Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Capitalism is Bananas



I go to the corner store to buy the bananas that I give to my daughters each morning. I pick 2 bananas, give him a dollar and wait for my change but none comes.

Kai: Yo Ak, how much were those bananas?
Clerk: 50 cent each.
Kai: What?!? Is there gold inside them shits? They were 35 cents a week ago and 25 cents before that!
Clerk: They are the best bananas in the world!!
Kai: [skeptical] Where are these bananas from?
Clerk: Kluma.
Kai: Where?
Clerk: Ah-Kluma.
Kai: Where the hell is that?
Clerk: Ah-Klah-Uma
Kai: Oklahoma?
Clerk:Yes!
Kai: They dont grow no fucking bananas in Oklahoma, what they hell are you talking about?

Me, the clerk, and several other people who witnessed the exchange busted out into laughter and I walk out with my high priced bananas, assuming its all about the increase in gas prices.

Its important to realize that we have to be trained to think about where things come from, and how certain relationships have come to exist. When we are younger, we live in the world and think that things must have always been just the way they are now, give or take an iphone and the internets. If we mature in our understanding of the world, we realize that in the United States, most of what we take for granted as normal, is usually the result of some carefully orchestrated corporate plan to infiltrate our lives with their products.

When this process is successful it is usually called development, and I agree with that term, if by development they mean something like the transformation that takes place between HIV and AIDS. Capitalist development is not unlike HIV/AIDS, in that it spreads ever faster and will eventually kill us all if we do not take serious, dramatic measures to eradicate it.

Of course eating Bananas wont kill us, but the profits and politics that surround them have caused many others to die. The New York Times ran an Op-Ed piece by Dan Koeppel that sheds light on the bloody, exploitative history of the fruit my girls love. Here is a highlight:

Once bananas had become widely popular, the companies kept costs low by exercising iron-fisted control over the Latin American countries where the fruit was grown. Workers could not be allowed such basic rights as health care, decent wages or the right to congregate. (In 1929, Colombian troops shot down banana workers and their families who were gathered in a town square after church.) Governments could not be anything but utterly pliable. Over and over, banana companies, aided by the American military, intervened whenever there was a chance that any “banana republic” might end its cooperation. (In 1954, United Fruit helped arrange the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Guatemala.) Labor is still cheap in these countries, and growers still resort to heavy-handed tactics.

In that last sentence, labor is contrasted with 'growers' but um...What the hell is a grower? lol. Its a liberal euphemism for boss, capitalist, or owner, but other than that minor quip, I find the information in the article fascinating.

If you were in anyway familiar with the history of the banana trade or capitalism, none of this information about it's turbulent history is shocking, although it is still incredibly outrageous. The more you read, the more you realize that whether its bananas, cotton, cocoa or oil, the history of seemingly benign commodoties, is routinely full of murder, exploitation and corruption. During the course of your studies, you will also inevitably come across many instances of gov't militaries, advancing very-private corporate interests. This, my friends, is what capitalism is, and the sooner we all accept that, the sooner we can get on with the business of replacing it, before we are all gone.

Capitalism really is Bananas.

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2 Comments:
Blogger brotherkomrade said...
Damn fine post. It's good when we break capitalism down for what it is and how it works when talking about the misery it brings to the humans who have work to make it
"successful". Of course, those who are pro-capitalists, only bring up the "success" story of the bosses as an example of capitalism's "success".

Anonymous Anonymous said...

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