Archives for posts with tag: Capitalism

The death of Jamal Khashoggi has lead to a lot of public outcry against Saudi Arabia, and yet the responses from a lot of world leaders has been pretty non-committal. They spout a lot of rhetoric about the horrifying nature of such a crime, but when it comes to a response of substance, they openly cite money as the reason they’re just plumb not going to do anything about it. This leads me to a question: how much does it cost to kill a journalist? Actually, scratch that. Saudi Arabia has been going after dissidents for a while, and there was that whole “anti-corruption” campaign wherein all political opponents to the Crown Prince were arrested and jailed. The behaviour is nothing new, but the target is, so let me rephrase that. How much does it cost to kill a journalist for an American Newspaper who also happens to be a US resident?

The price tag for US President Donald Trump is currently $450 billion, but it could even be as low as $110 billion because Trump speaks whatever happens to be on his mind, be it a lie, an untruth, and, maybe through the law of averages, the occasional half-truth, so who knows what the actual cost of US arms sales to Saudi Arabia is? Given Trump’s personal enjoyment of harm being committed against journalists, one can certainly speculate that even if no money was on the table, Trump would be hesitating to condemn their brutal murder.

Trump not giving a shit about brutal dictators committing heinous acts is not news. However, Trump is not alone on the world stage as he is on so many other occasions. Our very own Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is unlikely to cancel a $15 billion arms contract, citing a $1 billion cancellation fee. We might put the arms deal on hold, pending the conclusion of the investigation being conducted jointly between Turkey and… Saudi Arabia? Oh good, at least we know it won’t be biased. Presumably it will be reinstated once this whole thing simmers down.

France‘s President Emmanuel Macron won’t even address halting arms sales, despite European pressure lead by Germany’s Angela Merkel. France sells about $12.6 billion worth of arms to the Sauds. The UK isn’t planning on giving up its £4.6 billion in arms sales either. Nor the Spanish government, who decided after all to sell Saudi Arabia a bunch of bombs, because if they didn’t, Saudi Arabia would not buy its warships, meaning Spain would lose €1.8 billion on top of the €9.2 million from the bomb deal.

Now I know what you’re thinking. We all need to sell Saudi Arabia military equipment, because if we didn’t, they wouldn’t be able involve themselves in Yemen’s civil war to create “undeniably the world’s worst humanitarian crisis by far!” Or murder children! Or actively promote cholera outbreaks by bombing so many hospitals that those bombings even have their own Wikipedia page! We have a moral obligation to sell armaments to Saudi Arabia, and that’s why it’s such a difficult decision to abandon those deals! I know, I know. I know.

I know.

However, if we ignore our righteous indignation at those hundreds of thousands of ultimately irrelevant Yemeni children for two seconds and get back to the importance of one American resident, we’ll see that it costs at least a billion of your local currency to dismember a journalist from the Washington Post.

I truly believe that this is enough information for a bitingly sarcastic blog about arms dealing and Saudi Arabia, but I do have one more thing on my mind. When I first heard Donald Trump deny flat out that he would implement financial repercussions on the Saudi government because $110 billion is too much money to throw away on some paltry journalist’s death, it reminded me of the bank bailouts of 2008. “Too big to fail” was the soundbite at the time, claiming that too much of the American economy was invested in these literal criminal organizations to implement any real consequences.

Am I saying that Saudi Arabia has too much of a monopoly on arms sales and that our countries should spread our military equipment around more diversely to not be in the pocket of any particular corrupt tyrant? No. I think that in our current guns versus butter economic divide, the radical lopsidedness of our focus is becoming suicidal. What I’m saying is that if you have a system that demands infinite growth by companies that seek the largest market share, those who grow faster, or who started out big, will naturally consume their competition in their unending greed. In more Marxist terms, capitalism tends toward monopoly. Hence, the banks, the media conglomerates, the tech firms, etc.

Saudi Arabia does not have a monopoly on military equipment. We can always just turn to Israel to support their war crimes if we feel that same burning desire to cause humanitarian crises. My problem is that we live in a system where wealth equates to power, and we applaud this. We revel in it. My problem is wealth. Arms deals, war crimes, and the destruction of the economy are all intrinsically immoral, sure, but having the power to get away with it is the true crime. That power is wealth, and any outrage directed at the Saudi government must include within it the complicity of all our governments in perpetuating the power of wealth, and the system itself that allows and encourages its accumulation.

It is a true story that people exist today who believe that the Earth is flat. It is not a true story that the Earth is flat. If you believe the Earth is flat, this blog isn’t for you; it’s for the rest of the population that unanimously agree that you’re just… so dumb. There is not even a question to your dumbness. It supersedes all other qualities you might possess.

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It’s really hard to tell what is parody and what is sincere because the whole concept defies all logic

Anyway, who gives a shit. Like, Flat Earthers are dumb, fine, but that dumbness is about as harmless as a small child who believes in Santa Claus. Consider the progress that women have made in the last few thousand years, and remember that the backlash against that progress has stemmed from the exact same ideas every single time. Mary Wollstonecraft wrote about women’s issues in the 1700s that modern Men’s Rights Activists would have problems with today. Women are invading men’s spaces! Women are fundamentally different from men and are therefore incapable of learning anything, from the basic fundamentals of education to computer programming! Anachronistic arguments are all dumb, but believing ancient myths about the geometric shape of the Earth is pretty damn benign compared to oppressive, yet equally obsolete beliefs about women.

