2. The Trope of “Competition” Dominates Our Lives

Rundown

In this episode we break down the loaded and pernicious trope of “competition”. We start by discussing our own experiences growing up and being encouraged at an early age to compete, compete, compete! We then discuss how competition relates to other discourses like “liberty,” “freedom,” and equality of opportunity under neoliberalism. We move on to a discussion around how competition can be harmful for industries such as non-profits, health care, and education, and tends to promote a race to the bottom in a global liberalized economy. We finish with a discussion of how co-operation may, in fact, be the rule and not the exception among non-human and human animals alike.

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Transcript

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[THEME SONG]
00:00:19:00MEXIEWelcome to the Vegan Vanguard.

MARINEA show about all things from the perspective of two revolutionary vegan women. 

MEXIEI’m Mexie.

MARINEAnd I’m Marine.
00:00:28:00MEXIEAnd today, we’ll be talking about the trope of competition.

MARINEMm-hmm.

MEXIEMm-hmm, and how that plays out in our own lives, and how that affects politics, and economics [LAUGHS], and the whole bit.

MARINEMm-hmm, and just yeah, our perception of absolutely everything. 

MEXIEYeah. So, we’re going to start with our personal experiences like with this trope of competition growing up.
00:00:56:00MEXIEAnd then we’re going to get into some theory, and talk about economics, and I guess philosophy a bit, as well.

MARINEMm-hmm. And then, we’re going to finish off with a discussion of why cooperation…rather than competition…might very well be the rule that governs nature, and that makes us thrive as a species, and that also makes…other species in the animal kingdom thrive.
00:01:27:00MARINEBecause we’re told this idea that competition is the natural rule of…rule of law. Do you say rule of law?

MEXIEYeah, I guess so, I don’t know. I don’t personally say it. [LAUGHTER] 

MARINEBut how cooperation, ‘cause I feel like we’re taught to see cooperation as this thing that’s almost unnatural, and that shouldn’t be necessarily encouraged, because it limits our freedom. 
00:01:56:00MARINEBut how it’s maybe competition that’s much more orchestrated than cooperation.

MEXIEYeah, no, absolutely. I mean, all of these things are learned behaviors, and like it’s kind of drilled into our heads as children, you know. Compete, compete, compete. There are winners and losers in life, and that’s just how it is. It’s just like, I hate that argument, too: that’s just how it is. [LAUGHS] That’s just how it is. It’s like, well, that’s just how it is because we’re making it that way.
00:02:30:00MEXIEBut we can make it any way. 

MARINEYeah, I was certainly taught that that was the way it is throughout my whole childhood. I remember, my father used to tell me, you know, life’s a competition, and you got to be, you have to be the best, you have to win if you want to be the best, and…that’s, yeah, it’s unfortunate, but life is not fair, and…at the end of the day, everything is about competition.
00:02:57:00MARINEDown from—he also used to make this argument all the time that life started out as a competition, because I was, amongst the millions of different that could have [LAUGHTER] fertilized the egg, but that my sperm was the one that fertilized it, so that everything down to our very conception is fundamentally competitive.

MEXIEThat is such a weird thing to say. [LAUGHS] 

MARINEYeah, I really, I believed that in every aspect of my life, I had to be the best.
00:03:29:00MARINEAnd then, that…idea was very much reaffirmed to me, as it is with all of us in school, and with our grades, and actually, in France, they do, it’s like particularly competitive, because every time we receive a grade, we also know every single other grade that the people in the class have received, and our relative ranking within it.

MEXIE[TALKS OVER] Oh, wow.

MARINEYeah, and even in our report cards, we’re given, we’re told we’re fifth, or we’re sixth, or we’re 28th in the class.
00:04:02:00MARINEYeah, there is a literal ranking of your worth.

MEXIEThat’s so sad for the kid who’s very last.

MARINEI know. And also, the kid who’s second or third. There’s so many parents that refuse to give their kid any praise if they don’t come in first. And actually, the American system is very different than that. Or when I went to, when I switched from French school to US school, when my family moved to California when I was little, it was really different.
00:04:33:00MARINEAnd I remember, we went to this very liberal sort of hippie-dippy school, where we were just constantly encouraged. And looking back on it, it was actually really great. But for me, it seemed really strange. Like I’ll always remember my first day of art class, when we…all painted [LAUGHS] we all had two hours of art class, and then we had to go around and show people our artwork.
00:04:59:00MARINEAnd everyone in the class had to say a compliment about what they liked about our artwork. And I remember, this was the most foreign thing to me at the time, and I thought it was completely ridiculous, because I had been in the French system, that believes that if you compliment or encourage kids, it’s going to make them complacent and overly arrogant. So, you just always [LAUGHS] sort of tear it to shreds all the time. How is it in Canada?
00:05:26:00MEXIEI don’t know. I guess it’s kind of like a happy medium. I mean, I went to gifted school [LAUGHS] so, there was even that. I mean, in third grade, we were all tested to see if we were gifted or not. And I was, so I went to–

MARINEGifted little Mexie.

MEXIEGifted little Mexie, so yeah, actually the gifted program was actually really cool, because it was like a different way of teaching, and so…yeah, we did have a lot of space to explore…
00:05:58:00MEXIEWhatever we wanted to explore, and we had a lot of space to be creative, and…yeah, I feel like it was a good environment. But at the same time, I don’t know, I mean, I always did kind of well. I always did really well, so I don’t really know what it would be like for someone who…wasn’t doing that well, or needed extra help. Especially being surrounded by a group of gifted kids, it probably was… 
00:06:26:00MEXIEVery difficult. Because people had, people were gifted in different things, so it’s like, you could be gifted in music, or in gym—fitness, [LAUGHS] or something. But then, you’re sitting there in gifted math classes, right, so.

MARINERight, you had to be gifted at everything?

MEXIEWell, you didn’t have to, but…if you were gifted in something that wasn’t math or English or something, then you’d obviously struggle in those areas. But yeah, I mean, even despite that, I remember in high school, it was definitely…
00:07:00:00MEXIEIn high school is where it became very competitive, because it was like, you have to get these grades…in order to get into university. And so, it was like, we were all very much aware that we were competing against our fellow students to get a spot in university, and then it was very…if you don’t get into university for the right program, then you’re not going to make it in life, you’re not going to get anywhere, and…
00:07:27:00MARINEYeah. I work in…college counseling. Essentially, I help French kids who want to go study abroad. So, I’m really in the thick of that—kids needing to compete with their…peers. And also, this incessant need to market every single thing that you do in your life. So, everything from the…
00:07:55:00MARINEExtracurricular activities they practice, to what they’re going to do in their 10th and 11th-grade summer. Like where they’re going to volunteer…is entirely based on what is going to look good on a college application. And actually, I work for this one company that…writes personal. I’m not sure I can say this on-air, but…that writes personal statements, or that helps kids write personal statements for the UK.
00:08:28:00MARINEAnd they’re literally asked, do you have a disability, do you have any health complications? Because then, that is going to go into the personal statement as something that has helped them…overcome tremendous adversity, because they are really driven, and they are either competitive or very self-determined. So, it’s like, yeah, I see these kids just trying to make mental loops all the time…
00:08:59:00MARINETo figure out how every bit of their existence can be monetized and marketable for universities. And they’re 17, you know. It really breaks my heart.

MEXIEYeah, and then just wait until you get [LAUGHS] even older, and get out into the job market, etc. I mean, I’m the same way. In academia, you have to have this…well, I hate to say personal brand, because–

MARINEYou do.
00:09:27:00MEXIE[LAUGHS] Yeah.

MARINE–have a personal brand that’s sellable in a one-minute pitch or something.

