Thursday, July 31, 2008

Humanity Under Capitalism

This paper will attempt to expose the deceitful inner-workings of the oppressive system of capitalism, looking closely at the role played by institutions of higher learning. The majority of people are unconscious of the true nature of universities and colleges in the western world. They are factories for the producton of subservient robots. These institutions administer a hollow, valueless, and underlying purpose as purely operational institutions of conditioning for the hierarchy. Of course certain programs at certain universities are progressive, and certain students and graduates are politically aware and use their education to change the world in positive ways, but unfortunately the exceptions are very few. It is important to recognize the dangerous dogmatic cycle of this system; universities conditioning students into functional pawns, to then lead them by the millions into professions within the underhanded capitalist structure of competition. This sort of training which eventually leads individuals to the aggressive, and blind pursuit of success can be observed first at a national level, but is then transferred internationally through imperialism. The motor of these two systems, capitalism and imperialism, functions on the causal, successive relationships of success, money, power, and ultimately, war and violence, a process which fundamentally stems from human greed. This work seeks to shed light on the basis, or the mainsource of the ENTIRE system, but without moving too far ahead, it will explore mainly the role of post-secondary education, and the rat-race of young graduates and "urban professionals" as the earliest and most siginificant levels in this chain of indoctrination and systematic conventionality. Pop culture also plays a main role as an accessory in maitaining the stagnant status-quo.

It is not my intention in this paper to compare poitical systems, but when thinking of socialism*, people in general are usually quick to associate this system with restrictions on freedom when it comes to choosing professions or type of work. Surely a certain level of management is involved, recommendations perhaps, but certainly no one is forced to take up an undesired trade or profession. Under capitalism the system functions differently. Every one is free to receive formation for whichever trade or profession he or she chooses, and it is a seemingly real choice, but

“Freedom exists in those professions only to the extent that the student chooses the profession himself. That produces an appearance of freedom… Let us say that the freedom exists, but it is limited to the one unique act of choosing the profession. Afterward all freedom is over. When he begins his studies at the university, the doctor, lawyer, or engineer is forced into an extremely rigid curriculum which ends with a series of examinations. If he passes them, he receives his license and can thereafter pursue his profession in seeming freedom. But in doing so he becomes the slave of base powers; he is dependent on success, on money, on his ambition, his hunger for fame, on whether or not people like him. He must submit to elections, must earn money, must take part in the ruthless competition of castes, families, political parties, newspapers. In return he has the freedom to become successful and well-to-do, and to be hated by the unsuccessful, or vice versa.”

In other words, the working world after post-secondary formation becomes a contest among wolves. This completely unmanaged freedom to choose trades and professions, in fact, is one of the fundamental structural flaws of capitalism. This creates an unbalanced distribution of professionals, and skilled and trade workers, which causes a competition so fierce amongst citizens that one can advance and become successful only at the expense of others. This leads to an overabundance of workers and even professionals, which causes unemployment, keeps wages and salaries low, and compromises working conditions, basically putting all power and control into the hands of the bosses. It creates a very large and desperate working pool for the corporations to dip from, and consequently allows them to keep salaries miserable, workers' rights confined, and labour progress stunted. This is why so many university graduates end up working jobs completely unrelated to their field of ‘expertise’, either because they have studied irrelevant, insubstantial programs that serve only to financially profit the institution, or because their skills and know-how are in very low demand, or not in demand at all.

Furthermore, the quality of post-secondary education in North America is generally very poor, at least at the undergraduate level. The system is quite simply far too intensive; two four month terms with students taking on four to six courses, each of which requires the writing of at least two or three major examinations, and at least two or three major essays or projects, usually more, and students can be studying dizzying combinations of subjects from geology, to philosophy, to microeconomics all in the same term. In the midst of all this chaos the majority of students are forced to work at least part-time to maintain livelihood, even if they are fortunate enough to earn student loans and scholarships. So hysterical is this capitalist model of ‘higher learning’ that quality is so seriously compromised for quantity, education so compromised for time and profits, that it becomes a purely mechanical and symbolic affair, and after four years of scrambles and struggles the majority have retained almost nothing. This system is simply “a course of studies designed to prepare the student as thoroughly as possible in the shortest possible time for a specialty in which he could earn his livelihood, and to stamp out whatever sense of freedom and universality he may have had.” Post-secondary education in North America is not, as it should be, a serene sanctuary for academics and personal growth, but rather it is a frantic labyrinth of stressful turmoil, often defined by struggle, anxiety, and desperation. Under the system of socialism, on the other hand, education is free of cost, and living grants are handed out to all students.

