Person: So it seems your days are to come to an end.
Cultist: What do you mean by that? Who are you to say that to me?
Person: Who? I'm a person. You're a cultist and cannot be reasoned with so you must be excised from our midst, or else you'll bring damage and confusion upon us.
Cultist: By "us" you mean..?
Person: People; plural of person.
Cultist: Oh! So, you're saying I'm dangerous, like cancer maybe, or an infestation of termites, so I must be eradicated. And all this because I'm a cultist you say? Which cult do I belong to, if I may ask?
Person: Of course you may ask, and it's not surprising that you must, as usually members of cults don't know they're members of cults. Even if you tell them, they argue the point with you. But, my telling you isn't to engage you in some discussion where you can deny the fact hoping to alter your circumstance.
Cultist: That of being culled, if you will.
Person: Precisely. And, to answer your question you are a Capitalist. You belong to the Cult of the Capitalists.
Cultist: Now, wait a minute. Capitalism isn't a cult. Capitalism is the basis of an economic system.
Person: So, why is there an ism and an ist involved in naming you and your beliefs? Aren't you an ist in an ism?
Cultist: Well, yes, but that's just a manner of speaking; there to make it easier to speak about the subject.
Person: We take those to mean a set of beliefs, then someone who is either a dedicated believer, or a faithful follower. Is this not so?
Cultist: Yes. I guess that's accurate enough.
Person: We don't denote someone who is aware of a fact, such as water being wet. There is no wettism, or any wettists, correct?
Cultist: What, exactly, are you getting at?
Person: We have come to consider it important to bear in mind that beliefs aren't real. They are imaginary. Therefore, we aren't required to take seriously anyone who is a faithful follower of something that doesn't exist. It may be tolerable behavior. However, should this belief and the following of it lead to damage of some sort, or injury upon person or persons, then we must do something to eliminate the problem. You do agree that makes sense, no?
Cultist: Of course it makes sense.
Person: Did anyone force you to believe in Capitalism, and to become a Capitalist?
Cultist: Why no. I came to these conclusions on my own after careful study and consideration.
Person: So you've done this of your own volition; of your own free will.
Cultist: That I have, indeed. That I have.
Person: I'm glad you understand.
Cultist: Wait. Understand what?
Person: Why we must eliminate you.
Cultist: Wait just a minute, now. You can't eliminate me. What gives you that authority?
Person: Do you mean other than, "We the people..?"
Cultist: Okay, I see where you're going with this. What makes you the people? You could just be some people; we some people. In fact, I say that. All you are is some people acting like you're all the people.
Person: Yet, you're a Capitalist, no?
Person: So your belief requires you to claim there are only employers and employees; not people. There are workers, and bosses, right?
Cultist: I guess you could say that, but that's rather over-simplified. Wouldn't you say?
Person: No. You would say that. You say that because you are a Capitalist and you have to say it. We are the people you call your "employees". We disagree with you on the most basic level. We are not your employees. We are people.
Cultist: As I said, those are terms we use just to make this easier to discuss. It doesn't mean we don't think you're people.
Person: You employ an employee, correct?
Cultist: That's a bit redundant, but yes, it's correct. We employ people.
Person: And once employed they become employees.
Cultist: Yes. That's right.
Person: Don't you employ other things, such as perhaps dental floss?
Cultist: I don't get what you're saying.
Person: When you use dental floss, you employ it, correct?
Cultist: Oh, that sense of the word, yes I employ dental floss.
Person: Or, for instance, when an army general employs artillery it means he's using it?
Cultist: Yes. That's what that means. Is there a point to this?
Person: Why yes. It seems one employs things. So, when you employ people to you they now become things which you are using.
Cultist: Yes, and they get paid money to be employed.
Person: So, you pay people money and they become your thing. You can use your means of exchange, your currency, to convert people into objects. You objectivize people. That's what a sociopath does.
Cultist: Now, wait a minute. You're tangling this up in words. What you said may be clever, but it's not true.
Person: You mean you don't see it as true.
Cultist: No. I mean you used phony logic to mis-characterize us and what we do.
Person: Do you not tell people they must use this means of exchange you're so fond of as it's the only way they'll work, and not cheat?
Cultist: That's true. If you don't pay people money they won't work for you.
Person: But, I said "work" not work for you. You tell them they would do no work at all if not for money.
Cultist: That's what the economists say.
