It Doesn’t Help to Think About it

He had just gotten off his 3:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. shift at the big box store where he works. “Capitalism, I try to stay away from that stuff,” he joked to me. “Well, no, there is no way of getting away from it,” he added, assuring me he was only kidding. The interviewee views capitalism as a way of life, with no escape, but he has an optimistic take for someone who feels overworked.

When asked how he would define capitalism, he took the “powers that be” approach. “It’s a bunch of rich guys who own stocks, and we all work under them.” I was intrigued by his response to the question, no words like “economics” or “system.” The interviewee sees capitalism as far beyond his control and in the hands of wealthy company owners.

I asked him how he feels about his job. He explained that he is generally content but added that things could be better. “Right now, I’m feeling discriminated against because I’m an old fart.” He is in his sixties and complained that he has spent twenty years working at the same company and feels his hard work has barely been recognized. “It’s better than other companies, I feel like we are compensated fairly well, but you’ll always feel underpaid.” He continued, telling me, “they tell you things like thank you or good job, and that’s nice and all but it’s just words.” He alluded to the idea that in a world where the dollar controls life– he would take a larger paycheck over kind sentiments.

The interviewee sees faults in the company where he works, but he also expressed that he is thankful for his job and is glad it provides him with good health care. Though, our conversation took an unexpected turn when he added, “you know, we are not just living to be workers at some company.” Then he continued explaining, “I don’t know what the right system to live under is, I guess his system.” I was not sure who he meant when he said “his,” but then he added, “you know, it’s all in god’s hands, and you got to follow him, not the capitalism will.” I was not expecting this response, but I admired his optimism. Under a system that expects long working hours with little reward, religion can act as a coping mechanism.

The interviewee expressed that capitalism is a system that is far from his control, but he tries not to ponder on it too much. He also said that he does not like to focus much on politics either. He feels as if politicians often do not have the interests of the working-class in mind. “They don’t do us right,” he claimed, “people with a lot of money influence things, and they can manipulate it on you.” His thoughts on capitalism showed me that in a world where the dollar speaks, it is difficult to trust people, especially people with a lot of money. For him, religion provides escapism from a world where he feels like a cog in the machine and gives him a sense of hope and individualism.

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