Morgan Takes on Capitalism

by philip scott wikel

My roommate keeps telling me to avoid getting political on my blog. It seems he feels that I should try to maintain a sort of sterile position when it comes to writing and that I should keep my focus on the “writing process.” The first problem is: I don’t have much in the way of a traditional writing process. I’m something of a channeler and get struck by the lightning of inspiration randomly and wake to find I’ve completed a couple of chapters. There’s nothing much interesting in that, is there? The second problem is: Ticket to Ride is a very political book, especially when you look at George Orwell’s definition of political as it pertains to writing:

“Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”

And yes, I realize Orwell wrote this quite a while ago and perhaps I should be looking to more contemporary writers for my inspiration (my roommate also feels I’m a bit behind the times). However, I see myself as decidedly old-fashioned and enjoy being such. I like the “old masters,” if you will, and find little in this post, post-modern (maybe it’s three “posts” now) world that suits me. Whatever age or era we’re in right now I like to find my grounding in the solid conviction of our past “masters.” For me they’re like happy grandfathers; full of good, time-tested advice, and even better stories.

My own grandfather, Philip Moser, was quite a mover back in the early days of the Union Movement and believed very strongly in the nobility of the working man. It is with him in mind that I wrote the following passage.

In Chapter 15 of Ticket to Ride Morgan finds himself in a bar in the Portugese town of Lagos engaged in an intense conversation about politics and government. Having listened to a German acquaintance ramble on and quote the Communist Manifesto, Morgan thinks:

(from Chapter 15) His English was good but his sermon offered little more than sugary Communist ideals wherein “everyone” would be happy. And of course, like Shakespeare’s Gonzalo, I guessed that it would only work for him if he could somehow be the leader of it all and not just a subject of it.

With another classical Spanish guitar solo coming to its crescendo, I sat listening with the enthusiasm of a week-old corpse. It was just talk and tired nothingness, pure, Chatterleyan nothingness.
“Sounds like a bunch of Marxist crap…” I said.
Kristof sort of smiled and picked up his beer.
“The American system could work,” I said, “work, and not fuck everyone at the bottom.”
Kristof put his beer back down and lit another cigarette.
“The problem is middle management… just like the middle class… they’re terrified of losing their place in line and their fear ends up fucking everyone around them.” They’ve become control freaks who will allow you to be their underling provided you cough up the password everyday. The password is different in every company but they all translate as roughly ‘I’m your man.’ But it changes all the time to keep you on alert. And ‘middle man’ is on constant alert to the changing moods of his superiors, the upper men. This makes middle man an almost sympathetic character. He was once on the lowest rung. Only the sympathy stops when one sees the true degree of his power. The men below him are dying on the vine because he is either too busy to notice the good deeds of these men; too busy vying for a spot with the Upper Men or so totally fixated on maintaining his appearance as a man of means. He’s scrambling for the opportunity to play golf with men who will let you swim in their pool, but watch for the glass cover, because until they feel comfortable with the new man, which they may never, they reserve the right close the lid. They’re like the guy on the freeway who won’t let you pass just to spite you. Sure they’re using new terms to describe employees like “co-worker” or “associate” to establish the idea that the workplace has an even playing field for everyone. But while the terminology has changed, the feudal mindset persists. If we could cut through the crap and base the reward system on effort, diligence and intelligence instead of manipulation, embezzlement, and popularity then we would be going somewhere. But until America finds its way out of this state of mourning no one is gonna move.”
“Mourning who?” asked Norbert.
“JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Vietnam.” (end of excerpt)

While Morgan falls short of nailing it, he is, at least, finding his way toward some kind of new truth about his country. My own attempts at social and economic climbing have been, invariably, thwarted. And I’ve come to believe that perhaps God wants, or needs, me to remain on the front lines of the labor question. It may also be that I’m a terrible businessman, which I find to be a compliment, given the common defintion of a good one.

In the interest of clarifying Morgan’s argument I may, in a second edition of Ticket to Ride, include some form of the following paragraph in this scene. I wrote it in answer to a debate about “Free Market Capitalism.”


Capitalism, or better, survival of the fittest, needs to go away and be replaced by people who care about each other. Early in the 20th Century Henry Ford (probably the wisest businessman in history) paid exorbitant wages to his employees on the assembly-line so that they could afford to buy the product they were creating. As far as I’m concerned employers should feel responsible for their employees, or, at least, appear so. The argument about Universal Healthcare seems to be the same argument as the one raised about the Federal minimum wage. I believe that if a businessman can’t afford to pay a decent wage he, or she, has no business (morally) being in business. I also believe it should be made cost in-effective to send jobs to Mexico or overseas. We are supposed to be “one nation under God” but what a god-damned joke that’s become. Survival of the fittest should only be applied to animals. Are we the united zoo or the united states? If we’re not careful, we’ll more than likely become the United States of China. But that’s another story.

For further reading and for an interesting, albeit naive, suggestion about a new approach to capitalism, see:


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