Saturday, September 26, 2009

When the world is privatized

What will you own?

Let me start out by saying, I use iTunes. I use the store. I grew up using Macs and I have a little bit of the Apple cult in me. On a base level I like all of that. But then I ruin it all when I start thinking.

Let's look at those songs. 99 cents is pretty cheap, I think. Right? Well sure, it would be cheap if I owned the song, if it was my song. That would be a bargain. But I don't. I don't? Nope. It is limited. I can't use it anywhere, and not because of technological limitations, but because of technology used to limit it. I'm not complaining that some devices can't play it. I am complaining that my ability to use the music anywhere that it is technologically possible.

That isn't an absurd thing to want. Imagine reading a book. Sure you need enough light and you don't want to try reading it in a steel mill with sparks flying all over. But you are allowed to. And, you can read it anywhere else. It is your book. You can read it, use it as a paper weight, burn it, buy a hundred thousand and use them as bricks. It is your book.

You don't own the content. It's not your book to copy or plagiarize. It's not yours to reprint and resell for half the cost. But it is yours to resell or give away. In fact, you can even use the content for some purposes; sometimes without even having to pay anything extra.

iTunes songs aren't like that. Well, they can be, but you must pay 40 cents extra. Imagine if it cost 40% more to read your book anywhere. Actually... I ran into this not long ago.

Let's move on though, I don't want to waste time bashing particulars of Apple.

This is not abnormal. More and more you do not own what you buy. Software is not yours. Music I already mentioned. DVDs. If you play WoW, your account. Yep, not yours. You're only renting and they can take it back any time they want, because it's not yours. You can argue that in this case it is essential for the integrity of the game that accounts aren't being sold, and I'd agree with you. But as part of a larger trend of non-ownership, it is disturbing.

Publicly owned utilities are sold off. Privatized. The institutions which your parents (or got a few generations back) paid taxes so that you could have them, are not yours. Were they ever yours? Indirectly. You were essentially one of many owners as a citizen of the relevant area. Not any more.

Let's look at the effects of the mortgage crisis. Sure there were people spending more than they should have and they deserved to lose the homes which were never theirs to begin with and never would have been. But there were also people who were paying all they agreed to and then the economy went down (with a great deal of fault resting with the banks) and jobs were lost or unrelated medical expenses came up. Then the banks took the homes. Imagine that, you work to pay off a mortgage and fulfill all your obligations, then the banks wreck the economy, you lose your job, and the bank takes your house.

As time goes on people will own less and less. How long before people own nothing? Then who will own the world? Not people, but corporations, and they don't give a shit about you, your kids, your friends, or anyone. They aren't people. Strangely, corporations are considered people: "The law treats a corporation as a legal 'person' that has standing to sue and be sued, distinct from its stockholders," But they are not taxed or held to the legal standards of people: "corporate profits are taxed at a lower rate than the rates for individuals." Oh sure, corporations make vastly higher profits than any individual, so it would be absurd to use the same scaling, right? Maybe. But why should an idea, that's what a corporation truly is, make any money?

I don't have a quote there for the second part about legal standards. Let's just look at common sense. If I dumped benzene in your house and I was caught, what would happen? I'd likely go to prison, probably have some sort of fine, and maybe you'd move or I'd be forced to stay far away from you. Now let's imagine that I also pumped sulfur dioxide into your house and it killed your family. Would I not be charged with murder? Likely found guilty and imprisoned or even killed? Corporations do this all the time, yet despite being 'people', they pay insignificant fines and carry on exactly as they were.

You don't own the air you breath. You own the water, but before you buy it, some corporation does and they'll charge whatever they feel like and you'll pay it because price-gouging is less deadly than dehydration. You used to own the water, back when it was on public land, but then they pumped it out and resold it. Did you know farmers don't truly own their seeds? Normal seeds can be saved and replanted and allow self-sufficiency, a very American ideal. There are seeds designed to last for one harvest, then you must buy again. They aren't owned, they are rented. The farmer rents his ability to survive, as do you.

It's funny how so many stories are written about robots taking over the world. We would be enslaved by our own emotionless creations. It's happening.


G-Rebel said...

You are sounding like a conspiracy theorist! What are you, wacko?

I'm just kidding, I happen to agree with you; not because you say it but because I have seen it, lived it myself.

Personally I despise both corporations and government and don't think either should own as much as they do, but that is definately the direction that we are headed. I'm sorry, I'm not an idealist, I don't believe government has "the people's" best interest at heart...and corporations definately don't.

Banks have taken over homes but are not releasing all of them back into the inventory of the market, why? Because they want to stay the tide of falling house prices. Nobody is buying US debt anymore...oh wait, the Federal Reserve is, why? To maintain interest rates at artificially low levels.

Nobody even cares about the US dollar (don't get me started on that one).

Even our courts are influenced by corporations and make rulings not based on law, until they rule and create the law, but based on the best interest of the corporation who owns the courts (personal experience on that one...there's definately corruption even in our court system).

There are a lot of selfish people making a lot of bad choices, but one thing we live with on this earth is that people are free to choose. I'm not talking about cultural or political restrictions on women or other people in the world, even those women are physically able choose to speak out, however it would mean death to them, but the choice to speak is still theirs. This freedom to choose has created great people, willing to give their life and lives to better other people's. But there's also a lot who use that freedom to usurp the political or capitalisitc freedoms of others in a manner which ultimately harms mankind. It sucks, but we can't take that power from them. We can try to punish those doing harm, but we've got to find a way around the already corrupt laws that protect them in the first place.

What we can do is choose to fight the system in the manner we deem most beneficial and effective. We do own less and less, and maybe the future brings ownership of nothing, and that's how some people want it. Some people don't want to even own their actions, saying that they are just working on behalf of the "company" or "the man" or whomever you view as the cause of your loss of everything you thought you used to own.

Nice post. Sorry I wrote so much, it just got me going a bit. :)

Klepsacovic said...

I like how you mentioned capitalistic freedoms. You remind me of a problem which has been growing for decades: the inability to see that big business is not the same as the free market and in fact it is often harmful to the free market.

G-Rebel said...

I'm not here to promote books or anything, but I'd like to mention an interesting read. Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.

It's a story about a powerful Capitol city and 12 subservient districts. (There used to be 13, but when the districts rebelled 13 was destroyed completely). Each year 2 children (1 boy and 1 girl) are reaped from their district, selected to play in the Hunger Games for the pleasure of the Capitol, the Capitol's citizens, and as a reminder that the Capitol has all power and should never be rebelled against again.

The games consist of these kids (ages 12-18) killing each other. The last one alive wins, and with the win comes food for life, money and a house in a "victor's village" for the victor and his/her family. It is a highly disturbing book, but one that paints a picture of not only similar actions of past civilizations, but I think a portrait of modern-day and future corporations and politics.

Think about how corporations act today: If you, an individual, tried to sue them you lose. They throw out all their power, their money, all their resources to crush you. They make you feel like you don't deserve to live and that the Corporation has the "right" to act any way it wants.

I suggest the book if you haven't read it (the second "Catching Fire" just came out as well). I was disturbed by the imagery of kids killing each other so violently, but more disturbing is the people of the Capitol view it as entertainment, as a Game. It's sick, violent, but it speaks not only of history but of present-day attitudes practiced by the large corporations (and political structures) of the world.

You have some good thoughts, keep up the good work!

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