On Capitalist Logic, Equality, Rights and Privileges
[I’m reposting this, so folks can reblog without having to attach that ridiculous photo set. By the way, she’s a Ron Paul fan who now claims she’s in a police state because people are pissed at her. I say fill her ask box with messages, track her down online. Politely haunt her. She needs to grow up. Apparently does not have the courage that her convictions demand.]
Speaking for mom and dad at 19—her parents must be proud. You can take the girl out of youth ministry, but you can’t take the protestantism out of the girl. She’s a douchebag for sure, but a stupid one.
All this complaining about affordability and choices is nonsense. Education is not a market good, it’s a shared good. If we all got the education we could afford…. Wait a minute. Using my noodle for just a second, but what purpose could be served by making higher education cost so much for so many? Remember cost is relative. A rich asshole can send his or her kids to school without worry, while a poor family must all work together to send any of their children. The cost is the same. But what does it mean to have earned it? The girl above doesn’t understand this, so ignore her for a moment.
I live in Korea, where an entire generation of a family will work themselves to death to get one child into a good school so that student can in turn support that aging generation, eventually and possibly the other less fortunate members of his or her generation in his or her family.
We have a society that has yet come to terms with equality. The high cost of higher education makes it extremely difficult for poorer citizens to go to college or university. Those who do, like me, end up having to subsidize the entire amount through loans. Pell grants were helpful, but I didn’t qualify for scholarships. I know, right. I must not have worked very hard. Bullshit. I worked from fifteen and served my country and then went to university. So, I missed out on all that privileged scholarship crap. Eventually, through my fellowship while working on my PhD, I was able to be paid to attend school. Paid so little, though, I had to take out loans anyway.
You know what, I never complained. It’s not the school’s fault. It’s about inequality. It’s social and political in the United States. Equality is not that we pay the same amount. It may have been my choice to attend, but my fellow students who come from wealthier backgrounds do not owe what I owe, though we paid the same rates and I outperformed almost every one. I was a leader both in the classrooms and on the campuses I attended. I doubt you’d find anybody who attended with me to disagree. I was also one of the poorest.
Here’s the deal. After sixteen years of loans, grants, scholarships and one fellowship, I still owed over $130,000 in loans. I’m now locked into a payment plan for 20 years that is very expensive. I’ll manage, but it’s a rather ridiculous amount for a teacher to afford. In addition, I’ll never pay my balance. Not even close. I’m going to pay consistently and on-time simply to keep from defaulting on the loans. The remaining balance after twenty years will be reconciled. What is it worth, then? To have over-valued my education to an extent that the government isn’t even going to insist I pay it all back. What’s that kind of process for? What does it achieve? If it’s not a good deal economically speaking for all parties involved—the student, the bank, the government—then what’s the deal good for in the end?
Three things it’s good for.
First, it promotes the notion that students be seen and think of themselves as consumers making a choice like the douchebag in the photographs above who wants to be rewarded for making a sound market choice as much as she enjoys brags about being smart and hardworking. This is the capitalist myth of choice rooted in the myth of the American Dream and it’s all part of the white power structure. It rewards relative wealth over poverty because it treats both as a choice. This is a fact, unlike the American Dream, which is a myth. Of course, the ambition that wealth affords is almost always unearned. The girl in the photos is privileged. She hasn’t earned her status. But the argument goes that because she’s a hardworking student who makes prudent decisions, well, she now has a right others don’t.
Second, it helps insure a laboring working class, poorer and needier than other social classes, will always exist. The cost of higher education and the requirements for hire at many jobs work hand-in-hand to exploit the working classes. Sure, you can go to college, but you’ll forever be in debt. For the poorer citizens this is like asking to choose for yourself or your family. Go ahead, make that choice. This is part of capitalist logic: consumers making pragmatic choices and accepting the outcome regardless of fairness. Libertarian capitalists call it liberty and personal responsibility. Poorer people are only rewarded when they don’t act privileged because they know their place. Poor student choses to quit school to work to support his or her struggling family and doing so while working for standard wages is seen as an equivalent choice to the wealthier student going to the best school possible and succeeding in generating more accumulated wealth for his or her family. In capitalist logic this is equality.
We must fight this logic. We must stop cooperating with it. Like the douche bag above, we’re supposed to be smug and proud of wise economic decisions made in conjunction with hard work. In capitalist culture, the individual is a self-righteous consumer. It’s this logic that ignores inequality. She should be condemned for her disregard of others, scorned for her stupidity and lack of insight, and chastised for her immaturity.
Third, and maybe most important, is that this logic represents the conservative conflation of privilege and right. For example, she has the right to be a douche bag and her warrant is that she works hard and is being rewarded for practical decision-making. I’m sure she’s not financially independent from her family, but that doesn’t matter. She would say, she has the right to make this argument. And she has the right to go to the school of her choice. She has rights. (I do wonder what she’d say if she contracted a serious illness or got hit by a bus or taxi. You know got handed something she didn’t earn, like poverty is handed to new born children.) Poor people, on the other hand, who take out too many loans, simply haven’t worked hard enough to earn the privilege to go to school where they want, where they can afford to go (to use her language because she also conflates desire with affordability, but that’s way above her intellectual pay grade. Let’s not confuse her.)
Conservatives love to claim rights are earned for the privileged and privileges unearned for the less well off: the poor, the minorities, women in some instances—basically, any individual claiming a need isn’t privileged yet, and therefore, hasn’t earned whatever right he or she is seeking access to, a right that others take for granted, like finding a college to attend. This is white power, no matter who takes advantage of it. Feminists on Tumblr often forget this when criticizing masculinity. White power has a hierarchy, but it can be accessed by every individual in some manner.
We should call out this capitalist logic and condemn it. Always confront it using the three points above. They are basic and address consumerism, pragmatism, and human rights in capitalist society.