Can we talk about capitalism, for real?

Hannah Merchant
3 min readApr 11, 2021
Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

I recently came across a quote from American comedian George Carlin on Instagram Stories. The quote read,

“Only a nation of unenlightened halfwits could’ve taken this beautiful place and turned it into what it is today…a shopping mall.”

It resonated with me deeply, so I promptly shared it and then continued on with my day.

I continued the mindless scroll and tap, tap, tap on Instagram where I was greeted with many ads, influencers sharing PR packages and more unwarranted advice than anybody could have asked for.

My brain reminded me of the quote and while it may be a large oversimplification, I found it an authentic depiction of capitalism.

The imagery in my brain came up with sold me on it.

I wake up in a bed, open my eyes to greet the day and realize that the bed I’m lying in is a display in a big box store, in a shopping mall. With confusion, I get out of the bed, make the bed and then head to find a bathroom in my pyjamas. Once in the bathroom, I splash my face with water, tidy my untamed hair and use the washroom. I check my phone and realize that if I don’t hurry, I will be late for work at “The Pretzel Place”. I change into my uniform and ponder what to get for breakfast. Since I haven’t gotten my first paycheque yet and I have no cash, I won’t be having breakfast and will be going to work on an empty stomach. Point one capitalism.

I then rush to the pretzel shop to work my shift. My manager gives me a 10-minute speech about being one minute late. I apologize, it won’t happen again. After all, I need this job desperately.

Weeks go by, I continue this cycle until I finally get paid. My paycheck logs 40 hours and after deductions, I am getting paid for about 35 hours, give or take. I am so excited about having money in hand that I shrug off the 5 hours worked that went elsewhere. After all, “That's what being an adult is all about, paying dues.” Right?

I decide I will rent a hotel room that night, you know, to treat myself, to get out of the mall atmosphere. Then, I’ll get some food, pay a few bills oh and maybe some new shoes.

And before I know it, I’m out of cash again, eating out of mall garbage bins, and am a bonified slave to the pretzel man.

Though this may be an even simpler depiction it paints a picture of the stories of so many humans that have lived on this planet. A very small few significantly benefit from capitalism. While the lot of us are sucked into the money-making spin cycle.

Don’t get me wrong, having money feels amazing. I am a firm believer that, “Money is energy” and that when we have it we feel sustained, ambitious, excited and energized. Money provides us with all of our basic and secondary and further to that our every desire. Money can be traced back to basically any ‘thing’ we own or use. This doesn’t mean we have a good system.

For many of us, it's difficult to imagine our world any other way.

Certainly, I’m not here to suggest an alternate root. That is much beyond my level of understanding but it is nice to daydream. The way we operate now; with a select few owning much of the world's wealth and so many millions of others barely surviving — is not sustainable.

We’ve been doing this for a very long time. We have all been born into this world that trains us to be thrown into this whirlpool we weren’t even sure we wanted a part of.

I can’t help but wonder: at what point in humanity will we look around our destroyed planet, all our unnecessary products and our fervent greed and say “We need to do things differently.”

As much as I hope it will be in my lifetime, I’m not getting my hopes up.

But at the very least, may this article be a seed in the daydreaming of a better world.

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Hannah Merchant

“A little bit of stillness and whole lot of punk rock.” Hi, my name is Hannah and I have a Mental Health condition. Now, show me where the shitty coffee is.