Contributor Interview: Brennan LaFaro

What’s your favorite anti-capitalist book or film?     
When I think of anti-capitalist media, the first thing that usually comes to mind is the aspect of classism, tied directly to racism in many cases. Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer film is a brilliant post-apocalyptic take on classism and the masses rising up. Chris Evans is phenomenal in it, and also he’s Chris Evans. For literature, Chesya Burke’s collection, Let’s Play White was a fantastic collection, but the first story, “Walter and the Three-Legged King,” is powerful storytelling incarnate. Burke does a masterful job making the main character choose between poverty and sacrificing their identity.

What radicalized you? How did you first become critical of capitalism?   
I guess I’ve never thought of myself as radicalized, or even anti-capitalist for that matter, but the inequality between the have and have-nots is, I’d like to say, impossible to ignore. But there are a lot of people real good at closing their eyes to the troubles others are facing. I’ve seen a meme going around that says something along the lines of if scientists observed a monkey hoarding bananas while the rest of their group starved to death, they would study that animal to find out what its issue was. Switching monkey to human and banana for wealth, society places that figure on a pedestal.

Everyone has a ridiculous work story. What’s yours? 
I don’t think I’d consider it ridiculous, but during college I worked at a video rental chain right around the time they were all going under. We were liquidating the store, a three-week process, and all employees were given a mandate that we were not allowed to badmouth the company. Well, when the corporate overlords tell you you’re out of a job in less than a month, but you can only say nice things to the customers during that time, typically you’re going to ignore that edict. Long story short, warnings were issued and ignored, and about 75% of the staff was “fired” effective the day before the doors closed for good. We were told we would not be able to be hired back by this company that would cease to exist about six months later.

What inspired your story for ProleSCARYet? (Spoiler free)
I get real worked up when supervisors/administrators/what have you get power-drunk on their position, when really they aren’t any more qualified than the people assigned to report to them. I saw an article where it came to light that a board of directors for a major company, when reopening the factory after COVID first hit, were taking wagers about how many people would get sick in cramped working conditions that didn’t follow guidelines. “Snap” strays a little bit from this idea, putting us in more of an office setting, but the idea pissed me off so much that the rest of the story kind of wrote itself.

Interested in ProleSCARYet? Get your copy here.

Contributor Interview: Nathaniel Lee

What’s your favorite anti-capitalist book or film?

I don’t go in much for explicitly branded ideological fiction; like in my childhood trying to find enjoyable fiction in the Christian bookstores, setting out with a message tends to lead to weaker writing at best.  But really, any fiction that takes a serious look at the implications and realities of unregulated capitalism cannot help but come down on the other side of the argument.  China Mieville is the most known-ideological-firebrand that I read, and he’s usually pretty good at putting the narrative foremost, but my favorite would have to be Terry Pratchett, whose gentle but firm humanist ideals come through strongly in all of his writing.  You can’t really call him anti-capitalist, but he’s pro-human and pro-kindness, and that comes out to the same thing in the end.

What radicalized you? How did you first become critical of capitalism?

I mean, have you looked out a window?  More seriously, I came at it primarily through environmentalism.  If you care about environmental concerns, you quickly become aware that there is no way to stop corporations from taking the route that leads to the most short-term profits regardless of long-term damage without regulations in place to restrict them.  From there it is a relatively short journey to understanding that this applies to most things related to the health and happiness of humans and other animals on this planet; the drive for profits must be restrained for life to flourish, and regulation is the most effective path to that.  At that point, you require at minimum a European democratic-socialist model of limited capitalism, if not outright collectivism.

Everyone has a ridiculous work story. What’s yours?

I honestly can’t tell most of them because of legal limitations pertaining to confidential information, but suffice it to say the well of human stupidity is boundless and ever-flowing.  I’ve talked to anti-vax nurses working in ICUs, paranoiacs convinced that the NAACP was using sonic weapons to force them to poop, and a drunk Scottish person trying to order fried chicken from possibly the most wrong number he could.

What inspired your story for ProleSCARYet? (Spoiler free).

The hotline job where I did all of that was an overnight shift.  I frequently visited a nearby gas station for snacks and drinks on my lunch breaks, as it was one of three places that was open at two in the morning.  I never encountered anything quite so weird as in my story, but I wouldn’t necessarily have been surprised to.

Contributor Interview: Joanna Michal Hoyt

What radicalized you? How did you first become critical of capitalism?

I think it started with the Bible, which I read through as a kid because my friends and relatives argued so much about it and I wanted to understand the whole thing myself. So I took to heart Leviticus 19:18, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” and Leviticus 19:16, “you shall not profit from your neighbor’s blood,” and also the parts in Matthew 25 about how what we do to hungry people and prisoners and outsiders is what we do to God.  And I grew up with a sense that those commands had a structural as well as a personal meaning, that they required us to change things in society that were unfair.  (Watching, and then reading, Les Misérables helped with that.)

