It’s Difficult to Define and Difficult to Defy

The interviewee is in her early twenties working at a startup company in Manhattan. She remarked, “that is such a loaded question,” in response to being asked to define capitalism. She described capitalism as “a system that assumes people want a lot of money.” The interviewee is a self-proclaimed artist who took on a full-time job at a company that sells a marketing product. Her thoughts on capitalism reflect someone who is self-aware of being caught up in hustle culture but whose aspirations to create films push her to continue working.

“I think younger people are warier of capitalism than older generations,” she stated. “The red scare and the cold war had everyone afraid of communism, so older people tend to think more highly of capitalism.” Though the interviewee claimed to be of a generation more critical of capitalism, she also added, “I’m good at making money, I think there are a lot of stupid people who are good at making money though.” She likes to disassociate herself with a crowd only interested in profit as she observed, “some people see making money as success.” However, she has a different way of defining success, she sees it as doing what you love, but she is aware that under capitalism, “you have to play by the rules.” She explained that working hard now and saving is how she will start her film career and get away from working for money in the future.

The interviewee has aspirations of ascending beyond the need to work for a living, but currently, she is discontent with her job. “I like my coworkers, but I hate what I do,” she remarked. “I feel guilty,” she added regarding her company. “I don’t like selling something that promotes hyper-consumerism.” She often worries about the repercussions of her job, “I don’t like selling something that subconsciously gets people to buy things they don’t need, it’s a waste of money and bad for the environment.” She continued on her concern for the environmental impacts of consumerism, “we market for products designed to break, and then people have to buy more things.” The drive of her company to market items for a profit often overlooks the repercussions of mass production and consumption. She feels her position in this system, while a tragedy of circumstance, is aiding the rise of consumerist culture.

The interviewee worries about whether the practices at the company where she works are ethical or justifiable, “many companies will put profit over almost anything if they can get away with it.” When asked if there was a better system, she responded, “As much as I question capitalism, there are no other systems that seem to work as well at such a large scale.” She also mentioned how, though many people see capitalism as a system of equal opportunity, this idea is far from the truth. She emphasized her fortune, “I got pretty lucky, I was born in an area with a good public education system and got to go to college. Not everyone gets that.”

Though the interviewee questions the moral implications of capitalism, there is no escape from her nine to five until she can reach her goal of becoming an independent filmmaker. And even then, “capitalism,” she sighed, “is not that simple.”

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