For the past several weeks, now, there has been a movement to occupy Wall Street. Since “Wall Street” is slang for “anything finance” this technically means a protest that has centered around the financial centers of several and even many cities by now. This is getting too large to ignore or dismiss.
First off I must admit to pulling a tl;dr;hoa (too long, didn’t read, have opinion anyway) here. I have not followed the movement in detail, so my comments on this subject is more of a general nature.
While the Occupy Wall Street movement have a diverse number of opinions and operational world views, they do have one thing in common. They understand that they’ve been screwed over but they do not seem to understand why they’ve been screwed over.
Fair enough. However, this is where I have a problem. I’ve been listening to people talk about their financial troubles for a good four years by now (it comes from having a blog about it) and I’ve noticed something that makes me frustrated and sad. A person will come to me and explain how they’re up to their eye-balls in debt and how they’re struggling and how it’s all [opposing political party]’s fault, and how they’re a victim of their circumstances and things would be better if only we could enact [laws of favorite political party].
I proceed to tell them that first the [opposing political party] vs. [favorite political part] is a false dichotomy(*) but more importantly that they can do something about it. I explain how I become independent of the whole consumer-debt system and how they could do the same.
(*) Having had their entire world framed in red vs blue explains part of what the current confusion is about because the issue is really ruling class vs middle class and the middle class have been in denial of the fact that their democracy might be somewhat … uh, rigged against them.
But people are not interested in solutions.
On the most basic level, I realize that whenever people talk about their problem, at least some of them desire empathy rather than solutions. However, if you’re out in the [for now, figuratively] bloody street holding uup a sign, you’re not there because you want me or someone else to walk over and pat you on the back *there, there* to feel all better.
You probably want solutions.
It’s, however, pretty hard for most people to admit that they’re the cause of their own problems. If only they hadn’t bought a $400,000 house on a $80,000/year salary. If only they didn’t spend $3,000 per year or clothes and hairdressers, $20,000 on gas and car payments, $2,000 per year on entertainment, $100,000 on that degree in English literature from a small by trendy liberal arts college, and oh yeah, $118 on books to educate themselves, then maybe they’d be way better off financially speaking.
So let me give you a piece of advice. People don’t want to hear that. They much prefer to blame someone else, so if you value your social capital with them, just nod and agree.
Now, one has to wonder why most people don’t say: “Curses, I’ve been so stupid. Thank you for explaining why I’ve been screwed over. I’m going to make sure not to let that happen again. I’m going to bring my finances in order because ultimately I realize that nobody can screw me over unless I let them and I’m not going to let that happen again”?
Aristotle discussed the concept of “natural slaves.” A natural slave is “someone who doesn’t think but just does.” In modern language it would be someone who prefers to avoid deep responsibility for their actions. Aristotle realized that it was difficult to predetermine who was a natural slave and who wasn’t. It wasn’t a question of stature, e.g. natural slaves being more muscular but walking less upright. Some comments were made as to the fact that being a natural slave had more to do with one’s mentality than any physical characteristics. Aristotle got it right the first time around. Subsequently, humanity has to endure some rather disgraceful eras of cultures who didn’t get that right.
Returning to the original observation, I believe Aristotle was right and that there is such a thing as natural slaves. There are people who make what to someone who values freedom appears as counterproductive choices simply in order to have fewer options and less freedom so that they may enjoy a life with less responsibility. Those are what I would call natural slaves.
In going with the terminology, the fraction of natural slaves may be as high as 99 percent. In my mind, whenever I hear someone demand jobs or fair prices, I think “there goes someone with the natural slave mentality”. They’re frustrated because they’ve lost their masters or overlords or whatever you call them. This is someone who does not enjoy being free. This is someone who does not want to be free. For them, the responsibility that comes along with freedom is too much to bear. They need either a person or a system to tell them what to do. In exchange they’ll do what they’re told in exchange for being taken care off.
I feel this is an acceptable arrangement since it may be genetically conditioned (*WARNING* oxymoron!). As mentioned above, using attributes like body size, race, prisoners of war, heritage, etc. is a pretty poor method for determining who are natural slaves are who aren’t. Our current system of capitalism is a lot better by all accounts. If you want to be a natural slave, you sign up for debt and a job to pay it off. If you want to be free, you save money so you can lend it to those who prefer to be indebted and invest it in those who want it to increase their work productivity. The current system still has some flaws in that it doesn’t make this option clear to everybody. This is why I have this blog and why I wrote a book: To free those who aren’t natural slaves.
I am the Morpheus of the consumerism matrix.
However, much as 99% prefer to be natural slaves and much as 1% prefer to be natural masters, that is no excuse for abuse. Surely, the latter should be somehow compensated monetarily or otherwise for the burden of responsibility of “taking care” of the slaves by creating jobs, taking risks, etc. Capitalism provides the means of this. The problem is when this relationship is abused. Namely, to take the housing crisis as an example, when the masters lend money to the slaves knowing full well they can’t pay it back and when the slaves fail to do so, orchestrate a bailout that simply takes money from the rest of the slaves. That’s a one-sided relationship. This is not symbiotic. It’s parasitic with a ruling class simply extracting more value from the middle class than they provide in terms of government.
Normally, democracy would act as a control mechanism for this behavior. The fact that this behavior occurred indicates a failure of democracy. It is clear why. Uninformed voters can’t make informed choices, even when you bring 25% of them, or however many bothers to show up, for a “popular election”. You can not bring a crowd of people together and get anything better than the average common denominator. The ruling class has fully exploited this weakness.
In a sense, blogs like this also serve a democratic function. It makes people make deliberate choices. Here are the sides: Pick one. Let’s make it fair. Sometimes people tell me they don’t want to retire, that they’d rather find a job they’re passionate about. I say fine. If you want to retire, find that passionate sucker and hire him. He’ll be more productive using your money to leverage into his work. You’ll take the risk and everybody will benefit. That’s capitalism the way it should be. The capitalists carry the risk and the laborers carry the work.
The problem appears when the capitalists no longer carry the risk and expect labor to make up for it when they fuck up. That’s wrong. It’s inequitable. It goes against the spirit and definition of capitalism. It is only possible when the political system allows it.
And that’s where the developed world has and is failing, both in the US and in Europe.
Note: It’s probably possible to find a term other than “slaves” that contains less emotional baggage. I hope people well see beyond this and consider the term as it was original meant: Those who prefer that someone else to tell them what to do.