Sunday, April 8, 2018

What's Happening

(Last of five parts. First part here.)

- What's happening?
- Very early this morning, 2 am, I took part in a little drama. I was sitting outside at Starbucks, the cafe had locked up for the night, when the middle of my three brothers in Thailand appeared on Facebook chat and asked me your question.
- 'What's happening?'
- Yes. I answered, with some grandiosity: I'm thinking about capitalism. Brother Jerry asked:

- What about capitalism?
- Was it true that it involved a particular form of slavery, wage slavery, part time slavery, in which the slave buys back products made by him or slaves like himself, because of the opportunities it provided for a more continuous torture of slaves than previously tried forms of slavery?

- The torture being forcing the slave into exhausting work under dangerous conditions, then forcing him to buy at higher price products he himself or his fellows had produced, paid the minimum possible to keep him alive.
- Yes. Brother Jerry's types in that he'll be back on line soon, he wants to take a shower. It's hot humid daytime in Thailand. I return to my draft page, but not for long. A young, well dressed man walks up to me. He says:

- Sorry to bother you. But I'm in trouble. I've never felt like this before. I don't know where I am. I don't know what to do!
- Sit down.
- Thank you.
- What should I do?
- Were you at a bar?
- I don't remember.
- Where are you coming from now?
- I don't know!
- Where do you live?
- 234 Grey Lane.
- I don't know where that is.
- Long Beech. Where are we?
- West Hollywood. How did you get here from Long Beach? Car? Train?
- Train. Then Uber.
- What are you doing in West Hollywood?
- I don't know why I'm here.
- Can't you call someone?
- I don't have my phone. Or my wallet. Can I use your phone?
- You've met the only man within miles without a phone. Are you married?
- I have a girl friend.
- Where is she?
- I don't know.
- Do you know her phone number?
- Yes. Can I borrow your phone?
- You just asked me that. I said you've met the only man within miles without a phone.
- What am I going to do? I've never felt like this before. I don't know what's happening. I want to go home. I don't drink, smoke. I don't understand.
- You've been drugged.
- Drugged?
- You're the fourth to come up to me here late at night who didn't know where he was.* You aren't coming from a bar?
- I don't remember. Can't we call the police?
- As I said, I don't have a phone. It's two in the morning. We'll sit here together a few minutes. Somebody will come by who'll let us use his phone. Relax.
- Ok.
- Is your girlfriend here with you?
- I don't know. Can we send her an email with your computer?
- Sure. What's the address? What's your name? Her name? Well Michael, you two seem to have the same last name. Are you married?
- Yes. No. I don't know.
- I don't know where my wife is but she doesn't want me to know. Let's ask that man:

- Hey! This fellow here has been drugged, his telephone and wallet taken. Can he use your phone to call his wife?
- Of course.

Michael makes the call. I can hear ring tones, followed by a recording. Then an hysterical woman's voice. Michael says over it, Hello! Hello! He can't get a word in. He passes the phone to me. There's a lot of noise from a crowd, a bad connection, or both.

- Hi, I'm at Starbucks with your Michael.
- I don't know where Starbucks is.
- Beverly and Robertson.
- I don't know where that is!
- Where are you? Try to stay calm.
- At the Abby.
- That's close. He's coming. Wait there.

Michael seems not to have followed the conversation. He's sitting, dazed.

- Time for you to go. She waiting.
- I'll take him, says the man as I return him his phone. He's wearing a cook's jacket. Probably he's just off work at the new restaurant down the street.
- Michael gets himself up, says to the cook, 'This guy helped me a lot.' The cook holds out his hand to shake mine, and off they go.

