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by Miracle Jones
Amazon is the modern equivalent of the Manson Family: a rapacious organization whose goal is to dissolve human values using technology (guns, dune buggies, LSD, drones, “search,” ebooks) while self-selecting new hidden, hyperactive psychopaths for internal promotion who will thrive within its structure and relish its brutal culling practices, the organization growing more lean and fucked-up in order to do as much damage as possible for dubious, unprofitable goals: not to make money, but to "disrupt" all the piggies.
But that's not the most alarming facet of Amazon. The Manson Family at least had an "us versus them" mentality that let the rest of "us" off the hook if we didn't feel like murdering sad pregnant women to start a race war. Charles Manson was quite happy to be Chief Executive Ballbag at Consolidated Asshole. He liked being in charge. His downfall was rather how much he wanted everyone to know that he was the source and conduit of all the evil he was capable of channeling. He tried to start a business once…a nightclub…but the business failed because Manson was shit at business.
No, the most alarming facet of Amazon is that it makes all of us who actually have souls complicit. It is a great business: it is second order capitalism, a tight iron band around the free market that throttles all retail trade. It is a permanent challenge to morality, a challenge we fail every time we log in. Totalitarianism can be defined as a system where one cannot opt out, and since Amazon's model is not to be a store, but to be the marketplace itself, we often have no choice but to use some aspect of Amazon’s services. And Amazon only offers us ways to fail with respect to morality: it does not offer us the ability to choose to be ethical.
What can realistically be done about Amazon? Nothing yet: there are still no laws against people living together on a movie ranch in California, having giant group orgies, and thinking one tiny mean man is Jesus Christ. There are no laws against Amazon's particularly clever brand of market-torturing Internet retail.
True, one day we may look back at Amazon as the dark lich that ended a generation's optimistic belief in the power of a technological ideal, and we may shudder and cross ourselves. Amazon may one day murder the dream of Silicon Valley for good. One day.
But Amazon's real crime is that it makes us all shittier people by degrees; making us all more like Amazon, bringing us all into the cult, changing the calculus of what we are comfortable doing. It taps into each person's desire to cheat the system and get cheap shit for the lowest possible price as quick as the dickens, even though we know deep down (maybe not very deep down) that every time we do this we are directly harming our fellow human beings who work in their sadistic fulfillment centers. Every time we let them siphon a few dollars in taxation from our purchase we are also kicking every other business who may be competing against Amazon in the kidneys (which is all other businesses since Amazon is in every single market including the market for military and covert intelligence; if you work for a business other than Amazon, you are also kicking yourself in the kidneys).
Like young Charles Manson before the murders, Amazon likes to appear wholesome, and liberal, and friendly, and enlightened, even though it has a clear criminal record and is beating its wife if you care to ask her.
And therefore I think the only way to fight Amazon at this point is to call its fucking bluff. Like making Charles Manson actually sit down and try to cut a record, we need to take Amazon to task for how it treats the workers in its warehouses, and we need to demand to be empowered to treat them better as customers, since customers are the only people Amazon fears and loves, the same way Charles Manson only feared and loved the Beatles.
To this end, we as consumers should demand that Amazon implement a way for us to give extra cash to the fulfillment center warehouse workers who are actually doing the work. We should be able to give Amazon's victims money directly, if we want. We should be able to tip them.
When you are going about your day in the real world and you encounter a service worker who seems to have a particularly shitty job and is being emotionally squeezed by what appears to be a truly shitty carbon-hearted boss, what do you do? You slip them a few dollars cash in order to let them know that you are on their side, not on the side of management, not on the side of the fucked-up system that says it is okay to sell yourself for $7 an hour (or $2 an hour, in the case of restaurant work).
It is true that Amazon fulfillment center workers make slightly more than minimum wage. It is also true that so do most baristas and taxi drivers. We always tip the people who make our coffee, carry our bags, drive our cabs, deliver our pizza, or do anything else extraordinary that makes us feel vaguely guilty about capitalism itself, like getting cat food and condoms to your house the day you order it.
This is the reason most good people don't like shopping at Walmart. You look around at the people working there and you start to actually see the ley lines for the dark pyramid of siphoned human essence that powers the immortality machine for the vampires who control all human dreams. It is unsettling. You are not supposed to see the dark pyramid. Amazon makes the pyramid disappear utterly, even as it creates new layers, pushing everybody down.
Some people don't tip. Some people prefer to go to places where tipping is not standard in order to avoid tipping altogether. Some people like being served and not paying for it. Some people enjoy the delicate champagne-glass crunch of souls being crushed into powder. Amazon makes us all into these people. It wants to prove that you are a fucking asshole too by letting you push the button over and over again that gives the prisoner an electric shock until they die.
How difficult would it be for Amazon to enable us to tip their warehouse workers at every point of sale? Not difficult at all. They already have a program called AmazonSmile that allows you to channel gratuities to the charity of your choice. One would think that Amazon might even welcome the opportunity to make their warehouse jobs more desirable by letting customers tip the workers there for their hard work.
AmazonSmile’s motto is “You shop. Amazon gives.” This is the way it works: you assign a charity of your choice to your account and Amazon donates .5% of all your purchases to that particular charity. There are over a million charities from which it is possible to choose. It is not possible to choose “the workers of Amazon” or “small press authors you are beating in the head with a pipe.”
And maybe that is on us: maybe what we should all do, the customers of Amazon, is create a charity whose specific goal is to provide for the people who work shitty warehouse jobs at Amazon. We register them as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and we force Amazon to accept this charity as one of the eligible charities for Smilepoints.
We shouldn't have to be monsters for using Amazon. We shouldn't let Amazon make us all feel like the executives there must feel every day, inducing psychic pain on those below in order to draw them closer, insisting that what we all really want is to kill people in un-air conditioned warehouses so that we can receive bulk Vienna sausages ten minutes after we order them.
Is it possible to stop using Amazon? Probably not. Once you start masturbating to hardcore BDSM porn, it is hard to stop if that is your thing. But once you know what your thing is, the next step is to make sure that everyone involved is actually enjoying it: that there is full consent and good labor practices.
This holiday season, as you lean even harder on Amazon to make ends meet, try and spend a few moments thinking about how you are not tipping the warehouse workers who are killing themselves for you so you can get what you want. Think about how it is not even possible to be nice to them; how there is a giant dragon in between your generally good heart and the people that Amazon abuses.
Think about how nice it would be if you could add a measly fucking dollar or two to every purchase you made at Amazon, and what if that dollar or two went into a pool for the fulfillment center closest to you, where people you don’t know are out there every morning sweating in the heat and freezing in the cold, immigrants and people who dropped out of high school to raise kids, also ex-cons and drug addicts and messed-up people who have otherwise been denied by the safety net and have every ethical right to be criminals? Think about how nice it would be for them to get a flood of cash from the customers they are silently, and not so silently, cursing during their injurious shifts.
Think about how if you were tipping them they might stop hating you personally and might start looking around for who is really to blame for their shit lot in life. Think about what you would do if you walked up to this fulfillment center and asked the person standing out front to go find you a tube of toothpaste so you could buy it, and they shuffled off into the miserable pandemonium and got it for you. Think about how you might slip that person a cash dollar so they hate their boss and their job slightly more than they hate you and all of humanity.
And think about how that is absolutely the last thing that Amazon wants.
(c) Miracle Jones 2015