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“My Turn: Somewhere for Everyone” by John Grisham Essay

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Updated: Apr 13th, 2021

Nowadays, it becomes increasingly clear to more and more Americans that there is something deeply wrong with the functioning of the country’s ‘free-market’ economy. The validity of such their realization is best illustrated, regarding the fact that since the 20th century’s early nineties (following the collapse of the USSR), the socio-economic realities in the US never ceased being affected by the continual widening of a gap between the rich and poor – the process that continues to pick up momentum as we speak. Therefore, it comes as no particular surprise that throughout the last two decades, the number of American intellectuals who criticize the inadequacies of the Neoliberal (American) version of Capitalism has grown rather dramatically. John Grisham and his essay “My Turn: Somewhere for Everyone” come as a good example in this respect.

Moreover, the anti-Capitalist public sentiment appears to be shared by many American film directors, as well, which in turn results in the production of documentaries like the 2013 “Capitalism: A Love Story” (directed by Michael Moore). Thus, it will be fully appropriate to draw parallels between the mentioned essay and film, as such that promote essentially the same idea – if allowed to proceed unopposed, the ongoing ‘corporatization’ of the public domain in the US (endorsed by Neoliberals) will inevitably result in transforming America from being a democracy into an authoritarian oligarchy of the worst kind. What this means is that there may soon be no ‘middle class’ citizens in this country, but only the extremely rich (minority) and extremely poor (majority) ones. In this respect, Grisham’s essay and Moore’s film can be referred to in terms of a ‘social warning’ to all Americans – something that justifies the discussion of both pieces in close conjunction with each other.

One of the main suggestions, advocated by Grisham in his essay, is that there is much hypocrisy to the manner in which American society addresses the issue of more and more of its members growing impoverished, which in turn causes many of the affected individuals to end up living out on the street. As the author noted: “The word ‘homeless’ as a description for very poor people was never used. They were called hungry or needy, or they were winos or hobos, but never homeless” (Grisham par. 1). As it appears out of the essay’s context, it is being done intentionally to marginalize the problem of homelessness and to encourage people to think that it has very little to do with the functioning of this country’s political system. After all, by referring to homeless citizens in the derogatory terms of ‘winos’ and ‘hobos,’ the members of this country’s political/financial elite (the owners of America’s mass-media) strive for nothing short of representing one’s homelessness being the matter of his or her personal choice (Heise 136). It is understood, of course, that such an outlook on the problem of homelessness is meant to diminish the government’s responsibility for the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people in the US (the world richest country) who and live in the cardboard boxes and eat out of the garbage bins.

What is especially disturbing about the described trend is that it ultimately serves the purpose of dehumanizing homeless people so that the authorities could ‘effectively’ deal with them without triggering much of a public outcry. As Grisham pointed out: “They (police officers) remove those who are begging or otherwise appear unsightly and simply deposit them into another, less fashionable section of town. Or they arrest them and grind them through the overworked criminal justice system” (par. 7). The described practice, in turn, contributes to the process of the American society’s integrity being undermined from within – something that is best illustrated concerning the socio-demographic trends in contemporary America. After all, it does not represent any secret that, as of today, just about every large city in the US features what can be referred to as the ‘up-scale White suburbia’ (predominantly populated by the well-off Whites), on the one hand, and the so-called ‘ethnic ghettoes’ (populated by the impoverished representatives of racial minorities), on the other.

Even though there is no formal bylaw forbidding ‘socially dangerous individuals’ to venture into the ‘safe part of the city,’ it seems to be only a matter of time before such a would-be bylaw comes into effect – just as it used to be the case in the South during the good ole’ fifties. This simply could not be otherwise. As history shows, the actual ruling elite in this country never ceased to be White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (Swartz 413). Its representatives have always tended to treat others (even non-WASP Whites) as ‘inferior.’ And, as the same history teaches, these people are more than capable of dropping the politically correct rhetoric when times get tough. Hence, the main weakness of Grisham’s line of argumentation – it is concerned with the author’s naïve belief that the government is genuinely interested in acting on behalf of all Americans. According to the author, there is nothing deliberate about the continual dehumanization of homeless people in the US, perpetrated by the controlled media that act on behalf of the country’s rich and powerful: “The problem of homelessness is not solved by removing the victims from our view” (Grisham par. 8). Apparently, it never occurred to Grisham that there are no objective preconditions for the US government to be preoccupied with trying to solve the problem of homelessness in the first place.