MEXIEYeah, so my ex-partner was a marketer, and so he was always talking to me about—‘cause I just wanted to do my work. I just wanted to research and put out really quality work and information, and reach people. And I was never thinking about any of that in terms of oh, I’m going to make a big name for myself. I’m going to make it rich. I was always thinking, I want to do this because this is very important and…
00:09:59:00MEXIEI feel like I have the skills to do this, so I’m going to do it. But then, he was always like, if you want to reach more people, the best way is to build up your own personal brand. If you make yourself a well-known, branded person who’s an expert in this, then you’ll have more opportunity to speak to people, you’ll have more opportunity to get speaking engagements, etc. 
00:10:26:00MEXIESo, he was always [LAUGHS] encouraging me to do that, and so I’m like, ugh. But I just can’t stand that. And it’s also, for me in academia, I’m very aware that soon, I’m going to be…finished, my PhD, and then I’m going to be looking for jobs. And I’m very…cautious. That’s why nothing is under my real name. My online presence is not under my real name, because I’m like, is that going to be something that’s a plus for me?
00:10:58:00MEXIEIs that kind of, is that personal brand going to be something that people want to hire me for? Or is it going to be a hindrance? Or is it going to be a liability? [LAUGHS] You know what I mean. And so, I just absolutely hate having to think about…okay, this podcast we’re recording, I’m like, if someone finds this and listens to it, are they going to be impressed that I put this together? Or are they going to be like, oh, I don’t want this person…in my faculty.

MARINE–difficult. They have too many opinions.
00:11:29:00MEXIEYeah, well I mean like, in academia, it’s like, I’m sure they would appreciate me discussing the trope of competition, but also it’s like, am I being too casual for them? Did they not really like my online brand or personality, you know what I mean. It’s just like, I don’t want to think about all that. I just want to do my work. I just want to put out things that I’m passionate about and that will help the world. Not because I need a job, or need to make it rich, or need to, you know what I mean.
00:11:56:00MEXIEI don’t like to have to think about…what’s on my Twitter, what’s on my whatever. So, that’s why I made a whole new Twitter…that’s not under my real name, because I’m like…that’s where I want to be me. And on that Twitter, I have 2,000-something followers, and I get a lot of engagements with everything that I put out. And then, under my real name, which is like my academic Twitter, which I hardly ever post on, I get like no, nobody cares about that, nobody even looks at it. I get like zero likes. There’s no followers.
00:12:26:00MEXIESo, I’m just like, when I’m actually myself, I have much more of an impact in real life. But when I try to be this perfectly…manicured, well-branded academic girl, people don’t care, you know what I mean. And I’m just like, I’m not in this for myself, I’m in this for…the good of the world, and everyone else. So, I’m like, why…why wouldn’t I just be myself, if that’s what’s getting a greater…
00:12:58:00MEXIEGreater engagement. But most…employers, most universities, I feel like, wouldn’t really want that. 

MARINEI think that walking the line between being marketable and being genuine is really difficult. And that’s something that I had to think a lot about when I graduated college, and after I went on to do a research grant for a year. And then, after that, I was thinking that I wanted my job to be one that makes a difference.
00:13:28:00MARINEAnd potentially work in NGOs, or maybe work in journalism. Anyway, those were all ideas that were, and are still on my radar, to some extent. But then, I realized it was so, so difficult. I was living in New York City at the time, to get a job that paid a living wage, working for an NGO, for example…that I would expend all my time working this one job… 
00:13:59:00MARINE40-plus hours a week. Perhaps also having to work a waitressing job. And then, on the side, not be able to do any of the things that I thought were more fun, like make YouTube videos, or start a blog, or write a book, or anything like that. And so, I made the decision to…I wouldn’t say sell out, but do a job that was, that allowed me to sustain myself financially.
00:14:28:00MARINEAnd I’m obviously very privileged to have found a way to do that. Not that I’m rolling in gold at all. But I’m able to get by. And the job that I have has nothing to do with what I’m actually social invested in and passionate about. And I decided to make that trade-off. And I am grateful that that trade-off didn’t look like me working in finance or something like that. 
00:14:56:00MARINEI’m still doing something that I find very rewarding, in the sense that I can interact with so many kids on a person-to-person basis, and I really like that. But, at the same time, it’s not a job that I believe in. I don’t believe in standardized tests, I don’t really believe in our education system, and how kids have to market themselves. But it does allow me a little bit more flexibility to do other cool things. So…yeah, and I also don’t think that veganism or social justice can really be profitable or monetizable.
00:15:30:00MARINESo, I was like, I’d rather, I think, just work for something completely separate, than fool myself by trying to work for…a vegan company that I might not fully, that my ideas might not fully align with them, and feel like I’m making a greater difference. Because I don’t know if, at the end of the day, I would be making a greater difference if my passion for social justice is completely channeled into something like for profit.
00:16:01:00MEXIEYeah, for sure.

MARINEAnd that’s actually something we’re going to talk about later on, too, the liberalization of NGOs. And why that sucks. 

MEXIEYeah, it really sucks. Yeah, I was also looking into working at an NGO if I didn’t get an academic job.

MARINEYeah, I remember that. What happened to that?

MEXIEWell, I’m still looking into it. But…yeah, the salaries don’t look that great. [LAUGHS] 
00:16:27:00MARINEYeah. Girl, tell me about it.

MEXIE[TALKS OVER] I mean, they look fine. Some of them look fine. But living in Toronto, the housing market, that’s a whole other story, this is getting off-topic, but…yeah. [LAUGHS] Mm-hmm. 

MARINEYeah, so just competition in all aspects of life, all the fucking time. It’s exhausting.

MEXIEIt’s fucking exhausting. Yeah. 

MARINEBut don’t you think that competition, on some level, makes us free, Mexie?
00:16:57:00MARINEBecause then, we have the agency to compete in whatever way we want?

MEXIE[LAUGHS] That almost sounded like a serious question. That sounded like a serious question, actually, and I was like–

MARINEI know. [LAUGHS] 

MEXIEGirl.

MARINEI feel like my sarcasm is very serious, sometimes.

MEXIEYeah, that was great, but I’m like, I think our listeners are going to be like, whoa, did Marine mean that? Anyway, [LAUGHS] yeah, let’s get into freedom, let’s get into the trope of freedom. So yeah, I really wanted to talk about this. Whenever I think about competition, I think about this idea of liberty, and freedom, and free markets.
00:17:32:00MEXIEFree markets make us freer people. And just this idea that under free-market conditions, competition will be the force that leads to the most efficient allocation of goods and services. And capitalism will be this well-functioning, well-oiled machine, or a closed circuit, which will be efficient. And of course, mutually beneficial to everyone involved, because as we all know, capitalism is nothing if not voluntary transactions between people who both get better off after every transaction. [LAUGHS]  
00:18:05:00MEXIESo, yeah, just essentially this idea of freedom associated with free markets. Essentially the freedom here is the freedom to compete. So, it’s the freedom for every individual to buy and sell in the market. And one’s ability to do that rests on one’s ability to compete in that same market. So, this whole American-style discourse of freedom, which is really prominent in Canada as well.
00:18:34:00MEXIEBasically it’s like spreading all over the globe. But this whole idea is extremely narrowly defined. ‘Cause it’s like, you don’t have the freedom to pursue your interests, that might not be lucrative. Like you don’t have the freedom to actually pursue your passions, as you were just talking about, because you need to put food on your plate. And so, you have to just basically get something that will pay the bills. 
00:18:59:00MARINERight. Essentially, you have freedom to starve [TALKS OVER] if you choose it.

