first in a series of series of declared series

I am so frustrated I could file a class action lawsuit! If, you know, I had a lawyer. And money to pay them if they did not want to do all this work for free because I have a hunch the system is rigged and besides I am the most unreliable witness alive.

Ok maybe not the most unreliable. But my credibility and my credit are both shot. Probably it is no coincidence that they would go down together but if I start drawing connections too sharply I am going to look like I am psychotic or something and that would just–

well, underscore the “with psychotic features” portion of my vast collection of diagnoses. Which diagnoses will come up again if I get that far before I die but I am not sure how far I will even get before the coffee wears off or my eyes start aching so badly that I must stop typing and stare at my feet for the rest of the evening.

Personal responsibility. I have a lot of thoughts about that. Of course in late capitalism the persons saddled with personal responsibility are not those persons the Supreme Court saw fit to fashion out of the inherently lopsided autocracies that are corporations. They can do whatever they want; the invisible hand will guide and protect them in its boundless mercy for profit seekers.

The rest of us though. No such protection.

Still I can fantasize that everyone who espouses personal responsibility would actually be happy to take some on themselves and prove to the rest of us that they do believe this responsibility applies to everyone, not just to those other people who are not able to meet the free-market definition of worthiness.

I had the idea today to go out into the world. Because lately I have not been doing a whole lot of that because when I do what often happens is quite a lot like what happened today. I took my camera; I sort of made a new Gregorian calendar year resolution to go take pictures on my block at least once a week for the rest of the year and to try to see things that I have already seen a million times at least differently enough to take interesting pictures. Part of the resolution included posting them, somewhere, for anyone out there to look at. I hope to be able to get to that in between what may be called dystonic storms if what is going on with me is what I think is going on with me.

Really I think this was just an idea I had around the first of the year and I figured well this is a punctual moment so why not start and call it (one of) my project(s) for the year.

Looking up at an old building with columns and wrought iron faux balconies on the boarded-up windows

Today I took pictures of an old building that I am quite certain will soon lose its beautiful crumbling facade when someone buys it and decides that restoring said facade would cut into profits too much and instead they replace the facade with a facile quote of said facade. Because this has already happened to the two buildings adjacent to this one that were built in similar styles some time ago when architectural flourishes were not seen as excessive or if they were seen as excessive then it was still worth the time and money to carry them out in order to simply be excessive.

The point of my field trip was not necessarily the photography although I was aware this might be the only thing I was able to accomplish if I did accomplish anything at all. My general plan was to walk somewhere where there was a place to sit and then to sit there and maybe write a little bit about one or two of the million things that have occurred to me in the last couple of years and then gotten lost in the ceaseless clatter that is my central nervous system looking for itself or America or some other nostalgia-ridden peaceful ideal and that also makes starting andor continuing to write or think on any of these things into a challenge of modestly exhausting proportions.

I got as far as the parklet outside of a cafe over on Valencia just south of 22nd Street. I had thought maybe to try for the library at 24th Street but my back did not like all the standing still I had done while using my camera so I stopped here. I even got some coffee although I could not really afford it because why not go all out?

So I took my coffee to a parklet table and got myself seated which is itself an involved affair for reasons I do not fully understand except that it might have something to do with how I hang half of the things I think I might need from my bag and so they often get tangled up in each other and me and the dozen or so wallet chains I decorate myself wtih besides. Plus today a camera on a strap around my neck and you would think that carrying a bag would make organization easier instead of harder but no. It gets even worse if I put things in or on a backpack with carabiners and velcro and paracord. Backpacks are made to keep things out of reach until you Get There but I usually need things enroute and I should probably just get a toolbelt or something similar that could hold lots of things without using up my hands and neck.

