I promised myself to never really discuss politics here. Political discussions often devolve into shouting matches on the internet. Still, the whole "occupy wall street" and "tea party" crowd have grown in such popularity that I can't seem to turn around without seeing something new from them. Fin and I started this blog with the goal of expressing our journey down a different lifestyle, and these two groups converge at a portion of that journey for us.
As a country, we are in the midst of a sudden and dramatic shift in politics. For years, we've seen the politics of fear. Now, we're seeing the politics of anger. When OWS started, I strongly sympathized with the protester. I saw people out there making a statement. They say something isn't right, but never what. Now, the rallying call against elites brings many together, all with different agendas.
This of course, made it easy for the media to distort and misrepresent the goings on. In turn, other supporters of OWS make post destroying strawman arguments in themselves based on earlier strawman arguments."Official" voices (as much as a decentralized protest could have) didn't help matters either - contradictory statements, sometimes intelligent, sometimes idiotic, sometimes angry, sometimes obscure... In any case, this post isn't about any of the "output" from the OWS or Tea Party crowds. It's about "the problem".
Previously working in consumer electronics, I've seen the decision processes large corporations use. Products are designed for what the company thinks will sell, at the price they think they'll sell for, all based on the current "market". Anymore that means, frankly, cheap shit. The "market" here wasn't someone in a dark room making calls for everyone - it was the sales figures coming in at the end of the day. People wanted widget A for $69.99, so by God we'd deliver.
And what the people want, they got. Screw the consequences, or the poor 10yo kid that gets to drink lead poisoned water after you trash toxic electronics in a bargain bin "recycling program". Doing procurement now in a new industry with lower cost constraints, I'd figured I'd look at "buying American". Try to find someone that produced stuff in the states with provable ethics. You know what? They don't exist. Why? Because we drive them out of business.
If I'm making the next whiz-bang electronic device, I grab a catalog of manufacturers of various parts. They give me prices, and a minimal bit of info about the company. I call up the company, and find out about the part, make sure it'll meet whatever requirements I have. I hope that when I order these parts, they're produced ethically. I might even ask for information about the company, or make sure they meet various materials safety standards. At the end of the day though, I have to trust them and still figure out a way to get widget A down to a price people will pay.
The buck doesn't stop at the producers though. The big box stores purchase from the producer, with the aim of keeping overhead low enough to hit the price point people will buy at. Perhaps this means hiring minimum wage workers, or gouging people unpaid overtime.
It's hard to see until you take a step back from it, but the middle class works and toils endlessly to have a never ending supply of bigger and fancier toys - smartphones, high definition TV, video game systems. The same mindset extends to food, as we choke down "all you can eat steak" at the local buffet without any consideration of quality. And when we run out of money? Put it on credit.
Our government reflects our society. Willing, in large part, to mortgage our future and work to further the development of toys. I can't really blame the government much either. If people woke up tomorow forced to pay 10x as much for a phone, TV, or food, there'd be a rebellion. I have no doubt in my mind that there are some of the "1%" crowd that plot to expand their empires without regard to anyone. For that crowd to do ANYTHING, however, requires the implicit support of everyone else:
The engineer that picks a part while overlooking the suicide rate of a factory. The business owner that hires unrealistically low bidders for services. The consumer ignoring quality in favor of cost and advertising. The voter willing to vote for the crooked candidate because they pay lip service to a single issue (here's a hint for both sides - they don't give a DAMN about the big-A word). The shopper financing everything without concern for never-ending payments.
There's a lot of noise coming from the OWS and Tea Party crowds, but mostly I hear anger. Some of that anger is directed positively, but a lot of it simply floats around splashing randomly. I'd like to point out where that misdirected anger needs put:
Look in the mirror