I was an unschooled kid, and as a young teen I decided to study economics before I had my own money to manage.  I read some theory, but I really wanted to understand where the money I spent went, and where the stuff I used came from. I learned too much for comfort about where the stuff came from, and how the workers who made it were treated, and what happened to the places where resources were extracted and wastes were dumped. I realized that I was profiting from my neighbors’ blood.  That led first to despair and then to thinking about how to change that situation—both by structural activism and by consuming less and producing and sharing more.

I got some inspiration for that from reading the Journal of John Woolman, (http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/37311).  Woolman was an 18th-century Quaker who realized that slavery was abhorrent and also that it was the basis of the US economy, North and South.  He spent his life both figuring out how to live in ways that didn’t require slave labor and agitating—peaceably, civilly, incessantly, urgently—against slavery, and managed by the end of his life to bring the rest of the Quakers along with him. 

What’s your favorite anti-capitalist book or film?

Besides those I mentioned answering the last question?
For setting out the problem, and for suggesting pacifist/communitarian/agrarian solutions…   Helena Norberg-Hodges’ Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, describing a solidarity-based culture and economy being taken over by the colonizers’ market economy, and about a counter-development initiative trying to reclaim solidarity amidst growth and change.  Leo Tolstoy’s What Shall We Do? (https://librivox.org/what-shall-we-do-by-leo-tolstoy/) which is excellent except for his views on women.  (Skip Chapter 40, the last chapter, and you’ll find it a better book.) Also pretty much anything written by Dorothy Day and Wendell Berry.

Everyone has a ridiculous work story.  What’s yours?

I don’t have the usual kind, since I’ve spent my adult life (that is, the last twenty years) on a Catholic Worker farm doing subsistence and outreach work, getting by on a mix of subsistence labor and donations, and making decisions collaboratively with the other members of my tiny community.  That has certainly led to various ridiculous episodes involving escaped cattle (always far down the road and across various streams and muddy ditches before we knew they were out), awkward translation errors (I was trying to explain why we were taking one of the goats away in the van, and I knew better than to attempt to find a clearly polite word for “breeding” but I failed to realize how many profoundly offensive meanings the Spanish word I knew for “male goat” had; also, it is unfortunate that “hungry” and “angry” sound so similar in English, though quite different in Spanish), starkly incompatible visitors (like the Buddhist peace marcher and the Republican Christian from the soup kitchen)  bravely attempting polite conversation, and well-meaning folks from insurance offices, the IRs, etc. trying and failing to find a neat category in which to put us…

What inspired your story for ProleSCARYet?

The surreal part came from a nightmare I had in my teens.  One part of Ed’s story came from childhood memories of the meadow where various neighbor kids used to run and sled and chase butterflies until it was paved over and taken out of public circulation to become a Wal-Mart and associated parking lot.  The character voice was inspired by a grand old friend, who shall remain nameless since our political views don’t align.  The framework and symbolism of the story, which I had been wrestling with for some years, didn’t come clear until I saw the ProleSCARYet sub call.

Contributor Interview: M. Lopes da Silva

What’s your favorite anti-capitalist book or film?

Robocop is my all-time favorite anti-capitalist film. It’s a film about a city being horribly transformed by capitalism. Money has removed everyone’s ability to create a community in Detroit, and turned it into a landscape of pure selfishness and fear. It’s about corporate solutions being applied to the problems corporations create. It’s also about capitalism turning people into objects and all the complications and hideous fallout that creates. But the movie is also weirdly hopeful? Because the film believes that humanity itself is the X factor that can actually save the day.

And yes, all cops are bad, even Robocop!

What radicalized you? How did you first become critical of capitalism?

My childhood radicalized me. I grew up with extreme fiscal disparity in my household. My father was rich. My mother was frequently homeless. Due to toxic masculinity (among many other issues) my father was prone to use his money like the proverbial carrot/stick combo – a reward for those who performed gender/assigned family roles to his liking, a punishment of denial for those who did not. Let me tell you, I resented the hell out of that from very early on. Kids have an innate sense of justice, and “performing for money” is not it. Plus I was exposed to a lot of rich people when I was a kid. Interesting fact: money does not make you a fun, kind, or interesting person to be around.

I just didn’t forget those facts as I grew up. I wanted to forget them, believe me, but they are inescapable.

Everyone has a ridiculous work story. What’s yours?

