It is one thing to believe capitalism is the best game in town and another to believe capitalism is crap, but still the best game in town. I find myself in the latter’s dugout, finding reasons to play when many misunderstand the rules. But I will now attempt to bat with this post and hope to load at least one base.
Understanding the basic tenets of capitalism is really quite simple, until you pin the origins of its canons. For just one example, people may believe Adam Smith is the father of capitalism, but may be surprised to learn Smith never heard of it. The word “capitalism” or “capitalist,” does not appear once in Smith’s book The Wealth of Nations (1776). Instead, the word “capitalism” actually appears in the later half on the 19th Century and many attribute Karl Marx in coining the term. Therefore, Smith did not create an economic system inasmuch as he identified existing and efficient economic relationships and expounded those relationships….get this…for the benefit of mankind.
Just as surprising, Adam Smith writes about the short-comings of these relationships. Although he mentions the Invisible Hand, which is only briefly mentioned in his canonized and dogmatized Wealth of Nations, is a factor in how human society organizes its economics. Smith wrote an earlier book called The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), which talks about balancing the idea of self-interest with higher moral considerations, most pronounced is the idea of community and importance of sympathy. I doubt Adam Smith and Ayn Rand would have all that in common.
When people talk about the free-market, what they are really talking about are aspects of the market they benefit from and not an entire systemic set of principles that benefits everybody. It’s why commerce is not charity. The term free-market, which also does not show up in The Wealth of Nations, is a non-sensical term because markets are never free. But it’s a great marketing ploy to brand markets as a place for freedom. A place that government, which is one of the few great powers that can restrict corporate power, should keep it’s filthy dirty hands off. Ironic when government is by default the scoundrel but corporations and banks the scamp. It’s not to say governments can’t be a major problem in our economic affairs, they often are. But listen to narratives demanding unrestrained greed and you just might see that using bad governments is a hidden ball trick.
Of course market regulations can be stupid. But think about how free-marketeers talk about how unjust the government is to them and not who loses to their quest for profit. Free-market talk is a ploy to get people who don’t profit to back people who do, even at their own expense.
Union Tribune June 18th 2012 article ” Students raise seabass, replenish species,” written by Maureen Magee, is a refreshing bit of news about our educational system, and to a another degree, our environment.
While in high school the most I had experienced nature as part of my studies was on a sketchy fishing boat off the coast of Long Beach, California looking for some of the largest animals to have existed, and seriously considering downing a whole bottle of Dramamine. I did not learn a damn thing excepting my introduction to motion sickness. The cost: medicine, gas for the boat and bus, and a whole school day. The benefit: learning to stare at the horizon can help prevent vomiting. But to actually take part in raising and researching a rapidly depleting animal is what I wish I had done instead in my marine biology class.
Helping the environment is no doubt going to take massively coordinated efforts by institutions but drops in the bucket can still add up to a splash. If this were fully inculcated into school curriculum, even in only several dozen schools, this can make a lasting and significant impact for diminishing fish stocks. Maybe this idea of producing while learning can help society be self-sustainable.
Imagine taking this ingenuity (and I’m sure they’re more common than my life-experience suggests) to other subjects for group or individual endeavor. Learn microeconomics, for instance, by growing a produce and trying to market the good. I’m sure there are many youth who have a more natural and herbal-minded lifestyle who can benefit from an easy A. Or how about writing a letter of protest to a company or politician; try to get it published and study the responses (or study why there were no responses) in English/Literature class. The cost: effort and various resources subject to the topic. The benefit: among others, a High School Diploma that means something.
I recollect consumer responsibility a notion existing before the Great Recession and my impression of it being a left-leaning, albeit fringe, endeavor. Granted much of my adult life centered in urban jungles and not rural pastures, my impression might be a matter of circumstance. Nevertheless, John Gerzema, a veteran advertiser, has much to say about consumer responsibility, not only in its seemingly co-optation by middle America but by the positive response from a good part of corporate America. Anyone who has taken —or still takes— consumer responsibility to heart has in the link below some good news. If your thinking that this Ted Talk is another Ted Talk bore, Gerzema stands out as an entertaining orator with a few neat facts. Enjoy!