Eventually though I was seated with my iDevice out and my coffee in front of me and I opened a note-taking app all ready to start. And then I realized that my eyes, neck, and head were all throbbing. At slightly different frequencies and also and this has been going on for a while but I do not notice that much here in my house because I guess I do not look down much at home if I look down that is if I bend my neck rather than, say, my waist in order to see something below my current horizon line then my head starts to ache or in this case ache worse. My neck muscles apparently do not like to be stretched that way because the ache starts in the back on one or both sides of my cervical spine and apreads from there to my temple(s) and forehead(s–oh wait. I only have one of those!).

This can be annoying when trying to use an iDevice without holding it up so that I can look directly ahead at it. Holding the iDevice up in that way makes my shoulder muscles angry if I do it for too long especially if the reason I am doing it is because the muscles in my face are angry because they will just spread the love on down to whatever part of me tries to do anything but remain still and as relaxed as possible which often is not at all possible but you have to try anyway if you want to be able to do anything at all the rest of the day.

My nose was twitching. Not so that anyone could see it but some nerve in my right-nostril-flaring muscle(s?) was unhappy or alarmed or something and so sending a repeated signal to a tiny bit of that muscle to contract and then shiver at about 70Hz or so for half a second. A half second of rest and then another signal. You might say it was on a 70Hz over 2Hz sort of signal. Or the other way around.

I don’t know which.

But most of the muscles in my face twitch for short periods at about 70Hz and in the night when it is quiet I can hear them, you know, from the inside, through whatever bone is between the muscle and my inner ear. Because my jaw is trying to shut itself with great emphasis much of the time and with varying amounts of force fueling that emphasis, I can only tell if it is relaxed if I stop hearing it strain against itself. Sometimes this means my jaw can be fully slack, but it usually finds rest somewhere between clenched tight and teeth not quite touching. A point of homeostasis between warring muscle groups, always at a slightly different length of the arc that defines the full range through which my chin can move all by itself. “Slack” jaw for me actually requires continuous muscular effort against the contractive forces almost always exercising themselves. And this generates that same hum slightly higher in pitch than the familiar sixty cycles of AC power. Or wherever those sixty cycles come from. Wall socket I am pretty sure but don’t quote me on that.

My eyes do not hum. They just ache if I try to swivel them upwards or sideways. You know, in their sockets. Not moving my head. Not all the time but if my nose or cheek or eyebrow are twitching it is usually the case that my eyes are not wanting to do any work at all other than the heavy-lidded unfocused meditation gaze at forty-five degrees of nothing. And so that is what I let them do even if I am not formally meditating right that minute. In fact this whole symphony of muscular restlessness will sometimes relent of I meditate on the spot. Or at least I can keep it toned down a little for as long as I look down with my eyes half-closed and my neck absolutely straight or even bent back slightly. If I wait long enough I can say I was meditating even if I was just waiting for the storm to pass and trying to think calm relaxing thoughts to help it on its way as well as to retain my own composure for another few minutes.

Klonopin can help a bit too, so I took a quarter of one and washed it down with my coffee so as to maybe counteract its sleepier-making effects. Oh and also water. Especially if I have eaten recently, half to a full liter of water can hurry my face along towards placidity. Of course then I will be hurrying myself along to the restroom soon enough but I know where all the good ones are in my neighborhood plus if all else fails I can just use the one in my therapist’s waiting room I mean hallway.

And so once the Klonopin and water and coffee were administered I sat somewhat Buddha like in the parklet chair with my head facing forward and my eyes down. People walked past with great commotion of noise and light. They say that the eye thing–if dystonia is the cause or rather the effect become a cause of the twitches and contractions–is a slow spasm of the eyelid muscles, but that does not explain at all why sound becomes all clanky loud and light all knife-edged bright while I cannot look at anything that requires eye muscle movement of any kind not just lid-raising.

In any case. I managed to type two paragraphs into my iDevice eventually but that was all my body would let me do, so I got up and walked home after getting my bag and my jacket and my camera all tied on in the right places. I rifled through the things I keep in my head to write for the one that would be a useful tangent for the story I keep saying that I want to write which is my own story of which there are thousands if not tens of thousands or more and it hit me: fucking class-action lawsuit! The mess I have been in the last several however manies is one that others share and not one of us chose to place outselves here.

