Breaking the first rule of capitalism (don’t talk about capitalism)
This morning I was sitting on an spin bike while two staff cut up a tree that the monsoon blew down. I could have burnt calories doing my own yard work, but no, I must exercise by doing nothing useful at all. This, I suppose, is capitalism. As much as I decry inequality, I am inequality.
I’m not unaware of the fact.
Lately I have been opening up about our personal wealth, which frankly makes me feel uncomfortable. It feels impolite, it feels braggy, it feels taboo. Many families will proudly say we don’t talk about money, but I think this is actually the problem. It’s like the first rule of Fight Club. This is how capitalism protects itself. In the shadows of polite conversation.
Rich liberals like myself are quite happy talking about inequality in general, but not about ourselves. Not how we benefit. How we are. I think often of a Bible verse I heard in church, Luke 18, new woke translation.
A rich man heard about Jesus and invited him over. He asked Jesus what he could do to get into heaven. Jesus said give away all your stuff. The rich man was like “woah, not like that”. Jesus facepalmed.
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Rich people in general are often happy talking about inequality, but when someone says give up your stuff they’re like “woah, not like that, I was talking about other people”. And that’s me. That’s absolutely me.
I like being rich. I like hotel suites. I like having servants and not caring what the bill is. I know that the right thing is to give everything away but I don’t want to.
I think somewhere deep down we all know this (unless you’re into the Satan’s own prosperity gospel). I’m Buddhist (Jesus stan) and the Buddha was crystal clear. This life is illusion. Get thee to the woods and meditate. But again, I don’t wanna. I just meditate enough to help me manage the illusion better. We just donate enough to forget about it.
The best I can do is talk about wealth and all its contradictions directly. Because inequality is not something abstract. It is literally where we all live. Am I a billionaire, LOL no. I’ve actually never earned above the US poverty line, but we have family wealth and for where we live we’re hella rich.
I think this system perpetuates because A) violence but also B) silence. People don’t talk about how much they get paid, so a man and a woman can be doing the same job right next to each other and never know. And so nothing happens unless HR leaves a payslip out. People don’t know how much they’re worth because they don’t know how much other people are worth. It’s like this across all of capitalist society.
People buy the lie that capitalism is hard work, because capitalists never talk about compound interest and how they mostly sit around and invest or work for fun. People buy the lie that anyone can be a startup founder when most of them fail and it’s the rich VCs that always win. People buy a lot of lies about capitalism because we don’t talk about the truth. We don’t talk about how rich people actually live, or what wealth is. Because everyone’s too polite. That’s the thing about structural violence. The structure is silence. The violence is kept far away. Equality dies in darkness.
So that’s why I talk about being rich. I’m a class traitor. I’m breaking the first rule of capitalism, which is don’t talk about capitalism. Am I going to give it all away, haha, no, I’m still a camel. I don’t even believe in heaven. As Raekwon and Ghostface said,
What do you believe in, heaven or hell?
You don’t believe in heaven ’cause we’re living in hell
So it’s your life
I don’t believe in heaven because I’m living in it, relatively speaking. Heaven and hell are on this Earth. We have enough, it’s just widely unevenly distributed. And held there by violence and silence. This is not something I can comfortably yell at from outside. I am part of the same hypocrisy. I can’t break capitalism, but I can break my own silence. My own complicity. So that’s why I talk about being rich.
If you’re curious, here are some pieces literally talking about being rich: