On Friday, I was commiserating with our Pakistani freelancer about the challenge of fasting for Ramadan in the 113°F heat and intermittent AC in Lahore, while he congratulated me on my promotion. There we were, a militant atheist Jew and a devout Muslim separated by 7730 miles and an even wider cultural gulf, but united by a love of good design and commitment to our common project. Capitalism bound us in ways that go beyond a simple financial transaction.
We found each other for purely utilitarian reasons, nominally driven by the need to earn a living, yet self-motivated by our individual passions for great design and leveraging intellectual advocacy through technology. We are not merely a capitalist exploiter and wage-serf, linked through unfeeling logic and financial necessity. We are two passionate entrepreneurs, using money as the tool by which we further our individual values and careers. Once our financial arrangement is complete, our connection will fade, but a mutual respect and some deeper sense of understanding and empathy will remain. My mental image of a Pakistani or a Muslim will expand to include a talented designer struggling with power outages and heat waves while balancing the requirements of his faith and the demands of his perfectionist clients.
When I heard the news about the shooting in Orlando, I thought about how both sides will dehumanize each other — the radical Muslims who condemn secular Western culture, and the fearful, warmongering Westerners who wish to destroy and build walls against the alien. It’s hard to imagine how these two groups can connect, understand, and build empathy with each other. It’s hard to be friends or lovers with someone so physically and mentally distant. And yet capitalism provides a chance for a real connection — if we let it.