What is worse is that students also, over time, have become aware of the systematic sterility of post-secondary institutions, and have responded with unenthusiastic, unmotivated, and jaded disillusionment. This also contributes to the deterioration in quality of education. As an ex-university student I can vouch for this statement as an accurate description of how many students interpret their courses; “the whole thing had from the start the feeling of being a half-baked, useless affair, a make-up course whose random collection of students no more believes in its importance or chance of success than does the teacher, although no one involved will admit it.” The unfortunate reality is that professors have come to terms with the fact that scholarship is compromised to maximize the institution’s profits, and most students have accepted the fact that they must do this in order to obtain a piece of paper.

Then finally students are done with post-secondary stress, and a huge weight is lifted off their shoulders, they are now free to go out into the world and do whatever they want. But now they have ten, twenty, maybe thirty thousand dollars in student loans to pay off, and even more if they are graduating from colleges or universities in the U.S. Maybe they’ll be lucky enough to find a position in their field, but their entry level status will pay no more than thirty thousand a year, at least for the first few years. Before they know it they are settling into an adult situation, so they have no choice but to eventually buy a car, a house, and they are even further in debt on top of their student loans. But then suddenly they are offered a promotion, a higher position, “we are needed, are given a teaching assignment, a mission, a post, and from then on move up to a higher one, and unexpectedly find ourselves caught in a network of duties that tightens the more we try to move inside it. All the tasks are in themselves small, but each one has to be carried out at its proper hour, and the day has far more tasks than hours.” Of course this big new promotion comes with only a marginal pay increase, but the new duties at work require far more than before, and they find themselves with increasingly less time for themselves. Life becomes work, and almost every little concern becomes financially oriented; paying off debt, salaries, buying furniture, payment plans, buying a new computer, mortgage for the house, five years to pay off the car, and they are almost instantly locked into this pre-conceived vortex, indebted over their heads for the next thirty, forty years. Valuable personal time so consumed with work, and so deeply drowning in debt, they become passive, and the passive either don’t vote at all, or vote for the wrong party for all the wrong reasons because they have no time whatsoever to get involved with politics. They become hopeless when the two party system maintains things unchanged, and the system continues on virtually unopposed. The 40 or more hour work-week also allows very little family time, and so that social fabric breaks down as well.

The small amount of disposable income is spent on things that make them feel better, on material things such as clothing, or a new knife for the kitchen, or a painting for the living room, a new tent they have time to use only once a year, or on going out to see a movie, or for an expensive dinner out. Even their homes are decorated in such a way as to provide them with what amounts to a false and hollow sense of security. Hermann Hesse remarked that inside the home of the average westerner “There was no sense of growth, of movement, of renewal…this beauty of the house and its belongings was also meant as a kind of spell, a defensive gesture, and that these rooms, pictures, vases, and flowers enclosed and accompanied a life of vain longing for harmony and beauty which could be attained only in the form of tending such well coordinated surroundings.” In other words the most necessary human yearnings are manifested for all the wrong reasons through all the wrong channels, and valuable energy is wasted on shallow, fruitless purposes. Human spirituality under capitalism is fulfilled only with fake, material ambitions.

They baste themselves with the artificial comforts of western culture and lead completely stagnant, generic, pointless lives in which they waste away amidst the simple pleasures of junk-foods, reality television, drugs, and alcohol. This futile practice of withdrawal serves only as a refuge of feigned consolation, a feeble crust against the miserable, overbearing reality of capitalism. In referring to this existence as “narrow-minded crudity” one author observed that “People in the world were no less proud of their bad manners, their meager culture, their coarse, loud humor, the dull-witted shrewdness with which they kept themselves to practical, egotistic goals.” All the features of this culture are combined and calculated into a pre-conceived core to draw us as far away from our humanity as possible. Even though the majority of these misdeeds are unconsciously committed, one does not have to be intentionally malicious to commit offenses; simply being unaware, indifferent, inactive, compliantly defeated, is immoral. To be drowned into the abyss of the crude and indecent vices of capitalism is a completely disgraceful, and reprehensible insult and violation against the righteousness of humanity.

By enveloping themselves in this decadent, decayed culture, the majority of people half involuntarily, half willingly understand life only in their communities and cities, and comprehend the functioning of societies only on a national level, if that, which is a very dangerous and dogmatic way of thinking in today’s increasingly international world. Comfortable in their small one-dimensional lives they “…never face necessity or the struggle for existence, neither know or wish to know anything about that portion of humanity whose labor and poverty provide the base for our lives of luxury." They lack vital understanding of the most fundamental element of humanity, and cannot relate or share in the struggle of the majority of the planet’s inhabitants. They are committing international class crimes through participation in the passive acknowledgement, and acceptance of capitalism and its numbing, lethargy-inducing culture.


*I have to make clear that when I refer to socilaism or communism, I refer to true socialism, participatory democracy, or people's governments like Cuba, Venezuela, or Bolivia, not cold war Stalinism, or degenerated workers' states such as Vietnam, China, or post Lenin/Trotsky Russia.

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