Saturday, March 9, 2013

Capitalism & Compulsion

 

- You shouldn't use the word.
- I can use "capitalism" or any other word I want.
- If you use the word without the proviso that what the word refers to is a false description of the world you are making a false statement.
- It is not a false statement. Capitalism exists.
- If you mean investing money for profit, that exists. But if you mean there is a system - an "ism" - which is stable over time, that there is a "thing" you can see persisting in the world that comes about through investment for profit - No, It's a myth. There is no such thing. There are no stable laws such as "supply and demand determine prices", or "helping the rich automatically helps the poor".
- According to you what is there?
- Monopoly, expropriation, gifts. Supply and demand do not set prices. Helping the rich does not help the poor.
- Your archaic 19th century Anarchism again.*
- We are privileged in our times to see the disproof of capitalism.
- What disproof?
- How it is in the interest of larger businesses to undermine development and stability because disruption favors monopoly.
- How does disruption favor monopoly?
- When speculation causes a collapse the less wealthy have less to invest, and having less security are more afraid to invest. The wealthy then dominate investment and set prices by an informal conspiracy of the like-minded. For example, without exchanging a word between themselves each separately demands a 100 percent profit and sets prices accordingly. Because there is nothing offered for sale except at the the uniform 100 percent mark up they all get their price.
- Nothing is ideal. Capitalism has its problems. That doesn't mean it isn't real.
- Ask yourself why you insist on it being real. What's in it for you? The security of believing when you go out to buy something there is a good reason for the prices you pay, and with a little effort you can find out the right price?
- What's wrong with that?
- There is no right price. Prices are set by monopoly, and giving or taking of one form or other.
- According to you.
- Well, look for yourself, make up your own mind whether capitalism is a false description of the way things work in the world. But besides it being a false description of the world, it is also a myth.
- Isn't that the same thing?
- No. We say a god in his chariot drags the sun over the horizon every morning rather than say the sun rises, because the god, being of a nature similar to our own, makes us feel secure about the otherwise very strange and threatening activity of the sun.
- Where is the god in capitalism?
- The market mechanisms are the regular behavior put in relation to the god, and the god is ourselves described in a fixed and extremely limited way.
- How?
- As purely reasonable, logical, technical.
- Capitalism is a myth because it allows us to feel safe in seeing ourselves as god-like technologists?
- Yes. It could have been true that markets are as regular as the rising of the sun. In fact, they are  not. People want to believe in capitalism as they want to believe our minds are the same as our brains or that a computer could have a mind.
- What does the mind do brains and computers don't?
- It gets out of itself.
- Gets out of itself?
- Yes. You know how when you watch a movie you identify with the characters? You feel what they are feeling?
- Sure.
- Have you ever thought about how you do it?
- It's a kind of hallucination, hypnosis.
- In other words you lose yourself to the grip of some unknown force. A kind of insanity.
- Yes.
- But what if it's not?
- What is it then?
- What if the experience of identification shows us that we care so little of our "selves" that we are willing to substitute the self of an unreal character we are reading a story of or see on a screen in a dark room.
- What do we care about?
- Getting out of ourselves, of any self, and into an experience of no longer being separate from the world.
- And pictures of other people let us do it?
- Yes, because they lead us to thoughts and sights of good or bad, beautiful and ugly, true and false.
- I don't think I understand.
- All our techniques should be used for the sake of making our lives good. When we see people on a screen or read about them in a book making their lives bad we are reminded of what we should be doing in life, and that reminder is beautiful. The experience of being an audience, of identification, teaches us what we don't want - to stay in the technical, economic world of buying and selling - takes us immediately out of it, and reminds us what we really do want.
- What is that?
- Love, sympathy, good. You choose the word.
- But the scientists might be right. Identification is a form of insanity.
- And love they say is a regression to the state of an infant in its mother's arms. Dismissing the reality of emotions biases us in favor of myths of stable markets, of mind as brain and mind as computers. But does denying human feeling explain anything about human conduct?
- Many things. For example, teenagers fall in love easier because more hormones are in their blood.
- Yes, as in economics supply and demand will determine price but only if there are no monopolies and no generosity. Such an economic world has never existed. And a world where teenagers feel and think only subject to the influence of hormones also has never existed. Capitalism, brain as mind, computer as mind are all myths that reassure us in our technological lives, and work as myths, despite the fact that they are clearly bad explanations of the world.
- Why makes you think we need reassurance?
- Because not the audience to movies but the technological human being is insane, literally insane.
- How?
- In a technological society there is only the task. The work is an end in itself, not a means to get to something better.  Relieved by no openness, no basic goodness, beauty, or truth, the time comes when you say to yourself, "all I do is work". You look for something else, something to escape in. But before long that escape is looked back on as also without meaning, for it was chosen to take your thoughts away from yourself, wasn't it?  Not chosen to help you know yourself. So you go back to work to avoid the meaninglessness of the escape. And so on, over and over. This cycle is the form of insanity know as compulsion.