12 December 2006

Capitalist mantras

Capitalism is a powerful economic system, but more importantly it is also a system of ideas. We grow up with such ideas in childhood and reinforce them in our dealings with each other. The ideas are communicated, maintained and elaborated through a system of mantras, which operate to control our thinking and to tie us in to a nasty, selfish way of behaving in society. I’ve listed some of the most popular further on, with some suggested replacements. On the principle that it would be a good idea not to do the opposition’s work for them I would suggest you begin to eliminate these from your vocabulary, and challenge them when used by others.

Some of these are rather insidious. For example, if you believe that there is no such thing as a free lunch it makes you feel like a ‘loser’ (a tremendous capitalist concept) every time you give something away, such as a lunch for your friends. Your act of generosity immediately becomes a gesture that requires reciprocation. Against the backdrop of this mantra, gift becomes exchange. Kindness is lost to capitalism. I am making a collection of these as a consciousness-raising exercise so please send others on a postcard or by email.

The way to reject the mantras is through active intellectual subversion. If you find one of the mantras pops into your head, or that you are responding to it in your behaviour, you need to switch it for something that has the opposite consequence. I once saw a poster for a band called ‘Shocking Insanesburys’; the name is subversive in itself since the comfortable task of supermarket shopping has been ideologically challenged. The band-name is more accurate for the nature of consumption in modern capitalism, which is no longer about satisfying desires but rather about bringing the competitiveness of production into our homes.

More importantly you can engage in random acts of kindness of pointless acts of beauty. An excellent one you can try is to pay the toll for the person behind you on a bridge or stretch of road. I have tried this on the Severn Bridge and it completely fazes not just the recipient of you generosity but also the toll-keeper. Anything that gets people questioning has got to be good!

Here are a few examples. Please send me more, or better revised versions and I'll add them to the blog:

There is no such thing as a free lunch → Food is for sharing
You can’t get something for nothing → Unless you are a shareholder or landowner
Everybody has a price → Generosity is its own reward
Time is money → My time is my own
If you’re so clever, how come you → If you’re so rich, how come you ain’t
ain’t rich? happy?
Nothing in life is free → The best things in life are free
Money makes the world go round → Love makes the world go round
We need to protect our wealth → We need to rely on the love of others
If it isn’t hurting it isn’t working → If I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your revolution

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