MEXIE[LAUGHS] Right, that’s exactly it. You don’t have freedom from wage labor. You have to do that. And that might not be something that’s even your passion, or your skill, or whatever. But you need that money. So, you don’t have the freedom to live your life free of worry about putting food on your plate, or the freedom of access to healthcare, education.
00:19:26:00MEXIEYou have the freedom to compete…and that is all. And if the cards are stacked against you, and structurally your constrained in the amount of capital that you’ll be able to access and accrue, then it’s really no competition at all, you know? Yeah, it’s like you’re free to try, but if and when you fail—or maybe fail isn’t the right word. But the majority of the population will not actually make it into the capitalist class.
00:19:56:00MEXIESo, you’re free to try. But no one will be there for you at all, when you don’t…succeed, or when, you know what I mean. You’ll have nothing to fall back on. And that’s the neoliberal thing of like, we’re going to pull back on education and healthcare and everything, so…go nuts competing, and [LAUGHS] if you fail, then it’s going to be doubly worse for you.

MARINEAnd also, this myth of competition is really governed by a politics of fear. Because we are instilled with the fear that if we don’t compete, and we don’t come out on top, then we are going to fail, and we’re going to die, essentially. [LAUGHS] 
00:20:39:00MARINESo…I’ve been thinking a lot about, I recently moved to a neighborhood that has, it’s a very strange neighborhood, because on the one hand, it’s very yuppie, and there’s quite a bit of…the population that is affluent, or up-and-coming, sort of.
00:20:59:00MARINEBut the there is also a whole chunk of the population in my neighborhood that’s very, very poor. And I’ve just been so struck by the misery that I pass from the subway station to my house, every single day. And all the homelessness. And how it’s just, how it’s so sad, and how, as human beings, we want to empathize and we want to be compassionate, because it’s just so horrible to see these people lying out in the cold.
00:21:29:00MARINEBut how we are conditioned to constantly have to shut down that response, or bypass it, in order to…get home, or get to work, and not completely break down and lose it. And I’ve also been—yeah, I’ve just been thinking a lot about how completely unnatural that is to our state of [LAUGHS] being. And how that’s robbing us of a certain humanity. 
00:21:56:00MARINEAnd I sort of feel like either you become…really depressed by this, the crumbling state of the world. Either you become…like a sociopath [LAUGHS] that has to shut off their reactions to empathy all the time. I apologize if it’s, if the term sociopath is ableist. I’m…yeah, you guys should comment on what might be a better term for that. But…hopefully, the listeners see what I mean.
00:22:28:00MARINEAnd also, I’ve been thinking about how all these people, on their way to work, or on their way home, passing by all this misery, and having to make the constant choice to not do anything about it…it reaffirms, in their mind, this idea that competition is the main driving force of their life. Because if they don’t succeed in competition, and if they don’t come out on top, then literally, they’re going to die in the street, and no one is even going to turn back to help them.
00:23:02:00MARINEAnd there’s no social structure to make sure that they get good healthcare, and they get good housing, and they get food and education, etc. As is evidenced by the fact that so many people are knee-deep in misery, and that yeah, there is no net to catch them. So, I think that this competition myth is constantly perpetuated by the reality that we see neoliberalism has created.
00:23:28:00MEXIEI completely agree. And yeah, it just kind of makes me sick, the way that people talk about people living on the street. And…yeah, definitely part of shutting off that empathetic response is, making excuses. And those excuses are typically like, oh, well they just didn’t compete properly, you know what I mean. Or like, oh [LAUGHS] I don’t know, they’re just lazy.
00:23:56:00MEXIEOr they…do too many drugs, or they have mental problems. Like a lot of people just say, oh, people on the street just have mental problems. And it’s like…you can’t just excuse what’s going on, you know what I mean. But people have to do all these things just to make themselves feel all right with this horrible thing that they’re passing every day, and like…telling themselves well, I don’t want to give them anything, because they’re just going to mis-spend it, or they’re going to spend it on booze, or drugs, or something, right.
00:24:29:00MEXIESo, it just really reinforces this idea that…you’re there because…you deserve to be there. And so, I don’t have to feel bad about it, and I don’t have to feel morally conflicted, or responsible to do something to help you, [LAUGHS] you know?

MARINERight. But…absolutely. And on that, piggy-backing off of that point, I also feel that it’s sort of cruel that we have this cross to bear all the time, like when we’re seeing homelessness. 
00:25:02:00MARINEBecause it’s just this chronic individualism where either the people are on the street because they supposedly deserve it. Or the people, that they’re still on the street because passers-by are not sufficiently generous. Which I do, of course there’s something to be said about that, and about the righteousness that wealthy individuals feel for being wealthy, a lot of the times.
00:25:28:00MARINEBut I also feel like, this is such a symptom of structurally, how…devastating and harmful neoliberalism is, and the fact that all of our social welfare policies have been completely eroded, and all of our welfare programs. So sometimes, I almost feel like, god, I’m mad that I have to make this choice not to help everyone that I can, all the time.
00:25:57:00MARINEI’m mad that we, as humans, trying to go about our lives and make ends meet, have to be confronted constantly to…I don’t know, I feel like this is sounded a little, this is coming off sort of wrong, because obviously, I’m not saying [LAUGHS] people who have money, or have a roof over their head, like oh, it’s so hard, because they have to feel so guilty. Because that’s not what I’m saying at all. But…yeah, what I’m saying is, that misery is symptomatic of–

MEXIEBroader processes.
00:26:27:00MARINERight, an erosion of yeah, just this horrible economic system, more so than people’s individual generosity.

MEXIEYeah, no, that’s a very good point, because yeah, I mean, I give to homeless people all the time. I try to give generously. But again, I have the privilege to be able to do that. Not everybody can afford to give everything [LAUGHS] that they have to homeless people when they see them. And also, this me giving to homeless people is not going to solve the problem of homelessness. Like this is not something that we can solve on an individual level anyway. 
00:26:55:00MEXIEThis is a society-wide, political, economic problem that requires a society-wide, political, economic solution. So, it’s like, it just kind of beats you down to be like, yeah, what can I really [TALKS OVER] do here, you know?

MARINEI really, really does. Sometimes I think, like if I descended on Earth for the first time, and I actually saw what we are all doing to each other, and what the situation is like, what would I think?
00:27:26:00MARINELike sometimes I literally have this thought where I’m like, is everyone seeing this? Is everyone seeing this person begging in the subway about, with no shoes, when it’s cold outside, and about to die of starvation? Like hello, wake up, are we, you know?

MEXIEI know. Like nobody can really empathize and put themselves in that situation, so…anyway. Yeah, so I just wanted to talk a bit about Harvey and Polanyi with respect to this whole competition, freedom, etc.
00:28:03:00MEXIESo yeah, David Harvey and Karl Polanyi are two of my very favorite authors. If you haven’t checked out Karl Polanyi’s ‘The Great Transformation’, you definitely should. And I’ll put Harvey’s ‘A Brief History of Neoliberalism’ in the show notes. But they talk about…the meaning of freedom itself becomes really contradictory and fraught…
00:28:28:00MEXIEIn this neoliberal environment, or even just in a capitalist economy. So, Polanyi notes that there are two kinds of freedom: one good, and the other bad. So, good can be like freedom of conscience, freedom of association, etc. [LAUGHS] I’m not going to say freedom of speech, because the way that that’s been co-opted by [LAUGHS] reactionaries is just terrifying. [LAUGHS] 
00:28:56:00MEXIEBut yeah, so those are the good freedoms. But among the bad freedoms, which are prevalent in this society, are the freedom to exploit one’s fellows. The freedom to make inordinate gains without commensurable service to the community. The freedom to keep technological inventions from being used for public benefit. Or the freedom to profit from public calamities secretly engineered for private advantage, which [LAUGHS] we’re seeing more and more and more.
00:29:27:00MEXIESo, planning and control start to become attacked as a denial of freedom. So, free enterprise and private ownership are declared to be essentials of freedom. No society built on other foundations is said to deserve to be called free. So, the freedom that regulation creates is denounced as un-freedom. So, the justice, liberty, and welfare that regulation offers are decried as a camouflage for slavery. 
00:29:55:00MEXIEWhich becomes so incredibly problematic, right. So, the idea of freedom denigrates into a mere advocacy of free enterprise, which means the fullness of freedom for those whose income, leisure, and security need no enhancing. And a mere pittance of liberty for the people who may, in vain, attempt to make use of their democratic rights to gain shelter from the owners of property. So…yeah, I just thought that was such an astute quote. And then Harvey goes on to say that we operate almost without knowing it, with some partial, debased, and in the end, imprisoning concepts of liberty and freedom, that merely support the status quo, and more deeply instantiate capital’s warped vision of human rights and social justice. 
00:30:40:00MEXIESo…yeah, again, with relation to people who are living on the street, yeah, it’s like what freedom are they really enjoying, you know what I mean. They, the freedom to not be able to access any of these things, even though it’s available to them? It’s like, freedom of choice, but you don’t have capital to access it, so…
00:31:03:00MEXIEWhat’s your freedom again? Freedom to beg?

