Corporate Gangsterism and Board Games
By Patrice L. Daniels
In the Summer/Fall of 2011 the national political conversation about economics took a welcome detour, shifting from issues primarily focused on governmental debt and deficits – to matters involving economic inequality and exploitation, corporate monopolies, and poverty. I was elated when I learned about the Occupy Movement. I thought to myself, "finally, massive groups of people are publicly talking about things I've been privately writing about for years." One of my most re-occurring creative writing lines has been - "the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer." It is a statistical fact (the numbers don’t lie.) Poverty in America has grown. The gaps are widening between the haves and the have-nots, and the oft-trumpeted middle class is on the brink of extinction. Before I delve any deeper let me back up a bit.
Recently, while reminiscing about favorite childhood pastimes, a board game came to mind. Do you remember Monopoly? I do. In fact, it was my favorite board game. I loved playing Monopoly. I especially enjoyed the acquisition of property and the accumulation of wealth. On my impressionable little mind the capitalistic indoctrination had begun. The object of the board game is to effectively bankrupt everyone else. You win once you own everything. The only way to truly own everything is to take all the other players money and property, which most often is embodied in rent and fees for opposing players who land on property they don't own. Ultimately in the board game Monopoly one person gets richer at another person’s expense.
Now, there is one illusory component to the board game that does not mirror real life. In Monopoly every player starts out with an equal amount of money and by extension an equal opportunity. Conventional wisdom says if that's the case, then those who finally end up bankrupted did so on their own accord (through poor money management, property ownership, misjudgment, etc.) In real life the opportunities are not equal and the playing field is not level. Yet, the subsequent real life board game proceeds as if that were the case. You can hear the Ayn Rand disciples religiously spouting disingenuous rhetoric about poor people wanting to be poor, pulling themselves up from the boot straps, or the all too familiar "you can be anything you want to be in America if you just work hard and apply yourself." To support that assertion they will readily point to examples of minority exceptions (President Obama, for example). The exception of any group doesn't negate the very real fact that there is real corporate gangsterism going on in America and poor people are catching hell hand over fist because of it.
Another factor the board game Monopoly could not trump was the harsh reality of smothering poverty that I had to deal with as a result of being born into the deprived proletariat. By the way, the board game was given to my sister and me, with several other gifts at Christmas time from a local church. As much as the board game provided me with an escape, it also reinforced how difficult things really were. In all candor though, I sure loved walking around with the fake money in my pocket fantasizing along with my little sister about all the things we would purchase were it actually real currency.
There was also an innate subsequent competing shadow that followed me during that period of my life and is still with me today. I possessed an almost instinctive willingness and desire to share with others. I hold firmly to the belief that if I were fortunate enough to be gifted with enormous wealth I should share it with others who may not be as fortunate. No one taught me this as a child. I just personally seemed to derive real pleasure from the idea that not only would I be in a good economic position, but that those I loved and those who lived in my community would also be beneficiaries as well. Akin to the "what good is wealth if you have no one to share it with" proverb. Poverty has a unique way of creating an inverse view of wealth. It often has a less covetous effect on the poor person’s psyche. It extracts the humanistic communalism that I believe lies deep in the heart of many who are poor. I did not get that lesson from Monopoly. In fact, approaching the board game from that perspective would most definitely culminate in one losing the game. Inherent in both the board game as well as real life Monopoly are things like ethical egoism, objectivism, individualism, free market economics, and proletariat exploitation. They are inescapable components that are by definition hostile to any sustainable concept of community.
One African tribe - The Asante - have a saying that embodies who I am at my core despite being infected with the worst parts of capitalism. "I am because we are; and because we are, I am." This view was distinctly valued because it lent itself towards the collective survival of all within the community. It was not some fanciful utopian notion. They believed, as I do (and many others) that an individual is only important to the degree that he or she contributes to the maintenance and well being of the community. There’s no sensible, discernible explanation for why an individual needs 30 billion dollars, or 10 million dollars for that matter, especially when the poverty rates are as high as they are in America. Think about this - Mitt Romney made 20 million dollars last year just from having money. His money made money! He didn't lift a solitary finger and yet he made 20 million dollars. This economic system is shameful. There are children in America literally dying from hunger and starvation. There are men and women in America that want work, possess the certifiable skills and education to perform a plethora of jobs - yet can’t seem to find or maintain employment at livable wages with equitable benefits. The backdrop to these harsh realities is that corporate executives have salaries that are often 50 times that of their employees.
But we know that the disparity exists for one reason; to create an elite and by extension - a base of power and control over the masses. Gangsterized monopolization masquerading as raw free-market capitalism gives birth to the current madness we are currently living under. This so called democracy is in reality a plutocratic oligarchical dynasty buttressed by the police state, suppression of dissent, and an ongoing onslaught of misinformation, mis-education, and misdirection. To further this line of rationale one need only look at the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case. The highest court in the Nation ruled that money equaled speech. In other words, if you're rich enough, you can dictate the national discussion and the logical elongation of that, is that our politicians are eternally betrothed to those who control the purse strings. The Supreme Court overtly handed the keys to Capitol Hill over to the rich in broad daylight. Remember, our legal system, which is governed by judges, was created solely on the premise of protecting the property interests of the wealthy. Our courts have always been partial to the rich and these days it takes a lot of money to run for office (millions of dollars.) I am sure you're capable of connecting the dots from Citizens United, to Capitol Hill, and finally to governmental policies. All of which spells bad news for the poor people in America.
At a minimum, the Occupy Wall Street movement forced the elites to acknowledge the legitimate concerns of the masses. Let there be no doubt about it though, they are deathly afraid of the movement and what kind of uprising it has produced. The evidence is overwhelming. The same thing occurred during the Tea Party's ascension. At every possible opportunity they enlist so-called media pundits and talking heads to come out and discredit, deface, and devalue, the movement’s participants. They are either cast as criminals, unhygienic hippies, freeloaders, college dropouts, disaffected drifters with no sense of direction or purpose, or, anti American Communists. Once the discrediting starts, you've been put on notice that you are a real threat. Common sense says that if one isn't a threat to the structure there is no need to demonize those who dissent.
The board game Monopoly is a microcosm for the current state of affairs in America. Greed reigns supreme while anyone advocating compassion, community, and equitableness, is vilified or labeled un-American. The dog eat dog nature of current-day capitalism is unquestionably unsustainable. Although I immensely enjoyed Monopoly as a child, I am glad its many harmful lessons did not stick. I don't want to own Boardwalk and Park Place if that means a child has to go hungry, a grandparent can’t afford to get sick, or a parent can’t find a place to live or a job. I refuse to ever be okay with getting to the top while stepping on the backs of others with impunity to get there. We are in this world together and it is my belief that we should all be actively doing all within our power as individuals to make sure everyone has a decent dignified piece of the pie. Or at least a genuinely reasonable fare shot at prosperity. There shouldn't be a single citizen who is capable and willing to work, that can’t find a job. There shouldn’t be a single American child without a quality education, food, shelter, clothing, and affordable healthcare. The resources are plentiful and the wealth is enormous. In summation, please ponder this question; What is so wrong with creating a climate of economic parity based on inclusiveness, which by extension expands opportunities for all? In my humble opinion this would make us all safer and insure our longevity as a nation.
A Luta Continua!