A December 2017 statement from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights notes that, while the US manages to spend “more [money] on national defence than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, France, and Japan combined”, US infant mortality rates were, as of 2013, “the highest in the developed world”.
The Special Rapporteur provides a barrage of other details from his own visit to the US, during which he was able to observe the country’s “bid to become the most unequal society in the world” – with some 40 million people living in poverty – as well as assess “soaring death rates and family and community destruction wrought by prescription and other drug addiction”.
Capitalism, it seems, is a deadly business indeed.
A demonstrator from the Occupy Wall Street campaign seen with a dollar taped over his mouth as he stands near the financial district of New York September 30, 2011. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
How the Cookie Crumbles
She’s 80, comes from Ayr, Scotland, lives in a sea town along the Oregon Coast. She is caretaker for her 55-year-old nephew. Her heart-failed husband, liver shot through, dialysis weekly, is another of her charges.
Imagine, she and her family ran a small chain of shops — clocks, another locksmith, another fish and chips. That was in Bonnie Scotland.
Her sister married a bloke in the US Air Force, and she shipped out with him. Pregnant. Child Drew, early on, in Tucson at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, he was diagnosed with Downs Syndrome. Life for her changed, and then her sister promised if anything happened to this sister, Aunt Regina would take care of Drew. That was a long long time ago.
Regina’s sister and her sister’s husband immolated in a crash coming back from El Paso. Boy Drew left with a younger sister — the boy age 20, sis 16.
For 35 years, our Regina and her Bob raised the boy. Drew is now 55, and part of my job is to support him in his job at a grocery store. He’s been there more than 15 years, and he makes $12.01 an hour.
Forget that economic injustice for a moment. Listen to how the crumbling cookie goes in predatory capitalism — Regina has not been back to the old country in 20 years. She has two knees that are shot. She needs two replacements, but she is the caretaker for the chronically-sick husband. Drew lives with them, getting his two-times a week work at the grocery store as a bagger.
He’s got the infectious personality, and he also has some “issues” glomming onto female staff. Regina was not told that adults with Downs Syndrome many times have lost the synoptic connections tied to urgency for urination and defecation.
Sweet drinks he gulps down, like a lost man in the Sahara. He scarfs down or wolfs down his food.
Like anyone, Drew wants to be in a relationship, married, on some piece of property with a horse, dogs and big garden. He works eight hours a week, and receives under $800 in social security payments.
The state pays Aunt Regina for his care. Her biggest worry is Drew losing his job because of the bathroom accidents or the sexual harassment.
Regina is kind but firm, and her bedside manner isn’t from the latest holistic and enlightened training around people who live with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“I tell Drew, that if he messes up one more time, the grocery store will fire him. The job is more than pocket change for him. He gets out, has responsibilities, is growing some from the integrated employment, and, mind you this is a big AND, I get him out of the house for a few hours a week so I can gain some sense of sanity. I don’t know if he has to be put into a state institution.”
Luck of the draw, luck of the gene expression, luck of the accidental car mortalities, luck luck luck.
That’s the way the cookie crumbles, and in capitalism, we are not judged by how we treat our aged, infirm, vulnerable, youth, sick, disabled, poor. The worse we treat “them,” the more “they” have to struggle, the more daily fear “they” have of failing, faltering, flipping out mentally, the more successful those Capitalists and those Investors and those Finance Wizards and those Upper Economic Class are!
Redistribution of wealth for “them” is taking every last penny from “them,” us. Working people at $12.01 an hour after 15 years in a national/international chain.
A mentality that posits that “they” meant to do that, defecate in their pants, or, oh, “they” know better, and, oh, “they” are gaming the system and pulling the wool over your bleeding heart social services worker heads.
Heartless in a Time of Plague
Our Scottish Regina is worried about what will happen to Drew once she kicks the bucket, or when she is no longer physically capable of carrying on and running a household with a very demanding Drew and a very failing Bob, her 86-year-old husband.