MARINEYeah. And inequality, in this case, it’s not just that…poor people have ‘freedom to beg,’ but it’s also normalized as just the other side of the coin of competition. It’s almost inequality is seen as this virtuous thing where, well, the winners…are there because they outsmarted everyone, and because they’re the most efficient. 
00:31:30:00MARINEAnd so, they sort of, they deserve to be there. And on top of that, not only do they deserve to be there, but they deserve to stay there, because they’re creating all this wealth that’s going to trickle down to the poorest people, and the poorest, most incapable people. And then, so that is their reward. But also, just yeah, inequality, like poverty, and people living in the street, it’s like, well, it’s almost seen as this triumph of this really…
00:31:59:00MARINEThis really…efficient system that just upholds the good and weeds out the bad. And just those people happen to be the bad that were weeded out. Or they must—there’s almost this sense that they must just be there for a reason, right. We don’t know what the reason is, and the reasons are diverse, and everyone has their own life story. But come on, you know. Since we live in this free market where, if people really wanted to try and to succeed, they could, then I don’t know what the reason is, but there must be one for the fact that they’re stuck at the bottom.
00:32:32:00MEXIEYeah. I feel like we could do an entire episode about the trick of trickle-down economics. [LAUGHS] 

MARINEYes.

MEXIEYes.  But yeah, I think that feeds in well to the idea of equality of opportunity, and how it’s assumed that, I mean, the reason why people think that oh, yeah, if you’re at the bottom, there must be a reason that you’re there, is because it’s assumed that everyone has equal opportunity to compete in this ‘free market.’
00:33:05:00MEXIEI think we do a whole other episode on the quote-unquote free market as well, ‘cause that’s just. [SIGHS] Yeah, but just this idea that…yeah, well, everyone has equal opportunity. Why don’t they? I was having a freaking argument with my Uber driver the other night, going to this wedding, about this. 
00:33:26:00MEXIEAnd that was basically his response, well, why don’t they have an opportunity? And I was like, are you kidding? Do you, is this something that people really are thinking, you know what I mean. It’s just like, it’s pretty well-documented that where, the socioeconomic standing that you’re born into highly affects what opportunities you will have in your life. Like if you’re born into a family that can’t, first of all, if you’re born into a poor neighborhood that has not the best school, not the best education…
00:34:04:00MEXIEIf you can’t afford good food, then children are going to school without food in their bellies. Maybe if they’re lucky, they will have some kind of state-sponsored school lunch or something like that. But again, [LAUGHS] neoliberalism, it’s seeking to cut that away. So yeah, you’re going to school with no food in your belly.
00:34:30:00MEXIEYou’re living in a neighborhood where there’s crime, etc. Maybe your parents are working two jobs, they don’t have time to help you with homework. Maybe you have to work to help support your family, because otherwise, you cannot pay rent, which is [LAUGHS] increasingly a problem, it just keeps going up and up in basically everywhere. So, I’m like, really? And then you can’t afford higher education. You’re too poor to be able to get a loan, because they’ll deny you, you have bad credit.
00:35:00:00MEXIEYou know, it’s like, really? Everyone has equal opportunity? I just feel like…what a farce, right. Like me and Matt Blender made a video about this, but yeah, basically, especially under neoliberalism, or especially under moves to quote-unquote free the market, to make them more competitive, the more you remove regulations that redistribute wealth, and help people get on that same level playing field, such as education, such as healthcare, such as food…
00:35:33:00MEXIEYeah, the more you take that away, the less of an equal playing field it becomes. And so, it’s like this, equal opportunity is just, ugh, it’s such a terrible trope, it’s such a dangerous thing that so many people believe. And I’m like, how can you believe that? You can just look around and see that this is not the way that [LAUGHS] the world works, you know. 
00:35:55:00MARINEMm-hmm. I wanted to also plug in a really great episode called the high cost of being poor, by the Vegan Warrior Princesses Attack, [TALKS OVER] where they, such a good episode–

MEXIEOh, that’s my favorite episode. It’s so good.

MARINEWhere they really outline actually all of the systems that are in place to keep poor people poor, and how much more expensive it is to obtain basic services when you’re poor, than even when you’re middle-class.
00:36:26:00MARINELike…I remember Nichole talking about having to rent hotel rooms by the week, because they don’t actually ask for a credit card deposit. So…you’re able to rent a room by the week, but that’s actually more expensive. Or, when you have to buy food meal-by-meal, that’s more expensive than having big amounts of staples, that you can just cook up a batch of rice and beans or something, and eat off of like $1 or $2 a meal for a very long time.
00:37:01:00MARINEWhich is actually something that vegans say a lot. But it’s like not everyone has a stove, which again, I’m totally crediting that podcast for just enlightening me about. But yeah, not only does not everyone have the tools to cook those foods, but also, they end up having to buy little-portion-sized things…
00:37:26:00MARINEWhich costs more money, so–

MEXIEYeah, and in that same episode, they talked about the banking system and [TALKS OVER] you can’t buy anything unless you have an account and a credit card, or whatever. But the fees are ridiculous that you have to pay. And that they will penalize you, if you’re already poor, and let’s say, you’re waiting for your paycheck to come in, and you have to pay something.
00:37:57:00MEXIEOr they just charge you these fees automatically. And if they charge you a fee, and you get, your account is overdrawn, then you have to pay even more [LAUGHS] you know what I mean. It’s like, they charge you, and then your account just gets growing in debt, and debt, and debt, because the more that you can’t pay, the more they’ll slap on fees for overdrafting, or being overdrawn in your account. So, you’re just like, how, what am I supposed to do here? I can’t, [LAUGHS] you know.  
00:38:26:00MEXIEIt’s just absolutely ridiculous, so.

MARINEI heard the other day that New York City was planning to become a cash-free city by 2020. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but there’s more and more places where you can’t—before, it used to be that you would try to pay a low amount on card and they would say, there’s a $10 or $15 minimum. But now, increasingly…you can’t pay by using cash.
00:38:56:00MARINEEven for really small sums of money. So, I’ve just been thinking about, what is that going to mean for people who don’t have credit or debit cards? What if now, to get a $2 meal somewhere, you have to have a credit card, ‘cause you can’t pay with cash. I feel like that is just another, that is just an ultimate prescription to actually purge everyone that doesn’t, that is not wealthy enough to, yeah, have a credit card [TALKS OVER] or a bank account.
00:39:28:00MEXIE–so sad and scary. What’s going to happen to people [TALKS OVER] living on the street.

MARINEYeah.

MEXIEBut even on top of the fact that it’ll be terrible for people on the street, moving to a totally cashless society, I feel like it just gets us deeper and deeper into this world of…[SIGHS] credit money, that’s just–

MARINEFake?
00:39:56:00MEXIEYeah. [LAUGHS] It just really is just…what’s–

MARINECompletely, it just does not, like literally does not correspond to anything. 

