What the fuck are we to do? The cards are stacked against us, at every turn, in so many insidious ways. Because capitalism is not just an economic system. It is a justice system, a military system, a police system and what makes it so hard to fight, it’s a discursive engine. It puts words in our mouth, ideas in our head, dictates how to think, speak, feel. It runs the newspapers and the networks and the movies. Bourgeois bullshit abounds so thoroughly there is no respite from its excruciating, humiliating fray.
And yet capitalism is not an “it.” There is no cabal of evil men lurking in the back room. Well, there is but these men are not the source but a symptom. There is no enemy per se to vanquish once and for all. Changing the president changes nothing, not really. That is not where power resides. It does not stream down from the top. While there is certainly a viscous power in the club of a cop, that is not the only or even dominant way power works. As Foucault has so deftly argued, power comes from everywhere. It runs through the very terms we use to think about who we are, what’s possible, how we relate to each other.
When I say capitalism, I am not referring to an economic system we have chosen. That is one of the insidious claims it makes about itself, one of those facts we assume that we have to move past: we do not choose how to be from a set of options, as in, “Capitalism is the only system that works.”
No, when I say capitalism I am referring to a complex set of behaviors, an entire ecology of desire. Capitalism is how we stand towards each other, the assumptions we make about our days, our lives, our loves. It is how we stand towards ourselves, alone at night and shaking in our Ambien riddled daze. It is the set of terms we use to discuss this life, who we are and what we care about. It is the films that numb and beat us in our theaters, the television programs that embarrass and shame us, the deployment of predator drones, bombs, and soldiers.
Capitalism is us.
And what’s so annoying, so defeating, so exhausting is that when we feel differently than has been dictated — when we’re not convinced a presidential election matters in the least or that nearly every film out of Hollywood is an assault on decency or that the conditions of work are grotesque, untenable, and sick — we feel the need to justify it. These most obvious thoughts and sentiments become contaminated with defensiveness. Even in our thoughts, we’re hung out to dry.
And what’s so terrifying, why I feel so thoroughly fucked, is that all the terms of resistance are folded into the Spectacle, this Matrix, and such a downright alarming speed it’s hard to fathom. What, prey tell, is a green car? How did slow food become the latest trend in unaffordable food? How the fuck can Whole Foods declare “buy local” and keep a straight face?
If only there were some evil madman laughing maniacally in the back room. Instead we get a self-righteous Prius driver shopping for overpriced arugula — and thinking, deep down, that that makes him a good person! And not just a good person — but someone who is helping change things! Jesus fucking Christ.
It’s unbridled madness masked as righteousness — which makes it all the madder! And somehow I’m the one who feels like an asshole for saying all this. “What’s wrong with him? I like Whole Foods.”
And, oh, somehow these deluded sanctimonious pricks have not just taken up the mantle of change — which is insane in its own right — but they’ve taken up the cause of pleasure. “Whole Foods is yummy.” Yummy! They don’t know what yummy is. Because yummy is not just what you eat but how you eat. How you live. How you enjoy, delectate, indulge.
What are we to do? What?