In this year alone my wife’s car has had three flat tires. The tires weren’t actually flat, since they’re those run-flat tires, but she’s had to get new tires put on three times this year so far.
Each time it was a nail that did it. The second time, we found a nail in the new tire we had just got, which turned out to be lucky: the new tire was still on warranty, so we only paid 20 bucks for another new one (though, to borrow from Orwell, we would’ve really been lucky had we not hit a nail at all). Her office is across the street from a construction site, and they’ve been redoing the street itself, so there must be a lot of nails just lying around. This last time we drove around on the run-flat for a good two weeks, with me refilling it with air every four days or so; we weren’t quite ready to fork over another 330 bucks. My cousin, who knows about cars, told me 330 bucks sounded like we were getting reamed by the dealership. So I called up the dealership (the car is leased) and asked if we could just get a new tire put on at a local shop, and the lady on the phone said sure, as long as the new tire was a run-flat. Long story short, Pep Boys didn’t have any run-flats in stock, and the guy behind the counter said I would probably have to take the car to the dealership anyway, since I was unlikely to find a shop that carried run-flats because they’re expensive — about 330 bucks.
I told my wife all this — she makes all the money, and it’s her car — and I wondered aloud why they didn’t just make tires that don’t go flat at all. As I tend to do with most of what does or does not happen in the world, I blamed capitalism: products that reliably break are the oil that keeps the wheels of the consumer market turning. If you sell products that never break or need to be replaced, then eventually you’ll sell yourself out of business. There’s a line by this comedian about how they can make a Space Shuttle (or used to) that takes people into orbit and back and lasts over 20 years, but they can’t make a car that won’t break down after 10 years. A quick Internet search reveals that they do in fact make a tire that doesn’t go flat — the X Tweel, by Michelin — but as far as I can tell, they don’t sell any for the cars us regular people drive. For that I still blame capitalism.
In today’s world, you’re either working or buying. Even if you decide to get away from the daily grind of modern life and travel the world, you’re still feeding the system, and even more so. The plane tickets, the luggage, the travel clothes, the toiletries, the cab or the Uber, the hotel or Airbnb, the food and drinks, the souvenirs — even the photos posted to social media, which act as free advertisements — it’s all good for capitalism. And capitalism, we’re beginning to realize, is destroying, if not the planet itself, then everything on it. Planes, trains and automobiles are pumping poison into the atmosphere. The factories that make all the stuff we buy are using up the planet’s resources in the form of raw materials, as well as polluting the earth and pumping more poison into the atmosphere. The companies whose products and services we use are exploiting their employees, making them work as long as possible for as little as possible, limiting the resources of entire families and lowering their prospects, and pulling workers away from their friends and families and the things they would like to do before they’re dead — denying billions of people the right to pursue their own happiness. And need I mention how the food you eat gets onto your plate?
Suffice it to say, capitalism funnels pleasure to a few people in a few places but spreads a lot of misery around the entire globe. To participate in the capitalist system — which means to merely be the average Western person — is to be complicit in all that capitalism does.
Capitalism has us by the tits.
Featured image: glasseyes view/Flickr