MEXIEYeah, it’s just like this artificial, made-up thing that you can just multiply, and have in your little secret accounts. It just [SCOFFS] messes me up, honestly. But…that wasn’t very articulate, but I think you know what I’m saying. [LAUGHS] 

MARINEOh, I absolutely do. [LAUGHS] 

MEXIESo, I just wanted to add that, just as there’s no equality of opportunity under capitalism between individuals of a given nation, there’s also no…
00:40:35:00MEXIEFree competition between nations. And I guess I just kind of made a video about this, looking at structural adjustment. But even stemming from colonialism, moving through to neocolonialism and imperialism, and structural adjustment, there’s really no free competition between nations. 
00:40:58:00MEXIEThe global market has been set up in such a way, as to make certain nations completely subservient to other [LAUGHS] nations. Through debt, basically. Yeah, so I guess I’ll just link my video [LAUGHS] in the show notes, so you can learn more about that. 


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00:41:21:00MARINENeoliberalism is the belief that market ideology should apply to absolutely everything, and that competition will make all sectors more efficient, and that all sectors should be submitted to the rules of profit, of demand and exchange. And so, well, in all industries, this has perverse effect. But especially, in industries like…well, non-profits, and the healthcare and education industry, which have become industries that are governed for profit, and that are privatized.
00:42:03:00MARINESo, there’s a lot to say about the education and the healthcare sector. I’m going to focus on non-profits today. But just the sheer fact that…in the United States, health costs are the number-on reasons that people file for bankruptcy. I know that they’re the number-on cause in the US, but I’m sure they’re not far behind in a lot of other industrialized nations.
00:42:30:00MARINEBut the fact that the medical industry has become such a profitable business, and the pharmaceutical industry, etc., that it’s literally causing people to go bankrupt. And it’s the number-one reason that they go bankrupt. And the educative system is also just abhorrent. I’m talking especially about the United States, but I mean, this neoliberal model is being disseminated everywhere.
00:42:59:00MARINEAnd it’s actually coming to France more and more. But yes, this…idea that education should be a for-profit business, and that if every school is like a privatized company, then they’re going to compete with each other, and they’re going to become more and more efficient. And that has actually led to the complete deterioration of the public school system, and even more preposterous rates of inequality…
00:43:33:00MARINEIn education. And actually, standardized tests are also part and parcel of the neoliberalization of schooling. Because schools have to get, basically the kids in the school have to get high scores at standardized tests. And according to their scores, they get a certain level of funding by the government and by foundations.
00:43:57:00MARINESo, more and more, education is amounting to teaching and training kids to be good at test-taking, rather than learn for the sake of learning, and learn actual knowledge. And I think standardized tests, like the SATs and the ACTs, are completely a part of that. And I should know, because I teach them. You really, there’s a bunch of tricks, basically, that you can learn to do really well on the test. 
00:44:25:00MARINEBut the kids aren’t actually learning knowledge. Like they’re learning how to fill in bubbles, and how to be strategic about it. How to rule out certain options, and how to get certain clues from within the tests, that is going to obtain them the right solution. But they’re not actually learning anything. And they spend a tremendous amount of time training for it. And for kids in wealthier, better schools, that’s only, the SATs is only a small part of their curriculum, and it’s actually outside of the classroom, taught outside of the classroom.
00:44:55:00MARINEBut for kids that rely on…these scores in order to get greater funding, literally test-taking is what their entire education is about. And it’s just really, really sad.

MEXIEIt’s so funny, I…in my school, in my high school, we had the gifted program, obviously. And so, it was kind of the same. We, I only knew this because I was one of the top students. I used to take…
00:45:26:00MEXIEMath and sciences. That’s what I went into originally. ‘Cause I would get really good grades there. But, I didn’t even really like math and science that much. But my…what’s it called, my guidance counselor basically funneled me into these courses, and chose my [LAUGHS] courses for me. Because…yeah, there was a number of tests that we had to take, and we wanted to look the best that we could. Or not we, but the school wanted to look the best that they could.
00:45:58:00MEXIESo, that’s why it’s like, if you are good at math and science, then you should take these things, and take these tests so that our school looks better. And I ended up obviously changing out of that in university. I wasted a year of university being like, I don’t actually like this. But I was forced into it, because they were like, you’re very good at this, and you should take it. But it was basically for their selfish reasons. [LAUGHS] 

MARINE[TALKS OVER] interesting, right. 
00:46:28:00MEXIEYeah. [LAUGHS] 

MARINEAnd yeah, I mean, I’m glad that you didn’t keep taking them, [LAUGHS] but that’s really not surprising. I mean, kids have, especially in lower-income schools, like a tremendous amount of pressure to do well on tests like the ERBs in middle school. And speaking again of the United States. But in order to get funding to have a fucking whiteboard in their classroom. [SIGHS] Anyway.
00:46:56:00MARINEBut the non-profit sector is also, doing good and doing charity has now become…I mean, they’re completely…subservient to the rules of the market. And so, I’m not just criticizing it for the sake of criticizing it, if it actually, if the proliferation of NGOs was actually helping global inequality, I wouldn’t be criticizing the liberal model.
00:47:27:00MARINEBut it isn’t. So, the proliferation of NGOs really started taking off in the late 1970s, when neoliberal ideals really started becoming the norm. And so…today, there are, to give you an idea, there are approximately 10 million NGOs. This is reported by the global journal. I just couldn’t believe this number, because in the late 1970s, there was, I mean…
00:48:01:00MARINENowhere near that number. Maybe there was a couple of thousand or something. It is just, the proliferation of NGOs has been one of the most notable changes of the past 30 or 40 years. And if you listen to liberal political scientists, they would say that the…
00:48:26:00MARINEIncrease in NGOs, in and of itself, is a good thing. They think, they say that it is, well, it will lead to greater competition, and therefore, greater efficiency amongst them. And also, it’s a sign of a strong civil society to have so many different kinds of NGOs. And so, so many NGOs that are competing, I mean, that are treating the same issues. And it was a part of, when it really, when NGOs really started being the main bodies responsible for social welfare, it was also a part of absolving the state of its social responsibility to actually be accountable for poverty, and for lower rates of…
00:49:10:00MARINEEducation, and of health, etc. It now became the job of NGOs that were for-profit, that competed to get the funds to treat those social issues. I always think it’s interesting because, and we notice here, that the state reaps all of the benefits of ridding itself of its social responsibilities, because it’s obviously saving costs. 
00:49:34:00MARINEBut it incurs none of the costs. So, even though it’s leading towards a downward spiral of the quality-of-life of so, so many people, the state, since it’s absolved from its responsibility to promote any sort of social equity, [LAUGHS] it doesn’t reflect badly on it. People are just doing horribly. It’s like, well, now NGOs should just be doing a better job.
00:49:58:00MARINEOr like, it’s the reason to create yet another one.

MEXIEYeah, exactly. We call that flanking, a flanking mechanism under neoliberalism, where it basically facilitates the rollback of the state, and the privatization of…servicing the public. What was I going to say? Oh yeah, so…and we talk about this, I took a class on radical food politics, and…we talked about this a lot in terms of charities and food banks, etc. 
00:50:29:00MEXIEAnd how, on the one hand, obviously it’s very important. And it’s a good thing that communities are organizing, and trying to think about alternative ways to provide food security. It’s also inherently neoliberal, and damaging in the long-run, because all it does is create the idea, or encourage the idea that the state shouldn’t be responsible for food security, and that [LAUGHS] it should be just, if wealthy people feel like donating, then…
00:51:05:00MEXIEThat’s good. And if they don’t, they don’t have to, but it’s just kind of left to this, well, wealthy people can donate, and then, that’ll help the problem, you know what I mean. Not realizing that, okay, how are they getting their money in the first place? It’s through exploitation of land and labor. So, it’s like, them trying to throw money back at the problem. 
00:51:25:00MEXIEAnd they’re not…responsible for doing that, so if they don’t want to, they don’t have to, right?

