Thursday, July 31, 2014
   
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The Cult of Capitalism

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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 malaise is alienation. 

We use language, sex, and work to connect with each other. 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. 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 sense 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 defining 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 Murdochs, 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.

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