The Cruelty of Capitalism, and Where We Go From Here.
At a certain point in our lives, it’s almost guaranteed that we will get the feeling in the pit of our stomach that something is fundamentally wrong. Whether it be as subtle as when we step out the door on our way to work and dread the day we have ahead of us, or something as fear and anger-invoking as an insurance company refusing to cover the cost of a family member’s life saving drug, it’s almost guaranteed that we will realize there’s something going on out there that has to be fixed.
In a video on the topic of capitalism that touches on these feelings, Contrapoints says that they can be channeled in to a number of different directions. But at the end of the day, more often than not, we can point to capitalism as the root cause of many if not all of the deeply systemic issues that plague not just the United States but the global society as a whole.
Am I wrong?
Well, for the sake of argument let’s take a moment to consider the day to day life of a typical individual just doing their best to exist in this late stage capitalist world we live in. As an example let’s consider a hypothetical healthcare worker living in Northern New York State type of scenario, because I like to stick with what I know best.
As this “hypothetical” healthcare worker, you are a certified nursing assistant working for a for-profit nursing home that pays the direct care staff through Medicare. You started out making $11 dollars an hour. Two years later, you make $11.65. It used to be that when you started working, there were two aides for every twelve residents, or eight aides to forty eight residents. Now, two years later, staffing has gotten considerably worse and it’s normal to have just five workers to forty eight residents. At this nursing home, you work on a floor where on your side of the unit, seventeen out of twenty four of your residents require the assistance of two people for toileting and ambulation.
Let’s imagine it’s just after lunch, and it’s time to start getting people out of the two dining areas in the unit so dietary can mop before the afternoon activity starts. Because there are only five staff on for the shift, the “float” is on the other side of the unit helping to bring the other residents back to their living rooms and bedrooms. Instead of having four people to help these residents on your side as was once the case, there are now only two. The charge nurse is working a double and is fourteen hours in to her sixteen hour shift. She’s exhausted, hasn’t eaten since well before her second shift started, and had to rush to the other side of the unit because during all the after-meal commotion a one-assist resident with dementia who has visual-spacial problems got up from the couch in her living room and fell while the aides were in the dining room. That charge nurse is currently in no position to help you transport residents, toilet them, and get them in to bed or in to recliners. In fact, she’ll probably get in trouble for not finding the time to take a half hour break because the company will now have to pay her for that time. Because no one in the dining room was still eating, your LPN was asked by the other LPN to help with the resident who fell — at least for a few minutes, so the aides could continue transporting — after it looks like she’s hurt her wrist. You and the one other aide on your side of the unit are left with twenty four residents, seventeen of whom require two people to help them ambulate and use the toilet. They all need to go back to their living quarters and have care done. To add to it all, another resident with dementia has just gotten incredibly agitated because of the chaos, and decided to throw her plate. You and that one other aide are now doing two or three times the labor that should be expected of you.
Meanwhile as you put in all this extra labor, your company sneakily posts a letter from your CEO by the time clock announcing that the Medicare budget granted by the state has been slashed, and there will be no raises for the foreseeable future. Aside from that, you live in a town where even in one of the state’s poorest counties, rent still averages around $650 for a one bedroom apartment. You are working so many extra hours just to make your car and rent payments and feed yourself that when you finally are able to see a doctor, he tells you he’s worried that you will have a stroke. Along with that, your birthday is approaching and you’re about to be kicked off of your parents insurance. You cant afford to go on your employer’s option. You now facing the reality of being forced to ration your insulin because you can’t afford the cost of it while keeping a roof over your head at the same time.
All this experience in what it means to be a part of that good old American working world, and you’re still just in your twenties.
That my friends, is capitalism, and if it doesn’t make you angry, it should.
Of course, a natural response to this realization is the desire for both resistance and rebellion. Of course, people view that approach in a number of ways, but what does a practical solution actually entail? Capitalism proves itself more and more to be unsustainable with each passing day, but what is the best approach to overcoming it?
In my view, given the scale of the influence of those at the very top who would rather we continue to fight amongst ourselves rather than fight to take back what’s ours, perhaps the best solution is to actually take control from within. While there is indeed a long road ahead, I’m deciding to remain cautiously optimistic about the path in which the majority of our population is heading.
That being said, there is no denying the continued rise of the far right, who have propelled naturally in to their positions due to their ability to offer a scapegoat to the frustrated masses. For as long as it continues to be working, the most practical response is to organize and elect representatives who are truly working on behalf of the masses, that offer genuine solutions to the problems.
For the time being, there is still the ability to legislate and take back our government from the influences of capitalism’s sole beneficiaries. Not only is that the most peaceful approach, but likely the most effective. Rather than talk of a complete overthrow of the government with a rebellion that could easily and instantly be crushed, let’s tackle that task in the most practical and pragmatic way possible while we still can.