We talk about the old country’s National Health Service. We talk about the failures of a society that has been ripped open time and time again by the purulent investors — another word for making money anyway they can.
Gutting medical care, gutting entitlement programs, gutting progressive taxation, gutting the measures for health and safety for and by the public. Where oh where will Drew go once his aunt and uncle pass on?
Think of every dollar and penny pinched, and then think of how much we the taxpayer shell out for every nanosecond of the crimes of corporations eating at the belly of communities, and every penny taken in light speed for everything run by the imposters, the misanthropes.
Every million$ here, every billion$ there. Grifters and grabbers. How much did the first Billionaire’s “impeachment” cost us? How much does an Alex Jones or Tom Brady or Michelle Obama get paid for their insipid bolstering of their self-referential mythology? Each speech? Each rot gut book penned?
Every rivet sunk into a Hellfire missile, every pound of fuel used in US Military Terrorism Toys, every nanosecond million made through illegal and unethical investing through algorithm?
That Moon shot by India, or that Mars rover by Japan, or Israel gunning for more surveillance. How much is every human lifetime worth, if we are lumped together in that big pile of “other” and “non-human”?
That heartless cookie crumbling capitalism is rotten to the core. The joke is, though, by the filthy rich, the Art of War Friedman’s and Bezos and all the Google middling’s and upper crust, that if all the billions were taken from the filthy rich, and dumped into the majority on planet earth — the poor, the uneducated, the misbegotten, the terminal, the dysfunctional, the Jerry Springer protagonists and antagonists, in five years all that and more would be back in the hands of the Star Chamber 1,000 or 2,000 Multi-Billionaires.
“We’d just get it all back, because the masses are inherently stupid, know nothing about the value of a dollar, would buy all the junk and shit and whoring dreams we create to sell. We’d have all that so-called ‘redistributed’ wealth back in our hands.”
That myth is coupled with another one, where the rich and the rest of us, having collectively, as much as the 1,000 or millionth richest? Christian Parenti lays it out simply and clearly here:
The 85 richest in the world probably include the four members of the Walton family (owners of Wal-Mart, among the top ten superrich in the USA) who together are worth over $100 billion. Rich families like the DuPonts have controlling interests in giant corporations like General Motors, Coca-Cola, and United Brands. They own about forty manorial estates and private museums in Delaware alone and have set up 31 tax-exempt foundations. The superrich in America and in many other countries find ways, legal and illegal, to shelter much of their wealth in secret accounts. We don’t really know how very rich the very rich really are.
Regarding the poorest portion of the world population—whom I would call the valiant, struggling “better half”—what mass configuration of wealth could we possibly be talking about? The aggregate wealth possessed by the 85 super-richest individuals, and the aggregate wealth owned by the world’s 3.5 billion poorest, are of different dimensions and different natures. Can we really compare private jets, mansions, landed estates, super luxury vacation retreats, luxury apartments, luxury condos, and luxury cars, not to mention hundreds of billions of dollars in equities, bonds, commercial properties, art works, antiques, etc.—can we really compare all that enormous wealth against some millions of used cars, used furniture, and used television sets, many of which are ready to break down? Of what resale value if any, are such minor durable-use commodities? especially in communities of high unemployment, dismal health and housing conditions, no running water, no decent sanitation facilities, etc. We don’t really know how poor the very poor really are.
Image by Judite B
The books and discourse and deep discussions and analyses have already been posited and published, and yet, we are in 2021, and the school system, the media system, the propaganda machines of government-military-resource extraction-big ag/med/pharma/AI/finance continue to cobble truth, censor the reality of the penury system that is consumer-corporate-criminal-corrupt Capitalism.
