The more I read from Gods & Radicals, the more convinced I become that the authors of the articles on the website don’t understand either politics or the history that underlie politics.
G&R thrives on anti-capitalism and endorses communism in a way that surprises and disgusts me. There is a reason there are only a handful of countries in the world that operate under a communist regime. And those who live within those countries would be the first to tell you that communism doesn’t work. Not in the way that its supporters expect it to – by providing equal access to goods and services.
In a capitalist system, the people who benefit are the wealthy. People who have, in some way, earned their wealth. I’m not saying that everyone who ends up wealthy does so without exploiting others. And I’m not saying that everyone who is wealthy worked to earn the wealth – but someone in their family did and thus assured that family of wealth for generations to come.
In a communist system, the people who benefit are the party leaders. The government officials are appointed by the party itself, and thus, only the party interests are served. Communism is the easiest system of government to corrupt in the world. China, one of the few remaining countries, has managed to incorporate capitalism into communism, increasing the level of corruption found within the system as province leaders compete with one another to bring in the highest level of economic growth.
There are a lot of people who would argue that capitalism destroys the environment. While there is some truth to that statement, it isn’t right to overlook the fact that capitalist countries have lead the charge in environmental activism. Some of the largest cities in the world (like San Francisco, CA, and Calgary, Alberta) are among the cleanest and greenest places a person can live. In fact, research that has been done indicates that larger cities reduce environmental impact far better than remote towns do because of the decreased commute time.
Also, going back to capitalism for a second – it seems that G&R has forgotten that the US, while possessing a capitalist economy, uses the democratic republic system of government. Yes, economies influences government. That is true in every system of government that exists. Government is responsible for managing trade and policing goods.
Which brings me to my next point – communism’s fatal flaw. No communist system has yet been designed which properly defines the redistribution of goods. The only way to equally distribute goods in a closed system like communism is to have all goods transferred through a central point, allocated to different companies and individuals, and then distributed. The bottleneck that creates is the reason that communism has failed in so many countries.
I understand the desire to have equality when it comes to education, employment opportunity, and basic civil rights. However, I do not and cannot agree that every person in a country be rewarded the same amount of income for differing jobs when every person has differing skill sets. While I do believe all work is vital and necessary to life (and I do believe everyone should make, at bare minimum, a living wage), not all work is created equal. So not all income should be equal.
I work in a retail store. I spend hours folding and refolding clothes and making conversation with customers. I make $8/hr. Most of the time I’m working, I don’t feel like I’m working. In fact, I spend most of my time at work bored out of my mind. $8/hr is below the living wage required for this area, but I live in a place in the US where the wage gap is pretty extreme. However, this is essentially a summer job for me. For a lot of people who work there, the point of the job is to have a little extra spending money while going through college. Is it great? No, but it’s sufficient.
However, I don’t have the audacity to go up to a physicist who makes upwards of $40/hr and tell him (or her) that I should make the exact same amount of money for a job that requires vastly different skill-sets. That’s absolutely ridiculous. But that is exactly the sort of ridiculousness that communism proposes.
A physicist and a retail worker are not equal in terms of skill, so they should not be equal in terms of pay. I’m an aspiring mathematician, and, at some point, I will end up working for around $48/hr.
But that’s the benefit of living in a capitalist economy – you can find other jobs that pay better and provide better access to the necessities of life.
A few of the writers on G&R seem to have come from impoverished backgrounds, others from middle-class backgrounds. I’ve experienced both worlds, and I can say with confidence that the only thing that really separates the two classes is the determination of the middle class to do what it takes to survive. What seems to drive the lowest class is this incessant need to rail against the world around them for being unfair rather than standing up and fighting for their rights. When you become convinced that the world around you is out to get you, then what can you expect to see but a world that has become nothing but bleak and cruel.
One of the things that I have seen constantly throughout the years in many places where I have worked is the absolute terror of losing a job. If you allow fear to define your life, then of course you submit to oppressive policies and workplace conditions. It is, ironically, only when you stop worrying about losing a job that you become able to fight for the right to do that job under the conditions that you require to do it well.
Nothing is this more apparent than in fast food restaurants. I’ve worked in several chains, and when I entered the workforce, I too became one of those afraid of losing a job. I would go into work so sick I couldn’t see straight because I was told if I didn’t come in, I didn’t need to bother showing up. I drove on roads that terrified me in the middle of winter because I thought I needed the job that I had.
What changed that for me was when I worked in an office at the community college I attended. I set my schedule. I decided when I came in and when I didn’t. I learned that I was the one who set my priorities in life because I found a job where I couldn’t be fired. No matter how often I was absent, no matter how many times I changed my schedule, it was 100% my decision to make.
Now, I work in a retail store, and when something comes up in my life, I don’t let the fear of losing a job keep me from doing it. All that does is create resentment towards your employer and resentment towards your own set of circumstances. I try to abide by the guidelines of the company, as the people I work for are all really nice and very considerate of the needs of their employees (yes, I lucked out there), and I don’t like taking advantage of other people. However, when things happen in life, I tell them that I can’t work certain shifts, and we all work together to make sure that the shift is covered.
I don’t go up to one of my managers and ask them if it is okay if I don’t work a shift. That’s the mistake other people make. I go up to my managers and tell them I can’t work a shift, that there are other priorities in my life that take precedent. To those in the lower classes – and I know, because I used to feel this way too – being able to do that may seem like I am acting entitled. Or “above my station,” as I have often heard it put.
No. What I am doing is insisting on being treated like I’m a human being. I can’t work this Saturday because my grandmother’s 94th birthday party is being held, and I refuse to miss it for a scheduled shift at work. I can work other days. My grandmother’s 94th birthday only comes around once. This is what I mean by priorities.
I will admit that it is easy to get caught up in the flow of capitalism and feel that the only thing you’re supposed to do is work, never taking time for yourself. But every single person within this system has the right and the ability to decide what matters most to them. It is only fear that holds us back.
Someone on G&R argued that people are told they shouldn’t be angry – that they should just sit down, shut up, and deal with whatever comes their way. Maybe that’s true, but no one is forced to walk that route. If you don’t like the road you’re walking down, all you have to do is take a different road. Or, if you can’t find another road, step off the side and walk through the forest. It is only you who sets your path through life, so can we please stop blaming everything and everyone else?