Exploitation and Injustice

The injustices, the atrocities, the exploitation that surrounds me, that suffocates me, is inescapable. Everywhere I look I see the rich and powerful crushing someone under the iron boot of the system that props them up. It is made all the more unbearable in the face of the irresponsible lies we are fed all throughout our youth about the way the world is. Why teach us that the world is fair, that society is just, that the government protects us, that we are free, when it’s not true? Why are we set up to suffer not only the reality of how things really are, but also the friction in our heads created by the false image inevitably torn down by that reality?

It makes me think back to a few months ago when I was reading A Tale of Two Cities. I couldn’t help but resonate with the plight of the starving, wretched peasants in the streets of France just before the revolution. I see that same suffering mirrored in the faces of the masses all around me in this pitiful, destitute area. I was rooting for them when they began burning down the mansions and estates of the wealthy, when they made being rich a crime, when heads rolled one after another from the guillotine all day long. They say history repeats itself and I’ve finally lived long enough to understand.

Even though I know these revolutions and uprisings have happened many times throughout human history, until recently, it seemed rather unlikely to me. I just couldn’t imagine the poor, huddled masses rising up and risking their lives no matter how badly they are treated. Now I realize that it isn’t a question of whether or not they will, rather when. Eventually enough is enough. Eventually the outrage, the fury, the inhumanity of it all becomes too much for anyone to bear.

It may sound silly by comparison to the injustices of the past, but spending all morning fighting with Comcast really gave me a glimpse into the mindset of these people willing to risk everything for the mere chance of change. In just three years time, my internet bill, which is the cheapest, slowest option available, went from $30 a month to $100 a month. My income, however, has remained exactly the same. How on earth am I expected to manage this? I have no other internet options in my area, so Comcast knows they can get away with it. (Even though we learn in school that monopolies are illegal for this very reason.) They add expense after expense hoping you won’t notice. They charged me $15 for me to install my own device a few months ago. I’d laugh if it wasn’t so infuriating. In addition to all that, each time I call, I discover that they’ve made it harder and harder to reach an agent to speak to. It took me nearly an hour just to get to a human being.

It is unconscionable. It’s criminal. The thought that humans are so selfish, so greedy, so horrible that they would make hundreds of thousands of people suffer with massive bill increases, for what? For literally nothing. The CEO of Comcast isn’t affected by my bill increasing. The amount of income those at the top see doesn’t even matter to them. Their quality of life couldn’t possibly be improved through financial gain at this point. They already have more than they can consciously even make sense of. Yet all of the people paying for this service, which at this point is basically a necessity, are crippled by the ever-increasing bills. I can’t stand it. I cannot bear to know this and accept that it is true.

This is the frustration, the desperation that eventually builds until it reaches a tipping point. I felt myself reaching that edge today. I felt the passion, the rage well up inside of me. I felt the truth of the potential I had to burn it all down, to kill or be killed rather than submit to this injustice any further. At a certain point, logic goes out the window, you become so blinded with fury that you are capable of anything. This is what fuels revolutions. This is what topples governments and creates violent riots in the streets. I used to think I’d be too afraid to fight when the next revolution finally arrived. Now I know I’ll be ready.

Advertisements & Mental Health

Even as a young child, watching TV in my living room, I couldn’t stand commercials. Most of my life, I assumed that was just the obvious reaction to people trying to sell you shit you don’t want. I thought everyone saw them as annoying, if not infuriating. My anger towards advertisements has only grow as I’ve gotten older. Only recently have I begun to realize that not everyone views these ads the way I do.

A friend of mine always seems confused or surprised when I start ranting and raving about advertisements. I’m usually the one to get overly animated about topics that anger me, so I figured she was just put off by my fiery passion. But since then, one of my new coworkers has repeatedly shown me ads on his phone that he found funny. That really threw me. Why would anyone purposefully show me that? Why would anyone watch an ad intentionally? This bizarre interaction is what led me to realize that some people actually don’t mind ads at all, some even enjoy them, or at the very least, accept them as a necessary evil of a capitalist society. I guess I should have realized this sooner given that so many people inexplicably love to watch the ads during the Super Bowl.

