Capitalism without sex appeal

The American Dream

I love capitalism, I think. It is a great system and it works, I think. It supports innovation and progress and it allows us to dream. Well, it seems that way. There are many interesting people online in these corona times saying that we need a new way. Perhaps. I know we need something. We need kindness.

I am all for hard work and taking a risk – it is what entrepreneurs do. But when the system has been perverted to the point it is now, then something’s gotta give. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and this is exactly where this current crony capitalism has led us to, a system that is properly broken. The poor have no chance, and the middle class have almost all disappeared. The world is largely binary: rich and poor.

What has happened to the American dream?! The middle class used to be everything. But they are almost gone. Debt is the trap that they all fell into. And I don’t think that this was an accident.

I am not good with financial speak, and I am not good with money. Yes, I don’t quite understand all the mumbo jumbo you read about in the news about government bonds, and the printing of dollars in the US. But I do know bullshit when I see it. You can’t cheat nature forever. This printing of money magic trick can only be done so many times before the illusion is exposed. I have studied magic for about eight years now – it is a wonderful passion. But no trick I have learned comes close to what America is trying to pull off here. Even Penn & Teller’s “Fool Us” has no place for a deception this big. Money printing like this is an illusion that not even Merlin will be able to explain.

Big business isn’t going to “learn their lesson” because they don’t have to. One can think of a spoilt rich kid who crashes his latest sports car – they know they will get another one soon, and that someone else will pay for it. Remember, he who gets bailed out first gets bailed out best.

I am all for entrepreneurs creating things that we need or love, and things that capture our imaginations. And if they do a good job, the world will reward them over and over. When someone succeeds out of passion, hard work, and risk taking, people love to celebrate a new hero. But when it is about a CEO fat cat, that never started anything, never took any risk, and lays off people, then no one is inspired to hear about their massive salaries and unbelievable share options and bonuses. Take take take … yes, they don’t make money, they take it. There is a big difference. Who allows them to do this … we do. This is what the system has evolved into.


Twenty years ago we told a motion picture story on purpose. Well, it was a story called “Purpose” and it was about, um, purpose. The film turned out good, but not brilliant. It was our first attempt at visual storytelling, and many lessons were learned. It was an innocent and inspired affair, and there were some great scenes in the film, with dialogue like this, “You talk about purpose. Making money is our purpose here.” This speaks to the subject of greed, which is the biggest disease in the world today. Way bigger than the corona virus, in my view. And way more devastating.

I have been thinking about the purpose of it all for more than two decades. Why do these corporations needs to keep on making more and more money. How much do these fat cat CEOs have to keep taking off the table. When is it enough. And what of the hundreds of billions of dollars that America is now going to magically inject into the system – how much of this money will land up in the hands of those who really needed. My guess: very little.

We should be bailing out people, not companies.

The history of the world has shown us that this is going to end badly, but clearly, we never seem to learn. When history does kick in and repeat itself, no one should be surprised.

The question that I want to ask: what is the purpose of all this wealth accumulation? So you have a 100 million dollars, or a billion dollars, or more … what are you doing with all that money. If you were distributing it back to the poor, then all the more power to you. And if you are giving it back by creating jobs and building things, then carry on. But if you are just sitting on this money, and investing it in tech stocks or gold or art works or your own private island, then how does this help anyone. If you spend the money, then the theory goes that it trickles down, but most of this money never sees the light of day. Hoarding cash does not help anyone.

I don’t understand the passion or the purpose of accumulating money. What is the end goal? I know I am naïve and often pretty stupid when it comes to financial things, but this thing I do understand. It is all about greed. Ego is what is driving this – everyone is trying to be richer than the next guy, like it is some kind of contest. And it is a competition where the losers are all of those in need. Because they are getting squeezed to death in this game, and the rich who are the contestants, could care less. The corona is exposing this in a big way.

Power and control is another aspect, but that I will save for another day. Just keep in mind, they only have power if you give it to them. Learn to say no more. No to the new mobile phone, no to the overpriced bag from France, no to the 5th holiday home, no to all the bullshit … you don’t need it. In fact, one of the things that you keep hearing during this corona crises is that we actually need very little to live. As my one mate said to me the other day, “You will never have enough of the stuff you don’t need.”

The values we have all learned to embrace make many of us feel disgusting. What has happened to the fundamentals?

The role model of the world

America is meant to be the role model of the Western world, setting the pace, but what a circus America appears to be. Everyone on the planet has a relationship with America, through movies, brands, tech, etc. And as that old saying goes, “When America sneezes, the world catches a cold.” So yeah, the world is anxious. And whether it is correct or not, to lockdown the world like this, the train has left the station and it is gaining momentum, and will only stop when it comes off the rails. I think the massive unemployment which hit America now, for example, will get worse, and will only stop when things are at rock bottom. Yes, it is scary as I believe that this is just the beginning. The corona is not the main problem. The economic fallout is the bigger problem. It is hard to understand, but it is happening … and we can’t stop it. It is like a runaway train.

A pandemic like this is more than enough of a struggle, but then you have this mass unemployment, and also, this narcissistic, egomaniac of an incompetent American president, and it is a recipe for the perfect storm. Just one of these problems is more than America should be having to deal with, but all three at once … phew. America normally shows the world what to do – America leads. But right now, every country seems to be doing their own thing. Some countries, like South Korea, for example, seem to have a good handle of things. Why can’t we learn and copy? This is all beyond me.

I don’t want to go off on too much of a detour, but that bar bet that went wrong and landed up with Trump in office, is just mind boggling. Talk about Chauncey Gardiner. I am just waiting for Trump to go “Shit, the joke is over – I was just kidding. Bye.” But no chance – the guy is stark raving mad. Would not surprise me if he starts a war soon.

If you look on Google a startling statistic says that half of America has less than 500 $ in savings. The vulnerability of the US is just incredible. It is supposed to be the wealthiest country in the world but more than half of America can’t be out of work for more than a month. This extreme vulnerability is raising many hard questions. Now throw in that gun sales in America are a record high, and the war that Trump may spark may just be on his backyard.

A country like America that consumes much more than it produces, financed by the ongoing printing of money, and now with struggling supply chains, and with more money now chasing fewer goods, will lead to serious inflation. Get ready to pay much more for groceries. A food crises is looming.

Money, money, money

I can’t offer any advice or solution, but I can comment on the bigger problem: greed. America is all about money. I have lived in America, and their values are money first, people second. That was my experience. This is going to come bite us all in the ass.

Let’s see now what the super-rich are going to do to help the poor. America, don’t try save the world. Start off at home, and help your poor fellow Americans. Let’s see if they can do that. If they can, then perhaps it will inspire the rest of the world to follow suit.

Before you shake your head and poke holes in this text, answer one question: how much money have you given away to help those in need?