Person: So, people have no sense of self-worth, or dignity? They find no fulfillment in the creativity of their own hands and minds? They must be lured into using their attributes as people by someone like you waving currency before them, or they'll just sit stone still and let their hours dwindle away?
Cultist: That's what the economists say, and I believe them. Who are you, anyway? What do you have a degree in, liberalism? Are you some kind of socialist, or lefty? You're starting to sound like a communist.
Person: Don't you give yourself the right to fire employees from their jobs?
Cultist: Why of course I do.
Person: Once fired, don't you feel it's not your concern what happens to that person?
Cultist: That's his problem. Not mine. If he were a good employee he wouldn't have been fired.
Person: So, if this person can never get another job, and can never obtain any of your currency, he can't eat or have a place to live anymore. This "not being a good employee" sounds like a death sentence to me. And, you give yourself this right?
Cultist: How is it my fault he can't hold a job?
Person: But, holding a job isn't the same thing as working. What of a person who does work for which no one will pay?
Cultist: What kind of work would this be? Charity work? Plenty of people donate money to pay charity workers. Otherwise, if no one will pay for his work, his work must have no value and is a mere pastime at best.
Person: What about a prophet?
Cultist: Someone who reads the future?
Person: No. That's a fortune teller. A prophet is one among us through whom God speaks.
Cultist: Why should I pay someone who claims God speaks through him?
Person: Again, that's not what I said. I said a prophet. I didn't say someone claiming to be a prophet.
Cultist: Wouldn't someone like that be affiliated with a church of some sort? They'd pay him.
Person: And if God was saying through this prophet that all your churches are corrupt and He doesn't endorse them in the slightest, what church would pay this prophet? Besides, do churches hire prophets?
Cultist: You don't have to hire people to give them money.
Person: How would he be taxed?
Cultist: Was that a joke?
Person: None of this actually exists, but for in the minds of people who have been taught to believe it does. Humor should have a foot in reality. You were taught to believe it exists, so you speak of it as though it does. This is de-
lusional. However, when you relegate the lives of others of your species to having to be a part of it, then it's a serious problem, and certainly no laughing matter. So, no. That wasn't a joke.
Cultist: I don't force people to do anything.
Person: So people don't have to participate in your economy?
Cultist: No. Of course not.
Person: But, then they'd have no food, or clothes, or places to live.
Cultist: What's so bad about having a job anyway? Are you like this 'cause nobody will hire you? This is all jealousy. You're angry at the system, so you're attacking it.
Person: All cultists say that when their cult is criticized. They demean, and dismiss the critic, rather than look at the critical observations.
Cultist: Or, maybe you think you're this prophet who doesn't get paid.
Person: How does this accusation make anything I've said incorrect?
Cultist: You can make anything seem like anything with the right slant to your words. I question your motives.
Person: You're saying my motive for speaking these truths is anger? This is just lashing out?
Person: If what I've said is true, which it undoubtedly is, righteous anger is an appropriate response. Lashing out, if that's all one has at one's command, would be enlightened self-interest. Self-interest to a species concerned about the truth would include species preservation and would extend beyond the self.
Person: Have you heard our species is similar to other cooperative species, such as ants? And, as such our advancement as a species is due to our ability to cooperate?
Cultist: Yes. I heard that before, but I don't remember where.
Person: Doesn't Capitalism create a competitive society?
Cultist: Yes. Competition is the true measure of value. Competition creates incentive for growth and improvement.
Person: So the species requires artificial inducements in order to continue to evolve, and Capitalism provides these incentives without which our species would come to a standstill.
Cultist: I don't know if I'd put it quite that way, but I like how that sounded. Yes. I'll buy that.
Person: Cute choice of words. In fact you've been instrumental in implementing it. Didn't it occur to you that a competitive society runs counter to the natures of our species - a cooperative species? Didn't it occur to you that your vision is in opposition even to yourself? You've heard, "You can't get good fruit from a bad tree," no doubt.
Cultist: Thank-you for making my point for me. Capitalism has been enormously successful and is responsible for propelling our species as you call it well into an advanced world. That is good fruit, so Capitalism can't be a bad tree.
Person: How can this world be advanced if seventy-five percent of the people in it have no access to this economy you've created? What of the warfare that's only increased in size and magnitude, and has incidentally become a multi-billion dollar business? Not to mention the destruction of the planet's surface, the air, soil and alteration of the planet's mean temperatures. Weather-related disasters on the increase in both frequency and intensity; this is advanced? We say it's just different; different than things would have been had Capitalists not seized control of the world and run it according to their desires for profit. We'll never know what might have been had this not happened. As cultists do, you speak of it all as though it was inevitable, and you are the only ones who correctly addressed fate.
