My students and I were reading an excerpt from Marx on alienated labor. It led to a conversation about capitalism and American life. This picture of me captures much of the goodness in American life.
Behind me is my home, mortgaged by Wells Fargo. Those double-paned windows you see were financed by Midwest Savings. That shirt was purchased in 2003 at REI. The glass of wine is from a box in my Sears-bought refigerator. The chair I'm resting in was purchased from the Frys just a few streets from my house. The stones making up the planter are from the Home Depot not too far in the opposite direction. In my lap there is a book from the local library - a publicly funded institution open to middle-class me as well as the sweaty poor of Phoenix.
This is my life. I like my life. I want to keep it.
Marx looks at the division between worker and owner and sees problems. For him, the ideas inherent in capitalism make it a bad system. For me, it is bad - but not bad in the way that Marx thinks it is. He think it is totally bad; I think it's partially bad.
With capitalism we have sweaty poor - that's not good. With capitalism I have an air-conditioner and cheap, chilled wine - that is good. I am not alone in this; many people have these good things and much more. In my mind the bad does not negate the good. The bad does not necessitate a revolution, a totally new way of doing things. Perhaps my mind is limited by capitalism; perhaps it isn't.
Of this I am certain: I abhor any attempt to remove all problems. Life is problematic. No idea, plan, or goal is so good that it does not involve difficulties in the doing. Any ideal requires good solutions as it is lived. If the ideas of worker and owner are problematic, that doesn't mean they are impractical. It means we must be careful.
Let me sip my wine, read about Reagan, and keep living this way of life. Thank you, capitalism.