Monday, November 28, 2016

Week of 11/28/2016

A Cautionary Tale of Future Greed
Once upon a hypothetical time in a land of future greed…
There was a man stuck in a tower with a perplexing problem.
His name was Gordon Gek, and he owns and runs the corporation known as Gek Company, or GekCo for short.
“Gordon” was not the name he was given when he was born.  In this land of future greed, you had to pay for a name instead of the biological identification number that you were automatically issued at birth.  His parents saved their money to afford him a name, because otherwise he would not be allowed to manage a business, and he would spend his life being just another nameless servile consumer.
“Gek” was not a family name either, but the name given to him when he was able to start a business.  It wasn’t by choice either.  It was the first business name that was available to him at the time.  And he pays an annual royalty fee to keep it.
For many fiscal quarters, Gordon Gek was a manager to be respected.  The corporate jingles would sing the praises of his name and that of the mighty GekCo for all the profit he would make for them.  The GekCo logo would appear in the corner of every product it touched, which would mean GekCo would get a piece of the profit that company made from that product.
For many fiscal quarters, corporate giants would call on Gordon Gek to help them be more profitable, and Gordon would pull through.  He would always find some way, some new avenue, some new venture that hasn’t been tapped yet.
But now Gordon feels like he is the victim of his own creative mind.
He wandered about his virtual office area.  Nobody really “goes” to work in this land of future greed... the commuting fees are just too high for those that can afford names instead of numbers.  They all meet in virtual offices inside their own residences.  Only the nameless servile consumers physically take themselves to and from work, and they willingly pay the fees and service charges to do it.  Gordon knows that his “team” of contracted employees are busy doing all the mundane tasks involved in running GekCo, and they pay for the privilege of working for GekCo as they would with any other business in this land of future greed.  It’s simply deducted from their pay, along with all of the other fees for the “privilege” of working.
The view from his “windows” are fake.  They show clear skies and beautiful weather.  He would have to pay a service fee to see the hazy sun over the thick clouds of smog from the factories below.  Besides, it’s cheaper to subscribe to the false images pumped in of a world not damaged in the name of future greed.
But he knows that below his tower of solitude, which he pays a hefty fee for the “privilege” of living there, there are the countless nameless servile consumers, milling about, doing their mundane tasks and living their mundane lives and fulfilling their essential roles as consumers; channeling what little they get back into the system so that named people like him can continue to make the all-important profit numbers.
And that brings us back to Gordon’s problem.  Gordon is paid by his corporate clientele to come up with all the ways to get as much as possible from the countless nameless servile consumers, and for many fiscal quarters he’s done just that.  He’s found fees atop of fees and service charges for pretty much every function and purpose and activity in life.
Being born is a cost, so is being clothed, going to school, getting a specialization, having the “privilege” of working, engaging in any kind of pastime or hobby, of being in a relationship, of having children, of raising children, and, of course, for having the audacity to die. 
When the nameless buy even essential groceries, there is an entrance fee, a shopping fee, a cashier service charge, a packaging fee, and even an export fee to leave the store with the food.  Preparing that food to eat requires a cooking license.  Consuming it requires a medical waiver and a fee to process that waiver.  Disposal, both physical and biological, require subscriptions and service charges as well.
Watching mindless entertainment and information is not free either.  The media screens cost money.  A license must be granted.  A subscription is required for each broadcast, and for every two minutes of media there must be four minutes of advertisements, each with a service fee for the privilege of viewing it.  And to turn off the screens to try to avoid those service fees incur the steepest fee of them all.
All of these fees, of course, are perfectly legal.  The question of whether or not any of it is “right” was settled long ago by those with the money and the power.  So it was not a question of whether or not Gordon could come up with all of these fees and service charges and subscriptions and licenses.
Gordon’s problem was that he ran out of new ways to assess them.
There were still rules in this land of future greed as to how fees and service charges can be assessed.  Each fee had to be unique.  They could not simply put a fee on top of an earlier fee.  Each fee had to be traced back to the company that created it so they could get their percentage of the money.  It was how companies like GekCo could make their money and stay in business.  Even the registration of fees and service charges and licenses and subscriptions required an administrative fee to pay for that “privilege”.  It was simply how things were.  And he should know, because that was one of his first inventions.
And now it appeared that there were no more ways to assess those unique fees.  Every human function, every human interaction, every possible human activity and human need and human desire were now properly and officially fined, taxed, licensed, subscribed to, and administrated.
The only thing left for Gordon to come up with was some way to justify breaking that one rule, to find a way to put a fee atop of another fee.  Failing that, of course, he could close his business, sever the contracts of his at-will staff, and file for bankruptcy.  After all, a business was only as good as the profit they make each fiscal quarter, and Gordon could not get new revenue without finding ways to assess a fee that seemingly could not exist.  It would also mean another company could take over for GekCo, but they would be in the same situation as him... finding another way to assess a fee where no more can exist.
He steadied himself as he prepared to make the call that he did not want to make.  He was hyperventilating.  Failure was not in his career schedule!
He closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths.
And then he took a few more deep breaths.
And then he realized what he was doing.
He was breathing air!
His body was taking in the clean, filtered, processed air, converting it, and expelling the toxic air in his lungs with every exhale.  A normal biological function, one that can be regulated and controlled within reason.  And even though there is already a service charge for air filtration in the residences and workplaces and stores, it only covered half the service.  The air filtration systems would process the air no matter who was in the area, and no matter how “clean” it would be.
But every human exhale was an expulsion of carbon dioxide, a toxic gas for humans.  That meant that breathing itself was more than just a life function; it was expending waste.  And that meant that the air filtration would have to work extra to deal with every human that was present expelling this toxic gas.
And that could be assessed a new service fee!
Gordon gleefully activated his terminal and asked his staff to join him for an impromptu meeting.  They had a new way for their corporate clients to assess a service charge on the nameless numbered servile consumers.  Another new way to squeeze yet another drop of corporate lifeblood from the public.  Another way to survive yet another fiscal quarter.
Because let’s get brutally honest here... as long as there are business people that consider the public to be nothing more than monetary resources to plunder and pilfer, there really is no limit to the number of ways that they will do just that.  And we don’t have to wait for some hypothetical time of future greed to see if that could happen.  All we really have to do is to open up a newspaper, or even our monthly bills to see Gordon’s predecessors setting the stage for that hypothetical time to be real.

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