Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Is my call REALLY important to you? I Didn't think so.

You're not sick, society is. Don't take the pill. Take action
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

We’ve all suffered through it, waiting on the phone for half hour or more as a recorded voice comes on every 5 minutes or so to tell us, how important our call is. “We’ll be right back” I was told many times over my extended wait.   They weren’t lying, the recording came right back in five minutes to tell me they’d be right back and came “right back” 8 times or so.

By the time the worker from Manila came on I was pretty disgusted with it all. I try to maintain my calm and treat the worker with respect; after all, they have no say over how the enterprise that employs them is run.  I was trying to book a seat on flight I have with Spirit Air.  I tried to do it online as they steer you in that direction but I couldn’t. The worker informed me that I have to open an account. I didn’t want to open an account as I won’t be flying this airline again:

“I just want to book a seat, I don’t need an account.” I tell her.

“No problem, sir,”, she replied after yet another apology, “I can do that for you.”.  

She leaves me for a moment then comes back and asks what my seat preference might be.  I tell her I would like an aisle seat. Things appear to be going quite well until she tells me I will be charged $18 for the booking. It’s hard for me to maintain my cool but I do after telling her its not her fault but her bosses are pigs and they probably don’t pay her enough either.  I can’t book on line as I can’t get in because I haven’t signed up for an account but I don’t want an account so I go to an operator and they want to charge me $18.

I think to myself what it would be like if I wasn’t retired. It’s no wonder people are so stressed here.  We are nickel and dimed to death. I didn’t pay it I’ll take my chances at the gate.

But this environment, where we are under constant assault from capitalism and its agencies to buy, not simply necessities, but all sorts of commodities, things we don’t need, that we end up throwing away or selling is making us sick.   Billions is spent trying to convince us we need this or that item, that we are not fulfilled as human beings without it we must fork the money over. If we don’t have it we can borrow it from the folks trying to sell us the stuff.  It reminds me of the co-worker or guy in our social milieu who is always broke, always borrowing. It’s not the money, two dollars here two dollars there, it’s that every time you see this person they want to extract cash from you. That’s what living in capitalist society is like, especially in the US, the belly of the beast.

What stresses us, makes us sick, irritable and frustrated is that as they hound us day in day out to buy things and their mass media is constantly selling us their ideology that doesn’t correspond to this reality.  We are free. We have our own minds which is ridiculous when you think about it as if advertising didn’t work they wouldn’t spend billions of dollars a year on it.  “You call is important to us”. “No it isn’t, if it was you’d answer the fu#*ng phone.”

The technology that is supposed to set us free actually enslaves us further. We are never disconnected.  The technology that has increased productivity and profits by eliminating jobs and answering calls and directing us to wherever we want to go with our inquiry does nothing of the sort. This technology, like all technology,  is used against us, is used to separate us as the consumer from the owners of industry and the means of production, distribution and exchange.  It is much more efficient for the owners of capital and those who own the means of communication and other important social services as at best they never have to talk to us so their labor costs go down.  It keeps us at bay. But it is not technology that the worker owns. The owners of capital also own this technology and they use it to increase profits, to facilitate the extraction of surplus value from the wage worker and to increase the rate of ewxploitation.

As I say above, imagine all the time we have to spend trying to deal with a cable problem, phone bill or other utility bills or just trying to find a government agency that can help us, or, in my case above, accomplish a simple thing like picking a seat on a flight I’ve paid for.  It takes jumping through hoops, press one, press two, press three etc.  and when you get to the destination assuming you haven’t fallen asleep or gone completely nuts, they want to liberate more money from your pocket. What stress trying to do this during your lunch half hour at work. It takes longer than that to get to the tape at the end of “press 6”.

I am reminded of Marx’s statement in the Communist Manifesto that, “No sooner is the exploitation of the labourer by the manufacturer, so far, at an end, that he receives his wages in cash, than he is set upon by the other portions of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.”  Marx could not have imagined the extent to which capital reaches in to every aspect of our lives. He could not have foreseen the level of manipulation, the use of child psychologists to encourage our kids to pester us to death to buy that toy they saw on TV.  The selling of fast food and the use of toys and adventure figures to do that.   Billions is spent convincing young people what to buy if they are to be pretty, handsome, or worth anything at all. They even reach in to our living rooms and turn the volume up on the TV when their ad comes on. And their ads are relentless, every three minutes, the same ad over and over again.  This is not civilization and it is not something that has to be.

This anti-social environment that destroys our humanity is behind the extreme statistics on all social ills that plague the US and the almost daily mass killings where seemingly normal people wipe out their entire families.  The insecurity, dog-eat-dog environment and never ending fear of all things foreign and different is what makes us sick like the Chickens I once saw in an industrial chicken farm in England. The ideology of the 1% brought to us through the “successful” middle classes, the universities and other capitalist institutions that argues that we are in control of our own destiny and that we can achieve anything we want if we put our minds to it is also devastating and contributes to mental collapse. If we accept this false ideology of the ruling class when we fail we blame ourselves and not society, poverty, racism, sexism etc. Believe me, all the successful people had a leg up, don’t let them fool you.

If there was a political party here in the US that was based on and represented the interests of workers, the poor, the middle class as opposed to bankers, hedge fund managers and the 1%, it could take up these issues and all other the other policies and practices that are designed to facilitate extraction of our hard earned money.  I was reading the other day that overwhelmingly people object to the airlines nickel and diming them to death so why isn’t that stopped?  And last month I shared a survey to this blog that showed the difference between how the 1% respond to some questions compared to the rest of us, there is a huge gap. We outnumber them in society so how come we just don’t vote for what we want.  What good is the Democratic Party if it cannot change such basic things that the vast majority of us want changed? The problem is not that all politicians are bad, but the 1% has two parties and a monopoly in the political/electoral sphere. The Democrats is a bankers’ party.

Building an independent working people’s political party is a first step in changing society for the better and ensuring a future for the youth.  Such a party, backed up by a direct action movement and linked to the organized working class, can shut down economic life and therefore the profit taking of the 1% ,is inevitable at some point as the austerity agenda intensifies and resistance to it does too.  Technology, when taken out of the hands of the 1% and in placed under democratic control and management of workers and the middle class as producers and consumers will be able to liberate us from long hours of labor. It can shorten the workweek and allow us more leisure and also time to participate in the organization of social labor in each nation and globally. It can free us rather than be used to enslave us further.

However, while we must support such a development and help build it where we can, we recognize that capitalism cannot solve the crises it has created. It cannot solve the endless regional wars and cannot stop the inevitable environmental catastrophe that awaits if capitalism is not ended and replaced with a democratic socialist economy and society, a global federation of democratic socialist states.

The immediate thing to grasp is that you do not feel the way you do, depressed, stressed, lacking free time, overworked, tired a lot of the time, due to your own personal failures in the main. Of course we have free will in that we make decisions about life, but we do not make these decisions under circumstances of our own making.

You are suffering from Capitalism, from market savagery. The system is flawed, the system is hostile to human development and freedom---it is the system that has to go.

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