I recently did a survey of local small businesses to gauge their response to a new development. It was like entering sites of paranoia and anxiety. Probably, I reflected, most small businesses are like that: precarious, risky, cash flow issues, profitability issues, government regulations, staff problems, competition… I realised anew, that the social relations generated are toxic, permeating into housing and the private capitalism of accumulated possession.
When businesses get bigger the same paranoia and anxieties are experienced as management, shareholder, branding, investment and takeover games, rather than individual. Although the franchise system returns them to the individual space.
A cleaning franchise has moved through the pass into Greymouth/Mawhera, picking up a hotel chain cleaning contract. The franchise employs mainly Asian people on working holiday visas – a perfect solution to the fluctuating cleaning required with variable occupancy rates. But local people miss out on jobs, which are few and far between at the moment. The situation of the Asian workers is probably not wonderful either. It doesn’t do much for race relations. Who knows the ultimate owners of the hotel chain? This franchise is trying to pick up other contracts. Once again the social relations generated are awful.
I remember that this is why the film business ultimately proved disenchanting: trying to sell a script to a possible market, the investment games, the anxiety and paranoia generated, the social relations of the business. Of course, this could be preciousness, a refusal to get my hands dirty with ‘reality’. And it is a highly productive system – you have to grant it that. But then, one remembers that this system and its awful social relations are leading to the destruction of the planet. Caroline, my partner, commented as we discussed this: Capitalism has no soul.
And I remembered being struck, as a youth, by Wordsworth’s poem (and it is a poem that has remained with me):
The world is too much with us, late and soon
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;-
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are upgathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not…
So, a week of having a ‘romantic’ reaction to capitalism. But it ended on a better note: a phone call from Mario, the Cuban ambassador, driving his family to an engagement further south and calling in to Blackball. A lovely encounter with his wife and children (fast becoming kiwi), before a meal of raw fish with Whaea and Darcy.
And not a franchise in sight.