The economy seems to be a topic on the mouths of people worldwide. Regardless of which nation, and whatever you want to call it; economic downturn, financial crisis, post-bubble America, or recession, there is no arguing that the economy, specifically capitalism, is a topic that is widely being talked about today. Everyone from pundits on the far right, to radicals on the left are weighing in and making their voices heard on what may be a significant change in the way we operate economically and the way we care for each other socially. It is both bizarre and shocking to see how polarized and nonsensical this fight has become. Some hate the proposals made to fix it, others have been waiting their entire careers for this moment, and all sides are eager to cash in from the PR battle.
From Glen Beck, and Alex Jones to Michael Moore and the anti-globalization protesters that converged upon the G20 protests last week in Pittsburgh PA, from right to left each side is fervent and exceptional when it comes to rallying it’s base, but where do the average working class folks sit in this debate? Sadly this battle effects them the most. Furthermore it effects the natural world that we all share, it effects the lives and welfare of animals who are bought, sold and used for profit, and effects some of our basic civil liberties.
Dennis Lyxzen singer of The (International) Noise Conspiracy, The Lost Patrols Band, and front man to the now defunct and arguably greatest punk rock band of all time, Refused, has a lot to say about capitalism, hierarchy, radical actions, and how every-day youth can find their own space to become political. Most of this footage was shot a couple of years ago and we were sitting on it waiting for the right time and fit. With the recent convergences against the G20 nations summit, the release of Michael Moore’s new film Capitalism: A Love Story, and the ever apparent global economic downturn there really is no better time than now to be having this discussion.
Capitalism, in its simplest terms is a market economy. Things are bought & sold with collateral similar to any old barter system. Free-market, or “laissez faire” (means hands off) capitalism is capitalism with no government, democratic, or social regulation. Within a “free market” economy the only autonomy that is honored is that of the business generating capital. This second version becomes dangerous when companies grow so large their clout outweighs the political clout and voices of the people in it’s region and hence begin to affect policy and governing bodies. This emboldens companies to dodge prosecution in cases involving things like child labor or pollution, and they can impose their will upon that of the people by doing things like privatizing & selling their only potable water resources. When reading the phrase “free market” or “free trade” read this, “the money, capital, and revenue is free to do what it wants” the legalese reads as if capital is a kind of special person, worthy of extra rights and privileges that the average person does not have. The “Free” in “free” market by no means should be misconstrued as “democratic.” More often than not, free trade, and free markets, can actually be the prerequisite for the limitations of freedoms for the individual.
Capital, or Capita also when directly translated from it’s Latin root means “head.” Essentially what we see as capitalism today puts a price on everyone’s heads, a price on every thing both living and non-living; from the kitchen sink to a mountaintop presumed to be rich in coal. In a capitalist society everything has a price, and the dollar takes precedence over everything else. At times that dollar takes precedence over compassion, over people, over basic rights.
So what is it’s alternative? Socialism is another word we have heard a lot about lately in the news. More often than not it’s being used as an insult, when a pundit or a TV commentator labels another politician a socialist. Socialism is not all that different from capitalism in the sense that it is still a form of structured government. People still trade things and at times use money, however the difference is that in a socialist economy the government has a hand in economic regulation & social programs. The government takes the power out of the hands of private companies and steps in to assure that the basic needs of the people are being met with things like healthcare, shelter, education, and even subsidies for the arts. Socialism is not a radical or leftist idea, however lately many of the pundits on the right have been quick to label Barrak Obama’s health care proposal a socialist bill and an ominous mile marker in a self-fabricated slippery slope that leads to socialism.
In his interview Lyxzen tells us that it is perfectly fair to criticize capitalism. It is not unpatriotic to question capitalism, in fact it is quite the opposite. People who consider themselves patriotic by definition care about their country, and people who care about their country should care how their country treats other countries both out of self-interest and a sense of justice and compassion. Capitalism is a playing field turned killing field. When competition for profit takes precedence over people you get things like wars for oil, resources, or precious metals. When labor becomes too costly you get morally bankrupt practices like child labor, sweatshops, factory animal farms, or slavery. People should criticize the morality of these things, and people should question the system that perpetuates and often rewards these morally bankrupt practices, capitalism.
It is interesting hearing Lyxzen, once named “Sweden’s Sexiest Man” by Elle Magazine, sing about such relevant and essential topics in his music. It’s a jaw dropping experience watching as thousands of fans at the Vans Warped Tour bellow their chorus, “capitalism stole my virginity.” One would have to wonder if the kids singing consider themselves to be an anti-capitalists, or if they just find the hook catchy, or if they despite their political affiliations feel like capitalism has taken something innocent from them in their own lives analogous to stolen virginity. I cringe as I write this, but I think Moore got it wrong when he coined “Capitalism: A Love Story” because it feels a lot less romantic, something like “Capitalism: Date Rape” would fit a little better considering all the forcing, faux sweet talk, dosed drinks, and inflated expectations from jump.
Consider how many people work jobs that make them unhappy simply to pay the bills. Consider every person killed over money. Consider every person who has regretfully degraded, objectified, or potentially harmed their bodies in order to get much-needed money to eat, to pay off school, or feed a hungry child. Consider the boy who was killed for his fresh Nike Dunks, and the first time you heard a story just like that on the evening news. How did hearing that story affect you? Consider everyone who has ever said, “more money, more problems,” and then try to extrapolate that phrase from yourself onto a global scale.
Challenging capitalism, means providing more sustainable and creative solutions to these problems, and it begins with education and reflection before it moves to action. To provide tangible alternatives we must be smarter and more creative than the people pushing for our current system. These things will not happen over night, but we could make things far better in our lifetimes. Take time to educate yourself about the global economy, about capitalism and its alternatives. Don’t be distracted by the stigmas other alternative systems are given, and don’t feel the need to latch on to any particular title like anarcho-communist, or socialist. Instead think for yourself, make educated decisions, and form educated opinions. Capitalism needs critique if we care about justice, animal rights, environmentalism, and basic human rights. These issues are important and need our voices. Visit your local infoshop, radical bookstore, or progressive café, at the bottom of this feature we will be posting a list of infoshops and bookstores across the country, if you know of one that we did not list email us at
info(at)sparrowmedia(dot)net, and we will be sure to put it up along side the others. Sometimes it seems cliché to say that only you can make a change, but is it a cliché when it is true? History has shown time and time again that things have only changed when someone decided to do something and make that change happen. There is no better time then now to push for that change, and we need to start acting like we give a shit. Find a niche that means the most to you and dig in. Lyxzen tells us to find the issue that means the most to us, “…to choose a struggle that’s connected to your life, your background, your surroundings, your culture, and your age. …that if you find something like, ‘yes this is what makes me fucking go crazy’ or this is something that makes me excited, than you’ve found something worth struggling for.” Be that change that you wish to see, be that change that has so often been promised to us, lets stop waiting for someone else to do it and get it done ourselves.
For a list of info bookshops & zine libraries visit http://www.undergroundpress.org/zine-resources/infoshops-zine-libraries/ & http://www.radicalreference.info/altlibraries and when in NYC please visit our favorite radical bookstore, Bluestockings.
For interesting, unique and enlightening perspectives on capitalism & work culture visist http://www.crimethinc.com