Unpaid internships are expected if you want to work in the film industry in Hollywood. That means that for about six months to a year (it’s not supposed to go this long, but almost every intern will get pulled aside and get the speech about “dedicated” interns working beyond the contracted limit and eventually getting hired by the studio) you work for free for a company and, you know, maybe they will hire you. I remember getting an internship as a script reader, and someone pulled me aside and asked me to answer her phones. I was happy to be noticed in the pack of readers, but my hearing is thrashed and I told my supervisor that, uh, I can’t hear most words over the phone. She told me to “do my best”. I did, but I discovered that rich people don’t like it when you ask them to spell their names out and will often refuse to do so, so I spent my days “playing telephone” while answering the phone. After the fifth tense conversation with my supervisor it dawned on her: I was not “trying to get out of work”, I could not hear people on the damn phone. It dawned on me, too: I was done dealing with this ableist nonsense. No more unpaid internships for me, no matter what.

What inspired your story for ProleSCARYet? (Spoiler free).

CORPOS! has been festering in the back of my brain for years. “Corporation” is a fascinating word because it has “corps” or “the body” in it, and a corporation is often like a body detached from a conscience or soul, strongly preoccupied with physical goals and the physical world. The strongest influence on this story is definitely the original Godzilla films – Godzilla is this amazing kaiju that symbolizes America’s destructive and violent relationship with Japan – specifically America’s bombing of Hiroshima. Godzilla is art that engages directly with tragedy, which is probably why I haven’t responded to any of the American film versions of this classic kaiju character. The American versions seem uncomfortable with this symbolic heritage, and take this very punk, beautiful monster and turn it into a giant dinosaur toy because they’re afraid to do anything else with it. 

Contributor Interview: Corey Farrenkopf

  • What’s your favorite anti-capitalist book or film?

That’s a hard one, but the first thing that came to mind was Borne by Jeff Vandermeer, mainly because it shows a variation of earth where big business and the military industrial complex has run wild and now there is a giant flying bear hovering around eating everyone it can as a result. I think that’s a pretty good metaphor for capitalism on the whole. The book is beautifully written (as all of Vandermeer’s books are) and the world is so sad, but also so beautiful. Vandermeer also goes wild with his descriptions of other lab engineered creatures throughout the novel and I’m a sucker for crazy monsters in fiction.

  • What radicalized you? How did you first become critical of capitalism?

I think I became critical of capitalism before I really knew what that truly meant. Growing up I listened to a lot of punk stuff from a very young age. Like Choking Victim, Anti-Flag, Lawrence Arms, and Nofx in middle school. At that point, my brain was just like this is great and I internalized a lot of what they were singing about, even if I didn’t really understand it. So I think from that age, I’ve always been very skeptical of many of our economic and social systems.

  • Everyone has a ridiculous work story. What’s yours?

I have so many it’s hard to pick, but the worst story also came with a big realization… So I used to clean public bathrooms at the beaches around Harwich Massachusetts. I’d go in and clean the toilets, restock supplies, sweep, and do basically whatever needed to be done. Sometimes it was shooing huge spiders out the door. Sometimes it was unclogging terrible terrible things that should never be in a toilet from said toilet. But there was one morning where I was cleaning a bathroom down by the docks. It was five AM. I cleaned the women’s side and it was fine. I opened the men’s side and was greeted by an ocean of vomit on everything, an inch or so deep in some spots. I had no idea where to start. The smell was horrible: beer, vodka, and Italian food. I just stared at the mess and was like, Is there someone I can call about this? And the answer was no. I was the one who anyone else would call to take care of it. I was literally the lowest guy on the totem pole and there was nothing I could do besides hose the whole thing down and deal with it. It’s weird when you recognize that you are the lowest position in a system…but it also makes it clear that people really need to be kind to janitors and anyone else in the cleaning industry (because people were real jerks to me when I worked that job). They see terrible things on a daily basis and there is no one else they can call to clean it up.

  • What inspired your story for ProleSCARYet? (Spoiler free).

Poison Ivy plays a very big role in Salen’s Found. I’ve landscaped on Cape Cod for about seventeen years and poison ivy loves sandy soil…so for a number of years, during summer, I’d just be covered in it (or poison sumac…which is so much worse) all the time. The specific time this story draws from was when I’d just moved back to Cape Cod from Western Massachusetts and was working four jobs. I was installing gas fireplaces fulltime, landscaping for two companies, and snagging circ shifts at Brooks Free Library when I could. At Brooks, there were so many times when I had crazy poison ivy rashes all over my face or arms and would be handing people books and dvds at the front desk. I just couldn’t imagine what patrons thought was going on with me…and whether I was contagious. That’s where a lot of this story stemmed from…and the fact I was searching for another job with decent Health Care…there’s that too…the eternal search for good/affordable health care…