This is a long essay, with many interlocking parts. If I could have made it shorter, I would have. It started as a simple piece on why I publish using Amazon, but inserting context made it grow. Before we begin: capitalism is not the simple exchange of money for goods or services. Those are markets. Capitalism requires private ownership of the means of production that relies upon the labor of others. Money and markets existed before capitalism and exist both separately from and within capitalism. Now, please pour a cup of tea and settle in…
“Under capitalism we are all for sale, and most labor is grossly underpaid.” –– Maggie Mayhem
Nothing in this world is clean. Everything supports, depends on, tears down, or eats something else. Sometimes these cycles feel useful and nourishing, like soldier fly larvae in their wriggling, pale masses, slowly eating compost scraps, and making soil.
Other times? The cycles feel as if the jaws of death have us in their crushing grip and we can no longer breathe.
When I was nineteen, I, a young anarchist with a blue, flat top mohawk and gold Dr. Martens boots, got a job on the Pacific Stock Options Exchange. I did so to learn more about the US economic system and to feed myself and pay my rent. My previous jobs didn’t pay nearly enough to live on.
It was as I suspected: our economic system was very bad, and based on gambling. In more recent years, that view expanded, as it became more and more clear that the system of “shareholders” meant that profit was the only motive, crushing workers, choking sky, and poisoning soil and water as it sought its own sick life of making billionaires.
One day, in that late-80s world, I took my lunch out to a long, low wall where the ultra punk-rock bicycle messengers hung out sometimes. One of them asked for my sandwich. I gave him half.
These messengers were rebels. Free spirits. They careened through the streets of downtown San Francisco, through traffic, up and down harrowing hills, chains clanking, hair wild. They were mercenaries who could not be bought or sold.
Except, one day it hit me: they delivered packages to Shell Oil Corporation and to other crushers of soil and souls. Any money that changed hands within the system of capitalism was not clean.
There was blood on it.
There was blood and suffering everywhere.
I’m an author and a small, independent publisher. It’s a cottage industry. I have no workers but myself, hiring other independent people to edit books and design series covers.
And I sell those books in the marketplace.