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Est. April 5, 2002
February 21, 2019 - Issue 777

A New and Just Story
Replace Capitalism

"Capitalism in America, make no mistake, is nothing short
of the promotion of its citizen's acceptance of cruelty and
indifference. Going about our business while ignoring the
suffering of others struggling to survive within a mileu of
systemic injustice, isn't pursuing a life worth living."

        Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time

accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality,

mental degradation, at the opposite pole, i.e., on the side of the

class that produces its own product in the form of capital.

Karl Marx, Capital: Volume 1: A Critique of Political Economy,

"Chapter XXV"

Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember,

and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream

is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

His posture caught my attention. It made him appear to be slightly bowing forward from the waist whenever while standing before these two elderly white colleagues, both of whom had been Peace Corp teachers back in the day. Now these two senior citizens at the time along with this young man and his age-wise compatriots and me, the oldest, in my early 50s, are here in Ethiopia, with another government organization receiving funding from USAID.

He is black. So are the colleagues in his age bracket.

I remember thinking of the days when blacks carefully constructed postures of subservience. I should say, I remember hearing and reading about those days. Sometimes I noted the residue of such a posture whenever my father stopped to speak to a white man at a auto shop or gas station. He would clasp his hands behind his back and slighly bend forward.

And I remember the grin, even today. This twenty-something young man with the grin. And the nodding. Yes, sir, I understand. I understand. Nod. Nod some more. This was in 2002.

The events following September 11, 2001 are still unfolding. There's talk of Bush, Jr. sending high-tech missiles over Iraq. But it's a year later now. The war will come in 2003. March. The second half of the school year would have already begun just a month earlier.

The University of Wisconsin would have rid itself of the black troublemaker. Or rather, the "black chick" the English department hired two years before only to dismiss, or attempt to send packing before the contract is signed. That's how it's done sometimes. The "authorities" in power assigned a black administrator do the job of assisting them with giving the narrative a little twist: we tried, but she just didn't work out.

Now, months later, it's an even younger black man who stands tall whenever he's before me.

You're a good young man.

Thank you, sir.

You just keep it up.

Yes, sir.

You don't need to be a troublemaker.

No, sir.

The couple and the young man sat on the bus's back seat. I sat a few seats ahead but just behind the two twenty-something, dread-wearing female colleagues. I have dreads as well. From the way their heads stayed still, each facing straight ahead, moving ocassionally toward each other but ever so discretely, I could tell the women were listening too. Could we avoid hearing what we're met to hear?

It's December now, and I'm leaving Alemaya University in Alemaya, Ethiopia to teach at Addis Ababa University. The young man, having come by my apartment to say goodbye, stops in front of a poster I have of the writer, Zora Neale Hurston. Without warning, without any conversation that would have prompted him, he looks at the poster and then at me and says: If you don't be careful, you'll end up just like her.

Where did this come from? But don't I know. And it's not necessarily information imparted to this young man by the white couple.

Relations based on material possessions, wealth—the accumulation of money.

There's nothing subversive here, only capitulation, resignation. You'll end up like her. So give in. Be good.

This is the extent to which what's shared between us is a reminder of what binds us to what demands our submission. This is the extent to which what's communicated between the younger generation and the older generation beware: behave or else. You'll end up in poverty, buried among weeds. Of our great aunt Zora's work, he has no words. Where's the money?

Is it hard to imagine AI surplanting money, becoming god?


"The extent of the power of money is the extent of my power. Money's properties are my properties and essential powers—the properties and powers of its possessor," Marx, The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and the Communist Manifesto. There are people invested in keeping money at the center of our lives. No matter what. No matter how many die.

I remember passing hundreds of people per week who I knew would, for the most part, live and die without even a corrigated-roofed, padlocked home. Much has changed in Ethiopia since I returned in 2003, but there's still the poor. Poverty. Hunger. Contaminated water. Unafforable housing. Children dying young. Mother's dying giving birth. It's the same story we hear here in the US.

And yes, there is that buzz about "progress." And "progess" in America has always been measured in terms of money: the accumulation of wealth.

Recently, academics and journalists have been mulling over reports, including those from the World Inequality Report and Oxfam, about the ever expanding global wealth gap. One article from the Guardian, January 22, 2019, begins with this statement: "A successful society is a progress machine. It takes in the raw material of innovations and produces board human advancement. America's machine is broken. The same could be said of others around the world." The idea of "progress" has been taken in hand by the global elites, billionaires, "who broke the machine," but who are now trying to "sell us their services as reparimen."

Millions of Americans on the left and on the right, the article continues, are angry because they finally understand that "the game is rigged against people like them."

The article continues: "Elite networking forums such as the Aspen Institute and the Clinton Global Initiative groom the rich to be self-appointed leaders of social change, taking on the problems people like them have been instrumental in creating and sustaining."

There are 27 human beings who own more money than 3 billion other human beings, and these wealthy few saw an increase in their wealth.

Another Guardian article referred to Oxfam's find on how the rich got richer and the poor got poor in 2018, in which the organization reports that the "wealth of 2,200 billionaires across the globe had increased by $900bn in 2018—or $2.5bn a day" (January 20, 2019).

According to yet another Guardian report, aside from the usual suspects, individual global elites, there are the "B corporations" such as the Aspen Institute, the Clinton Global Initiative, Ben and Jerry's, and Warby Parker—moneyed people who want to do good (January 7, 2016).

