I don’t acknowledge capitalism as valid. Why? I am an irreverent being. Which may confuse you. Well, I’ve had a lot of practice in creating an exterior that is digestible, relatable and acceptable. I am a skilled actor and as I unravel, you will see how different the later chapters look than the early ones. To unravel is not to perform, it is a release and an allowance for the spirit to come through, the heart to express, the body to feel and the mind to get out of the fucking way of it all.
I grew up in a community that is the crown jewel of a capitalist system. Bleached white, patriarchial family structures where money controls the wife and children to bend the knee or have their safety threatened, their identity burned at the stake. I remember going to the local Catholic church on Sundays. The front row lined with the sinners. Their guilt ferociously scrubbed by their financial contributions to the father. I did not grow up in a place of physical violence, bodies were not harmed. But there was darkness and pain in the hearts and souls, an energy that can only be felt by those here to change it. To free others by rising up, not in direct conflict, not with violence or hatred or anger but with an energy that disarms and transcends the strangehold of money, power and control. We cannot win the game of capitalism. There are no winners when the pattern runs it off a cliff by design. It doesn’t really matter where you are sitting when it goes up in flames. The smoke steals the air from our children’s lungs. Capitalism does not value the other parts of our system — this is hierarchy. We will consume each living creature and space until life retreats from our environment to wait for us to leave. Life will continue with or without us. If mother nature was watching us and taking notes, who would She choose to keep around? What way of being would She smile upon?
I never felt safe in this system. A superficial place for a spiritual warrior. I am an old soul on the last life to fulfill my purpose. I have pulled myself up and out of the quicksand of suffering I was in. It all makes sense now in what I’m here for. I live in such a beautiful way now. It easy to forget the past as if it another lifetime altogether, but I remember the full story and the importance of its entirety. Deaths and rebirths occur inside our lifetime, in moments. The power we have available is greater than we can imagine. None of us lack here. It may look different depending on where you’ve been and where you are going…..
We protest capitalism when we rest. We protest capitalism when we choose to consume minimally. What are our basic needs? Starting there you can fill your day with the biological and emotional. It never felt right to work so hard, to trade my time and energy for the experience of luxury. Each lacks the human, the depth of connection we all need. I’ve graced yachts in the Hamptons and rooftops over the Las Vegas strip. I will never forget that feeling of utter emptiness. I savor it now in the contrast and feeling every step I’ve taken away from that place. Every step inward has gotten brighter, letting go of the layers that aren’t mine.
You cannot hate the rich without first hating capitalism. But in our world today, it is the socially rewarded norm to personalize and dehumanize. There is no incentive to see the truth. Capitalism is a game and a few have won the power. Are they ethical or moral? The probability is low. At least from what I’ve seen, when we are talking about the ultra rich. Those with net worths in the tens of millions. I grew up around these men.
One friend was the son of a very successful entrepreneur. I remember as we got older I started learning things about his dad that I didn’t notice as a young boy. He was the CEO of a publicly traded for profit education company. If you know anything about for profit education, you know it is controversial. Maybe it is because of the constant mistreatment of students in the pursuit of profit or maybe it is the hatred coming from educators who don’t believe that this can possibly work or both. I struggle to understand how a profit-based capitalist system can translate to success for human needs like health and learning.
I remember seeing and hearing about the pills he took to wake up and the pills he took to go to sleep. I remember seeing the public scrutiny he was under that eventually had him ousted out of his own company. I remember tentatively googling his name and watching all of the negative press come up and trying to reckon with the man I knew with the man I was reading about. Meanwhile, I had for the past few years been on the receiving end of his success. He would take his family and their friends (which included me) to places like Vail to ski and Las Vegas to celebrate birthday parties. I knew this wasn’t typical, my sister would remind me of that with her envy. I felt like I deserved it somehow, though I was always very grateful. I also in a way felt my power slipping away. I was a guest in this man’s world. He paid for dinners. He paid for hotels. I went to places I would not typically be allowed into. Based on how my parents viewed the world, I felt like I was making it into the next level, the stratosphere of success. One day, I too would be a successful and wealthy man with a beautiful wife, kids, a big house, a fast car…..
