Keep Your Hands Off My Stack

The last three days have been spent in soul-draining, brain-sucking tedium. It’s given me new insights into the economy.

I’ll back up a bit. Jamie and I were at a local Christmas bazaar, basically a huge convention hall full of the intrepid soldiers on the front lines of the free enterprise system. Trinkets, tools, food, hats, books, toys, T-shirts. Just oodles of stuff. Jamie and her parents toughed it out last weekend, and Jamie and I took on the second weekend. She had lots of her handmade jewelry and some contributions from her folks (solid oak ruler racks and a small garden of quilted Christmas trees.)

And from Friday morning to Sunday night, we sold squat. I sat there watching people go by, wondering if I had a funny look on my mug or something, because hardly anybody bought anything. Tons of people passed our booth, glared at Jamie’s work, doted over the quilted trees her mother made…and almost never bought anything.

“Oh, it’s so cute!” Women of every shade and age said something along those lines. And they moved on empty-handed. For the hell of it, on Sunday Jamie and I decided to count how many of these “oh, how cute” dorks came by without slapping cash down. I bet on 50. We counted 48.

There were even folks who tried to buy things that weren’t for sale. Everyone loved Jamie’s maneki-neko, a ceramic lucky cat. A few idiots came offering to buy it. It was the only thing on that damn table without a price tag.

Jamie and I were practically banging our heads together. We didn’t understand any of it. We sat there, greeting people, watching them walk by, reading, talking, kvetching as quietly as possible, freezing under the El Nino airflow of an industrial air vent, trying to keep each other from eviscerating middle-class forty-something gold-bricking bloated Twinkie molesters as our brains slowly turned to mush over the course of three days.

I got kinda punchy after a while.

No one got much business at the show, it turns out. Every booth took a bath. Small consolation.

And it was while I was sitting there–trying to keep busy with my little projects, reading, and notetaking stuck in the tiny space between our tables–I started looking at economics and the American right-wing.

This time last year, Darth Cheney and the Shrub tried to coax the country into spending money in the middle of a recession. Many corporate giants in this country, Enron being the most notorious nowadays, went out of their way to bilk millions out of millions of people. They did more damage to the country’s economy and morale than al-Qaida. (Think about it. We grieved, we rallied, and we got on with our lives. Thanks to all the corporate corruption, we practically fear the economy.)

I shook my head at all this lunacy and greed until this weekend, when it was all about my money. The economy sucks just as much for the shoppers as it does for me. And still, I wanted to take their fraggin’ money away from them. I didn’t care whether they had bills or a mortgage, or if they had kids to feed. I have major financial problems. I have a negative cash flow. Maybe they didn’t need the junk I was selling, but once I took on the role of capitalist running dog, anyone’s wallet seemed like fair game. And I was competing with hundreds of other people for it.

Once I could step back and look at it all, I think I understood better the corporate fixation on money. It’s like trench warfare. You’re either digging a foxhole or charging into no-man’s-land, desperate for a better position. More money means less vulnerable. More money feels safe.

Hunger and fear give you greed, so reactionism is an easy fit. I think now that right-wingers are out there glomming onto all money and power they can find, and try to help everyone else do the same under the assumption that they’re helping everyone makes themselves more safe. But economics isn’t about making everyone safe. It’s about the distribution of limited resources. And there’s never enough safety to go around. To give one person safety, it must be taken from someone else. The rich don’t hate the poor, but they do fear poverty.

Pink Floyd weren’t kidding. “Money…it’s a gas.”

Use it, sure. We all gotta breathe. Just don’t sniff the fumes.

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