a.nihil

Capitalism

Pickpocket

A decade ago purchasing a book involved driving to a bookstore, browsing for the book, placing an order if necessary, making a payment with either cash or a card and driving back. Getting cash meant finding an ATM, withdrawing money and getting back change after payment – a tactile act that gave a tangible value to the book being purchased. Card payments in those days without instant notifications from bank apps lead to mysterious declines for either hitting the spending ceiling or having no funds, a problem cash from the ATM solved in an instant.

Making a bigger purchase often involved more deliberation over financing and transportation which created additional hurdles to the whole act of spending. This left enough leeway to abandon a purchasing idea and resume it at a point of one's choosing. Cash was both a consumption gateway and inhibitor, the safety check against spending money was money itself.

Now, I go on Amazon and make a single click purchase and the book is in my mail the next day. The price on Amazon feel like points in a video game and my bank app deducts my purchase from my balance in a whirr of numbers that make it look like a slot machine. The sensory translation of the purchase into pings and notifications in different apps adds to the satisfaction. The sleight of hand that Amazon pulls is making the value of all things homogeneous, the act of buying a book is no different from that of buying a refrigerator.

Added to this is the rise of modern banking apps that talk about a simplified, seamless transaction experience. The experience part of spending comes with all kinds of enticing UI/UX interfaces that appear to make a transaction cool. The seamlessness of these apps lies in removing the weight of money making the price in an online transaction like a second thought, a formality to look over. This fundamental shift on how we shop and the mode of spending money makes it easier for us to be stripped off of our funds at any moment through the day. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world he did not exist and like that my wallet goes empty.

#capitalism #finance #shopping #internet

From radios in mid-ocean transit to the war rooms in Yemen, the whole world awaits the New President. His voice will boom in far corners of the earth, bringing in a new term the whole world will be aspiring for. We see him in the eyes we are trained to see, the new Emir, Raja of Rajahs, the democratic dictator. But we all wish for the same – let the American Dream of wealth, fame and power be for the whole of mankind.

America is our country, we by the virtue of global capital, are all American. The President has overshadowed COVID-19 in a year of little star power. Our eyes and ears have become sore at the idea of what our America had become. Now there is hope from the doomsday news cycle but what America has inspired has spread all over the world. Brazil, India, Turkey amongst other countries grapple with populists of the Trump variety. The tamasha that the sitting American President unveiled is irreversible. The notion of reason has taken a hit, the abstraction of the Constitution

Can this new god dispel the thought crimes of the past regime? Does the new Imperial King inspire the world and help us dream about America again? America has the brand advantage over China and what America does, we can expect the whole world to imitate. Make America Great Again, Mr. Biden. You are the President of America and in extension, the President of the World itself.

#America #democracy #capitalism

Why-Work

Canned tomatoes, packaged fish, a bag of chips, a bag of screws, a box of nails. Sitting in a bus, a train, an office space – we the people are the industrial cousins we created. Closer and closer to efficiency: produced, packaged and transported each day to convert invisible parts of ones self into “work” which in turn translates itself into money which we can use to buy things to produce, package and transport ourselves back into its strange, lifeless self for another day and then another.

Why do we work? What meaning does the work we do really have? I think of all the lofty work I could be doing right now but in the longer time frame, would it even matter? Going to work feels like playing a video game, sometimes it also feels like a way paying debt to faceless gods. This has to be the Sisyphusean punishment Camus talks about, endless interaction with shapes, patterns, numbers and egos. Is it for the money? Not everyone can have money can they? Otherwise money loses its value. This scarcity we created out of the nothingness all other species wander about – a scarcity made more profound by the immense self importance we draft in every Constitution.

Work is about working through a network of people – the same network that becomes a society, a people, countries and organizations. Work is rarely a solitary thing, we are rarely (if) ever solitary. When we don't meet then the result is usually hidden labour that toils for us, modern slaves with a uniform and no identity. This is a digression – as work involves levels, a kind of caste system that everyone confirms to. Money means a level-up: the harder you mine, the higher you go. The paths between people, the stories we tell ourselves.

I wanted to say that work is a cynical aspect of life – that the life behind the person who works has no inherent value. It is a derived value, the net value of a person's life. I have a certain point to which I am sold. A homeless man has one and the President/Chancellor has another. I have one and there's a million other onion layers. But life means nothing here too. The best example to this anomaly is the homeless guy, drunk on the church stairwell. There cannot be a more iconic imagery, where even our Gods do not care about our suffering.

