Starring: Corporations (or rather any constellation that has so much capital at its disposal as to develop the emergent quality of being able to ignore the disastrous “externalities” they cause – of not giving a shit about reality)
We are entering a new phase of schizophrenia. In today’s globalized world the military powers might still obey 20th century rules – the masses won’t. The Twitter revolutionaries, the no-leader protest movements, Anonymous: what has changed is the collective imagination. No longer can the simplistic conflicts between nation states be served to the public as necessary.
In the collective imagination there is a new enemy: the entities that exploit everything to make those in power even more powerful. It doesn’t matter if these entities are banks and corporations, or dysfunctional states, what matters is that these are not external enemies, but structures “in our midst”. That is why we are entering the phase of paranoid schizophrenia. The figure of the Enemy, a necessary supplement of the Western belief system from the “barbaric” peoples in the eyes of the Roman to the commies in the eyes of the 20th century American. At the eve of the cambrian explosion of Social Networking, on September 11th, 2001, the system spawned a new Enemy: muslim terrorists. That enemy was short-lived, and it might have been the last attempt to posit outside of itself that which the West needs to function.
In the Information Age, it is almost impossible to hide something, and this is a real game-changer.
The new Enemy has to be found – or manufactured – on the inside. The point here is that the villification of Corporations is a logical next step in the process of creating ever more potent enemies.
The Hollywood Left is perhaps the best place to start looking. The villains are no longer criminal cartels, but the very companies that have been praised in the 1980’s for their “job creation”. The villification of employers that are “too big to fail”, of elements in the system that supports us, intensifies the schizophrenia. When Soviet Russia was the Enemy, nobody needed to justify their consumption of vodka or caviar, so heartfelt was the ideological superiority. Today, corporations are seen as a necessary evil, an enemy finally, that we can battle ad infinitum.
“A society of birds, pecking off the branch on which they perch.”
But does the logical process of finding our ever more intimate Enemy stop there, or can we drive it further, towards a less violent conclusion? The paranoid-schizophrenic situation is that of the citizen living in a society where he is aware that he is forced to dig his own grave by buying from the ever mightier corporations. With the law bent and bought, and politics deep inside the pockets of corporations, their power-grab goes unchecked. Libertarians will finally give up defending what they had long perceived as the “basic freedoms of enterprise” but what turned out to be simply the survival of the unscrupulous. The citizen living in such a society, ideologically twisted and tied onto himself as it were, is she the final result of the progress of our civilization? Is dialectics ultimately diabolic?
Or does it offer a next step in which our citizen manages to create his intimate Enemy even closer to home, in his own heart? We assume that it is the creation and re-creation of an Enemy figure that is a prerequisite for any further development of the collective. Our enlightened citizen would recognize the Enemy he or she needs in his own chest, and so become ideologically independent of the corporations. Only then can he start assessing his material dependence, and gradually overcome it.
When will Coca Cola et al. no longer be the enemy we need?