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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What Capitalism Incentivizes - Rather, Commune With Your Heart

Paul Newman exemplifies education in Cool Hand Luke

The Profit Motive

Many well-meaning people - especially here in the United States, the "shining city on the hill" of capitalist doctrine - see the profit motive as the prime motive for human activity.

The Invisible Hand of free markets is seen, in turn, as the arbiter of balance in the capitalist doctrine. Depending on one's proclivities, it is tantamount to a manifestation of God's will, a fundamental law of physics like entropy, or a force of ecological equilibrium, a Gaian thermostat.

To adopt these as fundamental truths gives rise to the prominent ills of our day, ills of Biblical proportions. And, because of the acceptance of the profit motive as an a priori aspect of human nature, these ills are dismissed as necessary correctives, reigned down from above upon those of us who fail to recognize our "true" nature, we retrograde blasphemers of received wisdom, we who fail to hold up our end of the deal in the beautiful machinery of achievement and progress, we who receive instead the holy correctives of the meritocracy we so arrogantly, and impotently, spurn.

This masks so much that is wrong. It is a simple mask, however, and easy to understand. If it is understood it can be seen for what it is - a mask. It does not require a revolution of fundamental consciousness, either, to understand that a mask hides what we are. Once it is understood to be a mask, only the most pathological would forget to take it off before gazing into the mirror.

Unfortunately, it is not universally - or even widely - understood to be a mask, in these times.

The Mask Hides Behind

The mask is unseen, as it must be, or it would be retired in the evenings as whimsical decoration and jewelry. It would come off before the mirror, before a bath, before retiring. It remains firmly fixed because it is, itself camouflaged. Well and effectively camouflaged, by the time-tested method of hiding behind the language of the truth.

It is instructive that the mask requires the language of the truth in order to retain its ostensible legitimacy. The mask - the profit motive - enables, in our minds, the very things that are so very human. It incentives the very production of food, clothing, and shelter - these fundamental needs of the naked ape. "How," ask the defenders of capitalism, "would these things be produced and provided, if not for the wonderful machinery of capitalism, with the acquisition of profit motivating the work needed?"

In this narrative, it is not the profit - the greed - that is served, it is the very fundaments of human existence that are addressed. We need greed - for some it is a necessary evil, for others, deep into the mythology of the mask like Oliver Stone's Gordon Gekko, it is a virtue. Greed is either an indulgence that should be moderated with wisdom, or it is the holy vehicle through which God, or Nature, provides.

The truth is, however, that it is very small percentage of us that is primarily motivated by profit - and make no mistake about it, the pursuit of profit is greed, whether it be thought of as a moderated vice or a holy manifestation of nature. What percentage? Oh, I think it's around 1%, by last count...

The rest of us have been cowed by the mythology. In truth, we are motivated by the love we have for our families, our neighbors, our communities, by the sea of humanity in which we all swim. We simply, in all good faith, have been led to believe that in order to serve each other, we must necessarily serve upon this altar of profit, we must fall in line with the received wisdom of capitalism, in order that we best serve each other.

We're too distracted to understand that we have been sold a bill of goods. We forget that we have the goods already, and that we really don't need the bill after all. We need not take them to market, we need not have them arbitrated and marketed and handled by the meddling middlers with their eye on the take. The apocryphal 1% - those who howl most fiercely when we, the people, endeavor to take things into our own hands.

Those who pay our brothers and sisters to beat us back from the barricades of truth, our brothers and sisters who themselves have been led to believe that they themselves need to fall in line with the received wisdom of necessary profit motive, who guilelessly defend this false God of capitalism.

Life Is Just Not Like That, They (We) Say

The master stroke of the apocryphal 1% is that they have convinced us all that we are just like them. Rather, they've convinced us that our neighbors are just like them. When I, in my communion with my heart, privately know that I am better than this - that I merely wish to be loved and to love, and to break bread with my neighbors - I am told that I am an impossible idealist because, you see, everyone else is not like that. I am a dreamer and a fool, alone, unless and until I get in line and get with the program. Until I grow up, pick up that spade and make that hole, or to fill it in.

The myth-makers are not digging the holes. You are conscripted.

It is all very clever, because when you put money or credits or arbitration between the deeds that we do for each other, we also erect a barrier between ourselves that disables the communion between each other that would occur as smoothly as that which occurs between ourselves and our hearts in those moments when we can still find repose. Of course, we are assaulted with all manner of distraction and entertainment to rob us even of our private repose, so that most of us are not even able to lament our predicament. We rail, instead, against those neighbors that are frustrating us in the pursuit of our piece of pie - or against ourselves for not working hard enough, or true enough.

Questions For Repose

Ask yourself why "redistribution of wealth" is so vehemently (and rather successfully) derided - unless it enriches a middleman in the holy name of profit. Why those who do not fall in line unfailingly suffer the deprivations that society has to offer. One either ends up "dead or in jail," as the saying goes.

It is simple - the middlemen have ways of squeezing the last bit of profit from your being if you are in prison. How easy it is to pass legislation to fund the construction of a new jail, and how difficult it is to expand healthcare. Whether it be through the slave labor they may exact, or simply by charging the rest of us for the cost of housing and feeding you - for a profit, of course (this can be expressed as the support of a vast payroll of cooperating drones who arrest, prosecute, guard, and feed you, or in the more vulgar appearance of privately run for-profit prisons, bleeding the taxpayers for the rent of these ghastly incarnations of "housing projects," with their steel bars and sniper towers.)

And if you miraculously avoid the myriad legal traps laid out before you when you try to subsist without cooperation in the mythology of greed, then, well, homelessness and starvation will be your final judgment.

For not playing along.


The irony is that this mythology, this delusion, is as fragile as any other, and it will suffer its collapse. Those who continue to entertain the delusion will see only catastrophe in this collapse, and suffer along with it.

Those of us who have subversively indulged in repose, and who know our true hearts, will instead experience a joy in this collapse, for it is, in fact, a liberation. It is a moment when we will see many of our neighbors' hearts come in from the cold, when we will experience our private truths, finally, in community.

The most subversive thing you can do, in this climate, is to find repose, and commune with your own heart.

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