My parents had done a similar thing when we were younger. We were friends with this family in our town that had ultra wealth. Another success entrepreneur father had made a ton of money via the American dream after quitting his job as a cop in SF. On the surface, we usually take this as a triumphant rags to riches story. This narrative isn’t wrong, but it isn’t complete either. He had built this insurance business after going into hurricane stricken parts of Florida and the Gulf coast when no other companies wanted to. He had been a daring risk taker I was told. What I didn’t understand until later was that he was backed by the government. If hurricane season didn’t damage this area, he won. If it did do catastrophic damage, the government had his back. It was a win-win situation, he had no risk. This is a pattern I would see time and time again.
As I sat in the board meeting years later at a venture capital firm, I watched the ultra wealthy white men think. I soaked it all up. That year of my life was better than business school and any other job combined. I learned how to be a capitalist. I learned how to make truckloads of money. I remember pouring over the financial statements, which was my job at the time and seeing that my boss had purchased an ethanol plant for pennies of its actual worth due to a previous bankruptcy. Then, he had brought in a team, rebuilt the operation and was bringing in $4 million in profit a month. At the time, I thought opportunities like this would lead me to starting my own business with their help. Though I knew my soul was going to be sold in whatever deal they gave me for their capital….
As the men went back and forth during the board meeting, I was trying to decipher what they were after. They seemed intent on one thing above all else before they would jump in. What was it? I would see this over and over again. As I spent many years in the finance and investment world, I met and got to know hundreds of investors — predominantly white men. They would scan the presentation, they would ask questions, they would talk to the founder. It all would point to one thing. They wanted a win-win. They wanted the risks removed. They wanted a situation that was predictable and controlled. A certain future that assured their capital would come back even greater. But how can you assure this?
The biggest way I learned about is to work with the government. The U.S. government, specifically, is the biggest and safest customer in the world. If it was a person, its net worth would be in the trillions of dollars of year with the ability to leverage debt in the trillions too. Basically, unlimited. Betting on the U.S. government is a sure thing. You are betting that the Death Star will survive any minor resistance that comes after it. The bigger guns, the global power and the engine of 350 million people (or most of them) paying taxes while working incredibly hard has been a recipe for success to date. America is built on a mentality of exceptionalism and supremacy. You see it in the behavior of the old, white male investor. He knows the game. And he will take his win-win.
A few years ago, my childhood friend began to work with his father. He began to be groomed in a way to be passed the business and the wealth that his father had taken. As his only son, this was a big shadow that blocked out the sun on him many times. His own rebellions were put down. The drugs and rewards of capitalism were too great to escape for him, at least, as of the last time I saw him. The power held was clear and the disempowerment to others was even more clear. If the father said the N-word, nobody was correcting him. If he put down women or anyone else, it was always within the safe confines of other men. Nobody would take a stand against his power. I was disconnected from my own feelings, covered up by the filet mignon and vintage wine I was consuming. I remember these times because it bothered me in some way, but it was a faint signal at that time.
What the son would later tell me was that the business was in trouble. They had created a new (similar) company after the father was ousted from the last one. They were 7 years in, burning through their capital and the other investors were descending upon them. Money is control and power and theirs was threatened. They had started the business and taken valiant risks. But they were headed for that win-win.
As the Democrats took a beating in the midterm elections of Obama’s last term, Republicans began to assume power. The tide was turning. Soon, Trump would be elected. I remember that being the turning point. I remember hearing about once they had their person in office, that the government contract came through. Essentially, they were able to subsidize the costs of their education and expense this to us, the taxpayer. This happens every day, all over the country without any of us every knowing. But we need to. This is how this game we call capitalism is played at the highest level, you can tell stories of raiders and risk-takers and I will tell you this story. It’s not what you know, its who you know. And wealth transfers from generation to generation, from white man to his son and the cycle continues. To say this class is out of touch with the rest of us is doing it a disservice. They don’t want to touch those below them. They don’t have to.
I will not play them at their game. I will continue to unravel from these systems.
It is true that I am bias, bias because these men all had ways of disempowering me. They rejected me, dismissed me and discarded me. I could not cut it. I was not accepted by them. What if I had been? Would I be making my millions now, living a comfortable life without having anything ill to say about them? Its possible. Trust me, I think about it. But to say I’m a whistleblower purely because of a vendetta with them, misses the mark. I know enough to know this isn’t right. I knew it then and shame on me for not having walked right out. It has taken time to put it all together. It has also taken time to unravel and unplug from all of the ways we choose not to see the truth. I’ve gone through the motions of blaming others, and even blaming myself. But the fact remains that these systems are inhumane and unfair, insulating those in power to continue their stronghold. This is the world we find ourselves in and today I’m deciding to say my piece.
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