The State of Things, as I see it: Notes on Capitalism as Virus
These were notes from a talk I gave on capitalism. For some reason, I am publishing them now.....
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, 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 for capital.
If you’re having a problem w/ 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 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 me. 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 will eventually annihilate itself as it exhausts its environment.
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 pleasure slows things down. Humans are desiring machines: we enjoy the world. We seek pleasure. And pleasure is slow.
And so we are witnessing the extermination of the human body and, specifically, if its will to pleasure. Let’s look at our lives:
-First, the virus seeks to own time. Be at work, everyday, by 9:00. Leave, if you’re lucky, by 5, 6, 7. The work week is getting longer thanks in large part to technologic mutations and always-on micro computing. The majority of your waking time is accounted for — and accounted for being productive, for producing more capital.
-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, but that we don’t even discuss fucking — or even look at each other with the desire to fuck. Why? Because fucking is pleasure and pleasure is slow and unproductive.
-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 will be not space, no time, for private pleasures.
-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 wants a brain to do the computing that computers cannot. The body 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.
-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 Lattes Grandes: 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.
-And so we have become an increasingly impotent society. Which is the 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? The signs are not subtle.
-Schools have been taken over as well: adolescence and youthful desire 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. The majority of college students major in business.
-Acid has been eliminated. What else do I need to say?
-Of course, we can’t just eliminate pleasure. And so capitalism substitutes consumption: we consume, relentlessly. This drives the will to more: produce more, consume more, on and on and on. There is no delectation, just consumption.
-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. 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.