All I Want is Time to Enjoy this Life… (IV)

A Series of Personal and Pissed Off Critiques of Capitalism (Part 4)
Comments enabled. Find Part 3 here.

By capitalism, I am not referring to an economic system, as if financial models are something we can pick and choose. This, in fact, is one of capitalism’s techniques of hiding itself: it propagates the lie that it is an option, something we choose rather than something we are.

When I say capitalism, I am referring to a complex economy of desire, will, inter-personal politics, and capital. As an economist knows, the ebb and tide of markets have as much to do with the irrational laws of human behavior as they do with the supposed laws of markets. I work in branding and this is what we do, what we are hired to do: to navigate the economies of desire.

If you’re having a problem with my word choice, I ask to put that aside for the moment and listen to what I have to say,

What I want to suggest is that capitalism is a virus that infected the human host long ago and has at once mutated and caused mutations in its human host to the point where it is very difficult to distinguish virus from host. And that this virus has mutated quite rapidly over the last 200 years and seems to be accelerating its replication at an ever-increasing rate.

Why a virus? Because, like a virus, it seeks solely its own replication. It is not just a call for “more” but a call for more of the same, more of it. As such, it is a virus of quantity that, in order to replicate more effectively, seeks the eradication of qualitative states of being, affective experiences.

And, as a virus, capitalism will exterminate its host — viruses are not smart that way. As William Burroughs says, any quantitative system is a zero-sum game, a junk equation.

Speed and replication: these are the dominant behaviors of capitalism.

The present economy moves at incredible speeds and is accelerating. The human body, the host, slows things down. In particular, the human propensity for enjoyment slows things down — not its desire for pleasure and consumption but its will to enjoyment.  And enjoyment is slow.

And so we are witnessing the extermination of the human body and, specifically, its will to enjoyment. Let’s look about:

  • First, the virus seeks to own time. Be at work, everyday, by 9:00. Leave, if you’re lucky, by 5, 6, 7. The workweek is getting longer thanks in large part to technologic mutations and always-on micro computing. The majority of our waking time is accounted for — and accounted for being productive, for producing more capital. No time to wallow in the splendor of the day.
  • Of course, there will be no fucking at work. In fact, it’s against the law. There are elaborate rules and regulations and training sessions to ensure that not only don’t we fuck at work, but that we don’t even discuss fucking — or even look at each other with the desire to fuck. Why? Because fucking is slow and unproductive (of capital, that is — can’t buy things and can’t write PowerPoint when you’re getting jiggy).
  • While at work, we are not allowed any privacy. Work spaces are now, for the most part, open. No chance to sneak a wank — or even pick your nose, exercise, stretch, no chance to enjoy private indulgences. Even bathrooms are rarely private. We piss and shit in front of each other. There is no space, no time, for private enjoyment.
  • We sit all day at work in front of a screen. We no longer need bodies that can lift and haul and operate. The information economy needs a brain to do the computing that computers cannot. The body — its physicality — gets in the way.
  • We eat at our desks. And what do we eat? Wraps from Wendy’s: fat and processed corn and soy to ensure we are never feeling healthy. Why? Because a healthy body wants to fuck, wants to enjoy, wants to move around, not sit at a desk for 9 hours.
  • When we get home, things are no better. Both husband and wife must work now. More more more more. So both are exhausted and dehydrated from their day. The kids are wiped out from being abused at school — made to sit in chairs and memorize nonsense. It is not a pleasant scene.
  • So we pop Valium and Xanax and Ambien to sleep. Which makes us groggy and stupid and dehydrated.
  • So we wake up — gotta wake up good and early and get the kid to school and yourself to work — completely exhausted. Enter: Coffee and the Starfucks conspiracy. Why is there a Starbucks on every corner in downtown America? Because capitalism demands we work and we are so fucking tired so we neeeeeed caffeine.
  • Only we don’t really drink caffeine; we drink Grandes Lattes, high powered coffee dumped in a vat of antibiotic soaked milk fat. Which makes us sicker.
  • The rise of coffee shop culture in America is not the rise of leisure and pleasure. It’s the spread of capitalism. Coffee shops in this country are places to work, laptops out and ready, an extension of the office.
  • And so we have become an increasingly impotent society. Which is capitalism’s goal. But we still gotta breed — cloning is not up and running yet — so we have to take a pill. Doesn’t it bother anyone that there are ads for impotence all the fucking time? In prime time? And there are competing such drugs? The signs are not subtle.
  • Schools have been taken over as well. Adolescence and youthful madness must be turned towards quantitative production. So high school students don’t fuck. They join after school programs so they can get into college.
  • Once in college, they are recruited, No more taking acid, reading Nietzsche, and having orgies. Now it’s Adderall and internships. Fact: the majority of college students major in business.
  • Of course, we can’t just eliminate enjoyment. And so capitalism substitutes consumption. We consume, relentlessly. This drives the will to more: produce more, consume more, so produce more so consume more. On and on and on. There is no delectation, no enjoyment, just consumption and some pleasure.
  • This virus is aggressively mining its host. The first thing it needs is not fossil fuel but human vitality — as in The Matrix, it needs our energy production. The environmental movement is, for the most part, part of the capitalist engine that keeps our eyes on fuel rather than humanity itself. We create green cars. Green cars! That’s insane! There’s no such thing. You know what a green car is? It’s called your feet.
  • Is there a cure? Is there resistance? Capitalism is very good at infecting resistant bodies incredibly quickly. It folds whatever emerges back into what Guy Debord calls the society of the spectacle. John Lennon’s Instant Karma sells a bank; Vincent Gallo sells Vodka. No sooner does resistance emerge than it is turned towards quantitative production and consumption.

