Fuck the system.
In Jesus’ name.
“For decades, Americans have been known as epic consumers, but it would be more accurate to call us epic upgraders. During all those years of packing up and moving, we were headed to a bigger house, at a better address, perhaps for a higher-paying job. We were trading up, and that urge — to acquire something bigger or better, preferably something bigger and better — is a quintessentially American urge. It is so neatly woven into the double helix of our DNA that we hardly notice it.
Forget the upgrade. The game now is avoiding the downgrade. This is grim and troubling, in part, because so much of our consumer culture is built around the enticements of the Better....
Entire corporate strategies target the bottomless American appetite for the upgrade.
In the United States, upgrade-mania has bred a sense of entitlement, which has only stoked upgrade demands. In recent years, when anything went wrong in any transaction — the airline misplaced your luggage, Little Caesars sent you a medium with pepperoni and mushroom and you hate mushrooms — you were owed an upgrade. A business class ticket, an order of crazy bread, something.”
The American economy has been in recession. People are losing jobs. Politicians on all sides agree: we must “get the economy going again.”
Oh really. But why? And, is this what we really want? Is this what we want for the long term?
What if the economy is over extended?
What if participating in the American economy is damaging to the oppressed in other nations, the earth, and to our own souls?
A few thoughts in these next few posts of mine, a few thoughts from my reflections on working in accounting, of participating in the American economy, and of contemplating the place of the soul, of the human person, in the midst of the American economic experience.
The theme passage to reflect on will be Jesus’ words, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
American economics at work
The American economic system is based on profit. Whether it is explicitly stated or not, American businesses and corporations exist to make a profit. What is “profit”? In a highly simplified form, profit is the excess, the excess revenue over expenses. Profit is the excess that exists after all expense obligations have been paid, including paying workers, CEO’s, etc.
Profit provides the basis for corporate/business expansion. With excess profit, a business can expand itself: expand current production, branch out into new markets, get a better grip on their current market share, etc.
Profit is the American expectation. Investors are looking for returns on their investment…..no profit, no return. Profit is the payoff of the risk an investor takes when they invest their money.
At this point, Readers, I actually have no theoretical problem with capitalism. As I understand capitalistic theory in it’s early development, it was based on the premise that businesses exist to provide a needed good or service. Businesses would rise up to meet the demands of the market: if people need warm socks, a business would meet the demand. Harmless, really, in basic theory.
But with the industrial revolution and mass production, meeting the basic American needs was easy. These days, we actually throw away something like half of our food….this despite the hunger and starvation around the world; we dump our food in the trash and then write a check to World Vision or Compassion International….but I digress……As Americans, we have our basic needs met.
But the economy has still kept expanding and expanding. Expanding, that is, until recent days. What is the expansion based on?
Certainly there are some humanitarian aims that are being achieved that go above and beyond our basic life needs: improving treatments for the sick, etc. But most economic expansion is based on comfort, luxury, or entertainment.
In other words, American economic expansion has been based in large part on the fact that we need to have more and more stuff: bigger and better stuff. As the above article states, we live in an American culture where “upgrade” is an entitlement. It is the American Dream.
But this is something we all have to participate in together. American corporations have to sink billions and billions of dollars into convincing us that our lives will be better with more possessions and with stuff that is upgraded. Apple, for example, is a company that has continued to do well, despite the economic downturn. Well run business? Or is it just the ultimate example of an upgrade-obsessed culture. American corporations have to invest heavily in making us discontent, but in the end, we are the suckers who buy the shit, who upgrade to something better, and who either work jobs we don’t enjoy, work long hours at the office, or some combination of both.
As Tyler from Fight Club says: We work jobs we hate to buy shit we don’t need.
To summarize this my first post….the American economic system is inflated and artificial. It is largely based on the perception that we need to participate in the upgrade culture. In short, we must be spiritually discontent.
One might suggest that recession is what we need. And yet I have a lot of compassion for people who lose jobs and homes. There is a sense in which we are all suckers, betting against the house with the odds against us. So, in the short terms, all the politicians agree: we’ve got to get the economy on track.
I’m not so sure. And I want to talk about alternatives.
I want to ask if this American economic system is really what we want, if it is really life-giving to humanity. After all, the system wouldn't work if people didn't keep showing up to work each day, punch the clock, and do their best to look and feel interested.
A LOVE SUPREME
If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Fuck the system.