Americans are waking up to old news. Western nations as a whole are waking up to discovery towering giants. They have always been there. They determined what race would be subjugated to enslavement for the benefit of Western and eventually the New World's conquest of resources, land, and wealth. They were there along with Andrew Jackson, slaughtering with impunity Indigenous people to expand the possession of territory for white citizens in a land that would become the United States. They were there in the Phillipines, in Chile, under Pinochet, in Iraq, in the Congo. Any number of locations in the world where there's oil and minerals of value to Western and American "interests."

They are there now; and they have grown. Expanded their reach. Americans voted for president a man who could very well have borrowed money from Russia or from Saudi Arabia. There are no borders, no walls to prohibit the wealthy from accumulating wealth.

When I was in Ethiopia, I saw them.

At the end of an orientation session in Ethiopia, teachers and organizational administrators are walking about, talking in small groups. The mostly younger teachers have plans: the decorating of "pads" in their assigned city or rural area and the saving of income to take back home. I want to see for myself; I want to understand. And as I look around the room, thinking about how I could conceal that desire to know and understand, I saw one of the represenatives, a Gambian, male, staring at me, sending me an unmistakable message: Don't come here to cause us trouble. Our friends are billionaires.

The wealthy are visible in the way some individuals wanted me to know they had "things." A television. A CD player. It's just that my time in Ethiopia coincides with a bad time for them. I've heard this same sentiment on a city bus for years. A young black, in conversation with another, invariably will announce for all to hear that he or she has a car, but it's at the shop now. It's at the shop a month later.

On the streets of Addis Ababa, it was evident that the philosophy many of the slightly better off Ethiopians shared was that it was best to be successful, at least one Ethiopian at a time. It's an idea once shared by some blacks of my generation and older. It was best to be the one upstanding black, climbing the proverbial ladder to economic riches, replacing the diet of beans and rice for lobster.

In Ethiopia, for the poor, it was a biscuit and tea per day with one Birr—if the individual was lucky. It's not a matter of luck, however. Yet, climbers clung to Western organizations, as these entities represented the savior that hired and solved problems.

I want to think that times have changed—among black people globally.

For people of color and anyone who finds in capitalism a profound injustice.

I remember walking or riding around the rural town of Alemaya and the capital city of Addis Ababa seeing hundreds of people, mainly women with children, camped along the roads. Or along the streets, too. In plain view. The destitute. As far as the eye could see. Humanity. How many have come into the world since I left in 2003 and have died since then? How many adults died, sitting on the earth, their only home, for what, 20 years, maybe 30 years? What are these B Corporations actually planning to do in Africa? In Ethiopia, the birthplace of humanity? Will it be any different than the gentrification of Chicago, New York, Oakland, Detroit?

And there's Jeff Bezos, living well in the world (increasingly earning his money, according to The Intercept's Glenn Greewald, from his "relationship with the NSA, FBI, Pentagon, and other surveillance agencies in the west" ("Jeff Bezos Protests the Invasion of His Privacy, as Amazon Builds a Sprawling Surveillance State for Everyone Else").

This level of injustice and expanding inequality can't continue run amok.

I think blacks have changed. A new generation is afoot. Young people of color everywhere aren't buying the narrative of the authoritarians, in which the worth of human existence is measured in the acquisition of money and things. The current state of global warming and the rise again of fascism in America requires more than a few standing on the right side of history. The young people of color are becoming acutely aware that the billionaires of do-good B-Corporations or Clinton Global Initiative or the Aspen Institute couldn't care less about the future of our planet anymore than the giants of the oil industry or the pharmacuetical industry, irrevocably destroying the ecosystem for the profits. Placing value on life—no. There's more love for money. For the accumulation of money as this frantic accumulation of money and resurces at all cost is the only activity worth living for.

I think today's young people of color aren't waiting to be acknowledged as good and obedient servants to a system that can only increase the suffering of the majority of humanity. According to a Washington Post report, 51 percent of millennials, American citizens between the age of 18-29, reject capitalism, April 2016. This challenge to capitalism from younger Americans may be what scared white nationalists, white supremacists, and xenophobes into voting for Trump as their fearless leader.

Young people of color don't appreciate the vision of a future in which the increasingly high cost of higher education leaves many straddled to a payment plan with little income left for rent and food and clothes—let alone electricity, heat, air conditioning, Internet and phone services. That's assuming one has returned to a minimum wage job. It might be worse, as it is for many, who are living, once again, in their old bedroom under their parents' roof.

It's not the billionaires young people of color look to in their struggle to liberate America from its culture of violence. And capitalism in America, make no mistake, is nothing short of the promotion of its citizen's acceptance of cruelty and indifference. Going about our business while ignoring the suffering of others struggling to survive within a mileu of systemic injustice, isn't pursuing a life worth living. Nodding to white supremacy, the right hand of capitalism, and agreeing to abide by its demands is a betrayal of our inheritance of resistance.

No, Bill and Malinda Gates, the world isn't in need of billionaires; instead, life on this planet could do with a socially democratic dream and creative and committed activists. The world needs a just story.

How does a young black arrive in the motherland and submit to thinking himself superior to his ancestors?

Well, we don't have to think about the "sunken" anymore, do we? Editorial Board member and Columnist, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory. Contact Dr. Daniels.




is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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