Less answers, more questions.
Can you commoditise people?
Not purposefully, of course.
But yes, I think you can, if you have a lot of people
More people than socially and economically useful work*
(…as I think we do today).
Still, maybe you can’t commoditise everyone.
We still hold (irrationally?) high regard for famous people,
Or those with particular, rare skills (…and consequential economic value)
But with such enormous quantities of us
Supply and dynamics come into the equation
(…from a labour market perspective).
Consider the economic catastrophe that is the COVID-19 pandemic
(…ongoing as I write this).
Were you also deemed ‘surplus to requirements’?
Maybe it’s just me,
The more of us there are
The less you feel your individual value.
Just one of billions upon billions,
Being ‘nobody special’
(…at least economically).
*See David Graeber’s ‘Bullshit Jobs’
I’d like to propose another way to think about ‘minimalism’.
Relative to other humans from other places and eras,
We’re actually a ‘maximalist’ society.
And because the paradigm is so firmly established
Many of us have never considered it.
For hundreds of thousands (…perhaps millions) of years, we’ve possessed mainly what we could carry with us.
With the advent of agriculture (and the consequent move to a more static way of life), plus the more defined idea of ‘property’, this changed.
But it’s only been in the last century or so that the average person has really been able to let their acquisition of things get out of hand.
For that, we can perhaps blame mass production, along with the cost of ‘stuff’ decreasing, and the access to stuff increasing.
Anyway, many would agree that a large number of us today (…in the developed world at least) simply have too many possessions (…and in some countries more than others).
We even have a term (‘minimalist’) for people who take a more conscious approach to the acquisition of things – thus separating out these minimalists out as exceptional, perhaps austere.
So, from the perspective of history – it’s not that some people are minimalist – it’s that many of us today are maximalist.
Image. by Boris Thaser
Capitalism allows you to turn the work of other people into your property.
Amongst other things.
This hardly seems fair.
But it also appears to be the best system that we’ve come up with so far.
In this ‘post-truth’, ‘fake news’ world
(…please pardon the cliches)
Where everyone is their own PR person
Sharing the digital highlights of their ‘best life’
And where trust in the traditional bastions of journalism is waning
Your doubt is a defensive strategy;
Don’t want to be taken in? Then simply don’t believe anything you read, see or hear online.
So, I suppose the real threat is the slide into cynicism,
When you come to doubt everything unequivocally
Perhaps that is the real existential threat of the information war.
Not that we will be credulous, believing all of the ‘alternative truths’ and nonsense that bombard us on our numerous media channels.
But that we will become callous, perhaps nihilistic,
Sick of all of the bullshit.
Apathetic, unable to trust a damn thing
And entirely devoid of faith entirely.
And, instead of acting on the wrong things,
We don’t act at all.
Even when we desperately need to do something.
Image by anokarina