But against whom? I start to make a list:

Jack Chick, most definitely, or whatever he left of his little evangelistic comic empire.

The Southern Baptist Convention?

How far back into the multiple, ramified chains of events would one want to reach?

I think the statute of limitations has passed to try to find the dude who raped me.

Not my brother. I know where he is.

The other dude.

How about a class-action lawsuit against the whole of compulsory anatomically essentialist heteronormativity? Who precisely is responsible for that?

Billy Graham Industries or LLC or Incorporated or however his offspring continue to make money by threatening the masses with the Lake of Fire. Oh, sorry. This one belongs up there with Jack Chick. I would not say the Grahams are completely to blame for the heteroassumptions into which they were all born.

I am refraining from naming what might be the most obvious entity to sue if the symptoms that started as soon as I stopped taking Zyprexa and continue to this day are actually somehow even in the most tortuous of ways connected the drug itself or its method of discontinuation. I will just leave this here though.

OK this was going to be a short intro? And I was going to write the story of why Jack Chick is the first culpable party that sprang to mind upon imagining financial compensation for chronic daily annoyance? But probably I have lost most of my audience already so I will try that a little later with some luck and Klonopin and water oh and lots of just. breathing.

 

 

why greed is now closer to godliness than ever.

Sometimes you wake up and facebook dares you to write a blog post. I won’t reveal the name of the person who posted this quote, since facebook is, you know, that place where privacy is paramount. No really, I don’t share full names with the Internet at large without permission. The pointer, though:

“Why is the Christian right so enamored with the slash and burn capitalist system? –Capitalism: Take all you can. –Jesus: Give all you can. — The connection fails me.”
–fnordlord, commenter on huffpo

Sometimes the asking of a question is meant to be a pointed rebuke, as it is here. And this particular rebuke certainly has a very important point: why do fundamentalist Christians worship “all-for-me, nothing-for-you,” greed-driven, planet trashing consumption-driven capital above just about any other kind of economic system?

It seems contradictory on the surface of it and it probably is just as hypocritical if one pokes at it a little more closely. When I see questions like this, though, they make me want to raise my hand and wave it around and say “Oh! Oh! I was one of them! I know a couple of answers to this question and you all aren’t going to believe what they consist of!”

So, allow me, if you don’t mind: what is it about a deeply exploitative and self-interested economic system that appeals to a religion supposedly founded on principles of generosity and selflessness?
Continue reading

Responsibility without responsibility: the chapter on privilege

On Feministe Renee writes a post on privilege that is short and sweet, or at least to-the-point: that privilege is not something with which to lacerate oneself daily, not a source of never-ending guilt and shame, but rather something to own and to take up as a responsibility. A responsibility, I would add, for which “I” cannot assume responsibility. Which is to say, a responsibility that precludes personal wallowing in guilt and shame, but resolves as an imperative to Do Something.

I don’t know how many readers I actually have, and I don’t know how many I might come to have or if anyone at all will read this except for myself, but I’m going to try to explain this to each and every one of us. Every time I read an article about privilege and then start perusing the comments I am struck by the fact that so many are unable to conceive of privilege as a structural fact. And this is what I mean. Those who are any of the following: heterosexual, cis-gendered (that is, in harmony, mostly, with the gender they were assigned at birth on the basis of their anatomy), able-bodied and/or -minded, male, white, educated, youthful but not too youthful, living in the “western” world, middle-class or above, plus probably a number of other attributes that describe the ideal agent/individual in late global capitalism; those whose bodies and personal and/or familial histories place them in any of these categories will, within our current historical context, enjoy advantages over those who do not fall in these categories, no matter what they do.

