In John Stewart’s far circulated expression of sadness and confusion about the Charleston mass murder, he doesn’t and wouldn’t say the problem is capitalism. One of the fundamental cultural intellectual institutions that forms a pillar sustaining the capitalist rapacity is identification and exploitation of “the other”. That kid, the police — all of us are poisoned by the ideology and culture of exploitation. Once someone has been identified as other, their thoughts and feelings, their dreams, are unworthy of consideration. Lost your home? Well, that was dumb, you needed that didn’t you? Whatever.
And it’s been going on for so long, it’s embedded in us. We can’t see it, because it’s what we are, and what we believe in. Who will believe it when I say the poison is individualism. We all believe in individual responsibility, right? We all believe in being responsible, and paying our bills. But that’s the basis of it. Everyone has their own bank account, their own utility account, mortgage, phone, car. And because we all make individual decisions what services and goods we will acquire, because these decisions are not made in a community manner and context, then we “own” these things individually and they become the irrevocable content of our “own” lives. And the community consensus, because so many of us believe in this, is to respect the individualism and do what we can with scant leftover community resources. So the community has no power. If we all participated in consensual community resource groups, where responsibility was governed by council, things might be different. Perhaps one utility account per block in cities, and one per town in rural areas? Neighborhoods?
We all embrace this individualistic status quo; we think the road to happiness is paved with individual decisions. But I think this is poison. The way things are, if we get sick of the rat race, the feelings of isolation and separation, the despair of no one caring if we become destitute and homeless, if we get sick of all that and pop off and decide to rebel against the system, then of course we’re going to do that individually, too, and it only takes two or five or maybe even one policeman to cart us off to the individualistic waste containers that are prisons, where we can be totally exploited with no concern for blowback by the hidden community of networked individuals who run and benefit from the system. That’s what happens when our otherness is maximized to take up the entire social space of our being, and can now be fitted into the little block awaiting us in the penultimate institution of otherness, prison, the ultimate perhaps being the military.
And none of this is changed when 100,000 of us go into the streets to complain. We may feel better for a short time with the exercise, but policy is not diverted, because our essential material powers are all locked away in an outdoor, at-large prison of atomized, non-synergic individual points of consent, and only 6-000+ super elites have they keys to it. And why would they change this? They have acquired all the power we’ve given up, and everything is working fine for them. The protests are allowed to continuate the illusion of democracy, like a dog being walked, then we all go back home to try to push the buttons and pull the levers of the tiny, very often shrinking cockpits of the little individual machines comprised by our shrinking combined personal circumstances and resources, all allotted to us by processes that we think we govern but do not. These things are all actually just tips of the vampire squid blood-funnel tentacles inserted into our lives to exploit and suck away our energy for the benefit of the very few. You can see the tentacles lining every street. We’re so used to them, they look like trees with wires connecting. Trees are good, right?
The people and processes that do control our resources and circumstances are working behind office doors of organizations with shiny or august names and shadowy purposes, like The National Endowment for Democracy, which funneled cash and provided organizing to set the stage for the pro-western coup in Ukraine, or The Brookings Institute, or The American Legislative Exchange Council, etc. They decide whether the time is right for another trade agreement to send more of our good paying jobs away, or how to keep the political and cultural environments hostile to sustainable energy. There is no significant resource sector that is not governed by their dictation.
I can’t really find the words for the level of crime that occurred in the Emanuel AME Church. Terrorism and Hate Crime both carry the appropriate meaning but the direct human significance of it is too deeply horrible to articulate. And for this reason, it is repugnant in a very basic way to call Dylann Roof a victim. Unfortunately, in order to get at the real thing that is moving in our society and causing these kinds of events, it must be said that he and his victims are both victims of our hyperindividualistic system of exploitation. Roof’s act is the result of an unstoppable cascade of toxic education, toxic economic relations, toxic food, toxicity in the air and the water, and probably a profound lack of love and sharing in his individualistically atomized social environment, where each loss of comfort or sustenance was blamed on someone’s bad personal decision. It’s likely that someone close to him was convinced by a reasonable sounding and professional-looking banker to agree to a mortgage that was more than could be afforded and is now a source of misery for his family since the mechanisms that were driving the property value boom have failed, to the great profit of the bank owners. Whatever drugs he may have been taking probably acted as a crystallizing catalyst of all that.
As far as the elites are concerned, it’s only better that he murdered those poor churchgoers, and now the wounds freshly gouged again and the conversations of racism and gun control serve yet once more to feed the fires of conflict between identity groups of different kinds of individualism. Black individualism, white power individualism, gun owner individualism — it’s so great they’re all fighting between themselves, so the billionaires can continue to reap and rape.
And it sure wouldn’t hurt if all the gun owners had to register or give up their pieces, now, would it?