MARINEAt this point, if all the NGOs were a country, they would have the fifth-biggest GDP. And nearly one in three people worldwide donate to a charity. This was actually in 2015. And one out of four people volunteered. So, I’m sure those stats are even, maybe they’re even more telling today.
00:51:57:00MARINEBut, so it’s really not that people are just not generous, or not interested, or don’t donate money. Because the numbers show that they do. However, there’s something that must be going on, right, if this network of NGOs is so rich, is so powerful, and has so many people…looped into it, yet they’re not able to make a change. And the fact that these NGOs are so reliant on donor money, is a huge part of why they’re not able to be effective.
00:52:35:00MARINEBecause ultimately, they’re still relying on the people that have the most money, in order to make the change. So obviously, the people with the money are not going to donate to initiatives that are going to radically change the structure that made them wealthy in the first place. Most NGOs get their money from foundations, and foundations are…
00:53:01:00MARINEThings that are created by incredibly wealthy people, usually to avoid paying higher levels of taxes. So, again, this is in the United States. I’m not sure what the numbers are for other countries, but I think it’s above $500,000 a year, if you’re getting above that number, then you’re taxed at a certain very high rate. Maybe it’s 90%. So…
00:53:26:00MARINEWhat very wealthy people, who make more than that have to do is, to put all their money in a foundation, so that they won’t get taxed on it, and then that foundation…gives money to NGOs. But it’s still ultimately a ruse to pay less taxes. Not that I’m saying that all rich people are evil, and that all these foundations…come from malintent. But I guess I’m just saying things, saying it how it is.
00:53:57:00MARINESo, NGOs have to compete for funds, which is actually really destructive to their mission to do good because, and this is actually coming from a article which I read in college, that really got me thinking, called the NGO scramble: organizational insecurity and the political economy of transnational action. And, fun fact, I actually took a class with the professor who wrote this.
00:54:26:00MARINEIt was super interesting. But basically, the article goes into great detail about how the fact that there are more and more NGOs, actually leads to more competition, instead of cooperation amongst themselves. And that is inherently destructive for their mission. So, for example, if they…are trying to work on the ground in another country to alleviate hunger, political instability, or whatever, the fact that they’re trying to set targets that are going to be appealing to donors, and they’re also trying to prove to donors that they’re going to have the best return on their investment by donating to their organization, makes them compete with the other organizations that are on the ground.
00:55:13:00MARINEAnother perverse effect that this for-profit model has, is that a lot of organizations will rush to humanitarian hotspots, they’re called. So, humanitarian issues that are getting a lot of attention at that time, where there’s a lot of people wanting to invest money in it, because it’s getting a lot of media attention.
00:55:34:00MARINEFor example, some kind of earthquake, or…anyway, something that’s, an issue that’s getting a lot of attention, that’s going to get a lot of funds. So, it drives people to, it drives NGOs to coalesce around certain issues in order to get more funds. It also makes them spend a tremendous amount of time on marketing, and on grant-writing, and on fundraising, in order to get the money that they need in order to carry out their work.
00:56:05:00MEXIEYeah, so you were talking before about foundations…but I actually work in environmental…with environmental issues or whatever. And…a lot of the donors of the big environmental NGOs are like Shell Oil, and [LAUGHS] are, you know what I mean. It’s these huge, destructive, extractive companies that are donating because they want to improve their PR.
00:56:32:00MEXIELike obviously, they get a lot of criticism for being shitty to the environment. So yeah, when you institutionalize and privatize these services. Like NGO work, which is not really a service. It’s kind of like, you’re trying to make social change. When you make that privatized, and put people into competition with one another, then yeah, [LAUGHS] you’re going to end up getting into bed with really terrible people, just so that you can…
00:57:03:00MEXIEHave all that funding. But then, of course, that means you’re not going to be funding change that’s very transformative at all. So, you kind of lock yourself into this, okay, well, we have the funding to do stuff now, but our donors are going to pull out if we do anything that’s actually transformative or radical.

MARINERight, that would actually change something.
00:57:27:00MEXIEExactly. 

MARINERight. And yeah, that just, it makes me sad and mad, the fact that, when I read that quote of one in three people donate to NGOs, I feel like it’s just really taking advantage of people’s good intentions. But that it’s really important for people in the west to understand that aid is not justice, and that ultimately…
00:57:55:00MARINESeeking any sort of justice would, like anything short of a massive transfer of wealth, and of reparations, and debt-cancelation, is like peanuts, right. It’s not…by just giving money to NGOs, and it’s not by individual NGOs going into countries and trying to make a difference with Western dollars, that we’re actually going to achieve any sort of justice.
00:58:26:00MARINEBecause we are profiting so much from their poverty. And this capitalist system is completely parasitic. The fact that the West is rich, and the fact that the West is able to help these poorer countries, is part and parcel of the fact that these…quote-unquote countries are poor, and we keep stealing all of their resources, and we have for hundreds of years. So, yeah, this liberalization of NGOs is…
00:58:56:00MARINEIt’s really ironic.

MEXIEYeah, no, that’s a great point. Again, I kind of work with conservation and development around the world, and that’s kind of one of the main issues here, is that all of these things that we’re trying to do are just like very, they’re band-aid solutions. And they’re not even solutions, actually. They’re just band-aids that marginally make things a bit better. But they ultimately fail to actually produce development, or sustainable development at all.
00:59:26:00MEXIEBecause none of them are actually targeting the real problem, which is political economy. So, unless we’re going to [LAUGHS] actually take aim at the global capitalist system, and especially the global neoliberal system, and all these structural adjustment programs that are continuing to force third-world nations into poverty, then we’re not going to actually get anywhere in terms of either sustainability or development. And so, that’s the thing. It’s like, it’s not going to make any change, because what’s driving this problem in the first place is never addressed.
00:59:59:00MARINEAbsolutely. So, France, in particular, has benefited from colonial debt in Africa for such a long time. So…Togo, and about 13 other African countries, still today have to pay colonial debt to France.

MEXIEOh, my god. 

MARINEYeah, no, it’s wild. It’s estimated that France now holds nearly $500,000 billion of African countries’ money in its treasury, and will do absolutely anything to keep it. 
01:00:31:00MEXIEOh, my god.

MARINEBecause these 14 countries must deposit its national monetary reserves into France’s central bank, and they’ve been doing so since 1961. 

MEXIEWow.

MARINESo, yeah. And [CLEARS THROAT] African leaders who refuse are killed, or are victims of some kind of coup. And those who obey are supported and rewarded by France, with lavish lifestyles…
01:00:58:00MARINEWhile their people endure extreme poverty and desperation. So, and the UN has…asked France to stop its program of colonial debt a lot of times. Not that I’m a huge fan of the UN, because ultimately, I do think it’s an imperialist organization, obviously. But there have been, France knows that, there have been a lot of calls to ask France to stop doing this.
01:01:27:00MARINEBut this program of colonial debt is still in place today. And so, I really do roll my eyes when I see all these organizations here…trying to help Africa. Actually, I was part of an organization called Go To Togo when I was in high school, selling t-shirts and doing bake sales to try and cure hunger in Togo. And then…here, I’m learning that Togo has actually been paying money…
01:01:55:00MARINETo France since 1961. It’s just like–

MEXIELike colonial debt. Shouldn’t France be paying?

