How Capitalism Will Kill Us All
I’m Back. Brace Yourself.
I left Hivster some months ago, and my. What months they have been.
Since my split with Hivster, I moved back from Eugene to Seattle. Occupy Wall Street– and all the controversies and educational
opportunities that sprang up with it– happened, and I began working with Occupy Seattle in their media team. Taking twelve credits and then Occupying full-time has basically been the focus of my life for the past six months.
Brad asked me to start writing for him again, and along with re-establishing my column, he offered me an editorship. I’m glad to be back, and since I have had little time to write in the past six months, I’m glad that I’ll be forced to sit down and spew my thoughts back onto the internet, once again. What luck!
I suspect, however, that Brad didn’t know what he was getting into. The Angry Queer he remembers is one that railed against conservatives and homophobes (I still do that) and not much else. The Angry Queer that wrote here before would likely have said “vote for Obama! He’s the lesser of two evils!” (he is, but he’s still not getting my vote) in some attempt to reform our society in the framework that it already exists.
The Angry Queer that wrote here before, of course, thought that we could change things– a little or a lot– and we would be ok.
I was wrong.
In the past six months, I’ve seen 84-year old activists pepper-sprayed for being on a sidewalk (I was sprayed that day too). I’ve seen my comrades who were people of color beaten with bikes (BIKES! COPS BEAT PEOPLE WITH BIKES NOW!), I’ve seen local officials turn a blind eye to homelessness and the sickness of addiction, and I’ve seen female comrades of mine have sexist epithets thrown at them, followed by punches. They may all seem unrelated, but I started noticing a common thread.
At each and every one of these occasions, a protest or an individual was threatening someone’s money. Whether we were shutting down a port (interrupting commerce) or picketing a business for unfair labor practices (hurting business) the common thread was the almighty dollar.
In essence, people were being punched, sprayed, smacked with a bike, and generally threatened with bodily harm in the name of capitalism.
No Really. It’s Capitalism’s Fault.
“Whoa there!” you say. “It can’t be capitalism’s fault! Our country is founded on capitalism! It’s made us the greatest country in the world. It must be something else.”
You’d be right. In capitalist terms, we are indeed the greatest country in the world. We are the richest, and in an ideology that assigns value according to the amount of money one has, we totally win. Should we? Is the value of say, the person writing this column, any less than Donald Trump’s? Am I of less value than he?
Of course, if you assign value based on how much you oppress and exploit people, we would still stay the greatest. No-one oppresses quite like rich people. If you drive through an economically depressed area, stop, get out, and look around, you will have no doubt that our current economic system is disadvantageous to people of color. Why? Aren’t we post-civil rights era? Didn’t we win against racism? So why are they still so poor?
Because we DIDN’T win. The white people who had all the money back in the 60s are still the ones with all the money, and the people of color who “won” in the race war are still the ones waiting on the breadline for scraps from the capitalist table.
AIDS? Why Is That Still Around?
Bringing it back to home, I have HIV (obviously). As someone who lives every day with a chronic disease that requires I take pills in order to live, I am intimately familiar with the negative effects of capitalism. If you live with HIV, you do too! You just may not have realized it yet.
HIV is a booming business for big pharmaceutical companies. When you consider the price of drugs in the US compared to the price of drugs in India, you can see why these companies are so powerful (because they have money, get it?). Pills that cost thousands a bottle are available for hundreds overseas. Why?
It would only make sense, if you had a deadly disease THAT COULD KILL US ALL that you would want to stymie its spread quickly and effectively. Someone with an undetectable viral load (achieved through HAART) is much less likely to pass on the virus. What if we could all do that? The disease would be halted in its tracks.
However, in order to get our pills, we have to buy them. If they were cheap, imagine! It would put a huge dent in the infection rate. Instead, because of the ever-important profit margins of Big Pharm, the price of meds is jacked up astronomically and the poor are forced to go on state assistance.
Thank goodness that assistance is there. But for how long?
Not much longer, actually. There are thousands on waiting lists in Florida and other states that have drastically reduced their ADAP funding. Washington State is next. Why is this happening? We aren’t generating enough tax revenue. Why aren’t we generating enough tax revenue? Because these states and their politicians are lobbied to not raise corporate taxes. Who is doing the lobbying?
Big corporations, of course, to include Big Pharm. Some people can’t get their life-saving drugs and will die because corporations are minding their profit margins at the expense of our health. Who cares about the poor people anyway? They have no money, and therefore no value. When you are poor in a capitalist model, you are expendable.
The AIDS crisis isn’t over, no matter what Dan Savage says. I have a friend who I love dearly who for various reasons stopped taking his HIV drugs and dropped off state assistance. His health has reached the point that he must take pills or he will start getting opportunistic infections. Infections, of course, that may kill him.
Unfortunately, ADAP isn’t as well-funded as it was when he was on meds before. He can’t get his state insurance back. He no longer qualifies (not because he makes more money but because the money just isn’t there). The only way for him to get his pills is to enter a research study and be poked, prodded, measured, and recorded. He is, in a sense, a guinea pig and that is the only way for him to not die.
I Am Not Expendable And Neither Are You.
The thing is, the model of capitalism is a lie. People AREN’T more valuable than others. Donald Trump isn’t more important than my friend, and I am not more important than the migrant workers who harvest the food I eat. Yes, there are economic disparities, but we are all of equal value, and that value is one all humanity shares.
So why don’t we all have access to what we need to survive? There are people in this country who will die because they cannot afford their medication, and if you think that people living with HIV are the only victims, you’re dead wrong. When we die, it will likely (unless we’re lucky) be because we don’t have the access to the health care, food, clean air, or shelter we need in order to live. The reason we might not have those things?
Because others think that we are expendable. They are dead wrong.
The Future Is Filled With Struggle
“Hahahaha!” you say. “You so crazy! We’ll never change from capitalism. Money will always be around!”
Perhaps. Perhaps the thousands that are taking to the streets in these heady times of struggle and strife are actually as powerless as the oligarchs would like you to believe. I’m not convinced. Do we have lots of work ahead of us? Yes. Will we continue to struggle until we are free of oppression? I certainly will. I hope you do too.
There are those that think the cure for America’s ills still lies in capitalism. Maybe, they argue, if we just make a BETTER capitalism, we’ll be ok. We’ll fix our problems with the right band-aid.
What they don’t realize is the cure they’re trying to use is toxic. Capitalism isn’t the cure. It’s the disease.
Ian Awesome’s first post on Hivster is dedicated to Aaron S.