Cashing In On Disaster

An obvious side effect of democracy is capitalism: a virtual, unending realm of free enterprise, paving America’s streets with gold and spreading its divine doctrine of financial advancement for individuals, corporations and countries.

And this realm is, indeed, virtual. It is a realm of numbers and symbols representing what was at one time gold or goods, and is now just more and more symbols for the symbolic exchange of wealth and prosperity.

We trade anything, including war. It was in our best interest for the CIA to fund Afghan rebels during the 1980s, according to the CIA. It cost billions of American dollars, but in the end produced a product worthy of its price: the rebel freedom fighters drove the USSR out of their country, thwarting their efforts to take over that country.

World War II, even, was for a much better cause, but it still pulled America out of deep depression.

Now we find that our investment Afghan rebels is backfiring. The USSR has fallen, and probably would have regardless of our intervention in Afghanistan, so we didn’t need to worry about their presence in that country in the first place. Now, the group we financed and trained has changed.

Surely those that defy the United States also disgust at our lust for wealth. They no doubt scowl at our ability to make money off of anything and anyone, with seemingly no remorse and little responsibility.

Tom Brokaw of NBC News did a segment on NBC’s Weekend Magazine, profiling groups and people who were trying to cash in on America’s tragedy. The government has made threats to the gas industry to not take advantage of the American people, and Brokaw pointed out groups that were supposedly raising money to help, but were instead pocketing the profits.

We’ve all heard of these groups, but there are others we’ve missed.

The latest commercials for Lowe’s have shown our country’s irresponsibility in how we help people and how we make our money. The commercials go through their usual banter about the lowest prices and how they have everything you need for home improvement.

Then, at the end, the statement is made that Lowe’s is the “official donation site for the American Red Cross.”

Frankly, this sounds to me like a NASCAR commercial. Perhaps Dasani is also the official drink of the Red Cross.

On the outside, this makes Lowe’s look like a reputable place to donate money or goods to the Red Cross, which is all fine and good.

Look closer, and one begins to realize that a lot of people will be heading for Lowe’s to make donations, and if only a third of those people decide to stroll on in and buy a new sink or a new set of blinds, Lowe’s just made a good deal of money for themselves.

Sure, they helped the Red Cross, too, but do you really think Lowe’s never once thought, “Hey, let’s try to get the Red Cross to appoint us as their official donation site. We help them and make some money for ourselves.”

They’re cashing in on a disaster.

They’re not the only ones. Media are also in on the take.

Granted, millions, perhaps billions, of people tune into their TVs on a daily basis, but let’s face it: since September 11 a lot of people leave their TVs set on a news channel every waking hour. Do you think they’re not making some money?

One can argue that media weren’t doing too well in America’s economy this year, anyway, but they certainly should be doing all right now. Commercials upon more commercials are being run every hour of every day, day or night, by companies assuring the American public that they feel the pain we do and that they are still open for business, and they pay the media for this so they in turn can make more money.

Add some more to the list of groups cashing in on disaster, and don’t try to separate their intentions from those of war profiteers: there’s no difference, and capitalists everywhere should start to reconsider what they stand for.