This is an interesting and impassioned argument from Mr Monbiot. I agree with what he has to say. But it does feel a bit like one of the podium speeches from the film Reds, Warren Beatty’s 1981 biopic of Jack Reed. The question I have for Mr Monbiot is simple; where do I plunge my sword? I’d love “to go straight to the heart of capitalism,” and strike the fatal blow. Personally I don’t think you can, because capitalism doesn’t have a heart. And because it doesn’t, there is no focus for our rage, no place for my aim to strike.
This raises the question, what form does contemporary capitalism take? It’s not the capitalism of the nineteenth century. The one Jack Reed was battling in Reds? That seems almost quaint by contemporary standards. Cut the head off the bosses. Take control of the means of production. Job done. These days you can cut the head off as many bosses as you want, capitalism will continue. It just grows another head, or two, like the spawn of Hydra. It strikes me that capitalism is more like an all-consuming ball of viscera, held together with clots of blood, and the chimeric limbs of a virus, grabbing at everything in it’s path.
Describing it in this way makes me think I should adjust my understanding of the monolith. For me the metaphor for contemporary capitalism has always been the panopticon. The panopticon I’ve written about in previous posts is a machine of control, a prison. It has a tower at the centre. With cells arranged around it. The watchers watch, and the tenants comply, because they never know when they’re being watched. With the visceral image in mind I think have to revise my vision of the prisons architecture. It needs to accommodate this unrelenting ball of viscera.
If contemporary capitalism is a ball, always rolling, always consuming, where do the cells of the panopticon fit? I can only think they line the inside of the ball like the proteins lining the wall of a virus. This changes the orientation of the cells, tipping them over. That means we’re no longer being watched along a horizontal axis, instead we’re being monitored from above. If we inhabit these six-sided boxes, hermetically sealed cells, what are we seeing when we look out? If we look left or right, front or back, we should be able to see the other tenants of the panopticon. But we don’t. They should be there, staring in on us, as we stare in on them. Could we be so similar to each other we mistake them for our own reflection? Is it that we see them, but like Narcissus we’re so transfixed by our own reflection, all we see is a haze of movement in the background.
If when we look around we only see reflections, what are we seeing when we look up? Can we even see the spherical version of the tower? All watching? All knowing? Omnipotent? Do we see the virus gnome, hovering above us like water sliding on oil? Are we seeing God? Is that why capitalism hasn’t destroyed our notions of God? It needs us to believe in the almighty so we keep looking up. If we’re always looking up, we’re not looking down. If we’re not looking down, we don’t see the viscera, the clots of blood, the chimeric limbs of the virus. We don’t see the true horror of capitalism swirling beneath our feet. We’re told the fiery chambers of hell are waiting should we transgress, but they’re not. All that is beneath us is the bloody intestine of the beast that has swallowed us.
If the Devil is the beast, and the beast is the machine, how many of us have the courage to cut into its flesh? How hard is it to kill an animal? How much fear and loathing must we have to slice through the flesh and bone? How much more courage would you need to slice and escape through those chimeric limbs? Their entire reason for existence is to grab everything in their path, and draw it into the beast? Any individual escaping their cell would become just another resource for the machine, more protein for the wall of the virus.
It is no wonder that beast seems impossible to slay. We’ve been shadow boxing our reflection for so long, we’re exhausted. But strength must be summoned from somewhere. Any attack on the beast must be coordinated. It requires a vast percentage of the panopticons prisoners to break through the walls of their cell, and slice into the beast simultaneously. The trauma must be so catastrophic that the beast is unable to repair or mutate. Each and every chimeric limb must rendered irreparable. The unrelenting production of heads must be hacked until the machine has neither the will or the energy to produce more. Only then will we be able to hack through the clots of blood, and escape.
