Saturday, November 19, 2016

Manipulation and the madness of the market.

Not quite at the checkout.
by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I'm not a conspiracy freak but that doesn't mean that there aren't conspiracies.  The capitalist class as a whole conspires to induce the working masses, the wage worker if your like, to buy commodities, not necessarily when they need them and they do it every second of every day.  The pressure to buy is immense, more so here in the US where the free market is god and the resistance of workers to free market propaganda weak

We are in the belly of the beast here. Of course, the capitalist class creates a world after its own image, "The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe.", Marx wrote 170 years ago, " It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere."   Given that the "globe" he is referring to is comprised of separate but increasingly interconnected units we call nation states, themselves the creation of capitalism, this set up has not run so smoothly------colonization, slavery, a couple of world wars and the deaths of hundreds of millions of people come to mind.

I have been away from my country of origin for 43 years so perhaps it's a bad there now but I have not felt so during my visits there. And by "bad" I mean the constant pressure to buy things, the resolve of the capitalist to extract money from me. It's like that guy at work, we've all had them, every time you bump in to them they need a couple of bucks. It's not that you can't afford it it's just that you feel exploited, it's tiresome, never ending.  So many times I am watching a movie on TV only to be driven to exhaustion by an ad every three or four minutes, sometimes the same ad and at times in succession. I get angry and head off to bed.

Look at the picture above. I know if we think about it for a bit we realize why the candyman almost obstructs our path on the way to the checkout counter.  It is at that height to attract toddlers, our small children. The wrappers are designed to attract them, colorful and often with small animals or cartoon figures on them. The conspirators and child psychologists employed by the candy manufacturers who might well be the same people that own the dog food industry or any other profitable venture. The capitalists that own the food production industry even employ scientists to develop odors that they can use in malls to entice us to buy their products. The TV ads and the linking of children's television characters, human or animal to a certain product are all used to sell commodities.  They have a term in the ad industry for this, they call it "pester power". A single mother or parents home from a hard day at work are expected to eventually break down from the relentless pressure their children will put on them after a heavy dose of "pester power."

I remember one time I was in a store with my young son and I walked up to pay the cashier and my
Almost at the checkout
boy who was about 7 or 8 at the time grabbed a candy bar and tore the wrapper. I was asked to pay for it. I told the store owner, a small liquor store in my neighborhood, to move the candy shelves which were right at the check stand and exactly where a child could reach them. I never paid for that candy and my kid never ate it.

"This is not stuff we don't already know" the reader is saying. Perhaps so. It's not hard to see it if we look and think about it for a while. But we need to ask ourselves why life is like this? Why is so much human talent, money and time spent on manipulating our children to get us to buy stuff that's bad for them?  Why is it that we live in a 24 hour marketplace? Why does an auto or any other factory have to have around the clock shifts?

On the news the other night there was a story about students in San Jose who go to food banks to get food. I can't remember the percentage of students but an increasing number of them rely on food banks and a 2014 survey found 49% of students skipped meals because of money. This is in a major urban center in one of the world's top 10 economies, California. There are more billionaires in this state than anywhere else in the world.

The rest of the night, the programming was dominated as all media outlets are, by sale ads for what they call "Black Friday". This is the day after Thanksgiving which is a major holiday in the US that has traditions in religious and harvest festival days in England and other countries that early settlers brought with them.  To be honest I am not too familiar with its origins though I am sure it has nothing to do with native people rather it was more an economic venture.

Like all holidays, Thanksgiving is simply a celebration designed to sell commodities. The entire year is marked with them. We are a few weeks away from Halloween where kids stuff themselves with candy and much money is made. We can even buy Halloween costumes for dogs. Although Thanksgiving is a week away, we have Christmas ads on TV and in the stores that began as Halloween night broke in to dawn. New Year sales follow Christmas, then Valentines Day and on and on.

Yesss! Grab them my little honey bunnies
What sort of society do we live in where the solemn faces and sombre voices of the makeup clad corporate media pimps cry crocodile tears over young students lining up to get food from privately run food banks or religious organizations that will never eliminate poverty or hunger. Then we get inundated with slick media productions that aim to convince us how important it is to own a TV with a remote that you can talk to or that allows you watch four football games at once. Or cars, cars cars, enough with the cars.  The auto bosses that the taxpayer bailed out after the Great Recession don't want cheap efficient mass transit any more than the owners of the sickness industrial complex want socialized medicine. Profit is paramount.

But we must not despair. The reader can chide me for stating the obvious. "We all know this", they say in chorus containing their anger at me being the purveyor of bad news and  undermining one of  our most beloved slogans, "It's all good".

Unfortunately "all" is not good. But like the alcoholic that finally accepts he has a disease, the important aspect of accepting the insanity of this situation is that we can find a cure. The first step is to ask ourselves why a 24 hour market place? Why is selling a life and death project? Why is society obsessed with it?

The answer is simple in a way. In capitalist society wealth is created through the labor process. The capitalist owns the labor process, the process by which we make the necessities of life.  They own the raw materials, the machines, the land, the buildings and they own the workers life activity that when all these things are put together produce a commodity for sale.

The thing is that the workers work does not cease when they produce their own wages; the workday doesn't end there. They work over and above the cost of their labor time so it is not complicated to grasp that the workers produce more value in the form of commodities (shoes, cars, apparel) than they are paid for.

The problem is the value is in the form of a commodity. A car for example, has labor time contained in it that the capitalist paid for and labor he hasn't. He got it for free so it's an unfair exchange.

But in order to "realize" that wealth, that he hasn't paid for, he has to sell the commodity and receive the wealth in money form.  An unsold commodity is wealth trapped.  This is why selling is a life and death venture for the capitalist. He doesn't produce for society, to provide society's needs, that's incidental. He wants that surplus value that is the source of his profits and needs it desperately to continue the process again and again. It's their lifeblood, without it the capitalist ceases to be a capitalist. There are many other contradictions and crises that arise out of this set up. But the more we look in to it, the easier it is to understand it, or at least the general processes. It removes the veil, the mysticism that masks the reality of our existence in the material world.

The only solution to this madness is for those that produce the wealth as it is a collective product,  to own the means by which we produce it and distribute it, in other words, to own the labor process itself and produce for social need and not individual profit.

Will the media, the academics and defenders of the present system do this voluntarily? Of course not. They will say it is impossible, that the world will end, that chaos will rule that communism and satanic worship will arise.

But if we ask the questions and seek the answers we will come to the right conclusion. I'm confident of it.

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