Painted Ponies In Mid-stream

This page written circa 16 July, 2000.

Spending the day in SF with Meron and Greg, we rode a particularly stupendous carousel. This magnificent folly sports painted horses, but also dogs, cats, swans, a lion, tiger, swan, ostrich and so on to what might best be described as a dragon-seahorse; it lives inside its own circular house in Golden Gate Park. Meri was dubious at first, but rapidly got to think it was too good to get off. She shuttled from creature to creature, advancing from a seat in a swan-sleigh to the saddle of a steady charger to a horse that rose and fell as the huge wooden anulus rotated. She also showed a spooky fascination with the shafts and cranks that worked the beasts that rose and fell.

In the all-too-brief opportunity to converse that is allowed the minders of children, Meron asked why I like America. I do not address that question here, I am not sure I answered Meron, I am not even sure I know exactly why. However, I mentioned to Meron one thing that irks me but which I have to concede is central to making it work so well as it does: The personal face of capitalism. It is as if it is socially acceptable to rip people off. If you are in the situation of having anyone at a disadvantage, you screw them utterly, or try to do so. If it works or if it does not, well it's no source of embarrassment. Of course, the best way to do this is to sincerely believe that whatever you do is actually worth whatever it is you get for doing it, even if it is not. Those better at rationalising their own worth are naturally better equipped, which is sad. (I have less respect for this type.) The latest manifestation is the cost of medical examination required in the diversity green card lottery, which is US$185 for a 15 minute appointment, payable in cash only, to a doctor who is approved by the INS... of which there is, guess how many in SR... did you say one? Well, you would be quite right.

I find this attitude repulsive, but it is making the best of what resources you have. If you are interested in having any true friends I assume you suspend these tactics for them, and about people whom you must see again I expect discretion is required. Large-scale instances like Bell Telephone and Microsoft are not acceptable, because the sheer breadth and scale leads to a stifling of the very competitive engine the system is harnessing. Otherwise this is the steam pressure that turns the national engine, the carrot and the stick on most productive workers. It would be nice if capitalism was replaced with something more fair, but who is to say what is fair?

There is plenty I find repulsive that I left behind in Oz. A recent Sydney University brochure shows me that it charges fees more in proportion to the graduates' anticipated earnings rather than the cost of graduating them. Hey, "charge what the market will bear" could be one our mottos!

You may think the carousel is done when you have tried all the appealing horses, you may believe it is done when you understand the underlying structure so you see how it works. Either way, as the line goes, there's still time to change the road you're on.

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