All is lost.  Sauve qui peut. TC mark


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  • Joseph

    silllllly coffffeeeen you are sooooooooooo crazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzy

    life sucks and always has and always will when i see capitalism i see life as it is that's that and whatever

  • Drew Farr

    Hahaha. Feel like Mr Coffeen started out writing these, having some kind of concept of everything being fixable if people would only wake up.

    And then proceeded to write himself into a deep, angry depression, realizing how impossible that is in our comatose society.

    “All is lost. Head to the hills. Find the scraps of land still left, set up camp, and fuck and fuck and suck and read and draw and fuck some more because the end is neigh, dearies. There is no cure.”

    Gonna sleep good on that one.

  • Dwatson

    I like this piece a lot. There is one thing though. While I think the virus metaphor is useful and interesting, I think it breaks down at a point. While it may be troubling to find an actual point of fissure between virus and host, the ability to become troubled or upset suggests that we are not completely overtaken by this virus, i.e., perhaps it shapes me in ways that are so deep I can be only so aware; however, if I can notice my dis-ease and be troubled, it does suggest, at least I hope it does, that there is a break, a glitch in the system if you will. It seems to me that if we can acknowledge the dis-ease we should see that as something positive. I've said this before on one of these forums, but what consistantly surprises me is that most people who I know and talk to aren't troubled by a capitalistically deformed body, yet. And that is problematic.

    I do appreciate the ability to frame economics in terms of the body. You're right that it's not something we are seperate from. It's not us, and then medium, and then economic system. But we don't dissolve into The SAME either.

    Perhaps, the virus metaphor is actually okay. As I read back over what I'm saying, I think my argument is that there will be moments when it may become possible to find ways to live meaningfully, to not simply be co-opted. Perhaps not, but part of living meaningfully involves some kind of belief in struggle, even if the struggle is never over. For example, if anyone's ever read Camus' The Plague, I think that book articulates much better what I'm trying to say here.

    • Daniel Coffeen

      I love this comment, reading you feeling out a thought. I follow you, and feel you, every step of the way. I have the exact same hesitations and thoughts about the virus/host figure.

      What I like about it is it shifts the terms, the frame, of the discussion away from “choice” and “ideology” and puts responsibility for action directly on the body of the individual: What do you do, day in and day out?

      And in that, perhaps, there is the possibility of a remedy.

      • Dwatson

        I'm currently reading Hypermodern Times by Gilles Lipovetsky and in the introduction there was an interesting quotation or two that I think relates to what we're discussing. (the introduction is written by Sebastian Charles)

        “Hypermodern individuals are both better informed and more destructured, more adult and more unstable, less ideological and more in thrall to changing fashions, more open and more easy to influence, more critical and more superficial, more skeptical and less profound.”

        Then he goes on to describe the modern day Narcissus: “These days, Narcissus is gnawed by anxiety; fear has imposed itself on his pleasures, and anguish on his liberation…Narcissus is less in love with himself than terrorized by daily life, and his own body as well as the social environment appear to him as aggressive. Everything worries and alarms him.”

        That all feels right in my gut and I think it goes a long way to connecting the physiological disease with I guess what still might be called the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. (Something tells me that my be old-hat by now, but I'm not sure. Honestly, I never finished Jameson's book. I hate the way he writes.)

  • Dan

    why should the world be based around niceness? Capitalism is a system built around generosity. You do something for me, I do something for you.

    • Daniel Coffeen

      That's not generosity; that's exchange — not to be pedantic but keeping terms clear is useful. Generosity is letting someone else be.

      And how said anything about niceness?

  • Dan

    The first thing I'm going to say is, “Thanks for making time for me.” Doesn't matter if you're Sean Penn or a taxi driver, you don't owe me squat. We're going to share a few moments; the only lives we're ever going to live have joined right here and now. You made that happen; I owe you. Let's have some fun. The next thing I'm going to do is ask about you. I'm going to learn about you, and I'm going to learn from you. I'm going to make you feel important; because we're together, you are important. Then comes the coup de grâce: I'm going to make you laugh. I don't know how to tell you to do this; you must trust your instincts. Genuine laughter is no less than a social orgasm. Provoke it and the world will drop its drawers for you.
    These aren't tricks. The only trick is that there are no tricks, just a planet full of folks — rich and poor alike — all hoping to get treated better than dirt. I can give them that gift. You can, too.

    Read more:

  • Matthew

    And with all your time wasted……there is no time to read! No time to gather new ideas. I’ve found myself reduce to short stories, facebook status, youtube videos and blogs.  A complex thought has been destroyed.

  • Daniel

    My god, this has been a depressing read. Great way to start the week. Now back to our suits and unsatisfying jobs/lives.

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