Here, a hodgepodge of readings ramifying the thesis in this essay of mine —
Chris Hedges and Richard Wolff: Capitalism Does Not Work for the Majority of the People
Make No Mistake: The Rule Of The Rich Has Been A Deadly Epoch For Humanity
Michael Parenti: Does Capitalism Work? (2002)
The 1% Pathology and the Myth of Capitalism
Capitalism: The Systematic Poverty and Exploitation of Human Beings by Finian Cunningham
Michael Parenti: These Countries Are Not Underdeveloped, They Are Overexploited (1986)
Luxury Eco-Communism: A Wonderful World is Possible
The Growing Disparity In Living Conditions and Its Consequences by Rainer Shea
Covid-19 and the Health Crisis in Latin America by Yanis Iqbal
The Start Of The Great Meltdown For Industrial Civilization by Rainer Shea
MFTN: Poverty Will Kill More Of Us Than Terrorism
The Rich Are Only Rich If We Let Them Be by Dariel Garner
Mystery: How Wealth Creates Poverty in the World by Michael Parenti
The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger + How Economic Inequality Harms Societies
Wealth Belongs To All Of Us – Not Just To The Rich by Dariel Garner
We Are So Poor Because They Are So Rich by Dariel Garner
Railroaded into this Mess
It all comes back to the rackets — war, banking, big ag, law, prisons, military, computing, finance, insuring, retail, lending, investing, for-profit medicine, education, utilities.
The rackets of putting garnishments on all of our wages. The punishment rackets of fines, foreclosures, levies, taxes, fees, surcharges, add-ons, user fees, disposal fees, tolls, late fees, interest fees, penalties, wage attachments, wage theft, any-government-revenue/policing/judicial entity having the legal right to crack into any savings or checking or real estate holding they want to….And steal!
Imagine that freedom, uh? My Drew or my Don, they work for pittances, and they have their measly wages garnished if they make too much above the allowable social security benefit level. Imagine all of the flimflam, all those middle and peripheral and shadowy and underhanded people and agencies each taking a gram of flesh until that human life has been pecked away.
Stuck in a closet somewhere. Huddled around a TV, surrounded by the deadly products of a food industry responsible for billions dead. Food (sic) more deadly than cancer sticks, AKA cigarettes.
Think hard how those children-who-come-to-me-as-adults as their social services manager, wanting me to help them find jobs in a dog-eat-dog culture, where the cookie isn’t just crumbling, but rather smashed into smithereens by the capitalists. All those poisons in food, all the polluting, toxin-laced, dam-building, river-tainting, air-staining processes that bring us better living with plastics-fastfood-shelf lives of a decade. Better living through chemistry, pharmaceutics, chronic illness, disease management, pain regulating.
Then, we cannot discuss the possibilities of a society with more and more allergies, more and more chronic illnesses, more and more learning disabilities, more and more developmental disabilities, more and more intellectual disabilities, more and more trauma and PTSD and generalized anxiety and physiological premature weathering.
And poverty does more than just kills. Poverty eats at the soul, drives people to unsafe harbors like consumerism, disposability, obsessions, addictions, inattentiveness, collective Stockholm Syndrome, perversions, empty calories-entertainment-thinking.
There are numbers just for one aspect of our consumer-retail-exploitative societies competing in a trans-national gallery of dirty capitalism — 4.2 million premature deaths annually? Five million? More? Exposure to air pollution caused over 7.0 million deaths and 103.1 million disability-adjusted life years lost in one year.
Attributed to dirty (polluted) air. Not dirty water. Not dirty food. Not dirty drugs. Not smoking. Not boozing. Not war.
The study uses existing data from IHME on global burden of diseases (Mortality and Disability Adjusted Life Years) related to air pollution such as Trachea, Bronchus and Lung cancer, COPD, Ischemic heart disease and Stroke. This study shows that air pollution is one of the major environmental risk factors for the global burden of disease in 1990-2015 and has remained relatively stable for the past 25 years. By region, the largest burden of disease related to air pollution is found in Western Pacific and South-East Asia, reflecting the heavy industry and air pollution hotspots within the developing nations of these regions. Moreover, the rates of Disability Adjusted Life Years increased because of increase in pollution, especially in South-East Asia region, African region, and Eastern Mediterranean region where populations are both growing and ageing.
