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Ramblings on Capitalism, Scarcity, Wealth, etc.

So as I’ve tried to channel my post-election emotions (rage/sadness/fear/disappointment) into more productive/actionable steps, in the last two days Jonathan and I have attended both the Young Democrats meeting and Showing Up For Racial Justice Nashville.

Both events were very helpful to attend, even if it had only be to confirm: I am not alone. This election was not normal. Donald Trump is worthy of our fear and must be a) watched carefully and b) contended with proactively.

But moving past their benefit as a moment of communal mourning, I was struck (deeply) by one of the sentiments at SURJ:

In order to fight white supremacy, you must fight capitalism.

Woah.

I get that I’m likely behind on this topic, but I just don’t know that it had ever occurred to me in such delineated terms before.

Of course I knew that Conservatives have long fought to keep the status quo (the nature of conservatism), but I don’t think I’d ever seen their fiscal policies as being so intrinsically linked to their social priorities. I’d always excused someone who was fiscally conservative as having a difference of opinion about the role of government – I now better understand it is a part and parcel of the whole, in which the white wealthy will always be favored over the poor, white and non-white alike.

Both white supremacy and capitalism are predicated on what I believe is a deeply erroneous notion: scarcity. If you believe there is only so much prosperity to go around, this of course leads to competition and the belief that when something doesn’t go your way, it is because of some ‘other’ who got your piece of the pie.

SURJ instead believes what I have long believed without putting into words: there is enough for all.

Borrowed from their website:

** ENOUGH FOR EVERYONE**

One of the things that dominant white culture teaches us is to feel isolation and scarcity in everything we do.  SURJ believes that there is enough for all of us,  but it is unequally distributed and structurally contained to keep resources scarce.  We can fight the idea and the structures that limit and control global capital by creating a different world together.  We believe that part of our role as white people is to raise resources to support people of color-led efforts AND to engage more white people in racial justice.  Together we can make the world we want and need.

 

We are truly living in the greatest era on earth. We have the intelligence and the resources to make everything possible, and yet too often competition and fear drive our decisions.

Though this wasn’t talked about extensively at either meeting, I think this notion of competition is the single greatest thing working against our environment. Wealthy politicians and industrial workers in the coal and oil industry see their way of life threatened by the environmental advances that we *must* continue to make if our species is to survive. Instead, if we came together as a country to work on Climate Change, jobs would be built, communities would benefit, and our Earth would thank us.

 

Getting back to capitalism, Jonathan and I had a long talk about it this morning. I would say in most ways we as a family have tried to limit the way that capitalism governs our life. We strive for ‘enough’ for us, we do not strive for wealth. But after our conversation this morning, I am more determined to reevaluate the way that growing up in such a capitalistic society still holds sway over my emotions.

To be (perhaps excessively) transparent:

We have been married 5 years, and we have never had a money problem. We have borrowed money from my parents twice: once to purchase our car outright (paid back within 4 months) and once to pay to finish the tiny house quicker (paid back within 6 months or s0). Except for 2 years when Jonathan worked full-time, we have always worked part-time, and have never been a 2 income family. I didn’t have a paid maternity leave, but we budgeted in advance so I was able to take six weeks off anyway. We travel, we’re never late on bills, and I refuse to think about money when I grocery shop.

Despite the above, Jonathan and I always feel like we should be making a little more money. We’re always stressed about it, and say things like, “I just wish we made $10k more.”

In discussing capitalism today, we realized this has been true during times when we’re at the high-end of what we typically earn and when we’re at the low-end.

Because basically, capitalism is what makes us feel poor.

 

In thinking through all this, we’re determined to find more peace of mind about our finances. Jonathan and I decided to try to divorce ourselves from this notion that we would be happier with more. I think focusing on being less competitive in other areas of our lives will be helpful too. Understanding that there truly is ‘enough for everyone,’ and that competition need not be synonymous with a good work ethic.

 

Moving forward, I think the notion of scarcity needs to be continually challenged, in capitalism, in our race relations, in how we talk about economic growth. White people are not suffering because there are more non-whites in our country. Converting to green energy will not collapse our economy. These things must be understood.

 

At both meetings, it was stressed that now is the time to open conversations with others. SURJ calls this “calling in” rather than “calling out.” I’m not going to apologize for how upset I’ve been this last week. I needed space to feel all my feels, to be honest.

But now I’m ready to be calmer. To try to bridge gaps. So while I’m deeply upset, I’m also deeply determined to dig-in and to work harder towards a better, more perfect Union.

 

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