I find work as being an essential antidote against pessimism at the heart of our lives: which is to live alone on this strange planet. We have to embed ourselves into ignorance and drama for which we have to build walls to sleep inside. What happens in our mental lives is almost irrelevant. We are not the masters of this planet, that is a very egoistical expectation. And we are collectively carrying the burden of that egoism. This is also at the heart of modern capitalism, while on one end everything is individualized the operations side of it sees people in faceless packs, stripping them of the very individual self that makes them consume in the first place.

#work #capitalism

On-powerlessness

The people on the streets and on public transport appear more as people than blurs, there's a distinct sense of belonging without adherence to a particular cause or reason. I do not have the urge to debate over global topics, which I am removed from anyway because of powerlessness I embody. When I look around this powerlessness is more visible but the cacophony of the media narratives makes us believe that we are more important than we are. – A break from the news

Most of our everyday life we are propelled through with a feeling of power. We are told that our actions have consequences and they hold us in the middle of things: pay your taxes, wear your masks, vote for change, buy local.. for most part we do believe in them and do our best to participate. Societies that do not operate on these levels of consciousness wither into a painful existence while we soldier on, believing that we have the power to change anything and everything in our lives.

But, can we really? While the news amuses us with how much wealth Jeff Bezos has hoarded this year or with some political brouhaha from across the world, we assume in part the bodies of the people we read and think about. The politics of the country we live in is far from us and the globalized American dream has us wondering what step we take in the future can make us the capitalists we love and hate at the same time. The plebeian existence we inhabit is hidden behind the millions of customizations we are granted in the internet age, a power trip that was hitherto unknown to previous generations.

The music we listen to, the books we read and the restaurants we go to are all hidden in the black boxes we possess each moment, hidden from the everyday audience. Behind the scenes they are the access to central servers that pile up money with the very information we hold secret with the people next to us. In these moments we feel powerful that we have access to all the information and products in the world but what we cannot control is the faces and the powers behind the screen. Power now has become abstracted, it is no longer the politician who controls what we want and how we want them but a Silicon Valley billionaire who in his nonchalance is putting a hyper-libertarian world view into action without your permission (you clicked on “I agree” of course).

In a pre-internet era there was a singular flow of information and a chain of command that was local. There was not a constant monitoring of oneself (unless someone lived in East Germany under the aegis of the Stasi) and the villains of ones life could be found in the nearest Capital city. Now that is not the case. If one wants to decry job losses and protest against Uber, where does one go to? And if Uber were to be shut down, what about the market forces that Uber has helped unleash? Sitting on contracted work with no benefits in an economy that promises more “freedom and flexibility” for both consumers and producers alike, what's the political upheaval one is really aiming for?

I am not saying that societal problems did not have a global relation in the earlier generations but with the advent of the internet, our problems have been collectivized into an effective global package. Google is just identifiable as the crucifix around the world. To google is to exist in the 21st century, this is a reality that no-one of us is going to escape anytime soon. The buzzwords of disruption and digitization, are warning signs that the security of being middle-class, is being slowly taken away by a class of extremely rich people who we have learnt to revere. How does one fight for their rights against someone situated in another country altogether?

What has been really disrupted is our lives: one part of it is being drained into the dossiers of mega-corporations and the other we are trying to figure out how to make our presence in the economies we live in. We do not talk about these things because we are all engaged in the same game of capital worship. If we were as honest to each other as we are to layers and layers of internet surveillance, we would see how powerless we are in the global scheme of things. A part of the rebellion against the current iteration of how things are organized would come from this shared powerlessness.

This powerlessness should make us question why power should be concentrated and if that power should be concentrated between a few companies and investors on the planet. Governments do not have the gall [1] or the creativity to fight the new operators of power. If the lowest common denominator in a democracy, the voter, finds their place of helplessness then it is easier for the government to see their relative position. This helplessness will be a bargaining position for the world of the future. As the power becomes powerless, it starts to fight back.

