Years ago, when I was growing up, one of my best friend’s father told me there is not a nickel’s difference between any of the “isms.”  All of them find a way to control the working people to keep them working to support a handful of filthy rich white guys at the top of the pyramid. It took most of my life to realize that he was right.

Oh, yes. I was raised on “god bless America because we are free.” I was ready to go marching off to protect us from the hoards of ‘godless communists’ who would spread the red  tide over all the world, stealing away our precious freedom. I was taught that if you work hard and a get a good education it will be rewarded, and you, too, can take your place beside the handful of filthy rich white guys at the top. I guess I was 30 or so before I began to question the accuracy of these suppositions.

My first job after earning an MBA, where I learned that to get rich you have to use “OPM” (other people’s money), and you have to learn to manipulate people, was at Procter and Gamble. The seed of doubt was planted in graduate school. They did not teach the value of hard work, honesty, and being debt free. They taught that if you want to be one of the filthy rich white guys it was stupid to work hard. What you had to do was finess your way into power structures, borrow up to you eyeballs so you could rub elbows with the elite, and, while you were glad handing them at a cocktail party, learn to stab them in the back and take what they have. But this seemed more like how the Nazis or Communists operated. Weren’t we superior to them because we achieved freedom by working hard and following the golden rule?

At P&G I saw capitalism in action. But it was not like the system that I learned about growing up. I quickly learned that hard work had nothing to do with moving up the ladder, nor did abilty or education. It was all about fitting in, and nothing else. To succeed you had to become a good Proctoid, also known in the hallowed halls of P&G as the “Corporate Master Race.” If you became a good Proctoid you did not have to work hard, or be very smart, or accomplish much. All you had to do was fit in, not rock the boat, learn when and how to speak, and live, act, and dress like a good Proctoid. If things did not make sense to you, but were entrenched in the corporate culture, it was neither smart nor safe to point these things out.

I went back to my reading. Wasn’t being a good Proctoid a whole lot like being a good Communist or a good Nazi? Didn’t both of these isms condition people to fit in and not ask questions or challange the prevailing culture? Didn’t they have penalties for asking the wrong questions or stepping out of line? I did not want to be a good Nazi, a good communist, or a good Proctoid, so I quit and went to Ford Motor Company. At Ford I found honesty and openess the very first day on the job.

My boss had a sit down with me and explained that the UAW was a pack of  lazy, lieing thieves who cheated Ford out of an honest day’s work on every shift. My job would be to catch them, write them up, and fire them. My job was to be a super prick, and then the UAW would fear me, and that would intimidate them into doing the jobs they were paid to do. I had learned at P&G not to ask the wrong questions, so I went out on the manufacturing floor to be the super prick that Ford was paying me a king’s ransome to do.

What I learned was that the more I tried to find men not working, the more they did not work. It seemed to me that if we wanted them to work we had to treat them like human beings and not prisinors of war. I discussed this with my boss and he accused me of “collaborating” with the work force. Ford wanted an “us versus them” mentality in the auto plants, which made no sense to me.

Another thing that did not make sense was the quality of the cars we were building. It was terrible. We received the largest recall in automotive history for transmissions that had killed over 200 people. I understood why the quality was bad. It was bad because the work force “got back” at Ford for being treated like jail inmates. But mostly it was bad because Ford wanted it to be bad so people would get sick of paying for repairs and would buy a new car. This did not seem like the capitalism that I had learned about.

The capitalism I had learned about would result in constant innovations and quality improvements because corporations would compete against each other and the ones who made the best quality would win. Was I the only one who picked up this concept in school? Why are products getting worse instead of better? Do you remember the appliances and vehicles and clothing from 50 years ago? All of it was better than what can be purchased today.  A Hoover sweeper from 1920 is far superior from a Hoover sweeper from 2009. Has capitalism failed?

The communists conditioned people from birth to be good communists. Hitler conditioned Germans to be good Nazis from a very young age.  We condition people from birth to be good consumers. We teach them, subconsciously, that what they have defines how important they are. So they spend their lives working to buy things they don’t need that constantly break down so they will be “normal” to their peers and feel good about themselves. Communism and Nazism controlled people with fear. We control people with economic bondage. In all three systems the handful of filthy rich white guys at the top keep their positions through mass thought control. All that differs is the control techniques that they use.  My friend’s father was right. There is not a nickel’s difference between any of the isms.