, namely poetry and art." She also includes a segment from the Sisterfire manifestó: "... Culture, in its most valid form, expresses a mass or popular character. It must not be defined and perpetuated by an elite few for the benefit of a few. Culture must, of necessity, reflect and chart humanity's attempt to live in harmony with itself and nature . . . " But most of what passes for "art" in ihis community has little to do with any such realitíes. We are swimming in a puddle of marketing concepts, and little else. A reality check is in order! Hit me in the face with a wad of those newly redesigned one hundred dollar bilis ! The very substance of life in Ann Arbor has been seriously misinterpreted on a mass scale. I'm talking about Money Magazine 's recent report naming Ann Arbor the fifth best community in America for flocking to. Aside from the fact that this is bound to attract all kinds of sleazebags (and you know it will), the reasons given for our being so very desiíable are astonishingly untrue. We are supposed to have clean air, clean water and (gasp) low taxes! I don't know about you, but if I get lied to often enough I get positively riled. Air pollution, for example, is fast becoming one of our worst problems, as too many people are cramming into what used to be a comfortable college town. Walk through the middle of town and get some of that car and bus exhaust up into your nose. Suck it up, and hold it within your lungs to get the maximum effect. Stand at a busy intersection during rush hour and take some deep yoga breaths. Then come teil me about our clean air. The people who've invested all of their money in fossil fuels wouldn' t have it any other way. In this example, more than ever, I can safely say: CAPITALISM STINKS. Ann Arbor' s tap water is notoriously icky. Ground water? Deplorable - particularly the water table near a certain chemical Corporation on Wagner road. Truly vile! A product of free enterprise. Ask the fish and the frogs, the turtles and waterfowl how they like it. This company has become an inspiration to many other corporate polluters across America. They too can get away with gross negligence. Just fund a few cultural events, schmooze with the smart set; pose for the press photo with a big reassuring smile. With the right kind of public relations ploy, even the worst offenders can be absolved of their sins in the name of capitalism. This really stinks and I resent it. Do you? Ann Arbor's taxes are notoriously high. Outlandishly, inhumanely high. Everybody seems to know this except for Money Magazine. It sounds to me like another ad campaign for the real estáte racket. And if you' re like me you're afraid to imagine what they'll do to this place over the next twenty years. By now I should be accustomed to cheating, lying and stealing, since that is how America has operated all along. I should accept the fact that the Reagans and Englers will brutally viólate as many ethical standards as humanly possible, ripping people off and posing as philanthropes. But I still haven't made the adjustment. The entire system needs to be re-evaluated. Capitalism Stinks, and I know we can evolve beyond the thief ethic. We have to. It can't go on forever. We' 11 run out of people to steal from, and one day we' ve got to realize we're stealing from ourselves.


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