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Aug-31-2011 08:01printcomments

Barbara Sue Beaver was no capitalist

America’s credit-driven capitalist model has suffered a warning heart attack and needs a total rethink.”

Barbara Sue Beave
Courtesy: her obituary at

(CALGARY, Alberta) - Barbara Sue Beaver would not have described herself as a capitalist! She tried to be, and to live as, a free spirit in a society that does not readily tolerate free spirits—unless, of course, they are independently wealthy, like a Paris Hilton.

The sun was low in the north-west, sixteen minutes away from setting on May 25, 2011. Barbara Sue Beaver was on the Golden Gate Bridge using her cell phone to send an email to her best friend, Denis Morella. She wrote: “Can you come and check on Jondi for me?” Two minutes later, at 807 pm, she jumped. She was only 55.

Only someone who knew her well, would venture to guess at what might have gone through her mind in those last 120 or so seconds. One thing we do know for sure is that her exit was planned and deliberate. Most of her personal belongings had been removed from her apartment and she left notes behind detailing how she had settled her affairs. Mr. Morella said he felt that she didn’t want her death to be a burden to anyone. This, as I will get to in a moment, is the fatal fallacy of capitalism itself, one we all live with everyday, the fear of being a burden (alive or dead), like the fear of getting cancer.

Capitalism at its “finest”

Barbara Sue’s fate is the potential fate of anyone in our society who is not a capitalist. Unless you’re in a position to make money for someone else, this society has little or no use for you. You are subject to being extruded.

She was a talented painter and illustrator but there is little money to be made for most people in such pursuits. She ended up in the book business which she loved but, with the collapse of the economy in 2008, lost her bookstore job and was unemployed for the next two years. (Capitalists would say, although not in so many words, that it was her own fault--she was unfit to survive.) “She was very conscious of being 55 with no health insurance, no pension and being part of a dying industry,” said her 91-year-old father Floyd Beaver. Welcome to capitalist America, a savage society par excellence.

SuzNew from Denver writes in a comment (#9) to Nicholas Kristof’s August 27 column Did we drop the ball on unemployment?:

As a 60 year old with a PhD in linguistics (yes, I can speak that funny language they speak in Pakistan) and an MS in CS and over 20 years of tech leadership positions, I can't get a job because I can't lift a 50 pound bag of fertilizer at Walmart. Makes my brain go numb. But at least I can listen to NPR broadcasts from Pakistan and understand what the locals are saying. Too bad I can't get a job. You can file this under old women [as] useless.

Responding to that comment, Jean from NYC writes (#21):

Smart, accomplished older women is one of the most feared and despised demographic. No chance in hell for us.

D. L. Mayfield from Portland, Oregon (#22):

The American Dream has evolved into companies expecting to become very, very profitable. The emphasis on excess profit, or of steadily increasing profit year after year by allowing cutbacks at the lowest level has led to an increased disparity between the rich and the poor, between those who have jobs and those who do not. I dream of the day when we are all satisfied to live at a comfortable level, and realize what great harm the pursuit of excess wealth and profits has done to our country.

And Miriam Reinhart from Eugene, Oregon (#18):

…jobs that pay $9, $10, $11 per hour are not living wages. I know someone who has worked in customer service for over 10 years for the same employer and earns $11 per hour. In order to make ends meet she needs to go to the food bank locally every 2 months. There is something wrong with this picture. (emphasis added)

Barbara Sue Beaver and Jondi (Courtesy: her obituary at

What’s wrong with the picture, writes Thomas Friedman, in the New York Times is capitalism itself

America’s credit-driven capitalist model has suffered a warning heart attack and needs a total rethink.”

But it’s not just America, it’s the modus operandi of the entire Western world as hundreds of millions of people blindingly follow the Untied States into the abyss. Capitalism is like the neutron bomb--it leaves buildings standing while killing the people.

