Capitalism, the Spirit of Christmas, a Bleak New Year
and a hollow feeling in the pit of the stomach
17th December 2011
'Tis the week before Christmas!
Apparently we're not buying enough, not eating enough, not
traveling enough, not decorating enough, not getting into the Xmas Spirit!
How on earth are we going to be able to afford Christmas this
year? The credit cards are already 'maxed out'. It's going to be a tough new
And this was supposed to be a time when people stepped back from
crass materialism, re-examined their lives, re-ordered their priorities, and
shared their loaves and fishes.
Did you know that, in the US and, yes, if you live in a
Western country, almost certainly in your neck of the woods as well!:
While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent
over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall.
For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been
precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in
recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top.
In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in
the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our
closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran.
Stiglitz, Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1% Vanity Fair, May
Income and wealth disparities become even more absurd if we look
at the top 0.1% of the nation's earners — rather than the more common 1%. The
top 0.1% — about 315,000 individuals out of 315 million [in the US] — are making
about half of all capital gains on the sale of shares or property after 1 year;
and these capital gains make up 60% of the income made by the Forbes
(Robert Lenzner 'The Top 0.1% Of The Nation Earn Half Of All Capital Gains'
Forbes, Nov 21, 2011)
The vast majority of subprime mortgages — the loans at the heart
of the global crisis — were underwritten by unregulated private firms.
These firms had business models that could be called
(Barry Ritholtz 'Examining the big lie: How the facts of the economic crisis stack
up' Washington Post November 20, 2011)
But, spare a thought, and, yes, a little sentiment too, for the
millions of homeless, jobless, stressed people who have no idea where the next
meal is coming from.
Thomas Jefferson was right, and I'm certain that there would be
sadness in his voice as he contemplated 2011:
…they have divided their nations into two classes, wolves and
sheep. I do not exaggerate. This is a true picture of [the Western World]. …man
is the only animal which devours his own kind; for I can apply no milder term to
the governments of [The West], and to the general prey of the rich on the poor.
(Thomas Jefferson, 1787)
No! this is not a call to become a wolf, and No! this is
not a call to mob violence and 'Western Spring' revolution - that's been tried
before - unless you're as old as I am you probably don't remember the
As the saying goes "The more things change, the more they stay
Let’s be genuinely revolutionary! Let’s start with
We don’t have to consume to be happy (or if we do then we are
really messed up!)
We don’t have to give large, expensive presents to show that we
We don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth to assuage our
We don’t have to respect and admire those who have turned wolf –
even those who dress up in sheep’s clothing!
Let’s see them for what they are. People who, with no apparent
empathy, readily strip the assets and well-being from fellow human beings. Who
take their ‘earnings’, ‘invest’ them in large mansions, absurdly swollen bank
accounts, stocks and shares and safety deposit boxes, and, all-too-often
ostentatiously display their wealth – often through ‘philanthropic
Let’s learn to despise them for what they really are!
What? This is not the ‘Spirit of Christmas’?
Then what is the ‘Spirit of Christmas’ for you?
See Economic Activity as Non-Social Activity and Conglomerates and the progressive modernization of poverty for
discussion of what it means, and will increasingly mean, to live in a truly
deregulated, internationalized capitalist world.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light!