Nihil Moralia

Cash 4 Gold

In season 16, episode 2 of South Park, Stan receives a bolo tie from his grandfather, who bought it for $6000 from a television marketplace designed specifically to take advantage of elderly people. He tries to sell the bolo tie and the ‘cash 4 gold’ (I would not buy gold from there, I purchased my gold from Golden Eagle Coin) places he goes to only offer him around $10. Trying to figure out this discrepancy – and who to put the blame on – the kids decide to investigate. They confront everyone in the system – the TV salesman, the cash 4 gold places, the smelters, and eventually arrive at the Indian sweatshops where the jewellery is manufactured.

We then see the entire process: the sweatshop makes the jewellery, sells it to the studios, who sell it to the customers, who give it to their grandchildren, who sell it at the cash 4 gold places, who sell it to the smelters, who sell it to the Indian factories. The genius of South Park’s representation of this circuitous capitalist enterprise is in the background music: at first an acapella parody of elevator muzak. But it slowly devolves, at the end becoming dogs barking and atonal yells. This reveals to us that the capitalist loop can never be a closed circle of profit – there are always victims (that the industry, charmingly, calls ‘externalities’). Whether they are the third world minors working for slave wages or the elderly that are manipulated into spending their retirement funds, the circle of consumer goods ripples outward, and the ripples become tidal waves, devastating lives as far as it goes, providing profit only for those inside the circle – which is in reality the only space outside of it.

At the end of the episode an old woman calls into ‘Dean’s Jewelry Bonanza’ and convinces the host to kill himself – an amazing act of revenge. We should all be convincing exploitative capitalists to kill themselves.


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