And this is a structural phenomenon: as Renee puts it, certain bodies are coded in certain ways, regardless of how the body itself might see itself as wanting to be coded, and regardless of how the body itself actually feels about such issues as racism, classism, or heterosexism, to name only a few of the -isms that arise out of the litany of terms for privilege. And as a structural phenomenon, it won’t go away if those accorded privilege within it sit around and feel guilty; it won’t go away even if those accorded privilege within it apologize a whole lot to those who aren’t, although this might well be a good first step to take towards realizing one’s responsibility when one is not responsible for the way one’s body has been coded.

There’s not a damned thing I can do about being white. I didn’t ask to be born into a body that would be immediately encoded as white, I didn’t ask for the historical legacy that attends whiteness, and I didn’t ask for the inheritance of great wealth as a member of a dominant, white populace–I am by no means rich or even “middle-class” anymore, but I still enjoy the freedom of moving around in a fairly large territory that I could, if wished, claim as “my country.” There is a certain wealth of options that comes from being born in the US as a white-encoded body, options that bodies coded in different ways don’t have.

This is the way things are in the country I happen to live in. I cannot change history and I cannot change the color of my skin; I am not responsible for history and I am not responsible for the color of my skin. But what I am responsible for, and what I see the conversation about privilege as trying to get people of privilege to realize they are responsible for, is for what happens now. Where will history go from here? Will we wave our hands and say, “Oh, doing something about privilege is too much trouble”? Then at that point we become responsible; as actors in the present, what we do will inevitably have consequences in the future. My ancestors? Robbed indigenous people of their land. My fault? No. My responsibility? To work to balance the books, to right wrongs that currently benefit me through no fault or virtue of my own.

It’s not about “making white/rich/heterosexual people suffer,” as implies one commenter on Renee’s post. It is, in fact, a question of extending privilege to as many as possible, but only to the point that other beings don’t suffer from that extension of privilege. See, here is the rub, for many especially in the US, where we routinely consume five to ten times our share of planetary resources: no matter how much we talk of wanting to “raise the standard of living” for “everyone” by bringing the gospel of free-market capital to them, the fact is that the planet could not sustain this “standard of living” for all of the people living on it. Trying to bring our way of life to everyone would be suicide by mass extinction and environmental collapse: an exponential increase in suffering. It simply can’t happen! So yes, some of us need to give up some luxuries, but I fail to see how, by any stretch of the imagination, Americans would “suffer” by giving up their resource-intensive lifestyles, when compared with the amount of suffering that our lifestyle already causes others, and the amount that suffering would increase were we to intensify our exploitation of resources and labor. I mean, let’s be realistic about what it is to suffer. (And yes, there arises the big question of just where the labor would come from for the continued production of cheap goods for well-off people were we all suddenly to join the ranks of the well-off. But here is simply one of the most well-known contradictions of capitalism: the myth that all can prosper by it. No. Someone will always be working like a dog, with shit for wages.

But I digress. Sort of.) The thing that has helped me the most to understand how privilege works–and why it is that self-laceration is not an adequate or even desirable response to my own privilege–is to see it as a kind of cultural inscription that was written on my body long before “I” even knew I was one. The question that faces me is how I wish the bodies of others to be inscribed, both now and in the future. If I am content to let things continue as they are, then I am implicated in the suffering of others and am implicated in history as it continues to unfurl. It really is that simple.

The question of what to do: I think the most important thing for anyone sitting in a position of privilege of any kind is to educate themselves. A person of privilege will have resources by which to do so, one way or another. A person privileged in some areas but not in others might have to work harder at it, depending upon where their privilege (doesn’t) lie(s), but here again the responsibility for learning about one’s place in history, when that place is supported by the suffering of others, falls squarely upon the person in that place.

The way I see it, what I must never do is become complacent. Not because it is “wrong” or “sinful” or even “selfish”; but because my responsibility for the future simply disallows complacency. The ultimate result of this is that I keep a close watch on what I do, say, and even what I think: but not to “police” my thoughts or to keep them “pure,” but rather to consider what their consequences will be. Based on what I know, how will what I am doing now affect the future? I think that, especially for those of us with privilege–of whatever kind–a concern for unintended consequences is an apt companion to whatever we do, say, or think, because institutionalized prejudice is hardly ever “intended” by the people who, within the causal web of reality, actually generate and support it with unexamined actions.