I return to my computer and the question whether capitalism is a form a slavery chosen for its opportunities for more constant torture. Wasn't what just had happened, this drugging, a good example, wasn't it an unnecessarily painful way to steal? I'm about to to pursue this line of inquiry when my brother returns to Facebook chat. I have to warn you this is going to be one of those dialogs where one side does all the work and the other throws in an encouraging remark here and there to keep things moving. So then. Having reappeared on Facebook chat, brother Jerry asks me:

- Have you made any progress?
- Factory owners argue that they make their employees work twenty hour days because, without the lower price that allows them to sell their products for they wouldn't be able to compete. But I wonder whether the group of people willing to becoming factory owners are not a preselected group, that of those willing to torture.
- Interesting point of view.
- If only a minority of employers had a predilection for torture, why didn't the majority of them pass laws to prevent torture and so take out the factor of competition? It is sometimes argued that the additional profit to gained from torturing workers is needed to invest in new technology. Others say No, technology cannot be constantly replaced because of the high cost, risks, and delays of installation and testing.
- That figures.
- The question is: Why make slaves buyers of the products they make? Why not have them directly make luxuries for their employers? Or if employers couldn't use any more luxuries, build pyramids to their glory? Why not forget about wages, just give them a box of cheap food every few days? The Trump administration actually proposed something like this yesterday, to change the food stamps program from providing a credit card to a box of what is certain to be junk food.
- Wow. Is that true about the Trump administration?
-Yes. Competition, it is argued, drives employers to torture employees. But is that true? Apple products sell for vastly higher prices than their competition, yet they are only marginally better for a few purposes and for others not better at all. Consumers will pay more for products that are different.
- That's for sure.
- What stops a 19th century factory owner from saying to himself, I'd rather be dead than a torturer of children? How does the fact of competition avoid that question? I think the argument from competition is false: only because the factory owners already were immoral was it possible for the argument to be raised. What do you think?
- I think you make some really good points.
- Am I right or not?
- You're right.
- What would happen if you asked American Indians or Australian Aborigines, way back at the beginnings of the industrial revolution, if in exchange for a lot of glass beads they would torture children, what would they say? You'd explain further that they couldn't get the beads without torture because their fellows would be willing to do the torture if they didn't. Wouldn't they laugh at you, knowing their fellow Indians and Aborigines would never torture masses of children?
- Well, they would laugh.
- A very small number of people own controlling interests in most of the world's largest corporations. It is they who decide company policies. Nothing forces them to make immoral choices. They have no need of more money. They don't need to be concerned about stock values since they don't ever need to sell their stock. They don't need to be concerned about dividends because their companies could, like the Rolex watch company does, operate very successfully without insisting on making a profit.
- Very true.
- So it looks to me like factory directors and stock owners positively want to torture. Their preference for torture precedes any pressure felt from competition. They chose the system of part time slaves who buy the products they make because it puts workers continuously, as both producer and consumer, in the control of a process torturing to them. Do you see any other explanation?
- I completely agree.
- If a few of the world's top billionaires spent only half of their billions to eliminate poverty, allowing the poor to have again the life on the land the billionaire's forerunners had taken from them with violence, world poverty would be entirely, immediately eliminated. But the billionaires don't consider doing anything like it. They don't think of changing the system of torture that their wealth originates in. If you asked them why not save a million people from starvation every year, they'd say it was politically impossible, meaning governments would stand in the way. But put a few million dollars in the pockets of politicians and their objections would vanish.
- That's for sure.
- Probably not myself being employed by any torturer I'll just copy this Facebook chat, post it on the internet and say I'm done.
- Haahaaha. Too funny.
- Haaha. It'll be funnier when you see I'm really going to do it.
- I'd like to read the finished masterpiece.
- I'll send it.

- The chat with my brother ends there.
- What do you think happened to the guy who didn't know where he was?
- We can hope he went home with his wife.

Further Reading:
Capitalism & Compulsion 

P.S. Two Forms of Torture: In prostitution, the body of the prostitute is forced to act against desire, the mind forced to imitate attraction to (or passive acceptance of) the buyer. In capitalism, work forces the body to act against desire, and the worker's mind is made to take on the role associated with the products acquired. See: Prostitution & Torture. And: Capitalism, Prostitution, Torture
* See Killer At Starbucks