Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What has Capitalism ever done for you?

Europe's division in its main regions is not coincidental or irrelevant from the main religions and ethnic groups that comprise our continent. There are historic and cultural explanations of why certain regions are rated better than others on economic or social grounds.

Capitalism has been our political system since it prevailed after WW2 in the half of our continent. Later with the fall of communism it expanded into the other half and that was an extremely welcomed development. But over the years Capitalism has evolved from something that everybody wanted into something that many are skeptical about.

Over the past few years and with the crisis throughout Europe exposing the weaknesses of this political and economic system, people even from former communist nations are realizing that something is not quite working in Capitalist Europe. The inequalities among the nations and the classes are great and the system needs to be revisited.

What we are experiencing right now are the consequences of the type of Capitalism that was very popular during the '80s and the Reagan-Thatcher legacy. The neo-liberal ideology on industry, way of doing business and worker's rights, that is only getting worse due to globalization and the entry into the global market and field of politics of the developing economies with their millions of consumers.

Competition between the established rich elites in the developed nations and these new economic "powers" is escalating and what we are witnessing right now, is a desperate attempt of Europe to come to terms with its past decisions and failed financial policies. Then we allowed all industries to be transferred to poorer nations with cheaper workforce, in order to increase our profits. Now these nations want a bigger say in the world affairs and a greater share on its wealth.

The elites of Europe are losing out now that China and India are rising and pose a threat to the monopoly the Western oligarchs and super rich capitalists had on people and resources all over the world. So how to compensate the loses and keep the profits coming? Scrap all social security policies and have us working for nothing in Europe. They never liked paying for them anyway. In fact there is a very intense debate going on as we speak in every political think tank or forum in Europe, on how to deal with the crisis and if our social security services are viable.

In Greece we used to have many social security benefits and rights, like Christmas bonuses, Sunday work pay and free health care if you worked continuously for a certain amount of time. Because we had strong and established unions, both in the public but also in the private sector and that is the reason that our country is targeted by the global capitalists.

Countries like Ireland on the other hand never faced such grilling by them and the media that they control, because in the private sector there is no union activity at all, they have established an absolute liberalized labor market that the capitalists love. That is why Ireland is being respected by the global media despite being also bailed out. On the contrary Greece is being brought to its knees, to destroy the unions and force compliance.

Europe is not like India or China, our culture is different. We fought hard for our rights, we should get paid whatever the law dictates. We deserve to have quality of life and to be looked after if we have a health issue that prevents us from working for some time. We are also entitled to pension, something that is now being put to question. As human beings we need to have a work -life balance, that will eventually lead to functional families having children, something that Europe needs desperately.

All social security schemes across Europe are under threat, because business groups lobby our governments to abolish them, liberalizing our labor market. If our leaders decide that they want us to be privately insured, they should raise our salaries across Europe to the same level of the richer nations. Raise the minimum wage to at least € 1200 per month and lower the taxes we are paying. Let us find our own insurance and set up our own pension schemes. We will then be able to afford it.

What happens though is that the capitalist elites want us to be private insured so they won't have to pay for it, have a low salary so we won't cost them much, plus we should be paying high taxes to cover the mistakes they do when they take risks to invest in their various money making schemes.Worker's rights are basic human rights and you can not infringe on the first without doing so for the second.

There is clearly a clash of mentalities and economic and political traditions going on in Europe and the world in general. The dominant Anglo-Saxon/American one is trying to impose itself in all Western nations and in extend the world.

Capitalism is closely related to the Protestant ethos and its idea that seeking riches and wealth is something noble. As a reaction to Catholicism that saw the accumulation of wealth as sinful, the Protestants have included wealth in their Christian traditions.

Later of course during the age of colonialism and the new discoveries, the Catholic Church embraced capitalism itself and in fact they became very good at it, when they saw all the riches and possibilities coming from the new world.

