The Moral dilemma of the Capitalist Trap

Good morning everyone! I hope you have all had a great start to the week. I engaged in a great deal of stimulating conversations from the last post on the United Nations. People seemed to have a lot to say on the topic (both negative and positive) and I loved having these discussions and debates with all of you. Hopefully the topic for today can also inspire some discussion. I will admit that since I have graduated, I have barely been keeping up with current affairs, so I have decided to visit a quite personal topic. Although while the topic may be personal, I am sure that a lot of people in my generation will recognize themselves in what I have to say.

(www.fee.org)

“Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets, a price system, private property and the recognition of property rights, voluntary exchange and wage labor.”

While this is straightforward, unbiased definition of capitalism, I do not think I need to enlighten anyone on the evils of the capital system. It is all around us and although we are largely turning a blind eye to the perils of capitalism, everyone knows that the have-nots are suffering at the hands of the system. I am well aware of how my consumption patterns effect both the environment and the poorer members of society but still, I consume like a model capitalistic citizen. This brings me to the conflicting relationship I have with the capitalist system.

I grew up in a country where I was faced with the negative aspects of capitalism on a daily basis. This was both on an international scale and on an individual level. On an international level, I saw how my country suffered from being the ones taken advantage of within the capitalist system. Along with resource exploitation and manpower exploitation, the history of my country meant that they have never been able to successfully join the global capitalist system, leaving them visibly stuck in the ‘poor’ bracket. On an individual level, every Zimbabwean knows that the country is extremely economically stratified. So, while within my own socio-economic group, I mainly see positive aspects of capitalism, as soon as I venture out of this group, I become aware of the abuse and disregard for moral standards that capitalism re-produces. From these clear realities, I had resolved that I was anti-capitalism from a very young age. I think the entire system is corrupt, greedy, and simply unfair.

However, if you know me and you have read this far, I am sure you are a little confused by this ideology and my actual life. I say that I am anti-the system, yet I take at least four flights a year, I have enough clothes to not wash any of them for three months and still have clean clothes, I eat out at least once a week and I own products from the most notorious capitalistic companies e.g., Apple. 

(www.visualcapitalist.com)

As I am sure you do, I consume/ have consumed from more than half of the companies above. So, I guess I am a huge hypocrite for always opposing capitalism when white Europeans talk about the state of the world when I know full well which group my actions put me in. See the thing is, for people like me, it is a little more complicated than good and bad or moral and immoral. If we first start with the premise that everyone in the world has been brainwashed by the capitalist system, then it will make what I have to explain much easier to understand. – I believe this to be true by the way. We all strive for capitalist success (i.e., economic) in some way because we have been indoctrinated into believing that is the only way to measure the success of someone’s life. So, with that in mind, while I want to oppose the system and give all my earthly possessions to people who need them much more than I do, my mother has worked hard her entire life in order to give me a good life. To put it crassly, a return on this investment is expected, parents expect their children to do better than them and if money is the way we (as a society) measure success then you see my dilemma.

Additionally, I am a mixed race, female. As mentioned above, money and consumption have somehow become synonymous with independence and success. As a mixed-race person, I feel that I need to show my ability to succeed through capital accumulation and as a female, I feel that I need to show my ability to succeed through my climbing of the capitalist ranks. Therefore, evidently, I am stuck in the capitalist system. When I think about it from a realist’s perspective, I really wonder what the alternative would be though. If I had to follow my heart and morals and completely remove myself from this system, what would my life look like? Better yet, is this even possible?

I think a lot of people who grew up in either poorer countries or poorer homes have this internal dilemma like I do. Because even though we know over consumption is wrong on so many levels, in some way, we also feel like we are entitled to this lifestyle because of how history has unfolded. This mentality is even used on an international level, where we see ‘developing’ countries finding it unfair that they cannot use the same developmental processes as their predecessors because of environmental concerns. Coming from these countries also makes us feel like we are entitled to ‘develop’ our generational line. However, we also have to be aware of the unjust cost that our capitalistic decisions are having on the rest of the world. 

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