Refund by Karen E. Bender: My Review

“What did one owe for being alive? What was the right way to breathe, to taste a strawberry, to love?”
This story is about political economy (money) circumstantial/economic coercion under capitalism, which drags a loving, good-hearted couple into pulling a scam by advertising their apartment, which they do not own, forsake their child’s child education. Privatisation makes teaching a business that works for prof i t and generates a competitive atmosphere where proper education becomes an asset only available to those who can afford it. They call it “survival of the fi ttest, " a phrase coined by Herbert Spencer while theorising Social Darwinism. This conception lurks behind the very fabric of the capitalist economy as its inherent logic legitimises treating humans as beasts and turning society into a jungle where only those with wealth have the right to be alive, breathe, taste food, and love.

Another signif i cant event discussed in the story is the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers and its psychological impacts, making Kim force Clarissa for a refund as an emotional purgation and outlet for the loss of her friend during the attack. Overall, the story is well-written and speaks of political economy and psychological impacts on people after tragic incidents.

  • Topics I explored through this story.
    • How economic coercion can turn good people into scammers.
    • Privatisation of education makes education an asset affordable only to a few.
    • Exploration of the Freudian concept of “Displacement” where emotions are displaced. When one can not take it out on the system or cannot recognise the source of the grief and pain, they take it out on people lesser in power structures.
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