Monday, May 30, 2005

The Cult of Capitalism

Strive to be an oddball and to think for yourself. To be ‘normal’ in the modern, western world is to be psychologically sick. We are products of our environment and the environment of capitalism is no longer a healthy one. In fact, it is no longer capitalism. It has graduated into monopolism. The ideology of psychopathic corporatism along with its values and priorities has an impact on most individuals if not all. We must understand how the sickness creeps into our psyche and how it affects us.

The average life consists of running on the wage-slave treadmill in order to avoid the destitution of not only ourselves, but of our loved ones as well. If only we could build up our own little fortress against the ravages of the future, we will have made it to safety. In the process we build up a mentality of competitiveness against our neighbour rather than a cooperative relationship with the community of trust and mutual collaboration. We learn instead to take pleasure in the misfortune of others and to feel angst when we notice evidence of our neighbours success.

The Dali Lama said that the way to true happiness is through compassion for others. We cannot be happy as long as we are selfish. But when we genuinely put the happiness and well being of others over our own, we can find happiness. It sounds like some cosmic trickery but when you think about it, you know beyond any doubt it’s true. Grasping for ‘me’ can only lead to jealousy, aggression, anger and dissatisfaction. Caring for others can take us out of our small alienated world and to direct contact with other people. In an atmosphere of insecurity and possible financial devastation, it is difficult for people to think that way.

The root of our modern problem is alienation.

Human beings have always had various means of making contact with others. We use language, sex, and work to do so. In each case, we escape our existential aloneness and share subjective experience with another human being. It is that existential aloneness that is the driving force behind our activity.

We know on some level that our thoughts are illusory and ephemeral. There is no substance to these flighty bubbles of fantasy. Our human tendency from thought is toward affirmation that our private world is not alone. But in the world of conceptualization and thinking we are alone and that presents us with a problem. Our response to this problem is to share our subjective experience with others. That is the natural human way and it is human just as building dams is the beaver way, or building webs is the spider way. Speaking and cooperative work are specific human activities.

Through work, we share our inner ideas with others through operating on the outer environment. As I write this I share my own inner world and when you read it, the process of work has taken place. When we work and especially when we work in the company of others and work together on the same thing, we share our inner life and when we see the ideas of others, we ‘see’ inside their thoughts. We can see how the mind of another is working just as you, the reader, can see inside my thoughts as you read this.

Two important things happen at that point. First, we share our inner world. We act upon the world and other human beings can appreciate what we’ve done. When they do, they appreciate me and that appreciation is beyond ego tripping. It is communion. Secondly, through work we share common goals with other people. We work together for each other whether we build a structure of wood or knit a blanket. We act upon the natural world from the ghostly world of thoughts and in the process we give substance to our flighty reality of thinking.

But something has happened along the way. Work has been appropriated by an alien force. When that appropriation occurred, the inner life of ‘me’ was rendered inconsequential.

Now the workers inner life has been completely severed from the process of work. The worker works for somebody else. It is the initiative and the will of a coercive force that guides the process of work for the worker. The important ingredients of inner will and initiative have been lost. Most importantly, control of the process of work has been lost.

Now the worker is told when to work, what will be done and what will be produced. The worker does this not to manufacture objects or services, but to get money to survive. He or she does it to manufacture even more money for his or her owner. Rather than using tools within his own field of initiative, he is a tool within somebody else’s field of initiative. He finds no joy in work and instead lives only to escape from it. What was the human expression of his or her self is now the bane of his existence, his nemesis. He lives for the weekend or the evening or for vacation. He lives for the pension.

The study of human development indicates and suggests that healthy human development depends on meeting different needs at different stages. The infant needs tactile stimulation and nourishment, the toddler needs structure and so on. There is nothing to suggest that these needs ever go away but they do become less salient though the process. And in our journey toward optimal development, initiative is a cornerstone. We build up toward initiative early on and build upon it once we achieve an inner sense of it. Stripping human beings of initiative is tantamount to stripping us of our human potential.

The values and ethics of the most dominant forces have a tendency to find their way to the majority. If the individual is valued not as a mother or father, not as a friend or lover, not as a human being, but instead is valued as an object of work and not valued in terms of use value but instead in terms of exchange value, this will have a significant impact on the identity of the individual. Further, the outward display of exchange value may become the highest priority. Status symbols such as new cars and big homes come to represent ‘who I am’ replacing substantial qualities such as kindness, community spirit or intelligence in work. The world of substantial human contact is reduced and the world of facades and masks take over. The world of shared subjectivity is replaced with a world of crass objectification.

Popular and mainstream media contribute to instilling and propping up values that otherwise would be suggestive of psychopathology. They worship idols with glib and superficial charm, self centered ego-maniacs, economic parasites, blatant liars, con artists, and so on. We learn to worship the Trumps, the Bush’s and the self serving psychopaths, the merchants and the movie stars.

The impact of capitalism on our individual identity affects us directly thorough the organization of the work process and through the larger cultural milieu as well. And it is through the formation of identity that we develop out ideological sense of values and priorities.

In this process, we learn to sacrifice our lives to acquire more stuff and better stuff than those around us. We aspire to be like those at the top of the heap. We spend our lives housed in our suburban tombs and rather than living life, we watch television. We virtually live our virtual lives and are alienated from our work, our peers and all too often, from our families and ourselves. Too blind to see our malaise, too brainwashed within the cult of capitalism, we push our children to do exactly the same thing.

And in the end we can look back on our lives and remember all the great shows we watched on television; the great virtual escape from alienation.


Archie said...