MARINENo, yeah, that’s their, that’s almost [LAUGHTER] the worst part, is the reason for colonial debt is, according to the French, to thank them and pay them back for all of the wonderful infrastructure that they installed when they colonized African nations. So, it’s not, yeah, colonial debt, the rhetoric behind it is to like pay France back for how–
01:02:28:00MARINEThere’s still this myth in France that we allowed Africa to have a middle class, and all of this infrastructure. I mean, it’s–

MEXIEOh, my god.

MARINE–fucking wild. 

MEXIEThat is so terrible.

MARINEAnd actually, I talk about this in my [TALKS OVER] video, that is going to come out soon, but I have not managed to edit it, even though it’s been way too long. But that actually, the tunnels that they installed in Africa, created this perfect breeding-ground for mosquitoes, and is a huge reason why malaria has not been stamped out.
01:03:00:00MARINEBecause essentially, you’re creating these canals that are dark, that are humid, that are warm, that just create a perfect environment for these diseased mosquitoes to keep reproducing. So yeah, not only are they paying France colonial debt to thank them for building these wonderful [LAUGHTER] canals, but they’re also just dying by, I think, 10 million a year in the continent of Africa, because of malaria.
01:03:28:00MARINEI mean–

MEXIEThat is so disgusting. 

MARINESo disgusting.

MEXIEOh, my god, that makes my head spin. I’ve seen people on Twitter say similar things. Like centrists saying, oh, [LAUGHS] the colonized country should be thanking the colonizers. And I’m just like, I want to scream. [LAUGHS] Whew, yeah.
01:03:55:00MARINEAnd the fact that…they need money to make their operations run, just perpetuates the myth that it’s the people with the most money that are going to do the most amount of good for society. Because you know, if it takes $2 to cure malaria, and it takes $30 to…put a kid through school in Africa, or something like that, like all these flashy targets that you hear, then the people…who are actually benefiting most off of this system of inequality, are able to do the most good.
01:04:30:00MARINEIf we listen to this model. Because they’re able to donate the most money.

MEXIERight, exactly. And I talked about this in my capitalism and the environment video. But the idea that we can just throw money back at a problem. Like money that was produced, a problem that was [TALKS OVER] produced through capitalist accumulation—the fact that we can take that accumulated money, and throw it back at the problem that was produced through capitalist accumulation, is absolutely…
01:05:02:00MEXIESelf-defeating, you know what I mean. Like you cannot fight capitalism with capitalism. Capitalism cannot be the answer to its own contradictions. So, yeah. [LAUGHS] That’s basically that. 

MARINEYeah. Case closed.

MEXIEYeah, case closed. [LAUGHTER] 

MARINEGreat. 
01:05:55:00MEXIESo, yeah. And even the idea, like capitalism can’t be the answer to its own contradictions…people have a very skewed view of capitalism and competition. Like I am thinking of the idea of perfect competition, which is prevalent in neoclassical economics. I’m going to point everyone, I’m going to link it in the show notes, but Anwar Shaikh does amazing lectures about this. So, please go watch them.
01:05:57:00MEXIEI’ve also made a video about this, about how…competition actually leads to monopoly [LAUGHS] under capitalism, or oligopoly, or what not. But yeah, so this idea of perfect competition and equilibrium is just so…it’s based on nothing, right. So, the classical economists, like Adam Smith, Ricardo, and Marx, who actually have a lot more in common than people give them credit for…
01:06:26:00MEXIEThey developed their theories by looking at how capitalism actually functioned on the ground. So, they were looking at actual businesses, and then building their theories off of actual businesses. Whereas neoclassical economists, they’re starting from the point of, let’s imagine the most ideal system, where everything is perfectly competitive, everything is in perfect equilibrium, and then we’ll create models out of that. And then anything that deviates from this, is considered an aberration, or is considered imperfect competition, or is considered…
01:07:00:00MEXIEAny deviation from this perfect model is like, oh, well, the state must be too involved, then, right. Even though this perfect model [LAUGHS] we’ve never witnessed it. It’s…highly unlikely that we ever will. So, anyway, I’ll just point everyone to Anwar Sheikh, to go check that out. So yeah, I mean, and capitalism, competition, if we free the market, competition leads to monopoly anyway. 
01:07:27:00MEXIEIt leads to…each company wants to secure the biggest portion of the market share. And so, the big fish eat the little fish. That’s how it goes. And we end up with oligopoly, for the most part. And then, in that situation, price competition is really not a thing anymore. Schumpeter calls this corespective pricing, where big, monopolistic firms, they recognize that they have nothing to gain from entering into a price-war with other competitors.
01:08:01:00MEXIEAnd so…they basically, indirectly or directly collude in setting prices. And if they do engage in competition to increase their overall profits, one of the main ways that they do this is, they cut their costs. So, that has devastating effects, as we know, for labor and the environment. Particularly in a liberalized global economy, it just ends up as a complete race to the bottom, in terms of working conditions, income…
01:08:37:00MEXIEEnvironmental conditions, etc. So, the more we try to make the market freely competitive, the more of a race to the bottom it is. And we see that, as well, with trade deregulation, where certain countries…their competitive advantage is the fact that they will pay their workers the least, and they will not put in any environmental protections. 
01:09:03:00MEXIEAnd this is a direct result of competition, and the need…any capitalist, no matter how socially or environmentally progressive they want to be, at the end of the day, has to stay competitive. And to do that, to increase your profits, the two ways are to cut costs on labor, or cut costs on your resources, or through environmental cutting of costs. [LAUGHS] 
01:09:32:00MEXIESo, yeah, it’s just, it amounts to race to the bottom, everywhere you turn.

MARINESo, I’m going to end by speaking about the trope of competition as it’s seen in the animal kingdom, or as it’s thought of in the animal kingdom. And this comes from the extremely prevalent view of Darwinian competition.
01:09:57:00MARINEThat basically, evolution is only premised on survival of the fittest. Or I should say, governed, rather than premised on survival of the fittest. And that it’s through ruthless competition, and struggle, and fighting…that species are able to survive, and they’re able to evolve. And there are many brilliant people who have advanced a very compelling case for the fact that cooperation, rather than competition, is the most important law of nature.
01:10:34:00MARINEOr that it’s at least as important as competition. So, Peter Kropotkin—I always have a hard time saying Kropotkin. [LAUGHTER] I tried to say it with a straight face, but Mexie’s heard me struggle with this. Who was a Russian…anarchist geographer…
01:10:56:00MARINEStrongly objected to the Hobbesian notion of competition…that intense fighting basically defined the evolution of all species, including human. Including humans, sorry. And he…notably argued this in a book called Mutual Aid, where he documented instances of cooperation in nature. So, I’m going to read a quote from his book.
01:11:27:00MARINEHe says, ‘As soon as we study animals, not in laboratories and museums only, but in forests and the prairie, in the steep and the mountain, we at once perceive that, though there is an immense amount of warfare and extermination going on amidst various species, and especially amidst various classes of animals, there is, at the same, as much, or perhaps even more, mutual support, mutual aid, and mutual defense amidst animals belonging to the same species or, at least, to the same society.’
01:11:58:00MARINEAnd later, he argues…’But if we resort to an indirect test, and ask nature, who are the fittest? Those who are continuously at war with each other, or those who support one another? We at once see that those animals which acquire habits of mutual aid are undoubtedly the fittest.’ So, this pattern of cooperation can be observed pretty much absolutely everywhere…
01:12:26:00MARINEInsect species, mammals, in fish. And there are really, there’s a really cool article, while we’ll link in the show notes…that shows 20 different examples of really amazing cooperation found in nature. And also, documenting the democratic structures that a lot of herds of animals adopt in order to make decisions.
01:12:55:00MARINESo, for example, one that I thought was really cool is the red deer of Eurasia, that lives in large herds, and spends lots of time either grazing or lying down, to ruminate. And…they move, obviously, from place to place. But some deer are ready to move before others. And scientists have noticed that herds only move when 60% of the adults have stood up. So, essentially, they’re voting with their feet. And I heard of another example.
01:13:26:00MARINEUnfortunately, I wasn’t able to…find the direct passage. But I am pretty sure I read this in…Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid, that…deer, in order to make decisions, usually will, some species will arrange themselves in a circle, and tilt their head in order to vote, one way or the other. And that the decision is not implemented by the herd until at least 51%, like more than half of…
01:14:02:00MARINEYeah, at least 51% of the deer tilt their head a certain way. So, it’s like…super democratic and egalitarian.

