What the George Floyd Protests Say About America

“Watching things like that should help me sympathize with the people rioting last night.

So should my friend Fabian’s experience. When Fabian was 20, he bought his first car, a luxury edition Infiniti J30 Sedan. He’d saved up for it working as an airplane technician, transporting U.S. soldiers to war zones around the world.

Then, while pumping gas back in NYC, police officers approached him, demanding his license and registration.

He produced the documents and showed them that the car was registered in his name. But Fabian is black, and the police would not believe that the car belonged to him. They arrested him and charged him with grand theft auto.

He sat in jail for two days.

Finally, a judge dismissed the case—using the same documentation Fabian had showed the police. They released him—without any apology.

The trauma still haunts him. Fabian says it evokes a sense of helplessness—a fear that “anytime there’s an encounter with law enforcement, getting arrested or even death could be the outcome.”

Yet, as I watch protesters (even two lawyers were arrested) throwing Molotov cocktails at police officers, and I see opportunistic young people looting stores, and my privileged left-wing white friends say things like, “the looting of our society by unrestrained capitalism is worse!” I get even more furious.

This country, and capitalism, has done more good things for disadvantaged people of all races than any society, ever.

Fabian, despite his terrible experience, says that living as a black man in America is a gift. He came here as a teen from Jamaica. America, he says, gave him opportunity he would never have had elsewhere.

Now, he’s a capitalist who owns things.”

Capitalism is turning us into addicts

“Capitalism is great at making people want things they don’t need.

And of course this is what we should expect from a system that runs on production and consumption. Companies make and sell products and those products have to be consumed by as many people as possible — that’s what makes the whole thing work.

So it’s not surprising that businesses do everything they can to convince people to buy whatever they’re selling. But what happens when marketing becomes active manipulation? More precisely, what happens when companies use science and technology not only to refine our pleasures but to engineer addictive behaviors?”

“I’m not anti-capitalism, but I am calling attention to a certain species of capitalism that cultivates addictive behavior for profit.”