Monday, July 11, 2011

That's The Thing About Living In A Capitalist Kyriarchy

You have to participate.

Unless you're one of the lucky few with the ability and the spoons to opt out entirely (and probably even if you are; I've not visited any self-sufficient, totally egalitarian collectivist communes lately), you're not only psychologically tainted by the bullshit kyriarchal norms into which the culture has been indoctrinating you from the moment you left the womb/test-tube/mothership [delete as appropriate]; you also have to actively participate in oppressive systems. By which I mean, you need food and shelter and healthcare and entertainment; for which you need money; for which you need a job.

More and more, I'm convinced that capitalism as we know it is fundamentally not an okay system, and it's not just 'cause I'm lazy. (I am, but I have ideological objections too.) I'm still in the (probably lifelong) process of forming my exact political beliefs, so I'm not yet sure whether my objection is to capitalism as currently implemented – the “it's a good theory, but doesn't work in practice” line so often applied by left-leaning moderates to communism – or (hello, Karl) to the very theory and idea of capitalism itself. At this end, I suppose it doesn't matter terribly: either way, I'm compelled to participate in and contribute to a system I think is profoundly wrong.

What I want to do is establish a coherent ideology for myself, and seek ways to enact that ideology in the world. (Isn't that what we all want?) In order to do that, I'm going to grad school, which means I'm participating in and shoring up a classist and discriminatory system. (By “discriminatory”, of course, I don't mean the practice of discriminating between those with the aptitude for graduate study and those without; I mean the complex network of socioeconomic circumstances that contrive to deny aptitude its fulfilment.) In order to go to grad school, I need to save money, which is why I currently have a job.

Don't get me wrong: I quite like my job. I know, it weirds me out too, especially since my first experience working in the world of customer service was so completely disgusting – but that's a story for another day. My current job is pretty decent; but sometimes my ideals are clashing headlong with the requirements of my job.

I want to call out my 70-year-old coworker, of whom everyone – managers included – is a little afraid, when she's being racist. But I don't. I want to beg everyone that asks for a ticket to The Hangover Part II to reconsider this disastrous life choice and instead see a movie that isn't quite such a hatefully offensive piece of garbage. But I don't. I want to give servicemen and -women the same discount we give students, because having a student discount but no military discount strikes me as classist. But I don't. I need to keep this job, and I need a good reference when I leave, so I keep my mouth shut, I don't rock the boat, and I betray my beliefs so that I can continue to participate in a system that is also against my beliefs.

Is it craven? Undoubtedly. Is it pragmatic? Absolutely. It's compromise; it's jumping through hoops; it's a deal with the devil.

It's living in a capitalist kyriarchy. It's how it works.

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