The argument against capitalism is sharpening. It is no longer simply a matter of growing inequality, but of the direct connection people are making between the rich getting richer causing the poor to get poorer. In other words, conspicuous wealth and luxury products are not just a reminder that some have more than others, but are seen as actively contributing to those with less ending up with even less. The Atlantic just explored the evolution of the term “late capitalism,” which has now come to shine a light on how today’s material excesses are built on the backs of widening inequity. Closer to home, properties in Point Breeze built by controversial real estate developer Ori Feibush were recently torched, allegedly an intentional act of arson borne of a frustration that new development is gentrifying that historic neighborhood.
These are highly sensitive issues with multiple layers of nuances and triggers. I can empathize with the deep-seated anger of some towards the role capitalism has played in defrauding, exploiting, and debilitating communities. I can also empathize with the exasperation of others over the self-destructive and misinformed behavior of some protestors. I remain a staunch believer in capitalism, its role in elevating literally billions of people out of poverty, and its ability to do the greatest good in a world that sorely needs it. But I am sobered to the ways that capitalism can go awry, to the detriment and destruction of individuals and households and communities.
One thing I hope everyone can agree on, even if we don’t all understand or appreciate the real-world implications of this, is that we’re all in this together and we’re all inter-connected. We may have starkly different opinions on what are the right solutions, and maybe even on defining the fundamental problems and describing the desired outcomes. But surely we get that actions have consequences (both intended and unintended), and that everyone matters (and therefore deserves a seat at the table and an acknowledgement of humanity and worth). Maybe this is a lost or naïve hope, but I hold it nonetheless, that the capitalists will be able to understand where things can and have go wrong, and that the anti-capitalists will be able to understand how important it is to not throw out the good with the bad.