It might sound easy, to keep an eye on what one is doing, but it does take a certain amount of care, a certain amount of mindfulness, one might say. Self-flagellation, though, is not required. In fact, it can get exasperatingly in the way, until the whole drama turns on how badly the person of privilege is being treated by their own conscience.

Which seems to me another good reason to kill the superego. Perhaps later I’ll write a bit explaining why this reason is one in a series.

Making the Sale

When I was a Girl Scout–about first through fifth grade I’d say, until I got bored out of my skull sitting in this one church basement doing hideously useless “crafts” using Elmer’s Glue and paper plates and construction paper and maybe if we were lucky colored pipecleaners when what I wanted to do was go hiking and camping and bicycling and actually building real things like the Boy Scouts got to do–the big event of the year was selling Girl Scout Cookies.

They always presented us with the cookies and gave us some pep talk on being the Girl Scout who sold the most cookies and how wonderful it would be to be that girl and how great it was to sell the cookies and get a sense of whatever it was that selling cookies was supposed to give you–I have to admit I never figured that part out, but I’d take home my carton of cookies and the pep talk and I’d resolve to sell as many cookies as I could.

And then I’d take my carton out into our subdivision. Neither Mom nor Dad would come with me: if you’re going to sell the cookies, you’d better learn to sell them yourself. OK but I really have no idea how to sell cookies but supposedly these things sell themselves all I have to do is ring the doorbell.

My subdivision was made up of three and a half square blocks of new-at-the-time houses, perched on the side of a wooded hill. Two of the blocks were downhill from our house on one side and the other was downhill on the other side as we lived on top of the hill which presented its own disadvantages when it came to things as disparate as bike rides and thunderstorms, but advantages in the occasional snowstorm that made it that far south.

On my street I sort of knew two families: our next door neighbors and the people that lived at the other end of the street. So I would take my carton of cookies and I would walk to the end of the street and start with the family we knew there. They would usually buy a box or two. Then between me and the other family I was familiar with were houses of all kinds, including the one belonging to the crazy lady who took pictures of children when they strayed onto her lawn. I wouldn’t go up to her door for all the cookie money in the world. (Like all neighborhoods’ crazy ladies or crazy old coots, there is no way in the world to know whether she really was crazy, really took pictures, or really shouted the things she was said to have shouted that one time. All I know is that back then she was scandalous to us kids and deserving of the greatest amount of scorn and ridicule we could manage. We might even have our parents call the cops on her.

Children are so innocent.)

In fact I barely made it to anyone’s door. I’d stand in the street looking at the outsides of the houses and all those doors with all those doorbells and I would practice my speech which consisted usually of “is your mother home” and/or “would you like to buy some Girl Scout Cookies” and after fifteen minutes of this I might decide that a particular door looked friendlier than some other door and so up I would go and ring the doorbell. Because Mom said I should wait a full minute before assuming no one was home, I would count to sixty as deliberately as I dared and if no one came to the door by “sixty” I would breath a sigh of relief while hurrying back to the safety of the street to start on my next project of choosing which door to approach.

If someone came to the door I would immediately dissociate and go into autopilot Girl-Scout-Cookie-selling mode, using whichever line was appropriate for whomever opened the door and then I would stand there somewhat doubtfully waiting for the answer.

“What kind have you got?” I’d list what I knew I had. If I had sold any yet sometimes it would be necessary to consult the carton to see what was left.

“Well I guess we can take a box of xxx”
or “you don’t have yyyy?”
Or simply “no thank you” or “not today!”

In whatever way the transaction stretched itself out I would stand there gamely offering my prerecorded response to any question or statement that resembled questions or statements I was expecting. If something unexpected came up, I’d try to make do and move things along as quickly as I could.