Nevertheless capitalism is deep rooted in the Protestant nations, so that is why they are so good at and so defensive of it. It is no wonder also that these nations are always rated highly by the rating agencies, that are supporting Capitalism and they are based in the the richer and most powerful Capitalist and Anglo-Saxon nation on the planet, USA.

They rate a nation or the happiness and living standards of its citizens according their economic potential and traditions, but not on their values, heritage, lifestyle and culture. And of course that creates the divide between North and South, not just in Europe but America itself. When the South European nations were the ones who were prosperous, it was the North that was considered uncivilized.

Coming from a Mediterranean country, I pride myself of the very balanced work-life status I have established that contrary to many Anglo-Saxon nations' beliefs, is not about being lazy. It is irrational and sad, that they think that the meaning of life is to work two jobs, just to be able to have a large fridge, a big car, a big house and everything that the media promote and advertise, but deprive my children of my presence at home, sacrifice a normal social life, my mental health and find happiness just in consuming things that one does not really need.

The grounds that I disagree with capitalism are not in a ideological front, but with the practicalities of it and what it does to human beings. It just turns them into mad, sad, over-consuming, unsatisfied and moaning peoples, with large doses of perfectionism and delusion. That does not agree with the mentality of everybody that comes from a different religious or ethnic background. And it is the reason why many countries are struggling to implement policies that have worked or implemented in a Protestant Anglo-Saxon nation. The comparison is simply not fair.

I have never been a radicalized Left-wing activist for the reasons that I believe that any form of radical ideology is not healthy. I accept capitalism as an economic model and in fact I prefer it from most alternatives. But it is evident to all of us that it has gone out of control, it does not longer support a viable and fair system and it needs to be reformed immediately. It has been hijacked by wealth mongering people that put above all the accumulation of more power, with no morals.

Having worked in the customer services area for over a decade in the past, I have seen what Capitalism has done to people. Their attitudes have changed and the social structures have been altered dramatically. People think they are entitled to have more or behave as they wish because they are paying. As an employee I have seen the irrationality of an employer that wants greater profit, when he actually can not provide services that would offer him that.

I have also seen the absolute irrational demands and unrealistic expectations that customers often have, but because they are paying they think that they are entitled to them. The worse part is that they believe that they can treat the employees as they please, without considering that it could be their children in the future that will have to face obnoxious and rude customers like themselves. 

Your human and worker's rights are being demeaned by yourself, just so you can practice your consumer rights. Because when you use every mean to get what you think you deserve from a company, you unwillingly weaken the position of any worker by testing his patience and his skills. In fact your rights as consumer are getting more important than your human ones and that is because you expect more value and services for less money to feed your self importance. While it is clear that this system destroys our planet and exhausts our resources.

Bankers and economists are being given bonuses for the job they do, but a worker is not entitled to them. Of course a company must make profits to exist and that is for the benefit of both the employers and the employees. But the employers never seem bothered when giving bonuses to chief executives that cost thousands of euros for doing very little, but they get hot under the collar over the salary increase of the ordinary workers.

In the past I was working in a hotel in Greece and a German customer lectured me that if I was in Germany I would not be able to be so “relaxed” at work. I told him that I have done everything I was expected to do by that time. He replied that in Germany my employer would have me cleaning over and over my position in order to keep me busy. I replied that if my employer wants to see me busy then he should make sure that he brings enough customers in the hotel to keep me busy and I would be more than happy to work hard and serve them all.

It is his job to make sure customers keep coming by using marketing and organizing special events, or offering competitive prices. It is my job to make sure the service they are getting is within certain standards. If the customers are not coming to keep me busy then it is clearly his fault as it is within his responsibility to manage the place, not mine. Unless he offers me the salary and responsibilities of a manager then I should not take the blame.

In other words when a company is not going well it is often a bad management issue, but businessmen like to blame ordinary folk and their salary or working condition demands! If they managed their company well then they would succeeded. Greed and lust for quick and easy money is the main problem and this mentality is embedded in our culture now-days. So are you still supporting this economic model, now that you have seen what it does to you?

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