Today I would like to address those people out there that have been fooled. Advertisements are not cute, or funny, or interesting. The advertisers are not your friends. Advertisements are not “necessary.” I’ll start there. I can still remember asking my mom why the radio was free as a little girl. I’ll never forget what she told me: The radio is free, because the advertisers pay to broadcast their messages. From there, it didn’t take me long to make the obvious connection to television. I simply couldn’t understand why we pay for cable AND have to watch advertisements. Shouldn’t it be one or the other? The answer is yes, and it used to be that way. Now despite the laughably high cable rates, the commercial breaks continue to get longer and longer.

I haven’t paid for cable since I’ve lived on my own and never plan too. Yet, I see this exploitative business model playing out in Hulu and other streaming platforms now. I was newly enraged while reading the message displayed on Hulu because of my ad blocker. “We are unable to show a message from our sponsors.” Excuse me? Fuck you, Hulu. I am your sponsor. When do I get to broadcast a message? Luckily I just get to sit in silence while my ad blocker does it’s job.

Some of you might be wondering why I wouldn’t just watch the ad, given that I have to wait the allotted amount of time anyway. I have a very good answer for that. I refuse to be brainwashed and manipulated. Advertisements aren’t just annoying, they are an assault to the senses. There are countless studies showing the negative mental health effects of advertisements, particularly on children. Children subjected to advertisements are more likely to eat unhealthy foods, be materialistic, and have body image issues. And that isn’t a side-effect, that’s the goal. That’s how marketing works.

The unspoken goal of all advertising is to make you feel like you don’t have enough, aren’t happy enough, aren’t liked enough, that you simply aren’t enough. The promise is that if you purchase their products, then you’ll be happy, popular, and fulfilled. Not only does that messaging deteriorate your mental health and wellbeing, it is also contributing to the climate crisis. When everyone continuously feels unsatisfied and feels they need more and more stuff to be happy, it takes a toll on the Earth’s resources. Sadly even if you are aware of all this, it doesn’t make the negative mental health effects of consuming this content any less damaging. It’s a mild form of brainwashing in my opinion. Especially when it comes to the impressionable minds of children. To make matters worse, with most of the content children are exposed to coming from the internet, there are even less protections in place to combat this, like there are on cable television.

To me, advertising is no different than the government allowing companies to pollute the air and water (which of course they do allow.) The reoccurring theme of capitalism rears its ugly head once again. Companies are encouraged to make money at the expense of the consumer’s health. Those companies aren’t my friends. They are my enemies. And I refuse to listen to their propaganda. So if you’re someone that doesn’t get mad about advertisements, maybe it’s time that you start.

Lucky Strike cigarettes advertisement from 1930 - ABC News (Australian  Broadcasting Corporation)

Injustice

Recently I have been contemplating the awful, unjust inconsistencies in our judicial system. Yesterday I got coffee with a friend who spent 15 years of his life in prison. When people hear this there is an emotional recoil, a silent fear and judgment. Even I wondered if it was dangerous for a young girl to be around that type of person. I knew it was a drug related offense, but I had for some reason assumed it was heroin or something along those lines. (Not that that would make 15 years a fair sentence.) Yesterday I discovered, to my shock and outrage, that it was just weed.

This wonderful man who is kind and smart and funny AND a yoga teacher spent his entire youth locked in a cage for possessing a fucking plant that never hurt anyone and does in fact help people. He even spent years of his time there in solitary confinement. Now that he’s out he has a medical marijuana card ironically. And why? For the PTSD he now has from being stabbed eight times in prison.

Every time I think about this, a swelling rage blooms inside my chest. How on earth could this be called justice? As a child I truly believed this was a just world. It’s what we’re taught to believe. It was a long fall from innocence as I slowly lost faith in the courts, the law, the police, this country, and this world. At first I lashed out at these injustices with indignation and fury. I desperately tried to make a difference. But now I am so tired. All I can do is be a witness to these atrocities.

Black men are shot in the streets every single day by police. Non-violent drug offenders are given longer sentences than the men who have sexually abused the children I work with. The most innocent among us, the animals, are systematically abused and killed by the billions behind tall factory walls in the darkness. Never knowing a kind touch in their whole short lives.

I still grieve over that innocence and faith I’ve lost. There is no justice in this world of ours. It’s more amazing to me now that I ever could have believed there was. But even though I know it’s hopeless, I have no choice but to keep fighting. Even though I’m tired and jaded by the futility of it all, there is nothing else for me to do. I’ll keep trying to protect the innocent with everything I’ve got. I’ll lend my voice to the voiceless. Even if I’m doomed to fail, there is nothing else so worthy of my time.