I didn’t care how it ended, as long as we could bring the exchange to a close as soon as possible and without my having to ad lib anything. Success came in varying quantities. In any case, whether or not I sold any cookies was completely immaterial. I’d managed to ring a doorbell. Nearly always, the experience of having someone actually answer the door was so exhausting that I would let myself skip two or three or more doors on my way back towards my house. It was simply too much to ask of myself to go through that, what, like fifteen times? The world was nuts. Why was I doing this??

When I got home mom would ask how many I had sold and I would say “three” or “four” or whatever meager count I had managed to unload and she’d ask whether I’d rung everyone’s doorbell. As I got older I became more and more adept at shrugging off questions like this, but generally I’d say something vague like “most of them” or “no one was home” or “I got tired so I came home” but whatever I said to justify my poor sales record was received with due scorn and suspicion and then dropped. The carton of cookies would go into my room and sit there, neglected. If I had enough allowance money I’d buy myself a box of the chocolate mint cookies and eat them as slowly as I could, one or two a day until long after the ordeal of the sale was itself over.

As the week or two or however long the sale lasted began to wind down, sometimes mom would pester me about the carton of unsold cookies. “You shouldn’t have taken so many if you couldn’t sell them.” Well pretty much everyone took the same amount of cookies unless a girl knew her parents would take the cookies to work–many would but my parents would not “do your selling for you”–or if Mom would sit with them at a table outside the grocery store, which my parents had no time for, but I knew my cookies were my sole responsibility so I took the single “unit” assortment, whatever it had been determined to be.

But so I might go out again but this time I felt I couldn’t ask the same people that had bought some before so I would go to even fewer houses because my first pass had filtered out the friendly-looking doors and if anyone at any of those houses had bought some and I made the mistake of showing up there again a few days later I’d usually get a “weren’t you just here on Monday?” And so repeat sales efforts were not positively reinforced so after one or two of those sorts of responses I would decide that trying to sell people too many Girl Scout Cookies was a socially unacceptable thing to do.

At the end of the sales period we’d bring back our unsold packages. It was difficult to tell at this point who had sold the most because some girls would have taken home multiple cartons full and brought back a number of the less popular cookies and others of us would have taken one carton and brought back most of it except for the three boxes we had sold to the neighbors and the one box we had sold to ourselves. One year it seemed like we stood in a circle and announced how many we had sold. Some of the numbers seemed outrageous to me. Impossible. Unreal. One hundred boxes of Girl Scout Cookies?? Who on Earth could sell that many cookies??

Oddly, I don’t recall feeling particularly ashamed for hardly selling any but I thought that the whole process was rigged in some way that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

All I can really say about it now is that I hated selling those fucking cookies.

In Bangladesh Villagers are Gambling Their Lives for Microcredit

A link appears this morning–well. it’s morning here–in the LiveJournal community debunkingwhite sparking discussion of microcredit as extended by the Grameen Bank to poverty-ridden individuals, mostly women, in Bangladesh. This is a comment on that post. I am writing, admittedly, without researching microcredit much further, so it is a gut reaction to the bare outline that can be made out, in this one post’s small collection of links, of how Grameen Bank gives comparatively tiny loans (hence the term “microcredit”) to some of the poorest women of Bangladesh, in the name of helping them to help themselves.

The post contains a link to a twelve year old article from the Left Business Observer, which critiques microloans from a slightly different perspective from that in the video link. The striking thing to me in this article is its reiteration of Grameen Bank’s–and Muhammad Yunus’, the orginator of the concept of microcredit–basic assumption that the women to whom these loans are made have the “innate” ability to use the money given to them in a way that would make them successful entrepreneurs. Apparently, this works in some cases. But in some it simply doesn’t.

