Questioning Capitalism: A Poem

What is the price of human existence?

What is the exchange rate of love these days?

When did the philanthropy of venture capitalists become admirable? When did it become “generous” to give back what you often took through exploitation? When did it become illogical not to restore one’s surplus back into the system?

When did people start to subscribe to the myth of individualism? When did they start to ignore the social, economic, and political privileges that allowed them to accrue capital, pursue an education, or make a profit? Or the forces of oppression that makes it almost impossible for many people to get out of poverty? When did it become okay to talk about how you can do anything you want, be anything you want to be, when the system is designed for the success of a select few and the exploitation of many? When did it become okay to dehistoricize the words of bell hooks, Audre Lorde, or Maya Angelou to talk about success in venture capitalism?

When did the objects in our lives begin to have more worth than the people around us? When did we become more selective about the patterns of our upholstery and the make of our car than about the types of relationships we want, the communications that we engage in with others? When did we do more research on which smartphone to get than which political party to vote for? When did we start mobilizing our bodies to wait in line for 48 hours for the launch of a new iPad instead of protesting the inequities of our governments?

When did we start talking about “rich dads” and “poor dads” without talking about the culture of masculinity that suggests that your worth as a man, as a spouse, and as a father is defined by the amount of take-home pay that you receive?

When did the gurus of wealth become the spiritual and relationship advisors of our generation?

When did it stop being okay to live an ordinary life, a life where your success was measured the smiles you exchanged with strangers, the love that you gave to your children, the respect you had for your spouse, the hours you gave back to your community? When did it stop being okay to be human, just like everyone else?

When did we start giving lip service to the power of an individual just to change one life? When did it become an imperative to change the world?

When did large-scale entrepreneurship become the only way of living a meaningful life and making a dream come true? When did jobs in the interest of the public service, or mom n’ pop businesses become too ordinary for many to strive for?

When did happiness at your job become measured in how many square feet you could rent or purchase with your paycheque? When did we become willing to work 100 hours a week in a job that we hate, with little to no sleep, with poor diets and cigarettes and drinks to get us by because we just had to have that new summer property to get away from the job we hate so much?

When did we start looking down on the individuals who make our clothes in factories, who process our meat, pick our vegetables and fruit, assemble our iPads, clean our offices, and drive our taxis? When did we come to believe that we were better than them?

When did we start selling products to treat the symptoms of a broken system? When did we start believing that weight-loss supplements and health supplements are remedies for a system in which thinness is privileged and obesity is shamed, health-care systems are inequitable, and access to nutritious food is still often limited based on how much money people have left at the end of the day? When did we start to believe we could buy our way towards immortality or beauty?

When did the self-help industry take the place of the wisdom of our elders, the connections in our community, and fostering love and communication within our relationships? When did we subscribe to “10 easy ways” to achieve happiness, connection, love, safety, and peace without being willing to face the vulnerability, the sorrow, the grief, the pain and the disagreements that all come with our human existence and relationships? When did it become not okay to struggle?

When did we start complaining about first world problems, without actually wanting to engage in the reality that many of our industrialized woes are truly banal and meaningless?

When did we stop meeting the gaze of a stranger on the street?

When did we start having more intimate relationships with our phones than our loved ones?

When did we lose sight of who we were?

When did we stop hoping for something better than the existing system?

When did we decide that it was okay to exploit, to denigrate, to objectify, to consume, just because we’re always-already complicit in the system?

When do we choose something different?

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