In my early thirties I dated for a couple months a woman whose best friend was dating a millionaire CEO of a software company. I hung out with him a couple times. He may be the only millionaire I’ve ever had drinks with outside of a work event. He bought me a cheese plate once and talked about the history and significance of each cheese. He seemed like a pretty normal guy. You never would have known he was loaded.
He would write these long, deeply emotional emails to his girlfriend where he would go on and on about how much he loved her and how much he wanted to make a real, quality relationship. He poured out his feelings and asked her about hers.
But she rarely answered these letters. Instead, she would forward them to my girlfriend and they would get together to read them and laugh at him for taking the relationship so seriously when she was cheating on him with several other guys and mostly just using him for his money. Then my girlfriend would meet up with me and read me these letters, laughing at his outpouring of emotion, calling him a “doofus”, a “loser”, “sappy”, a “pussy”.
I’ll admit, I went along with it and engaged in this toxic behavior. I had a morbid curiosity. I had never heard a man really talking about his feelings like this before. In a way I was jealous. My girlfriend took issue with me having a few stuffed animals, thinking it wasn’t masculine enough, so I was already scared to be myself around her.
I never thought much about this millionaire guy until recently. I’m not sure why. This was cruel behavior and I was a part of it. It was like we were in seventh grade again. But I never felt guilty, even though I’ve felt guilt for other similar but lesser sins.
I think it was because I subscribed to this concept of punching up. He was a rich white male capitalist and I still saw myself as poor, even though I already had a good software job, no student debt, and owned my own home. Maybe I just didn’t think any of this through at the time but I guess I felt like I was better than him because I wasn’t this big, selfish capitalist. I was a good, wholesome anarcho-communist.
But that millionaire didn’t understand punching up. He didn’t even realize that he was “up”. His letters clearly showed that he saw his girlfriend as an emotional equal, while she secretly saw him as a toy to be used and mocked.
I think back on how I felt about that millionaire back then and I wonder, is that kind of what it feels like to be racist?
After Trump combined with COVID, the amount of anti-capitalist sentiments has exploded, right as I am realizing the error of my former ways. And much of it is becoming toxic, just like me, my girlfriend and her best friend were toxic way back then. Maybe anarcho-communism really is a better system. In fact I’m pretty sure it is better… in theory. What I am definitely sure about is that being blindly hateful and spreading misinformation about rich people or the economy is not helping anyone lead a better life. We need to bring under-privileged people into the economy, not scare or trick them into poverty.
Yes, punching up is much, much better than racism or imperialism because at least it eventually provides some kind of balance in society, but it’s still just another form of hate.
Regardless of what system we use, it will require the consent and support of the people. We need to act in good faith, even when the system isn’t exactly what we want. Do your research. Read the books. Educate yourself about capitalism. You’ll see we’re all in this together. Your hatred will fade and your options will expand.