Capitalism does not allow for burdens

Barbara’s obituary said she “left behind an immense amount of friends, colleagues and acquaintances,” including a father and three brothers. From this host of people, were there none who could have supported her? I have no doubt that there were, but capitalism does not allow for weakness or need. She evidently did not feel comfortable in asking anyone for financially-related support. I can speak to this personally. I have five living brothers and one sister, but I wouldn’t ask any of them for five cents. They are all (except Al) true believers in the capitalist system and while I’m sure they would help me in extremis, it would be grudging because, by capitalist standards, I would be seen as weak and a failure.

Barbara Sue Beaver died for no good reason.

It’s become a cliché to say that our society worships money. If money is our god, what do we do when that god forsakes us? Or even worse, when we are economic atheists as I suspect Barbara Sue was and like me, a person holding values and beliefs beyond money?

Actually, I suspect that such sentiments are held by the vast majority of people but, because those sentiments are not financially recognized, and are even derided, most people hide them.

One of my favourite quotes is from Sandra Magnus, an ISS astronaut. While living 380 kilometres above the earth, she was asked what the earth looked like from that vantage point. She said:

Up here I've seen the world from a different viewpoint. I see it as a whole system, I don't see it as a group of individual people or individual countries. We are one huge group of people and we're all in it together.”

Capitalism as an ideology and economic system does not accept or believe such a heresy. It’s every man for himself. What capitalism does do is demand continual growth and consumption. This makes it difficult and well nigh impossible for people to live simpler lives finding human-centred meaning in simple pleasures. This danger was recognized half a century ago by Vance Packard in The Waste Makers (1961):

The people of the United States are in a sense becoming a nation on a tiger. They must learn to consume more and more or, they are warned, their magnificent economic machine may turn and devour them. They must be induced to step up their individual consumption higher and higher, whether they have any pressing need for the goods or not. Their ever-expanding economy demands it.”

What we're seeing today is the economic machine devouring the American people.

If you can find a copy of this book in your library, you will be immeasurably rewarded (just not financially) by reading it.

Capitalism with its worship of consumption and materialism has driven mankind onto the rocks. Whether we can still save ourselves is an open question. It’s too late for Barbara Sue Beaver, she of the wacky sense of humour and the belief that you can never have a bad day if you wear red. Most people did not notice, but the world dimmed a bit last May 25.

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JT September 4, 2011 9:41 pm (Pacific time)

I read all your articles and usually can see your point of view....I credit you with good intentions, but you did not know Barbara and I can understand why her friends and family would be upset at this article....unless you know sudden tragic loss with no solid explanation (like sickness or accident) you should not have used her as an example. Just my humble opinion.

 I didn't say this on the FB page, but anyone who steps off the GG bridge becomes a public figure. I wrote as sensitively as I could but the fact remains that the economic situation is affecting millions of people negatively. I didn't even go hunting for the story but when I saw the coverage in a NYT story, I thought it was a way to try to educate people as to the large picture so they would get the idea that they had to do something to prevent future tragedies. 

Hank RUARK September 4, 2011 8:46 pm (Pacific time)

To all: Anonymous wrote: "...which demographic has disproportionately the lowest IQ? ?... Which immediately for really-trained person ID's him as harboring racist tendencies, if not active in that regard. Despite all such claims, from any source, now or later, there is no reliable and widely-accepted study or series of studies which shows heavier tendency for one race or another. This chimera has been bandied about ever since early slavery days in the South, and on several occasions I've had reason to check it out....most recently within a month. Invariably any ID'd source turns out to be an untrustworthy one with some special reason to promote racism as a general belief.

Hank RUARK September 4, 2011 8:38 pm (Pacific time)

"Anon": Actually, first learned it from four guys from VA. who taught special courses at Indiana for selected Ed.D candidates...of which I was fortunate to be one. Other work was in those areas you mention albeit via other-names, and we also enjoyed specialists brought in by Air Force command --including practicing psychiatrists. All in all, it was perhaps best part of IU doctoral work, and led me on into use ofitall at OrDepEd, then Chicago and decade as learning media consultant to wide range of clients where it was useful. You referred to Bell Curve ? If you really knew that distorted, pernicious book you would never name it in this context. Why are you so fearful you feel you must remain anonymous ? Firs thing our four VA- guys taught in Propaganda Profusely Propounded was never, ever, trust anyone trying to communicate but hiding name and true, checkable ID information, known by all in that field as Principle One, since invariably to do so is to admit by obvious action that there is something to hide... -

