Discover more from Contents and Containers
Amazon is the U.S.’s messiah and I hate it.
My head is whirling with ideas and reactions much like Jeff Bezos’ drones might whirl above us if the FAA approves the king of Amazon’s plans.
Bezos had the staff at 60 Minutes salivating with anticipation as the Internet monarch (he’s worth $25 billion, apparently) shared his highly innovative idea with the subsidiary of Viacom. Charlie Rose was elated when hearing the news (forget about any sort of fair and balanced reporting).
And of course, what isn’t there to be excited about? Instead of waiting one day for your item from Amazon (now you can even get your stuff on Sundays—forget your Sabbath, Amazon’s delivering!), you can wait just 30 minutes. In a world of instant streaming, though, one day seems like an eternity; getting something tangible, that I can’t download, in just 30 minutes? Now that’s service! I don’t even need to leave my house, go to Best Buy, and by the latest gadget that I need. Now I don’t have to fight traffic, interact with any brain dead employees, and viola!, I get my Nintendo 3DS before I lose interest in it altogether.
Amazon’s idea is ridiculous. But in a bizzaro world manipulated by capitalism, it makes sense or worse, it's irrelevant. Americans, normal ones anyway, are so underemployed and drowning in debt, the least they could get is the stuff they want really fast. But Amazon isn't neutral, technology isn't just a tool. It matters and the stakes are huge, and most notably, they are spiritual.
Even Groupon, in its obvious display of jealously, gets it.
This is the state of global capitalism and the United States and it is doing a number on our souls. I suppose Adam Smith thought in the invisible world his invisible hand was boss. He never thought about what his invisible hand might be doing to our souls. Lately, I think it’s flicking them off.
But Adam Smith didn’t imagine that a giant corporation would control horizontally all major aspects of production. First, Amazon publishing its own books--to which novelists like Jonathan Franzen are reacting in fear and distress. Here’s what the novelist told The Guardian in September:
In my own little corner of the world, which is to say American fiction, Jeff Bezos of Amazon may not be the antichrist, but he surely looks like one of the four horsemen.
Franzen’s books are all about how American capitalism corrodes families, ironically, and he’s reacting to the Bezos’ destruction of the medium.
Moreover, not only does Amazon control the content, and now its controlling how it gets to your home altogether! And with Bezos’ $250 million acquisition of the Washington Post, he is also controlling how the media reports on his company—not that it matters, since his 60 Minutes interview was an advertisement in and of itself.
It’s not so hard to imagine a Philadelphia with Northern Libertarians are getting packages delivered to them by drones, and North Philadelphians are getting spied on, arrested, and targeted through the exact same technology. Our air space is filled with drones—dropping lip balm in one section and fire bombs in another. I suppose Rizzo would have had an easier time with his MOVE bombing today.
The damage this does to the American workforce is obvious. The rich will get richer, and get all the stuff they want, and the poor will be unemployed and trying not to get arrested. David Simon, creator of the much-loved The Wire, thinks that’s already happening. In Sydney recently, Simon articulated his idea that there are “two Americas.”
There's no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know. But there might as well be. We've somehow managed to march on to two separate futures and I think you're seeing this more and more in the west. I don't think it's unique to America.
It turns out that Jeff’s idea, however, is not legal in the U.S. mainly because FAA regulations existed when the government still governed and multinationals didn’t just have their way. Of course, writers at Forbes, not surpisingly are blaming regulations on the lack of economic progress and innovation in the U.S. (forget bad education and a Congress that cuts food stamps but subsidizes farming).
Apparently, it’s illegal in the U.S. to allow Amazon to fly these drones around (as if U.S. postal workers need to be competing with robots for their jobs); it was illegal to even shoot this video in the U.S. (they shot it elsewhere, according to Huffington).
Amazon’s goal is to “sell everything to everyone,” as Charlie Rose notes. A company employee articulated Amazon’s god-like aspirations this way: “anything you want on earth you are gonna get from us." It terms the warehouse it holds all of its stuff in “fulfillment centers.” It almost sounds like a place of worship.
My main counterpoint to this whole thing, especially in this season of Advent, is that waiting is OK. It's actually good. It builds excitement. It gives us time to think and to pray. It gives us pause and a moment to even consider what we really need in our lives. We don’t need everything and we don’t need it right away. I don’t think this is a difficult concept, right? A world where we think we do and where we get it right away isn’t going to help people follow Jesus.
Even Maureen Dowd is noting the spiritual implications Amazon’s patience-crushing service. She wrote in the New York Times this week, “Do we really need that argyle sweater plopped in our hands in half an hour as opposed to the next day? What would Pope Francis say?”
TIME’s Man of the Year might have a lot to say about the subject, I think. So did Jesus. The Psalmist would wait. Paul would call Bezos' a teacher giving his students something their ears are itching to hear. But Amazon is winning. All eyes were on it, and its 30-minute promise, right after Americans brutalized each other to try and get the best Black Friday deals. Capitalism created the evils of consumerism and then solved it. It’s its own savior. Amazon is the U.S.’s messiah. And during Advent? I’m praying for the real Messiah to emerge.