Capitalism gone rampant!

This blog is about to become a rant – and I hope it packs a huge punch! Amazon: what does this word mean to you? Does the word immediately conjure images of a mighty river? A huge rainforest? Or, far more likely, a shopping giant? For most of us, it is the latter.

The programme on BBC (1.12.20) left me feeling alarmed and disgusted at the way Amazon, the shopping giant, is currently rampaging the world like a voracious predator – in search for ever greater power over the online market. But how much wealth is enough?

Jeff Bezos set it up in 1994, operating from his garage, apparently having used his parents’ savings as start-up capital. Bezos listed his ‘top ten’ of goods that might potentially sell on-line: starting with books, expanding into toys, music and other popular goods. The rest is history.

But it did not end there. Amazon wants still more of the market: having already acquired eBay, and even the Washington Post (2013). Amazon is now challenging Etsy customers, by entering into its own handmade crafts business.

What is its secret? Speed! Apparently we want our on-line stuff quickly. Amazon prides itself on speedy, next day delivery. While Amazon may have taken years to build itself up and eventually start to profit from its on-line ventures – its CEO is now reported to be worth 155 billion. Eye-watering! Amazon’s vast warehouses occupy an area equal to around two hundred football pitches.

Apparently, Amazon is also working its forceful way into the fresh grocery delivery service. If it has its way: we might soon forget about Asda and Tesco. Amazon already has around 3% of the online grocery market – and growing. Get this….the company is expanding even further – into drugs. Do we really want to buy our headache tablets and other minor medicinal items on-line?

This giant is fast becoming (or has already become), the world largest online retailer: even competing with its own third party sellers by advertising Amazon versions of the same products on its site. There is currently an investigation into Amazon’s use of data to launch products that compete directly with its third party sellers. In addition, Amazon owns one third of the technological cloud.

While the pandemic has hurt so many of our retail outlets, and we now hear that Debenhams is also about to topple, Amazon has enjoyed huge growth, as on-line shopping has expanded (as of Nov 6th worth 1.61 trillion dollars?) as one of the big four: up there alongside Microsoft, Google and Apple.

Now, I have nothing against Amazon itself. I buy its products too, and admire and respect its business success. I also used to complain about the big supermarkets, as they expanded from selling food to just about everything: trampling over their competitors, forcing smaller shops to close. It is the sheer enormity that bothers me because it is capitalism gone completely mad: demonstrating the power of humanity to become a jungle – in which the strong eliminate the weak. Is the capitalist rampage thus emulating, across our human world, Darwin’s theory of animal evolution? If so, where will it end?

What will such remorseless and brutal business tactics end up doing to our high streets? What will town centres look like: empty of chemists, greengrocers, butchers? That little shop selling hand-made crafts and knitting products? That quirky shop on the corner selling unusual gifts? That lovely bookshop where we can browse? The DIY shop? Streets emptied of shops – and people in them – will end up dead.

Capitalism, in its open-ended form, is destroying life as we have known it. It has become a jungle: of human predators and their prey – not for need, but for greed. How much money is enough? Business does not care about people. What motivates the CEOs of these huge companies to grow forever larger? What motivates Amazon, the shopping giant, to want to flatten everything in its huge wake – to become as potentially destructive to our urban environment – as humanity is already becoming to its natural namesake – the rainforest?

It can’t be money – so is it power? Is it because they want to see how far they can go? Capitalism has gone rampant – threatening to take over – just like this virus. We can stop the rot – simply by changing our shopping habits.

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