When ‘Everybody Has a Price’ Who Will Stand Up to Injustice?

From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/08/07-2

by Thomas S. Harrington
Published on Sunday, August 7, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

“Seems that everybody’s got a price, I wonder how they sleep at night”.   

With this line from her catchy tune, “Price Tag”, the precocious British pop singer Jessie J.  touches on a cultural issue that very few of the elite opinion-makers in this country seldom ever dare to address frontally.

Are we economic beings above all else? Does each really of us, as we often hear, really have “a price” that, if identified and met, will effectively turn us into the moral plaything of another person or a social institution?

Looking around, there are a lot of reasons for believing that the smug “human price theorists” among us might be on to something.

My most powerful experience in this regard came, not in these United States of Consumption, but on a misty midnight street in Havana ten years ago.

On the way home to my hotel, I was approached by a scrawny teenage girl who was eager to engage me in conversation. We talked for a bit until she politely offered me her sexual services. I politely said no and made a move to join my friend who had continued walking ahead.

As I started to depart, she looked at me with a look that can only be described as one of alarmed perplexity, the type one sees on the face of someone who feels they have miscalculated badly in a social interaction. She grabbed me by the arm and asked me what was wrong. She then inquired if there was some act that I was particularly fond of that she had forgotten to include in the set of services she had mentioned. And shortly thereafter, she wondered out loud whether I thought her prices were out of line.

I tried to explain that that I just wasn’t interested. As she listened, the perplexed look returned to her face.

It was then that I finally understood her confusion.  I was a European-looking male and she was a Cuban woman offering sexual services at what she knew were discount prices on the world scale.  In her world, the only discordant matters in such encounters were ones of price or consumer choice. That the dominant economic partner in the equation (me) might simply declare his indifference to the “price game”, which she had come to use as the proxy for value in her young life, was simply unfathomable to her. Clearly she had internalized the idea that everything had a price and that the only real drama or mystery in human interactions lay in finding it.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/08/07-2

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