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What's Capitalism Got to Do with It?

by KJ Thomas 4 years ago in humanity
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What's money but a but a buffer creating an artificial sense of isolation?

I don't like talking to strangers, but today, some lady approached me.

"Do you have a cold too?"

Well yes. I'd prefer to huddle in the corner and sulk, but if someone wants to commiserate, I will relent. We don't ask each other's names, so I'm going to call her Jill. Jill says she's been sick for over a month. The entire month of January, she was out like a light. Now she walks around with this leftover migrating bug, trying to function, trying not to give everyone cooties, trying not to end up homeless or some shit like we all worry about.

If you know anything about San Francisco, you know that, unless you have a trust fund or a high-powered tech business job, you spend your entire income on rent and food. Paid sick leave saves our lives, but there's a limit to the hours. An entire month? No. In my case, there isn't really anybody to cover the hours if I take off. Plus, at some point, you have to leave the house for food. If you're taking classes, you have to consider what it will take to make up for lost time. Getting sick as an economic issue eclipses the simple problem of staying hydrated and getting enough rest to get better.

I offer Jill a cough drop. I complain about the burden of taking time off work, missing my errands, and generally falling behind on life. She tells me about her mother pressuring her to buy a house. Seriously. Jill's mother bought a house in Mississippi for $118,000.

"Why don't you buy a place in California?"

I feel trapped by history at moments like this. Is this life? I was just barely catching up on my finances when I got sick last month, and after that, I was only well for about two and half weeks before I fell sicker than before. Real nausea this time; headaches and dizziness. My tonsils swelled up so bad they belabor my breathing and trigger my gag reflex. This is why grown-ups experiment with drugs. I've stopped taking Nyquil in recent years. The feeling of it mimics anxiety attacks and keeps me jolting awake in terror. I take Dayquil and Naproxen during the day. I gargle with whiskey before bed. I haven't missed a single day of work or classes.

I'm too anti-social to chat with Jill any further. I continue to share my gum and cough drops, and we share a generational conflict of reconciling our knowledge and being with the burden of an exploitative economy. I wonder what future generations will say about us—all these people who neglected our health and our passions under the threat of starvation and homelessness. Will we overthrow our enemies? Or will we disappear?

An hour later, I get a call from the doctor. My flu shot, already delayed by several weeks due to insurance problems, is being cancelled again. This time, the clinic has literally run out of the supplies. I am going to have to start calling around to other clinics to find a provider for the vaccine. What keeps me motivated through the pile-on of setbacks and irritations is mostly sheer stubbornness.

Capitalism isolates us. If you're hungry, buy food. If you're cold, buy blankets. If you run out of money, go back to work. If you get sick, pay the price. Jill just reminded me that we aren't alone and Capitalism isn't the sovereign power in the universe.

Those of us doing social activism, doing economic activism, or doing political activism can get caught up in theory and neglect the minor human interactions we have on a daily basis. When this happens, we lose our anchor and our perspective. We shouldn't be suffering like this in our 30s, working while sick and paying exorbitant rent. My friends and I are building the future.

Support Universal Healthcare and don't forget to share your cough drops in the meantime.


About the author

KJ Thomas

I'm chasing after whatever this whole thing is building to. You can talk back to me here: and my profile artwork was made by my good friend Tabitha:

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