MEXIE[LAUGHS] That’s so cool.

MARINEIt’s so fucking cute, too, just imagining them doing it, just makes me lose it.

MEXIEJust imagine. But it also makes me like, oh my gosh, they’re having a little council, committee meeting. [LAUGHS] This is wild.
01:14:27:00MARINEI know, yeah. And it’s just, we’re fed this idea that we’re hard-wired to be individualistic, and to be selfish. And that’s how we’re going to obtain the most gain, and that is the natural rule of the world absolutely everywhere. And that’s just not true. Also, trees communicate with each other, through their roots. There’s an entire network…
01:14:57:00MARINEOf connections under the forest floor. Should I call it floor? Ground, whatever. Where like trees let themselves know if there’s a certain kind of predator, or if there’s a certain type of insect that’s more prevalent than at other times, in the forest. So, if they should develop certain types of enzymes. I don’t know, all this really cool shit, where just these examples in nature are everywhere. 
01:15:28:00MEXIEYeah, even if you think about wolves hunting as a pack, or dogs, or whatever.

MARINETotally.

MEXIEOr yeah, when you think about birds who have special calls, to tell each other when there’s a predator around, and different strategies to confuse predators, etc. It’s just, yeah. Cooperation is the rule, not the exception.
01:15:58:00MARINEYeah, I just really…[SIGHS] I try to, yeah, I wonder what the world would be like today [LAUGHS] if that was the belief that we were instilled with. And other communities haven’t been as chronically selfish as we have. There’s examples of that, also, throughout history.

MEXIEFor sure.

MARINEWhich I think you were going to talk about next, quickly.

MEXIEYeah…
01:16:25:00MEXIEI was going to talk about Elinor Ostrom and her work looking at the fact that, even in humans, cooperation, and not competition, is the rule. When we look at communities that are managing common resources, and communities that are living maybe closer to the land, or what not. And I talked about this in my Tragedy of the Commons video, so I’ll link that below, so people can check it out. But…yeah, she found that, all over, cooperation and the common managing resources was far more prevalent…
01:17:00:00MEXIEThan competition. Because it just doesn’t make sense. [LAUGHS] It just doesn’t make sense.

MARINEWhereas, if we listen to neoliberal economics, they will swear that that actually never happens, because that is counter to people’s hard-wired way of being, and their self-interest. It’s just like, dude, are you looking at reality? Are you–

MEXIEYeah, but also it’s like, that comes from a very particular cultural bias, where, in North America especially, like in Western civilization, we are taught that from birth.
01:17:31:00MEXIEAnd so, it’s like, this isn’t some innate thing. It’s a, very much a learned behavior that we learn in our societies. But not all societies operate that way. Like I’ve spent a lot of time researching in northern Thailand, and working with quote-unquote hill tribes. That’s actually a derogatory term. But ethnic minorities there. And their whole understanding of the nature of society is binary.
01:17:58:00MEXIETheir whole understanding of cooperation versus competition is completely different. And so, yeah, of course we think here, in the west, where everything is hyper-competitive, that this is just an innate thing. But it’s because we’ve been brought up this way, you know? And all you have to do is look around the world and see that it’s not a universal trait of every society to understand that this is a learned behavior. And we can…we’re not just a slave to this.
01:17:27:00MEXIEWe can…open our eyes, and decide to choose a different path. We don’t, it’s not like we’re just, we have no capacity to critically think about this and change our behaviors.

MARINEAbsolutely. And I feel like that ties in so intimately with the myth of scarcity, which is a whole other can of worms, that we will not get into right now. But this belief that there is just not enough for everyone to have their share, and for everyone to survive.
01:19:00:00MARINEAnd competition would essentially have no, I feel like it would have no power, if there wasn’t also this underlying myth that the resources need to be competed for, because there isn’t every, enough for everyone to go around.

MEXIENot sure if I brought this up in our last episode, but there’s actually enough food in the world being produced, for everyone to have at least 2500 calories per day.
01:19:27:00MEXIEBut it’s just not being distributed. It’s being distributed privately. I mean, half of it is being wasted and thrown out, you know what I mean. So, yeah, it is, the myth of scarcity is just…[GROANS] And yeah, that definitely ties in to competition, because…yeah, inequality is justified, because of this idea that resources are so scarce, so we have to compete for them. So…

MARINERight. [SIGHS] Yeah.

MEXIE[LAUGHS] 
01:20:00:00MARINEWell…I think Mexie and I are pretty tired from–

MEXIEI am like, yeah, very tired. But then also–

MARINE–listeners don’t know the whole backstory.

MEXIEWe had a lot of technical problems trying to–

MARINEOh, my goodness. [LAUGHTER] Trying to record this episode, yeah.

MEXIETrying to record this episode, yeah.

MARINE[And we’re so far].

MEXIEI really like how it’s turned out. But it’s also just a very heavy…
01:20:28:00MEXIETopic, because…it just makes me very frustrated to think about. And then especially when I get into arguments like the one I got into with my Uber driver, and people are just so convinced of the opposite. Like he was going on about how he thinks that…education should be totally privatized, and move to a charter system. And I’m just like, what? 

MARINEAlso, it’s ironic, because Uber is fucking him over so badly.
01:20:57:00MEXIEI know. Yeah, it was just…it’s just hard to handle, because I just, I…want to feel like things are changing and progressing—that and making a positive difference. But if I can’t even convince my Uber driver, whose making these terrible arguments, I’m just like, well, these are the people that are populating my city, [LAUGHS] you know?

MARINEYeah, and the people that are being…
01:21:27:00MARINEHarmed really badly by this myth of competition. [TALKS OVER] Uber is so disgusting.

MEXIERight. And they’re seeking to make it even worse. And I’m like, if you get your way, then things are going to be worse for me, too. Because then, I’m not going to be able to access education and healthcare, or anything. [SCOFFS] Yeah. Anyway. [TALKS OVER] Good episode, girl.

MARINEGood episode, girl. We did it. 
01:21:58:00MEXIESo, yeah.

MARINEWell, thanks, everyone, for listening.

MEXIEYeah, we’d love to hear what you think, so leave us a comment. I also just want to say, if you like the show, please consider sharing this episode with your friends, and also leaving us a review and a rating on iTunes, or whatever app you are listening to this on. We would really appreciate that.

MARINEYes. And also, you can donate to our Patreon.

MEXIEYeah, so we’d very much like to thank our two Patreons that have donated since the last episode. So exciting.
01:22:32:00MEXIESo, a very special thank you to Sara [Cauley], and to Revolutionary Spectre, for your very generous donations. 

MARINEFor believing in baby Marine and Mexie.

MEXIEYes, yes.

MARINEAnd the baby Vegan Vanguard.

MEXIEYeah. [LAUGHS] So, if anyone else would like to contribute and show their support for the show, you can also become a patron. 
01:22:56:00MEXIEOr, we also accept one-time donations via PayPal. So, on that note, [LAUGHS] 

MARINEOn that note, I guess we should go.

MEXIEI guess we should go. So, thank you very much for listening, and we will see you all in two weeks.

MARINEYup. [TALKS OVER] All right, bye. 


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