Capitalist Culture Essay
Capitalism is the overriding value system whereby all structures, individuals and their actions are regarded merely for the resources and profit their labors produce. Forests are valued as far as their potential to create profit. Individuals are reduced to wages compared to production. Said system makes the individual insensitive to the basic morality of being, and propagates an ethical system that disregards the basic altruistic character that is the basis for moral behavior. Further, said system propagates a mindset that is indifferent to the destruction of both culture and environment.
In order to assess the morality of a given set of values, a morality consensus should be reached. Although the spiritual beliefs of cultures and individuals vary, the most popular of the world religions and prophets all agree on a several generalities, at least for those individuals adhering to their value systems. First of which is the idea that individuals should interact with others in such a way as to benefit everyone, or at the least, harm no one. An emphasis is placed on actions that have a long term, positive impact.
Each religious system, despite sharing this altruistic principle, has uniquely pronounced values. However, these are unimportant for this comparison, because
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Said system is also concerned with the generation of profits. Profits are solely monetary gains in excess of the necessary. Production of goods is not necessarily related to profits. Further, quality of a product does not necessarily mean more profits. Quality and production are often readily discarded in favor of profit. Capitalists value profit. It is the mark of success. This value can result in destructive acts, committed against long term sustainability, and against humans in general. When General Motors posted record profits in the early 90’s, the corporation also initiated massive layoffs.
Said layoffs have had a disastrous impact on the community of Flint, Michigan. Paper companies clear cut. Drug companies push deadly, addictive anti-depressants. Meat packing companies have a century long tradition of selling tainted meat. Energy companies used privatization in California to create artificial power shortages, and increased rates accordingly. These actions are large scale events that have impacted a majority of citizens in the United States alone. On a smaller scale, capitalist values are also destructive.
These values of profit can be translated into valuations of individuals. A handicapped child won’t be valued the same way a tall, fit child would. Everyday experiences would be tainted by the limited profit that child could produce, a constant pain. Partners could be selected for their utility. Earning potential of the partner might be considered above more human factors involved in the relationship. Further, the relationship could never be stable and equal so long as profits fluctuate. In short, the foundations of human interaction are shattered by this profit value.
The traditional human relationship is meaningless within this system, as this form of exchange brings no profit, except perhaps where contract and employment are concerned. Most devastating of all, besides destroying the mental environment, is the destruction brought upon the very world in which we dwell. Just as the loyal workers of Flint have been laid off when they had nothing more to offer the executives at General Motors, so does the environment have little to offer but resources that can be exchanged for profit.
As such, the systematic destruction of our world has been and continues to be a consequence of the short sighted drive for profits. Petroleum, which can be, and is used for construction of benign objects, that are truly useful. The majority of it is used for transportation, however. As heavily inefficient and polluting as the internal combustion is, efforts to make it more efficient and research for less polluting energy sources aren’t profitable in the short term, and likely won’t be as profitable as the petroleum trade in the end.
For the time being, oil companies like Shell have plans for the next fifty years, (at which time the world’s oil resources are expected to be depleted), in which they slowly adopt and research alternative fuel sources. This reckless consumption of oil for use in vehicles has been and will continue to be detrimental to humans and other species as a whole, but has generated extraordinary profits for a very small minority. As demonstrated, the capitalist value is one of profit. Profit exemplifies competition among a species.
Biologically speaking, however, organisms survive best within social groups that care for and cooperate. How can it be said that our society is profiting to any great amount when a huge amount of our population is jailed, to the profit of still other capitalists? Indeed, it would seem that only destruction can bring profits of the kind that satisfy the capitalist. However, what if this value was reversed? If the same people, who control such vast resources as to rival governments for power valued the well being and success of their fellow man as much as they now value profit, everyone would benefit.
People exploiting the stock market for personal gain would instead see it as an opportunity for long term investment in corporations that behave in a moral fashion. The modern conception of the corporation would be anathema to these altruistic folk. Instead, collectives that allow communities control over resources would form. Sustainable development isn’t possible when small groups of individuals are controlling huge resources with no accountability. It is an imperative for humanity as a race to overcome this profit drive.