Tuesday, October 31, 2006

On living in a too competitive nation.

I am not and will not be one of the competitive, hard driven workaholics who neglect life in its beautifully creative form in order to profit from, build capital with, and network among the boring (and most inefficient) elite. Creativity, in all its raw and wonderful movements, is being and has been neglected. A capitalist nation need not be an autocratic oligarchy ruled by a militaristic fearfull bunch of zealots. Nay--a capitalist nation MUST not work this way! Competition isn't what made America great--it isn't what makes the world economy go round.

Living and working in New York City has shown me alot about myself and alot about the way the economics of extreme late-capitalism effect the average person. The goal of profit and the threat of loss have become all-too-important in the workings of our society. This is not to say that there is no benefit in consumer capitalism or that there is no goodness within the economic system we have set up here. But globalism and a hyper-active market have made corporations trump individuals. The average CEO makes 430 times the salary of the average factory worker. Up from 301-1 in 2003. Up from 109-1 in 1990.

And get this:
In Manhattan, about 75 percent of the people with high-level education aged between 25 and 32 years old work more than 40 hours a week. In 1977, only 55 percent of the people worked the same amount of time

I choose not to fall into this trap. I choose to work hard and love life, but I will not compete. I will not live for profit, but I will seek creative ways to live. I should mention that I'm not advicating anything really radical here--like extreme socialism or some sort of kibutz-type living (although I've always thought that might be kind of fun)-but I am suggesting a different approach and mindset. Life is not a business and we shouldn't try to make it one.

Wendell Berry (who always has something worthwhile to say on this subject) says in his essay on local economy "Sentimental capitalism is not so different from sentimental communism as the corporate and political powers claim. Sentimental capitalism holds in effect that everything small, local, private, personal, natural, good, and beautiful must be sacrificed in the interest of the "free market" and the great corporations, which will bring unprecedented security and happiness to "the many" - in, of course, the future.

"These forms of political economy may be described as sentimental because they depend absolutely upon a political faith for which there is no justification, and because they issue a cold check on the virtue of political and/or economic rulers. They seek, that is, to preserve the gullibility of the people by appealing to a fund of political virtue that does not exist. Communism and "free-market" capitalism both are modern versions of oligarchy. In their propaganda, both justify violent means by good ends, which always are put beyond reach by the violence of the means. The trick is to define the end vaguely - "the greatest good of the greatest number" or "the benefit of the many" - and keep it at a distance."


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