Here are several excerpts of comments to this article from Indymedia:

BUT WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT 30.May.2005 12:03

curious link

A wonderful marxist analysis. Yes our environment sickens and poisions us; the idea is: change the environment, and the people will change too...
...Only by a revolution in which capitalism is destroyed, and socialism is installed, will we live a life in which our 'other' nature is once again needed -Portland, Or
The End of the Oil Age 30.May.2005 13:06

billy ray link

As the oil age ends there will be major disruptions -not all bad-that could see the end of corporatism which is fascism and corrupt. - Portland, Or


Capitalist System=Self-destructing System. 30.May.2005 13:20

Tom link

I agree with the previous commentator, that this is a well written essay, depicting many of the complexities of the modern capitalist society...
... The question is, either humans themselves able to reform the system, (and themselves) or will nature's collapse will do it for us?

Another Vote For Socialism 30.May.2005 13:28

Roland link

It is so good to see this kind of discourse on Indy Media. Thank you, Mr. kennedy for the thoughtful words. A short while ago James Cooke wrote about surplus value. This is a good thing. I'm afraid that the Soviet experience and the relentless anti-socialist propaganda here in the U.S. has soured too many people to the still very real possiblity of creating a workable socialist society...
...If even one person reading your excellent piece is moved to investigate further, I'd say that's a victory for socialism, albeit a small one. But, as the old saying goes, every journey starts with that first step! -Portland, Or


this essay brings up a question... 30.May.2005 15:27

this thing here link

what is an example of the cult of capitalism, and how does the cult feel to be a part of? or rather, how does this cult manifest itself in a way a person can feel?
it is this HAVING TO that is the face of the cult.

it is anytime you have to be mean to someone (or to planet earth), not because you're mean, not because you hate the person (or the earth), BUT BECAUSE THE INTERESTS OF CAPITAL DEMAND IT. think of the amount of first guilt then denial this creates inside people...

... because it is so psyhological, using the term "cult of capitalism" is completely appropriate. this is what the cult looks and feels like. this is how it ACTS on people... - Portland, Or

hegelian dialectic watch 30.May.2005 16:51

Green Army of 700,000 dropped from history books... link

Cult of Cult of Anti-Capitalism, both brought to you by the EXACT SAME PEOPLE.


Shorter than you think 30.May.2005 20:24

Red neck link

Capitalism (Industrialism) didn't really takeoff until the 1830's. What we call consumerism didn't really hit until the 20's ...and the real craziness didn't start until after WW2...
...There is a limit. We got Reagan, "It's morning in America" gas is a dollar a gallon, let the good times roll... -Portland, Or

I thought 31.May.2005 05:19

dens link

we lived in a mixed economy of fascism/socialism/capitalism already. Regardless, it seems we were doing something right untill woody wilson betrayed us in 1913. He said many things along this line.

"I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country...
...This vast accumulation of wealth concentrates immense power and despotic economic domination in the hands of the few central bankers "who are able to govern credit and its allotment, for this reason supplying, so to speak, the life-blood to the entire economic body, and grasping, as it were, in their hands the very soul of the economy so that no one dare breathe against their will." A worldwide tyranny is gradually being imposed, hidden to most, by THE MONEY MASTERS.

good work! 31.May.2005 07:55

james cooke link

a lovely article, expressing important ideas. I'm sure many could read this article and relate to it on a number of levels. The responses were in some cases also profound. The chaotic mental state we all live in does have a cure: socialism. Capitalism was dissected over a hundred years ago by Marx, Engels and others who followed; we know our enemy qute well, the veil long ago lifted. There is a nice progression of historical figures who have added to what we know about the struggle, and the best way to go about it. The history of the russian revolution has many tools in which to learn from about how a revolution emerges, and once it does, what works and what doesnt. It just takes some effort in rediscovering these old ideas, and applying them to our own situation. Roland is right, start your journey. talk to your friends. spread the word. -Portland, Or

Archie said...

Comment from Bolivia:

añadir comentarios

Big and painful truth
Alfonso 30/05/2005 16:45
It's all true.

However, I'd say all that is not only a result of capitalism, but a result of the development of the society as a whole.

I live in socialist countries for quite a while, and I saw exactly the came kind of "symptoms" in those societies. The permanent desire to achieve material well-being, forgetting happiness and sometimes even family.

I guess the only way for us not to be inmersed in this "cult" would be the return to a much simpler kind of society. We should forget about the need to achieve "economic growth". We should grow our own food.-Bolivia

Archie said...

Comments from New York...

Re: The Cult of Capitalism
by bringit
(No verified email address) Current rating: 2
30 May 2005
Modified: 05:53:30 PM
the anti-capitalist movement is very much alive...but a serious public comeback is necessary.
-New York

Re: The Cult of Capitalism
by richard whiskey
(No verified email address) Current rating: 1
30 May 2005
Modified: 08:59:07 PM
If you hate it so much why don't you take your socialist/communist ass some place far far away. What a bunch of losers you anti capitalists are. Looks like you are already looking back and dreaming cause it's here to stay.
-New York

by Do You Think Dick?
(No verified email address) Current rating: 3
30 May 2005
Modified: 31 May 2005
It's so surprising that such a winner, as yourself, would wish to hang around all us losers. So Dick to what do you attribute the cause of your success?


Re: The Cult of Capitalism
by Roland
(No verified email address) Current rating: 0
31 May 2005
Modified: 07:19:24 AM
Great essay! Thanks, Mr. Kennedy. As for you, Richard Whiskey, I'd tell you to go back from whence you came, but the rock is probably too heavy to lift.