Honestly, I am not all that interested in the numbers: exactly what percentage of women are succeeding with their microcredit enterprises and are able to pay back their loans and raise themselves out of poverty is not my main concern. Grameen Bank is optimistic, whereas France 24 is less so. The 1996 artical from LBO lists rather unhappy figures that suggest that in some regions loan default rates were up to 80% at the time that it was written.

Whatever the numbers are, what the video makes clear is that microcredit is tearing some families apart and is digging ever deeper holes of poverty for some unspecified number of Bangladesh families and villages. It also makes clear that Grameen Bank is not interested in answering criticisms of its program, or at least it was not willing to talk to the people producing the video.

It is no doubt true that microcredit helps some of the world’s poorest families to earn some money. The question that I would pose comes from a general position of critique of exploitation and profit, and in this case, critique of profit from lending paltry amounts of money and charging interest for its return, creating a need for ever-expanding markets and ever-expanding economic growth in order that capital continue to be created. Which is to say, what, exactly, is the price we are willing to pay–no. What is the price we are willing to extract from others in order to spread the gospel of the (compulsory) free market, where some, with certain talents and abilities and a measure of luck, are able to achieve a measure of success, whereas others, with other talents–unsalable perhaps–and other abilities–unmarketable perhaps–or simply less favorable luck, lose what little they have to begin with and wind up carrying what is for them a crushing burden of debt, but for world capital, a trifle, a drop in an ocean, an amount of money it could afford to give away for free, without any wealthy individuals suffering even the slightest grievance? Save, that is, for the knowledge that someone, somewhere, might be making an “unearned” living.

Why are we asked to “earn” life? What is it that makes us think that certain people deserve wealth–namely, those who have it–while others
“obviously” do not–to the point that they do not deserve food, shelter and healthcare? In a scene from the France 24 video linked to above, an agent from Grameen Bank is faced with an angry crowd in a Bangladesh village. It seems that most, if not all, of the people he has come to see cannot pay back their loans, and his paternalistic admonishment to them is that “good people will be able to pay back their loans.” The villagers demand to know what he means to imply about them.

I would ask the same thing. What is it about the qualities necessary to succeed at free-market capitalism that leads us to call those who are blessed with them “good,” whereas those who are not must be less good–since, after all, good people can pay back their loans because they can make $500 turn into, say, $700 over a period of years? And if one is able to do such a thing, will it reduce one’s own poverty, or will it push one into a never-ending cycle of borrowing and debt?

Now I know the arguments here: that productivity is good, that trade is good, that being able to create goods and services that other people will pay for is good, and that the production and exchange of wealth is good. Of course, one can question these assumptions from all angles, from asking whether activities that don’t produce wealth might not also be good, to asking whether producing and exchanging wealth can be achieved through means that do not require deeply impoverishing a vague, but always necessary, proportion of the world’s population.

My main point is just this: that global capital is itself based upon a large number of assumptions that often go unexamined, and that those assumptions, in almost all cases, draw a line around certain individuals while excluding others, based upon arbitrary beliefs about how we should share–or not–the resources that are freely available from the world around us, or, that is, freely available until one of us stakes a claim and makes the ultimate presumption of “owning” them. At least one woman in Bangladesh has lost her husband to suicide, the only place he apparently felt he could go to escape the shame of being unable to pay back the family’s loan. Were he the sole casualty of microcredit, would this program which avoids redistributing wealth but instead demands that villagers create their own, would it be worth the price?

Buried among the thousands of internet memes constantly circulating among social networking sites, one contains the following question: if you had the choice between your own death and the death of some random person elsewhere on the planet, which would you choose? What if ten people were to die in your place? One thousand? One hundred thousand? At what number are you no longer willing to ask for the death of others instead of yourself? Why that figure? Why not a lower one?

Now, how many of your neighbor’s lives would you require? Is the number different? The video seems to me to make it clear that in Bangladesh, this is similar to the question the Grameen Bank asks of its borrowers: whether they are interested in competing in the game of the free market, in which some of them will surely lose. Everything.

But of course, that’s what they deserve. Right?