Tag Archives: profit

Calling all crew

Why is everybody so quiet? by Ari Evergreen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Creative Commons License
Why is everybody so quiet? by Ari Evergreen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

we think we’re the smartest species on the planet
and yet we’re the only species that has to pay to live

what does an animal need to live?
food, water, shelter
every other species can meet its needs for free.
we have to pay for all of our needs.
to pay for things we have to allow someone to exploit our labor – that is, to make a profit off of it.

the problem here is capitalism
instead of humans joining together to ask ourselves,
what are our needs and how can we best meet them?
we are stuck playing a game, capitalism

the point of capitalism is not to meet people’s needs
it’s to generate profit
so the primary goal of industrialized, capitalist society hasn’t been to meet people’s needs,
but rather, to make money.
the result is that some people (the ones with the most money) make more money,
while others make so little money they can barely afford their needs
and many more just don’t get their needs met at all.

by way of example let’s pretend some folks are shipwrecked on a tiny island
there are two builders who could make shelter
there’s someone who knows how to make sandals and raincoats
there’s someone who knows how to find and prepare food
there’s someone who knows how to make fire
there’s someone who knows how to collect and store rainwater for drinking
there’s someone who knows how to keep people healthy

logically it would make sense for everyone to work together to meet their needs
each would contribute and each would benefit

but imagine that someone on the island says,
i own all the land, and you all have to pay rent to me to live on it

imagine that the doctor says,
you have to pay me for the care i give you

imagine that the person who makes fire says,
i’ll only make fire if you pay me

imagine the two builders each have insufficient tools
but they keep their tools to themselves, rather than pooling them together, because they’re competing
they save up the best materials to try to attract the business of the doctor and the landowner
they can only offer sub-par houses to the rest of the people
but the people will take what they can get

now no one’s needs are met.
or rather, they’re only met if people are making a profit.

there’s no money on an island, so they’d have to come up with some other way to pay
humans are creative, and can be cruel
we make each other pay in all sorts of ways when we don’t have money, don’t we?
maybe they’d make each other pay with their bodies, as so many men have made women and other men pay with their bodies
or maybe they’d make each other “work off” their debt
maybe the landowner would end up with a big, fancy house while others sleep on the beach
maybe the doctor would have all the best food
maybe the person who makes fire would sometimes withhold their power, just to make others realize how needed he is, so he could raise his prices

imagine someone on the island doesn’t have any special skills or tools
do they get to live in a house?
do they get sandals, or healthcare, or food, or water?
what do they have to do to be allowed near the fire?

could it be better to just give and take
for each to give their gifts freely to others
and to expect to receive others’ gifts in return,
regardless of their contribution?

then the people’s needs would be met
they might even have free time
maybe they could join together to build a lookout tower, or keep a signal fire
maybe they’d use their free time teaching each other everything they know
maybe they’d use it dancing and singing
or maybe they’d learn how to climb trees and harvest coconuts
maybe they’d have a good time on the island

we’re not on an island
we’ve got a whole world
we’ve got so many skills
and so many resources
but so many of our needs are not met

it might be hard to imagine changing our ways
but it’s hard to live in this way
so maybe it would be worth it to do the hard work of imagining
and maybe we could learn how to meet all of our needs
instead of just making some people richer and richer.

Buckminster Fuller saw this
he said our planet is our spaceship.
Marshall McLuhan pointed out,
“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.”

our ship looks pretty dysfunctional
we’re pretty much destroying it and its ability to sustain us
and how is our crew doing?
is it okay with us that some crew members can have everything they could ever desire, even the lives and bodies of other crew members?
is it okay with us that so many crew members’ needs are not met?
is it okay that so many crew members are treated as expendable?
if this was a ship, what would we do?
would we have a mutiny?
would we call a crew meeting and change up what we’re doing?
would we just say, “this is the way things are”?
would we just continue to allow some folks to destroy the lives of other folks?

i think we need a crew meeting
i think we need to ask big questions
and look for big answers
or our spaceship won’t continue to function
and our crew will be unable to live, let alone work for the common good

if we’re truly such a smart species,
we need to ask ourselves,
what are our needs?
what is the most equitable and efficient and healthy and joyous way for us to meet them?

Oppression in Games: What are we learning?

Awhile back we got a smart phone for the first time, and I downloaded a game based on the cuteness of its icon. It turned out to be Triple Town, and I got briefly obsessed, even finding it on Facebook when I ran out of credits or points or whatever it is they give you until you have to start paying money to keep playing.

It’s an addictive puzzle game, which is what I found appealing about it. You combine icons to make higher-value icons. But these icons tell a story. They’re not just little jewels or tiles or something. Triple Town is set on land, populated by bears. You combine grass until you have flowers, and you combine those until you have bushes, and those in turn become trees, which then become buildings, and then churches and cathedrals. Along the way you trap the bears, turning them into tombstones. Enough tombstones and you’ve got a church. You encounter “ninja bears” who can move around more freely and block your moves, and you kill them, to turn them into tombstones, too. At some point the game tells you you’ve been working on colonies; there’s a mainland which sends out ships to them to get their resources to bring back to the “Capital City,” where they can be used to build monuments, armaments, and coin-making farms and factories to fund further exploitation of the islands.

So not only was I a bear-killer, I was an imperialist. I got deeply uncomfortable and after a while it wasn’t even my “guilty pleasure” anymore, it was just an addictive thing I felt creepy about. So I stopped playing.

In the back of my mind I wondered about Triple Town. I imagine a lot of people don’t have issues with killing tiny animated bears and stealing their resources; the game is very popular. Were the game producers just idiots, unaware of what they were teaching people? Or were they deliberately brainwashing folks? Continue reading Oppression in Games: What are we learning?