Tuesday, January 19, 2010
The Death of the Tangible (Original)
The Death of the Tangible
by Judas Iscariot
“And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.” - John Steinbeck, East of Eden
By no means is Upton Sinclair someone that I look up to. He was short-sighted, stubborn, and ill-founded. But if there is one thing that he did that I respect it is that he brought a question to the forefront of American conversation: how is our food handled? Where does it come from? What perverse things happen in the process?
Sinclair was a socialist, which is something that always puzzles me. To me, no writer is a socialist or a collectivist. They are driven so whole-heartedly by the individual. In Sinclair’s case, as he wasn’t specifically touting Marx’s dictatorial History, or knee-deep in the trenches of Keynesianism, I tend to think of him as someone who saw an ill, and missed the mark.
If one were to say that corporations were a natural resultant of capitalism, then there is plenty of reason to hate capitalism. This of course is not a correct assumption. There is nothing personal, motivational, or hard-working about a corporation. A corporation requires a government to legitimize it; specifically, to prop it up. They are ugly organs reminiscent of feudal times, long refuted by the age of reason.
Capitalism explains production, but it is not a theory of production. Many of us forget that more than an economic theory, Capitalism implies a theory of absolute individualism; the benchmark of freedom. Freedom is a word that is overused by some and scoffed at by others. But freedom is choice. It is, as Mr. Steinbeck wrote, the freedom of the individual to move in any direction it chooses. Capitalism is not about work as much as it is about voluntary association.
So, Mr. Sinclair, was wrong in condemning capitalism, for what he should have been condemning was the corporation. The corporation, a government construct, brought people to the cities like iron filings to a magnet. And what has happened to cities? People work to lay eggs for the heads of these corporations, who have the gall to meet annually and discuss how efficiently their fingers set in the world’s affairs - or maybe to report to their higher-ups, the Rockerfellers and the Rothschilds, for instance, the state of their domains.
Sinclair’s Chicago shows people who have lost connection to the process. They have forgotten that their bread may grow from the Earth by their own hand, just like now we forget that we have the courage to create our own music and play it for our friends, or that skin is not Photoshopped and two-dimensional, but warm to the touch. They live in a world where they are dependent on not only the corporation to produce food properly, but, subsequently, on the character of a bureaucrat to right these wrongs, as if that bureaucrat was disinterested and dealing with wanton boys.
People are rejecting autonomy and decentralization for the prospect that ever-increasing altruists are more qualified to decide how we live our lives than ourselves. A car czar, for instance. A department of Labor, Agriculture, and Education. This is not freedom. This is control.
In essence, there is nothing tangible about a corporation. I don’t think it is a coincidence that books are moving toward the day of the Kindle, just as music has been relegated to the realm of the invisible. We don’t know that wood can be crafted rather easily into things of lasting use and meaning to us. Or that many ailments can be cured with just cayenne pepper and apple cider vinegar. That someone seeking to harm our livelihood, be it ourselves or the property which spent our irreplaceable time at work to acquire, can be turned away by a conical bullet in a steady barrel.
This is not extremism. This is the reality that exists when the bubbles fail to give us the meaning we lack. This is not violence. This is not savagery. This is the beautiful movement of people who love their lives and who hold true to the respect for other people’s minds and potential. This is a reality where no one is pulling the strings. Where we don’t have to depend on the pezzonovantes for our leisure, or our bread, our sex, or our very livelihoods.
It is a reclamation of what is solid in a world that is constantly popping. It is the battle cry of the dark room and the record player. Of routers instead of particle board. Of utilitarianism over fashion. Of passion over convention. Of freedom over slavery.
Posted by jp at 5:48 PM