Cultist: Well, if you're not a Capitalist, you must be a communist.
Person: Has anyone bothered to investigate if there might be a third option? Or, have the participants been so overcome with winning the game they have in place, no alternative was ever explored? Anyway, communism is just another form of Capitalism. It's main feature was who owns the means of production, not the concept of ownership itself. All the other features of Capitalism existed in what communist states managed to pull themselves together. Capitalists full-square opposed that process every step of the way hoping to drown the baby in the bathwater before it had time to grow, by the way. The justification was their economic system was the only economic system.
Cultist: All that is history. I don't know much about that. I majored in business admin.
Person: History is what happened to the people. That doesn't interest you?
Cultist: Here you are with "the people" again. Of course I'm interested in what happens to people. I just don't find history all that interesting.
Person: History isn't much interested in you, either, regardless of how much of it you soaked up.
Cultist: Like I said. I didn't soak up much of it at all.
Person: Are you a religious person?
Cultist: Why? Is this the time to be calling upon holy powers?
Person: If there ever was one this would be it, but I thought you business types don't ascribe to such superstitions.
Cultist: Whatever gave you that idea? Of course, business people are religious. At least, the ones I know are.
Person: And, these same business people are pursuing wealth as the goal of their business.
Cultist: It's only natural that they do. Do you have something against people being rich?
Person: Yes, I do, but that wasn't my point. What of this "it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle…." (obviously impossible to do) "…than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God"? Isn't the object of your worship, the author of the tenets in which you believe, saying as clearly as can be said He has a problem with rich people?
Cultist: Now, I have heard that saying. I'm not too sure who wrote The Bible. I know nobody who wrote it was alive when the man who said that actually said it. I also know those stories weren't written down for almost a hundred years after they happened. Before then they were oral, and we know how screwed up a story can get when it's passed from person to person.
Person: You're not going to have time to qualify yourself to enter into a theological discussion, I'm afraid. Perhaps had you spent your time in that arena, rather than the one you chose, you wouldn't be here condemned as you are. Then, perhaps not. Many people from many religions have found themselves where you are now. Apparently, adhering to a religion isn't sufficient to avoid the perils of amassing wealth.
Cultist: Then, why did you bring it up?
Person: I am curious. So many of you claim to follow these ideas which clearly condemn what you do, and you do what you do anyway, despite that. Even adherents to religions promising everlasting life ignore these tenets they're supposed to believe and follow. The penalty according to their own belief is certain death. It's difficult to understand.
Cultist: Don't look at me. I don't even pretend to understand any of this stuff. All I did was try to make a living, and you people seem to have a problem with that.
Person: Not with that specifically. It's more with how you went about doing it. We see there's a difference between making a life in the world in which we live, and making a living within your economic system. Your economic system has robbed us of the ability to make a life in this world, so it must go.
Cultist: But, I'm not the economic system. I'm just a person. Nobody's perfect. So I made some mistakes. How can you say I won't improve knowing the error of my ways?
Person: Trust you, you mean. We already trusted you. You broke that trust. Now you need it, it's not there. Capitalists are so generous with everyone else learning the hardcore facts of life. When it comes to them at last, they resort to the things that before they ridiculed in others. You have to be able to pull the trigger when the time comes, as you are all so fond of saying - and proud of yourselves for doing when it fell upon you to do; without hesitation. That's how you could trust each other. Of course, pulling the trigger involved destroying thousands upon thousands of people's lives, one good business decision after another. Don't deny that's what is meant by pulling the trigger. You must be willing and able. But, now you don't want to be the boss. You aren't the employer. You're just a person. How very convenient. Jailer! Open the cell. I'm ready to leave.
Cultist: Why did you come here, anyway?
Person: Because, there are still people willing to give you a second chance. Though, I'm afraid the ones who held you blameless have all disappeared. I've told some rather important people I could assuage their doubts by having a simple conversation with you. I assured them you'd convince them.
Cultist: That is very cold-hearted.
Person: I'll leave that judgment to you. You are the expert in cold-hearted.
Cultist: Wait! Wait! Tell me how I did.
Person: I'm not sure you want to know.
Cultist: Please, since you're the last person I'll ever talk to, apparently.
Person: From my perspective, you did quite well. From yours? Not so good.
Cultist: Can I get a do-over?
Conversation With A Cultist