Recently, I recalled the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which is shown regularly in Ireland over the holiday period. There is a character in it known as the Child Catcher. He is a menacing, unsavoury fellow who drives a wagon decorated with bright colours and displaying promises of sweets and treats to entice unwitting children into its interior.
Of course, once they enter, the door slams, the decorations fall away and the promise of goodies are shown for what they really are, false. The children are trapped and at the mercy of the dreaded Child Catcher.
I was moved to study the obvious resemblance between the Child Catcher and the systems of government to be found in capitalist states. The garish wagon that he employs is representative of consumerism and materialism. The trap is debt.
Capitalism operates upon a system whereby citizens are encouraged to owe money. They owe to the banks, credit unions, mortgage lenders, government, Church, finance companies and each other. They are coerced into wanting shiny objects, bright new things, expensive things, costly things; expensive jeans, expensive jewelry, expensive top of the range cars, expensive holidays abroad, stays in expensive hotels, expensive larger than necessary houses, a second expensive house overseas, the latest expensive phone or tablet or laptop, the expensive gym membership, the next expensive thing. Expensive. Expensive. Expensive.
We are sold an illusion and encouraged to borrow money to pay for it. The debt is a burden that weighs us down and makes us less likely to rise up against those who feed from our blood, our sweat, our tears, and prey upon and profit from our futures.
You have made 10 years of repayments on your home, which you don’t own until the last payment is made. Until then it still belongs to the mortgage lender. Will you rebel and risk losing all that you have thus far paid? No.
No one wants to lose in that way and so you keep paying and you keep telling yourself that you are justified and you keep telling yourself that it’s not your problem and you keep telling yourself that you can’t make a difference and you keep telling yourself that someone else will sort it out and make it better.
You keep taking the shit. You takes the hits. You put up with the abuse. You consent to being used. You smile at the lame remarks of your employer. You turn a blind eye to injustice. You show your back to inequality. You pretend that it’s not so bad. You kid yourself that it will sort itself out eventually and your children will have a better life.
Yet you know. You realize that your children are condemned to repeat your mistakes, to live your life to some degree. You understand that the legacy that you and your generation have handed to them is one of segregation, discrimination, refugees, poverty, want, need, social ills, personal ills, broken wills and a reliance on pills. You kid yourself that you did your best. You joke about it, laugh about it, sometimes shout about it, but it goes on. You try to escape in drink, drugs, video games, dreams unrealized. But when you resurface it’s still there.
You are caught in the cage of the Child Catcher. You sought the shiny new things, the sweets and treats and ribbons and bows. But they fell away and you were left in a prison of debt and obligation and control and straight lines and scheduled times.
You can stare through the bars and wonder. You can pace the cell and pretend that you’re free. You can close your eyes and imagine that you’re elsewhere and everywhere and nowhere. But you are trapped behind those bars of debt. The Child Catcher has you where he always wanted you to be and you imagine yourself to be happy as you down another pint and pop another pill and swill from the trough of capitalist feed.
They crave your greed. They want your need. They urge you to bleed for them.
Perhaps, perhaps, the day will dawn when you will finally see how they must stop you from accessing your own Chitty Chitty… your own Bang Bang…
Child Catchers be damned.