Friday, June 18, 2010

Capitalism, in 140 characters or less.

I am an unlikely capitalist. I fell into business by accident, well actually I chose it, but during a period of uncertainty and I'd say even weakness. I was really more of an academic, non-profit kind of person. Not too far out of college, well, of dropping out of college (I finished not too long after) a friend of mine from school got married. All of these people were there at the wedding who I hadn't seen for a year and a half. They all seemed to have jobs in Manhattan working in "Marketing." I was working as an evening supervisor in a homeless shelter on Long Island. Another friend of mine, my best friend from high school, had a job at a startup software company. He got me a job writing for them; it was 1998; it was exciting and people in .COM were looking for anybody smart and interesting even without traditional business experience. That one wedding led me to make a decision I'm still living with today. I've been trying to dig my way out ever since. I'll write more about that later.

Anyway. I spend a lot of time thinking about "business" and whether or not it is evil or useless. I had progressed and got jobs at large corporations where I saw very smart, very cool, very creative people do amazing things together and always thought, if only they were building bridges or wells in India or something rather than selling home theater systems and potato chips. Some of these people never see their kids anymore. For what? I wonder if someday their children will look back and think "I never saw my mom growing up, but it was for a good cause. She grew the Pop-Tarts division at Kellog by 25%." I toy with communism, which is a recipe for total frustration, because good luck with that one.

Over the past 11 years I've seen capitalism at first as evil, then as an unecessary evil, then as a not necessary but realistic and practical evil given human nature, and then I guess just seeing it as the-way-things-are. Lately my thinking is more positive. Many people in the corporate sphere are trying to do some good and believe in what they're selling, even home theater systems. And then there's, you know, Band-Aids and dish soap and bananas and shit you need. I don't think the failure of communism is not having three hundred different brands of toilet paper --- I don't need that. It's having none because bureaucracies don't do a good job getting people what they need.

So, I meditate, and sometimes when I do that answers to some of the things I philosophize about during the day in my car or walking the dog pop into my mind very clear and simple and inarguable. Today the thought arose:

"Everybody needs things that they have to buy."

The diapers and band-aids and bananas have to come from somewhere. Also, who am I really to judge what people need. My ability to play mp3s is arguably unecessary but man, it adds a lot of dimension to my life to have music.

Everybody needs things, and currently, they have to buy them. So they have to be marketed and sold. This makes me feel a little better about the time I will spend helping shareholders at large corporations, many of whom are probably nice people looking to build college and retirement funds, make money. The messed up thing is, I entered the business world to make money, and I'm still not really. When I do actually start making money in business I will feel even better about it.

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