This would not be the end of it. Who knows what will be found on the outside. Will there be anything left? It could be so depleted it can no longer sustain us. Consider also, how prepared are we for this new life? After forever in a box, will we have the skills we need to thrive? A practical life is not a technological existence. The abstract thinking needed to thrive in a cell is not the same as the practical skills needed to survive in the wild. Can you create fire from nothing? I’m not sure I have such a basic skill.
This is not an excuse to stay where we are. We have a choice. Escape the panopticon. Destroy the beast. They are one and the same. If we don’t the beast will continue until it has consumed everything. Then it will feed on us until that resource is gone. Finally, alone, the beast will wither and decay. It will not matter. No one will cry. There will be no one left to notice.
We have a choice. Learn to make fire.
This discovery is both fascinating and scary. It could be a blessing that is used to clean up pollution. It could be a curse, some kind of self replicating nonobot, that reproduces itself until there’s nothing left on the planet but a grey goo. Alternatively it could be the beginning of the Tyrell Corporation, destined to build androids we call replicants?
This is an interesting insight into Schrader’s process. I like that he knows while he’s writing how far or behind he is. Very interesting.
Yet more news of Facebook wrongdoing. They “unintentionally” harvested millions of peoples contact emails. Interestingly Mr Price’s report exposes a contradiction from Facebook. He writers “Facebook disclosed to Business Insider that 1.5 million people’s contacts were collected.” This was apparently unintentional, a hangover from another protocol, that automatically uploaded new users email contacts. These contacts were “fed into Facebook’s systems, where they were used to improve Facebook’s ad targeting, build Facebook’s web of social connections, and recommend friends to add.” If that’s true, what’s the point of Facebook assurances that “these contacts were not shared with anyone and we’re deleting them.” The contacts have already been fed into Facebook’s system. Deleting them makes no difference. The damage is already done.
Look past your own reflection and see into the tower. One of Facebook’s paymasters is on show for all to see. All you have to do is look.
Ms Cadwalladr and her investigations may be the most important of a generation. Her work has exposed the workings of the machine that seeks to manipulate democracy, the tower at centre of the panopticon we all live in. A panopticon is a circular prison with cells that have glass walls. Prisoners can be watched from a central tower. Compliance is teased from its tenants because they never know when they’re being watched. Michel Foucault used it as a metaphor to highlight the way power, since the destruction of absolute monarchies, has sought to hide itself from view. If there is no focus for our anger, it’s impossible to remove the cause of our pain. If we are all tenants in the panopticon, Facebook have made themselves the watchers, stressing us into compliance. My question is, who pays the watcher? Because who pays the watcher calls the shots. The biggest obstacle to finding that, is what we see when we look inwards; a looming black tower, and our own reflection in the glass. We need to find ways to get a light into that tower. Ms Cadwalladr has gone some way to doing that. With the help of whistleblower Christopher Wylie, she was able to expose a small part of the towers mechanism, how the various platforms, stairs, landings, and corridors link. There are still questions to be answered. Where do the corridors lead, and who is behind the various doors of the labyrinthine maze? I have theories. I’m sure Ms Cadwalladr does. I just hope she keeps looking. We all need her answers. When she does, we as tenants of the panopticon, have to decide what we do with her revelations. Keeping in mind that the structure is designed to keep us staring like Narcissus at our own reflection. Do we have the will to see past our own image, through the structure of the tower, to what is hidden within? It will take great effort to see the tower. It will take even more to see what is within. Do we have the will to see it all? I think we have to.
I struggle to find something to say that makes any sense of what Leave.EU have been able to get away with. I keep coming back to the idea that the logic of what has been done cannot be unpicked. You can do as Ms Manji has done, and dismantle the lie. Prove the footage has been faked. That the story being told is a fiction. It makes no difference. The perpetrators deny the accusation by throwing back another accusation, belittling the question with the gall of a playground bully. They know that you can expose their lie. Offer as much proof as you like. You can never shake the resolve of the faithful. These are not confrontations between two logics, it’s a war between empiricism and faith, and faith will always win.