Comments enabled. Find Part 1 here.
My argument is simple: there is a will to speed and quantity — more! faster! — that is actively hostile to the human body and its capacity for enjoyment.
Let me be clear. I am not talking about pleasure. Capitalism offers all sorts of pleasure. That is its promise: the pleasure of the hamburger, new shoes, leather interiors, better handling, a larger screen, the Big Gulp, sharper focus, pill induced sleep, the weekend, arugula. This is the genius of capitalism — it creates the desire and the gratification. And it creates it over and over and over again. As Herbert Marcuse might say, capitalism co-opts the pleasure principle.
No, I am talking about enjoyment. What’s enjoyment? It’s living through this life, through this body, taking in the world and making the best of it — making health and beauty and love and more life. To enjoy something — an idea, a face, a painting, a film, a book, a flower, a sip of coffee — is to be saturated by the experience, to live from the outside in and the inside out and back again. Enjoyment may entail pain, suffering, melancholy just as it may entail great pleasure. Where pleasure is an effect of living, enjoyment is a mode of living.
And what I’m calling capitalism will have none of it. Capitalism is vampiric: it demands bodies be used to an ends that are not necessarily beneficial to said body. To wit, sitting in front of a computer screen writing PowerPoint presentations that explain why a brand should be friendly but fierce, or not, does not necessarily suit the sitter-in-front-of-computer. It’s good for other people — mostly, people none of us will ever meet. But does it further the health and vitality of the person sitting behind that computer screen? Well, no.
Of course, he is paid to sit there and the money benefits him. But let’s examine that a bit. What does the money do for him? It lets him pay his rent, for his food, for this electricity and water and medication. That it, it lets him survive. OK. What else? He can occasionally travel to Hawaii, eat at a moderately priced sushi restaurant, buy some kind of cool shoes, maybe splurge on a massage. But, for the most part, he’s at work all day, every day, so the money just lets him have a place to sleep before he gets back to work. And this endless working is literally making him impotent, fat, stupid, and depressed.
Yes, once again, he can afford to have a place to sleep and food to eat. And, yes, not everyone in the world has that. But is that really our standard by which we assess the success of our lives — a place to sleep, some food to eat, and perhaps some cool shoes? Really?