Fuck, there are just as many scientists that believe that the Earth is flat as scientists who believe that global warming is not a man-made catastrophe! Believing the Earth is flat isn’t going to cause the literal extinction of our species, but hey, let’s focus our energy on tweeting about how dumb this other idiot on social media is, right? When I actively search for Flat Earth theories, my results are pretty much entirely those “debunking” Flat Earth theories or parodying the belief. Next up, I guess Neil deGrasse Tyson will use his wealth of knowledge to “debunk” the belief that there is gold at the end of the rainbow by dedicating the rest of his life to tweeting about light refraction and its irrelevance to mineral deposits.

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Come at me, deGrasse Tyson!

The points against caring about Flat Earthers are pretty strong. But if you listen to some of the arguments of those other, more harmful anachronisms, something interesting happens.

Let’s look at anti-Vaccers: equally dumb to everyone else in here, but listen to their arguments. Big Pharma is either actively trying to poison them, or is selling snake oil for a quick buck, or any number of cons that ultimately mean that they do not have the best interests of the population at heart. And the truth is, they don’t! The makers of OxyContin have been actively murdering hundreds of thousands of citizens for years by selling an addictive killer under a deceptive marketing scheme. Or when Martin Shkreli raised the price of a life saving drug from $13.50 to $750 a pill, effectively killing off his less affluent clients. The problem is, pharmaceutical companies are not dedicated to pharmaceuticals, they are dedicated to making that quick buck. The very reason that climate denial exists despite no credible evidence to refute it is because rich people want to create some wiggle room in the truth that allows them to continue to make extravagant short-term profits at the meager cost of our entire planet.

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Your best interests are to give me money; then we’ll both be happy!

The truth is that within a neoliberal ideology, everything must be commodified, which in turn commodifies truth. Reality is shaped by those who seek to profit from it, and as more and more of these lies are revealed, more and more the truth begins to look like a lie. Can we really blame someone for thinking the Earth is flat when we’ve been told for so long that cigarettes don’t cause cancer? That lead-based paint, asbestos, thalidomide, and so many others, are completely harmless? Those in power bank on their monopoly on “experts” to greedily manipulate the truth, and we wonder why skeptics arise in the most inconceivable arenas.

Certainly there are other areas of power that strangle the concept of truth for their own benefit. Politicians are notorious for morphing the truth to suit their aims (or the aims of their benefactors). Same with the clergy. So long as there is a discrepancy of power, there will be elites who use whatever means they can to reshape the world to reinforce or augment that discrepancy.

So do we need to care about Flat Earthers? Ehn, no. Maybe dedicating our energy to disentangling authority from power would be a more effective use of our time.

In my life I have worked with those who suffer from addiction, and I have also worked in retail. From these experiences, I have noticed something about the way these two demographics, addicts and customers, interact with those paid to deal with them. Anyone who has worked in retail can tell you that customers are the absolute worst, and addicts notoriously bear the not entirely unearned stigma of being untrustworthy and catastrophically self-centred. There are always outliers and exceptions, but working within the generalities for now will help identify the trend that I’m hoping to produce here, so bear with me.

Addicts lie. Not just to people who work with them, obviously, but to family members, friends, anyone. The fundamental motive behind these lies is shame. The addict is fully aware of their behaviour and lifestyle, and the guilt and shame is often overwhelming. They know stealing from their parents is wrong; they lie because they can’t bear being judged for it. They know that leaving a detox facility to go use defeats their deep, powerful desire for sobriety and normalcy, but they lie about their ultimate destination because they’re ashamed of their weakness. The reason that the Anonymous program demands honesty is so that the addict can uncover their shame, lay it bare, and witness a community that accepts them regardless. This is the process of recovery.

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Just say no

The addict lies because they fear the human capacity for judgement. Even the more malicious lies, such as the ones for personal gain, recognize the victim’s critical thinking skills that need to be overcome. Every lie, every betrayal, the mask of the addict, is made entirely in reaction to the human.

Contrast this behaviour to the untruths of the customer. The customer doesn’t necessarily lie, but the traditional pleasantries of, “I’m fine; how are you?” “Have a good day!” are the superficial banalities that reveal nothing of authentic value. Hence, an untruth. These untruths do not exist as a recognition of the human, but as an attempt to supersede it. They gloss over the human to expedite the exchange of the product. The honest addict reveals their shame; the honest customer makes curt demands and doesn’t bother to look you in the eye. The consumer’s untruths are made in reaction to the employee as only a facet of the product being sold.

Participation within capitalism, the act of consumerism, requires a dullness in our humanity unseen in any other form of addiction. The dealers and corporate pimps of the consumer marketplace have a greater understanding of predation than those in the Downtown Eastside. Addicts are looking to fill a void, and filling that void with honest, human recovery might alleviate the drive to consume. Customer service must therefore be performed with a plastic sincerity lest the consumer have a genuine interaction that makes them realize their purchase gives them nothing of real worth.

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It is not even the product that delivers the endorphins, but the act of purchasing itself. At that point we are still blind to its irrelevance to our lives

The customer, driven by advertising that manufactures an internal void and delivers only an empty promise to fill it back up again, has no time anyway for things beyond pleasantries. They must commute, work, consume, and then obliterate anything else that remains with distractions. Busyness is a virtue. Distractions are our culture. Humanity is evaporating from one blowout sale to the next, and there is no time to even notice. It’s myopic self-destruction on a global scale, and all that is left to do is wait anxiously for the overdose.

I guess that’s why I’m happier being lied to by drug addicts.