In this respect, the mentioned documentary by Michael Moore deserves to be given much more credit – “Capitalism: A Love Story” is the film that does not only expose many blatant inadequacies of ‘American living’ but also provide a number of valuable insights into why, as time goes on, these inadequacies seem to become even acuter. Allegorically speaking, Moore’s film picks up where Grisham’s essay has left off – this is the reason why the former was chosen to be discussed in conjunction with the latter. Even though Moore’s documentary elaborates on a number of the currently pressing social issues in the US, its main idea can be identified with ease – in the long run, American Capitalism (as the system of socio-economic governing) is going to prove self-destructive, which is why the very conceptual paradigm of Pax Americana needs to be revised. As the director himself had put it in his film: “Capitalism is an evil, and you cannot regulate evil. You have to eliminate it and replace it with something that is good for all people” (Penn 02.29.10). The documentary’s line of argumentation, in this regard, can be outlined as follows:

Despite the fact that Capitalism does provide people with the chance to become quickly enriched, this is only possible when the ‘free-market’ economy is on the rise. For this to be the case, however, such an economy may never cease expanding into the previously unexplored markets. This alone predetermines the eventual collapse of Capitalism as the viable form of governance – the number of such markets is finite (Judd 51). There is, however, even more to it – Capitalism does not take into account the systemic aspects of the society’s functioning. That is, it never occurs to the advocates of Capitalism (with Neoliberals being the most vicious of them) that just about any human society is so much more than merely the sum of ‘self-egoisms’ on the part of its members. As a result, these people wrongly assume that there can be no other purpose to one’s existence than to consume products and services 24/7, as something that has the value of a ‘thing in itself’ – the so-called ‘American dream’ is all about it. This, in turn, endorses the sense of irrational greed in people – something that resulted in bringing about the financial crisis of 2008.

According to the documentary, the mentioned assumption reflects yet another major weakness of Capitalism – the functioning of the ‘free-market’ economy cannot be concerned with reaching any other but necessarily short-term objectives. In plain words, the goal is to make as much money, as possible, within the shortest period – any other considerations, in this respect, are secondary (Sievers 47). This idea directly relates to the discussion of why there are so many homeless people in the US. Why bother with investing money into helping them to become the society’s productive members once again (something that can only be achieved on a long-term basis) if it is so much more ‘cost-effective’ throwing them out on the street and lobbying the bylaws that will keep these people out of sight? Apparently, the very theoretical paradigm of Capitalism presupposes that there are way too many ‘useless’ people in the US and that their number will be increasing exponentially – especially given the fact that the geopolitical rise of Russia and China effectively denies American transnational corporations the opportunity to proceed with the aggressive policy of market-expansion.

Thus, there can be only a few doubts that, when compared to Grisham’s essay, the documentary “Capitalism: A Love Story” is much more insightful, in the sense of revealing the hidden forces behind this country’s continuing geopolitical and economic decline. In light of the film’s analytical insights, Grisham’s question, “Is this the Third World, I asked myself? Or is this America?” (par. 13) does not appear quite as rhetorical, as the author intended it to be. If some foreigner were to visit a typical ‘ghetto’ in America, he or she would inevitably come to conclude that this country does belong to the Third World. If, however, the same person ends up in the residential area preferred by the rich and powerful, there would be very few doubts left in his or her mind that the US does epitomize what the notion of the ‘First World’ stands for. Such a discrepancy is easily explainable – the proliferation of America’s ‘middle class’ from the early fifties until the late eighties was a temporary phenomenon, triggered by the American capitalists’ fear of the USSR. However, following the collapse of this country in 1991, the enormously rich representatives of America’s ruling elite have realized that it is no longer required of them to pay attention to the needs of ordinary Americans. After all, when assessed through the lenses of economic Liberalism, prioritizing the interests of the society over the egoistic agenda of those few who quite literally ‘own’ America simply does not make any sense, whatsoever.

Even though, as it was shown earlier, Grisham’s essay and Moore’s film do differ, in the sense of what accounts for their analytical value (the film is undeniably more valuable), they are best referred to as being mutually complementary. The logic behind this suggestion is quite apparent – just as it is the case with Grisham’s essay, the documentary “Capitalism: A Love Story” strives to enlighten Americans about the fact that a ‘good living’ for most people in this country will soon come to an end. It is understood, of course, that these kinds of warnings are not particularly liked by the majority of citizens. A dog that begins to bark in the middle of the night is most likely to end up with a shoe thrown at it by the sleeping owners, as their first reaction – even if the poor animal is merely trying to tell them that their house is on fire. The appreciation will come much later. The same can be said about the discussed essay and documentary – it will still take some time for Americans to grow fully appreciative of the messages that both of these works convey. However, there can be only a few doubts that such a development will indeed take place eventually – the sooner, the better. This conclusion correlates with the paper’s initial thesis perfectly well.

Works Cited

Grisham, John. My Turn: Somewhere for Everyone. Web.

Heise, Thomas. “American Psycho: Neoliberal Fantasies and the Death of Downtown.” The Arizona Quarterly 67.1 (2011): 135-187. Print.

Judd, Donald. “Marxism and Sustainable Development: The Ecological Limits of Capitalism.” Nature, Society, and Thought 12.1 (1999): 43 – 58. Print.

Penn, William. “Capitalism – A Love Story.” Online video clip. YouTube. 2016. Web.

Sievers, Burkard. “Socio-Analytic Reflections on Capitalist Greed.” Organisational and Social Dynamics 12.1 (2012): 44-69. Print.

Swartz, David L. “Social Closure in American Elite Higher Education.” Theory and Society 37.4 (2008): 409-419. Print.

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