The first step in the process is to come out of the induced stupor of artificial self-worth that our current state of living provides. Communicating our fragility in the market ecosystem instead of trading ego boosts on Instagram would pave the way for a greater social conversation about current state of our power. This can be translated into political will and speak – it is irrelevant if someone is Indian or Tunisian in the current iteration of the market. It's US, China or a handful of developed countries everyone is dependent on and this dependence is only getting stronger by the day. When the political apparatus of countries start to wake up to this stark divide – (hoping that most countries have the interests of its common people at heart) – change can be expected. The hegemonic nature of countries are always in flux, to steer it away from the current establishment requires unity of the powerless and resolve.

[1] As we speak, the Indian government has banned a fresh lot of 118 Chinese apps citing surveillance as a reason. None of the American or other internet companies that operate on the same revenue models find no mention for the same practices. If the government was really so concerned about the well-being of its citizens, it would shut down the internet. This is a sign of the helplessness once the Indian government wakes up from its Doublethink.

#capitalism #democracy #power #internet

The sincerity of of intellectual affirmation has nothing to do with the naturalness of spontaneous emotion. Strangely or not, it seems the soul may be given such surprises merely so that it won't lack pain, so that it will still know disgrace, so that it will have its fair share of grief in life. We are all equal in our capacity for error and suffering. Only those who don't feel don't experience pain; and the highest, most noble and most prudent men are those who experience and suffer precisely what they foresaw and what they disdained. This is what is known as Life – Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Processing pain from the lens of other peoples' experiences and rules always gives rise to the same set of conclusions. Whether one is grieving, heartbroken, fighting against institutionalized discrimination or the State, war or even simple pettiness, answers can be found distilled from the memories of faceless humans who have contributed to the knowledge bank. Follow this and you shall be done, follow that and you will become a better person. This will help you create a revolution and this is what will help you heal.

The irrationality of being human – thoughts and actions that do not put one in a box of approved puritanical behavior or expected “norms” are the bastion masts of moral and psychological depravity. At least that's what the newspapers and the internet tells us, be normal in the way everyone reading this is normal. All the people I meet have this polished normalness as their veneer, I don't know what they think in their fantasies, I do not who they are when they daydream.

Complete loss – the loss of an ideal, the loss of an altered state of mind, the loss of a crutch one uses to cope with the complexities of the world. Like how alcoholics seek the rock bottom before they find the path to recovery. Though despair takes countless forms, the experience behind the filter is the same. Dependent on a society that has an invisible decorum programmed at its heart, our intelligence fools us into believing we're all different. We are different like the forms of despair, but united in sorrow.

On this conveyor belt of pings and pangs, who we are takes a backseat. Being irrational becomes a subdued power, normalized through instruction and taming. Mass produced humans, in a mass produced world. Our feelings erased many generations ago and now left with only ghost shadows. Chattering people, where fractured false selves transact in closed loops of thought and action. To think that we live for anything other than the cheapness of being alive, is foolish.

#capitalism #thought

The world is picking up its pieces, wanting to go back outside into the “new normality”. Restaurants, bars, cinemas and offices waiting to be opened, money wishing to be spent and the magic of box of desire raging for attention. The impact of slashed marketing spends is seen in the stale advertisements from months ago still hanging everywhere, hungry for attention. The newspapers complain that various arms of the economy are suffering, painting pictures of businessmen, poor waiters, cinema workers and sportsmen all in the same stroke. We should be sad for them, yes, but we should also be sad for ourselves for letting an economy of over-consumption take control of our lives.

A survey by the management consultancy McKinsey also revealed that between 20 and 30 percent of the Chinese will continue to be cautious about spending money and want to consume either a little less or, in some cases, even much less. “The lockdown gave consumers a lot of time to think about what is important to them,” says Mark Tanner, managing director of Shanghai-based research and marketing consultancy China Skinny. “As consumers spend more time at home, they also have more time and reasons to sort things they don't think they need.”

With the economy opening up again, familiar messaging is inviting us to reach for our wallets again. The temptation of walking along a high street and checking restaurant menus and the urge to roam around in a mall in the haze of consumption. The lockdown for a privileged few showed that the world around us is built around the heartbeat of desire and surplus. This is not the case for a majority of people who have to live with insecurity always standing behind their economic prospects. When we go back to our earlier consumption habits we bring back a broken system without subjecting it to any scrutiny.

