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Pickle Me This

January 22, 2021

It Was Capitalism All Along…

“It was capitalism all along…” So goes the tagline of my favourite podcast, You’re Wrong About, which I have been in love with for months now. I was the only person on earth who was calm the week of the US election in November, because I just ignored the news and listened to the episode about Gary Hart instead, which was really the same story anyway. I really love the counterintuitiveness of You’re Wrong About, and also the judgment-free perspective of the hosts. Or maybe it’s not that they’re judgment-free—that would be no fun. So many people deserve judgment, but the pod really makes you think about where you’re putting yours, that who we’ve been led to judge is what we’re wrong about after all, but they also don’t do it in a virtue-signalling sanctimonious way either (as in, they don’t call marginalized people—or anybody—”folks”).

I have been reading Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, for the last month or so, slowly, upon the recommendation of everyone. She writes about gift economies, and what it would be to show up at a farmers’ market where everything was free, and how you would be encouraged by this structure to take only what you need. As opposed to capitalism, which suggests hoarding and competition. If something at capitalism farmers’ market’s on sale, you buy up as much as you can, but gifts would be different:

From the viewpoint of a private property economy, the “gift” is deemed to be “free” because we obtain it free of charge, at no cost. But in the gift economy, gifts are not free. The essence of the gift is that it creates a set of relationships. The currency of a gift economy is, at its root, reciprocity.

Robin Wall Kimmerer

A couple of weeks ago, we headed back into lockdown in Ontario, with schools closed, many things shut. And I was talking with my husband about how difficult it seemed to be for many people to comply with stay-at-home orders, how they kept complicating instructions, looking for loopholes. Trying to game the system, really. And it was my husband who connected the dots, brought it full circle, how it really was capitalism all along. How in capitalism, we’re primed to take everything we can get, even to gamble. Lockdown advisories come out and the response of so many people seems to be, “How can I get the maximum return on these guidelines?”/ “Just how far can I possibly push these limits?” There is no sense of reciprocity, or humility, or duty. Anti-vaccine sentiments are in keeping with this idea too. Public health and capitalism are so very much at odds, but of course, you’d know that already if you’ve listened to You’re Wrong About the Exploding Ford Pinto.

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