To contrast, a candlelight vigil is an assembly or gathering of people outdoors after sunset for one or more purposes to protest for an oppressed group of people, and such vigils may also be used for religious or spiritual purposes whereas a candlelight memorial is for a person or group of people who has died tragically or unfairly. A candlelight vigil and memorial are often mixed together. A memorials significance is understandable, especially as a condolence to a victim’s friends and family or solidarity to like-minded people. In short, in its most basic element, it is an expression of love. But for people who frequent candlelight vigils, what is its significance?
If it is to change minds or even to pressure people to sway to favor…good luck. There would have to be reasons….a speech…something emotional and symbolic for people who do not share the vigil. The only other way I can see that goal being accomplished is if someone is deeply swayed by emotion to change their opinion. Like I said before….good luck.
If it is to “show the presence of” (a cause, a community, etc) or to simply “never forget,” doing something else will pretty much guarantee either. Holding a debate on an issue, for instance, will not only check those two just mentioned off the list but may actually change some minds.
What I am trying to lay out is that it seems candlelight vigils are useless, tantamount to saying something while saying nothing at all. It reminds me of a candidate running for office. However, I do find one useful thing about it. I have been to several candlelight vigils in the past and I have found most of them sobering experiences. Check candlelight memorial on the list. Causes including Transgender Remembrance Day, AIDS Day, and many others may easily illicit melancholy but I have also felt a sense of doing “something.” But another issue arises if you look deeper into that feeling. That “something,” in the shadow of anything is very, very easy to do. Just show up. Then, if you have felt what I have felt from the realization of actually caring for what you are supporting then you will come to see the joke of what you have done or been doing. To be less abstract, if you really care about a cause, ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT. It takes at least a bit of humbleness that comes with self-reflection to not only notice but truly appreciate when people really do care. Those people get their hands dirty.
Yousef Munayyer has highlighted a movement barely noticed in American media in the May 18, 2001 issue of Foreign Policy magazine. This movement, which several others including Harvard Professor Dr. Wendy Pearlman called it the Second Intifada (or “Shaking Off” or “Struggle”), may just capture the moral high ground in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict…if it were to not only persist but grow.
Dire straits don’t even begin to describe the turmoil in the so-called Holy Land, where a lasting peace between Israeli and Palestinian would be both ironic and quite possibly problematic to the religious identities of both indigenous populations. The convoluted story goes something like this. On one side you have people who want to wipe Israel off the map and the other side believes that all Palestinians are terrorists. But when you put aside the narratives of people who are not an Israeli Jew or Palestinian, it gets a little more complicated. In that little strip of land on the eastern Mediterranean, the two sides have become a little more multifaceted. I have heard of many Israeli Jews who not just believe but actually fight for Palestinian self-determination, but let us leave that for another story. This story comes from the other side who also would like to occupy the middle-ground.
Non-violent Palestinians may just hold the strategic key to finally settling the conflict. It has the power to face and destroy both the “wipe Israel of the map” and “all Palestinians are terrorists” narratives while depolarizing the situation. Palestinian youth may see it as a more useful form of resistance compared to violent resistance, one that doesn’t taint their distress with vengeance. Just as important, Israeli forces may run the risk of delegitimizing their current policies if they use violent force against non-violent protesters. Hopefully, it could bring the focus of the conflict where it should have always been…to discuss the nature of their struggle, their intent, and ultimately their identity.
And through this perhaps a new side can finally solidify. It is not the side of the Jew or Israeli verses the Muslim or Arab/Palestinian but of the moderate versus the extremists on both sides who wish the other did not exist.
Cannon to the right of them,
Cannon to the left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell…
–excerpt from The Charge of the Light Brigade by Lord Tennyson