Anonymous September 2, 2011 2:24 pm (Pacific time)

It's amazing people who live hundreds of miles away and never had the pleasure of knowing Barbara can so hastily judge those of us who loved her. Barbara truly was one-of-a-kind; she knew exactly what to say to make you feel better... We would have loved to have stopped her from jumping but the problem is Miss Beaver began to pull away and isolate herself. I've spoken with a therapist who said sometimes there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop somone who decides they're done, I believe Barbara made up her mind and no one would have been able to stop her. Remember, those of us who loved her have lost so much and her death leaves a gaping hole in our lives.

It was not my intention to be seen as judging anyone. I'm learning quite a bit about her from comments made by her friends on Facebook. It makes me sad to realize that I never did get a chance to know her. 


Anonymous September 1, 2011 6:56 am (Pacific time)

Hank on your data about 75% of the population has an IQ of 110 or lower, which demographic has disproportionately the lowest IQ? What is your source, Bell Curve? Ruark Supposition? Have you any advanced training/experience in Psychological Testing and Assessment (the field that specializes in this matter)?

Doesn't take an advanced degree (even though Hank has such)  to know this basic info. You just have to look it up.  

Natalie August 31, 2011 8:53 pm (Pacific time)

I'm sorry this person could not find anything meaningful enough beyond money to ask for help, which makes me think that she was not an economic atheist, but to the contrary-- someone who could not imagine her life without money... a true believer. I wish she didn't end up like that. I really do.

Sad and tragic, certainly. Part of my motivation in writing, Natalie, is to encourage people to be more aware of those others in their own lives who might be in distress but, for whatever reason, are unable to ask for help. I didn't know Barbara Sue before I read a story about her by another journalist, so I can't comment on motivations other than to note that in her obituary, she had a lot of friends, close and casual. I'm not trying to second guess about things I don't and can't know anything about. But, from what I do know, I think it's appropriate to quote the 16th century metaphysical poet, John Donne:

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee." 

Anonymous August 31, 2011 8:03 pm (Pacific time)

I have always thought your writing was provocative, but you are not allowing your readers to express their viewpoints without calling them names. It will forever taint my impression of you. If you got your buttons "pushed" you should apologize. Nothing written was really disparaging. I find truth in each comment. And this is not about a particular political stance, as you would like to paint everything. Defining everything by politics is almost as bad as using blind religion to support your positions in life...

Hank RUARK August 31, 2011 2:59 pm (Pacific time)

These four prove my point recently that 75 percent of population have 1Q of 110 or below....these four constitute the bottom end of that bottom end.
Fortunately we hear most often here from the others; there;s old rule in pr/experience that states more than 100 read and think for every one who responds via comment.

Thanks for reading, Hank. 

Anonymous August 31, 2011 12:47 pm (Pacific time)

The reason I dont bother you anymore is because I went to, where they give website views. Salem-news barely makes the chart, whereas "" is going off the charts.Why? because Alex Jones tells the truth, and people are hungry for the truth. On another note: Here is a video for ya..its only 5 minutes long. That is, if canada doesnt censor it.

If you're not bothering us any more, why am I reading this comment? 

Anonymous August 31, 2011 12:39 pm (Pacific time)

The degradation of the planet is not a result of capitalism. Even in communist/planned-market economies, the degradation exists. The issue is the limits of the environment to recover from the damages from the exponentially-increasing populations. I know people who live in every way possible under our capitalistic system. It allows and tolerates varied life-styles. There are limits in any economic system to how people must conform or adapt in order to provide goods and services that others desire. But there are also many social programs to assist those who cannot or choose to pursue ventures that are not valuable in the economy. You can argue until you are blue in the face, but you are showing your narrow-mindedness.

You're so full of it, your eyes are brown. Obviously a Republican apologist. Don't bother commenting again. I'll just flush them. 

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.