Glorifying supermarket workers as heroes while their replacement computer tills beep in the background is not just hypocritical but myopic. The erosion of employee rights have become profuse in the last years: from your Amazon worker to your pizza delivery person, they live on scraps of generosity an algorithm presents them. Short term contracts, no benefits or social security and no possibility to work from home or even buy a home, this is an underclass that relegates itself into the shadows of a modern Western city. The doctors and the healthcare workers? I'll leave that to your imagination. Our imaginary fears are their daily reality. These groups of workers are still working for money, not for any greater altruism we might fantasize in.

It is hard to see the faces and people behind these words, the ones who make the phone screens, dig and refine the silicon and cobalt below, the people who make the roads and buildings. What we all are untied is by our trips to the supermarket and the things we wish to consume. Our religions are Amazon, Spotify, Instagram and fucking Donald Trump. The marketing propaganda will start to flex its muscle again, before we know it we are crammed in trains and pushed around to workplaces the invisible fear now replaced by the ones we create and tame. Buying has been individualized, we only care about ourselves and perhaps the “environment”. Like all important words, it assumes an invisible mass: democracy, freedom, virus, work. It is a game we play, the act of tossing coins and getting what we want.

While walking back into the shopping streets I ask myself this. What is this? Why is this being told to me? Did I want this before I saw this? Removing the brand labels, proprietary colors and dismantling the words and symbols to see what exists behind the fog of desire. This is an important way to vote for change. The “new normal” should not be another wasted opportunity, we are the ones in power now.

#COVID19 #virus #capitalism

Death of the Global Superhero

In the next years there will be a Hollywood blockbuster with sad faced, somber actors who will play doctors and kind Samaritan. The cast and crew will encompass the whole racial ensemble of Hollywood actors. Billions will be minted, award ceremonies will be awash with tearful messages of support and celebrity charities will be overflowing with money. Black lives will matter, brown lives will matter, pink lives will matter and what not. There will be catchy slogans telling that the world cares, this movement will be copied by the movie industries elsewhere — similar stories of heroism and imitation will pop in India, China and Nigeria. Real questions of inequality, political shortsightedness and sheer human stupidity will be replaced with Hollywood's Will to Live, and the beauty and brilliance of life will be exhorted.

The reminder to all this egoistic future celebration should be: the virus has made us prisoners of our own homes and selves. There are things stronger than us that are smaller than us, and we are not invincible nor are we our economies.

The sap stories peddled by America for decades have come tumbling down in the face of a crisis the country has crumbled under. There are no glamorous American heroes that save, all the flag wielding patriotism and in your face soft power posturing can now stop. Same is the case with the Chinese or Indian national heroes. The complacency of China, the governments should also be considered. The Communist Party of will be winning the first prize with commendable participation from the Republican Party in the US and whoever the fuck is ruling in Iran. They are collective evidences of the sheer ignoramity with which political systems work without considering the people. If future wars have to be waged then they have to be in the schools and then in the countries. The enemies have never been outside, they were always with us, laughing in plain sight.

There needs to be a cultural upheaval to begin with. The rise of the American superhero, globe-trotting billionaire and the influencer can finally have some checks, the fantasy is only an inadequate extension of the capitalistic muscle. This is not something that is isolated to the Americans or the Chinese but the “hero” syndrome prevails everywhere. When we look for hope we find none because the sources of this hope have been long confined to the unglamorous sidelines. This is the time to take a call and examine our heroes and how we worship them, as with the gods they have come out to be fake.

The global recession that will surely follow will be the biggest hope. The mindless consumption will fall down and so will the way we approach media and films, what would give us hope in the hopeless times sure to follow? The class hatred will only become deep-rooted and so will be the inequality. If the recession becomes something deeper and far more tumbling, the hunger will provoke deeper questions on the way the world around has been narrated to us. Structure upon structure based on the selfish greed of what it is to be a person: the collective and the community destroyed for all purposes except for the town hall meetings Mark Zuckerberg seems to prefer. Now between all the solidarity that the government seems to be demanding of us and asking us to act in the best interests of everyone else, it is important to question the model of individualism much of modern society is built on.

This individualism is also the breeding ground for the (hero)ine, dismantling the ideology behind will help us pave way for a more hopeful blueprint of who we are and where we want to go as a collective.

#Capitalism #America #COVID19 #China