6.23.2020

This Whole Pandemic Is Just An Excuse To Finally Toss Out Consumer Capitalism, Isn't It?

Edit: Obviously, the title of this post is meant to be a bit provocative, but I still stand by my sense that something is up...

I've been struggling to find the ulterior motive behind what's going on. I remember, years ago, when the Iraq war was starting to ebb, or at least American involvement, I started to see a lot of articles describing America's actions over there as failure, and it didn't make sense to me; because I never bought into the idea that the publicly-stated and privately-believed rationales for the war were consonant, the idea of assessing the war as a failure on those public terms seemed naive. At minimum, a lot of American businesses did quite well assisting the war effort and I'm sure there were some major renegotiations of oil contracts. The people who were meant to gain did not lose. So now I'm wondering about now.

It seems too pat to assume that this is all just Trump's incompetence, or the results of the ravings of various Governors trying to curry favor with the Libertarian segment of their bases. There have been plenty of mistakes made by all sides. It's just amazing to watch the statues come down (not that I always mind), the cases go up, the financial hardships increase, and there seems to be nothing happening. While I have been operating under the assumption that globalized capitalism, long accustomed to operating without American labor, may now operate just as smoothly without American consumers, the political elite still need, last time I checked, some of us to vote for some of them to stay in power. Whatever critiques I could levy at politicians, I assume most of them are reasonably savvy at politics, so I figure there must be something I/we don't know.

To skip over a long thought process, I'm wondering if the elite are so wealthy, and capitalism so dependent on the financial and rentier sectors, that it actually becomes necessary for the value of assets, even those of the wealthy, to be purposefully-depressed towards forcing other, less-wealthy people to sell their assets so that the wealthy can purchase them prior to re-inflating their value.

I wonder if it's also necessary, and if so, why, to lock more personal spending into recurring/rentier-based arrangements (everything from rent/mortgage down to Patreon subscriptions) and curtail discretionary spending.

It's worth noting that, while much commentary sympathetic to the plight of workers has noted that we are basically being left to fend for ourselves, it's not just us. Here in NYC, Hudson Yards and Fifth Avenue may become the latest casualties of the pandemic/depression. It may really be getting to the point that even, like, LVMH is considered a small fish ready to be devoured and restructured, though I don't think that's quite the case.

(I get the same feeling reading those articles as I did watching the looting three weeks ago - the expected schadenfreude never materialized and I'm still trying to figure out why given how much mental energy I have expended thinking about wealth inequality and the huge loss of vitality on the streets of pre-COVID NYC due to the overabundance of luxury retail and chain stores)

(I won't even mention the fact that maybe, just maybe, there is now such an excess of labor power that it is becoming impossible for the state to manage. We aren't being forced back to work to keep the retail/service sector alive.)

For the record, just in case it matters, and I won't be bothering to find links, NYC was already experiencing a retail and restaurant commercial rent crisis before the middle of March. Anecdotally, I've been back in NYC for less than four years, and I've already worked for four restaurants because two of them closed due to hight rent (and one of them treated me like shit - the owner recently made national news for being a total prick and I did feel a bit vindicated by that, at least). There were also two restaurants I had the opportunity to work for, but I declined, and both of those closed, one pre-pandemic, one due to the pandemic. All of the above restaurants were owned by well-known chefs, were part of successful restaurant groups, and were (except for one) the recipients of at least two or three stars from the New York Times.

Edit: Another restaurant I worked for has closed as of today; only one remains.

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