— Source —
I’ve written about this for years — how there is so much disconnect in Criminal Capitalism, where the marketing ploys and psychological tricks force babies and then toddlers and then kindergarteners and then grade schoolers and then more and more millions of growing minds to adapt to counterintuitive thinking, to accept death, slow or otherwise, as part of the social contract. Dog-eat-dog, predation, big fish/small pond, and the roots of America after decimating Turtle Island, one smoke and mirror show after another snake oil sales pitch.
Which sane or humane person would accept a PayDay loan scam? Which humane person would accept forced arbitration clauses? Which caring human would not endorse clean, well-run, full coverage public transportation? Which caring mother would not demand prenatal care, and medicine and clinics on demand? Where is the logic of old men and old women (look at the senate, the congress, the administration) running the lives of the unborn, newborn and youth into the ground.
Even the thirty-somethings in Brooks Brothers suits look, sound, smell, and espouse OLD. I don’t mean old and wise, or elder thinkers, or experienced and well traveled. I mean old in decayed.
If the world is saved, it will be saved by people with changed minds, people with a new vision. It will not be saved by people with old minds and new programs. It will not be saved by people with the old vision but a new program.
The Takers accumulate knowledge about what works well for things. The Leavers accumulate knowledge about what works well for people.
— Daniel Quinn, Ishmael
These flimflam artists, these liars and cheaters and pontificators and media monsters, they are antithetical to a good governance, good society, good people.
They not only do not know the stories of Drew and his Aunt Regina and Uncle Bob, but they have no forward-thinking solutions to the aging old foster parents and the still healthy middle-aged Drew. With all his beauty. With all his kindness. With all his adept knowledge of how to get on, get along, get his day going. Drew, born in the cookie crumbles crap shoot. Regina, who was on her way back to the UK, Scotland, when she answered the call to take care of Drew and his sister.
This story is repeated a million times a month, worldwide. The penalty for living, for being human, for being not one of them (rich, powerful, greed-wielding) and for stopping their lives to do the right thing.
You wake up one day and believe you have a worthy life. You wake up and take account of what good you have done. You wake up and look in the mirror and wonder what it is you actually dreamt, thought, spoke, cared for, read, built, protected, grew, sheltered, did, held sacred, envisioned, husbanded, parented, fostered, ate, drank, created.
Did any of that living have purpose, or some connection to the humanity that is the real culture of Homo Sapiens, mother culture?
Daily, I have a million intersections with culture and cultures — Big D for deaf or small d for disabled? Brain-injured at birth, or hit by a truck at age 11. Traumatic Brain Injury from an early childhood beating, or massive psychological trauma from a rape at age 20. Born with any number of diagnosed maladies, or any expression of “being born on the autism spectrum.” Fragile X or fetal alcohol affective disorder. Or Downs Syndrome.
The luck of the draw is one enormous field of chance, and the outcomes are not just tied to the abilities — emotional, spiritual, economic, personal — of those you call family, but how the society at large and each community gauge the value of life, the value placed on those whose luck of the draw came up short in some areas.
But the world is fragile, and those on some neuro typical scale and those atypically neuro, can we build our culture together, and heal and protect and shelter and engender and facilitate and teach and learn from?
There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with people. Given a story to enact that puts them in accord with the world, they will live in accord with the world. But given a story to enact that puts them at odds with the world, as yours does, they will live at odds with the world. Given a story to enact in which they are the lords of the world, they will ACT like lords of the world. And, given a story to enact in which the world is a foe to be conquered, they will conquer it like a foe, and one day, inevitably, their foe will lie bleeding to death at their feet, as the world is now.
— Daniel Quinn, Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit
American Exceptionalism: Private Wealth and Public Squalor first appeared on Dissident Voice.