May. 9th, 2014

fengi: (Mr. Bateman)
I've been watching Hannibal, which is doing non-supernatural horror rather well so far. I thought to myself, "I cannot be the only person who thinks Hannibal Lector represents capitalism."

I did a google search and found a decent essay on a site aptly named "Overthinkingit.com":
In most respects, the not-so-good doctor represents the perfect specimen of the homo consumericus. I won’t belabor this point, ’cause it’s obvious. Hannibal lives in an unnecessarily large and immaculately furnished house in the middle of Baltimore, a.k.a. The Wire Central. He drives a Bentley. He wears a $180,000 watch. Let me repeat that last one. He wears a $180,000 watch...As our pal Veblen once said, conspicuous consumption of valuable goods, such as art, is a means to reputability, and that reputability lets Hannibal get away with murder...We all know that Hannibal sees people as objects (see: “I’m having a friend for dinner,” et al.), but none more so than service providers. In Hannibal’s mind, the original sin is rudeness, which notably is the most mortal sin a customer service worker can commit...Hannibal Lecter chooses his nightly meal by flipping through the business cards of the many service providers who have wronged him by not engaging in the affective labor he paid them for.
More suprisingly, however, I found a 13 year old essay by Charlie Reese, a conservative pundit from the Orlando Sentinel. Another newspaper had printed his syndicated column under the headline "Capitalism is a Hannibal Lector".

I grew up in Orlando and knew Reese as a right wing blowhard. He was best known for his 545 people essay which became one of those things frequently emailed by conservative relatives in various forms along with the false claim it was his last column (it was written years before).

The Lector essay, however, shows how far right the goalposts have moved. Reese was actually able to admit reality wasn't always conservative.
I'm going to tell you why I am almost, but not quite, a libertarian.

First, capitalism, unless moderated by Christian virtue or government, is just as brutal and cruel as communism.

I know that's hard for baby boomers to believe. After all, they grew up in the incredibly prosperous post-World War II United States. Most have never experienced really hard times. Most have not bothered to read much history or literature. Many were content to believe the fairy tales woven by Ayn Rand and her cohorts.

Try digging coal for a few pennies a ton in an unsafe mine where you are forced to buy your own tools. Try imagining a disabling injury and, instead of receiving workers' compensation or disability insurance, your broken body is just tossed off the company property.

That's capitalism.

...Those $30 to $50 pair of jeans we wear were made by what amounts to slave labor in Central America or Asia.

I've never been a union member and don't intend to be one, but I can at least appreciate the struggle that union men undertook to improve the lives of working men and women. I guarantee you that without the "threat" of unionization, most working men and women would see a quite different face on their employers.

And that may not be too far off. Under phony free-trade deals, unions are being broken and pressured by the movement of and the threat to move factories overseas. Anybody who expects real compassion from a corporation would mistake Hannibal Lecter for a vegetarian. Unfortunately, the union leadership is so infected with socialists that they would rather pursue their ideological goals than look out for their members.

So, although I strongly believe in the maximum possible freedom, I also believe in community and in responsibility to that community. Not only is no man an island, but no man is self-made. Some people are just good at forgetting all the people who helped them get where they are...Freedom is not a virtue per se. It can mean the freedom of the strong to bully and enslave the weak. It can mean the freedom to exploit the poor, to despoil the land and the water, to turn your back on the oppressed, the sick, the dying.

I fall in with those old-fashioned conservatives who believe in ordered liberty, strict observances of the Constitution and a mind-our-own-business foreign policy....don't confuse me with chamber-of -commerce conservatives who say that anything good for big business is good for the country. That's horse manure.

At the same time, I'm definitely not a socialist...The idea of a mean, something-short-of-pure, unregulated capitalism and pure, over-regulated socialism is what we should strive for.
I don't know if Reese became more extreme with 9/11 and the tea party. Those occurred after he retired from the Sentinel. I do know he opposed the Iraq War, supported raising the debt ceiling yet dismissed health care reform.

Thing is, anyone who can acknowledge the merciless appetite of capitalism is not all bad. It's the sort of person you can reason with. The dead-eyed social darwinists who seem to dominate are just accomplices to the cannibal market, whether they recognize it or not.