Society of Control (Part Two)

Continued From: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/pauladkin.wordpress.com/3423

WHAT WE LIVE FOR

Truth implies a communication between people who share a similar view and experience of reality. In a global village, bearing a huge divide between the wealthy and the poor, this similar view of things is impossible. For society to be able to talk truthfully it needs to be authentically democratic and egalitarian. Our civilisation, that has been created and maintained by Wealth for the interests of Wealth, needs to impose its truth by control and repression, but also by concealing its desire to control and repress. This concealment is carried out by arguing that the control it desires is really an uncomfortable condition that is only imposed in order to ensure our safety.

The possessive adjective ‘ourhowever, should be substituted with ‘their – it is their safety that is being protected, not ours. Our so-called democratic world is not democratic at all. Power operates with abundant freedom to protect Wealth whilst the society itself is chokingly repressed.

Problems are repeatedly decontextualized. A terrorist attack takes place because a group of people feel a need to act against the Power that is plundering the natural resources of its region, or because Power has carried out a military invasion of a certain region, or is occupying a certain area by force. Because Power is the real bad guy in this scenario, Power decontextualizes it. It concentrates on the barbarity of the attack perpetrated by the terrorists, while at the same time playing down or completely ignoring the importance of the underlying reasons embedded in the whole context of the event.

Likewise, the economy, which is all about the distribution of wealth and exchange between people, is also decontextualized through a narrative that concentrates on macroeconomic figures that have noting to do with the economic reality of the person in the street.

The truth is, in society we are all involved with each other. If we work, we think we are working for ourselves, but this is only part of the truth. We are also working for others: for the company, probably in order to produce things that may be used by the rest of the society. This complicity is not ignored, but it is often pushed out of the picture, because the real answer to the question of ‘who are we working for?’ often gives a very ugly answer.

In reality we are all part of the equipment that the System uses to gratify the wants and needs of Power. We are, as the Pink Floyd anthem tells us, just another brick in the wall, a cog in the machinery of the System. We are the bolts and nails that hold things together, the tiny wheels that get the thing running.

Once this fact has been accepted, we must ask another even more important question: ‘toward what?’. Towards which final result are our efforts, as we work in the System, supposed to be directed? What is the purpose of our toil? That the answer is to gratify the needs and wants of Power, needs to be concealed from us and, in order to achieve that concealment, Power invents other ambiguous and decontextualized explanations explaining what we are working toward.

Thus, the System talks about a better life and the obvious happiness that will come with it because through the distribution of money workers are able to buy things that will make that better life possible. In actual fact, the whole narrative of our WEIRD civilisation revolves around this simple idea: if you have the power to buy new things and accumulate objects, you will be happier and your life will be better. The toward what goes no further than that. The message is: you, the workers, are improving your own standard of living by participating in the System. And yet, the real toward is not this reality at all. It is, you are contributing to the desires and needs of Wealth and helping Wealth accumulate more wealth and more power.

By articulating this true context, and only by articulating it, a democratic dialectic is allowed to challenge the system. But is this the towards what that we really want to participate in?      

Society of Control (Part One)

We live in a society of control, but not because of the Covid-19 lockdowns. With the pandemic the control is obvious, what we need to remind ourselves of now is that our control-society existed a long time before the coronavirus spread. Of course, the rationale of lockdown in a pandemic is perfectly understandable, it is common-sense logic, the worrying thing is not the present but how easily we swallowed the perverted logic used to justify control before this actuality. The fact is that we have been in Orwell’s 1984 society for some time and the pertinent question now is, for how long have we been here?

When societies accept the controls of searches and inspections, the same society becomes immersed in a neurosis – a fear which is, for the most part, illogical.

We have been enduring compulsory inspections at airports and the entrances of government agencies or large corporations for decades. Any visitor is symbolically treated like a potential terrorist, and this treatment is in itself a form of terrorism. The best way to cope with the military control dished out at society’s checkpoints is with acceptance, which is resignation, which is the same as submission. We are told the control is carried out to ensure our safety. But is this is a valid reason for our uncritical submission?

For example, in order to discern whether or not the incarceration-style controls that we are constantly forced to endure at airports really do ensure our safety, we would firstly need to examine statistics concerning plane crashes before and after 9/11. If we do, we see that the numbers are more or less the same with a slight increase in accidents after 9/11. For while intense security-checks were made the new normal in all airports, the safety standards on the mechanical state of many planes worsened rather than increased. While society concentrated on stopping potential terrorists from boarding planes, it has been neglecting the vigilance of the emotional and psychological level of the pilots, or the thoroughness of inspections on the planes themselves.

Under any dictatorship, the first victim is always the truth. Power will only tolerate its truth, and control is a tool for turning its truth into the truth. Once established, the fact that its truth is actually a lie, is covered up by the acceptance given to that lie. If everyone accepts the lie as the way things are, then it no longer remains a lie, it is transformed into the way things are.

The problem with these imposed realities is that they are full of cracks. Problems are controlled rather than solved. Sometimes this is because the problems favour the measures the System wants to impose. Terrorism creates a need for maximum security controls and allows State repression of freedom. But the roots of the problem are created by the injustices provoked by the voracious appetite of our very same system-of-perpetual-growth (e.g.: capitalism or the neo-liberal economy). Because of this, no steps can be taken to properly eradicate poverty, which is the real root cause of most of our social problems, creating a breeding ground for most fanaticisms and, in fact, almost everything most people fear.

Likewise, the System, which is imperialistic, will not take measures to restrict the imperialist nature of its corporations, and neither will the neo-liberal financers combat the impoverishing effects of its debt-creating loans that are impossible to pay back.

The result is that nothing can be really done to fight the problems created by the System itself.

The Architecture of Air-travel

airport security check1

The airport could be seen as a gateway to liberty, for, love it or hate it, air travel has given us the wings so many humans must dream of whenever they contemplate the freedom in the flight of a bird. However, the sensation when one is in an airport is not precisely that of being free. Technology has given us the power to fly, but not gratuitously. The freedom to fly comes at a cost: an economic one; a long flight is uncomfortable and expensive, and practicality and profitability demand the design of claustrophobic spaces for travellers. Jet-travel is cramped and stressful, and embedded in the experience is the implicit fact that it if the mechanism you are locked into fails, the metal tube you sit in will hurtle down and crash in a way that will annihilate everyone on board.

Statistically, we’re told, it’s the safest form of travel. Of course, we have to trust the airlines, and hope that their needs to ensure profits will not affect the safety and maintenance standards of the aircraft we are flying in. Nevertheless, each passenger airline is a potential bomb, a potential that was taken full advantage of by terrorists in 2011.

After 9/11 things became more claustrophobic for everyone … or everyone except Power with a capital P. Terror is a liberating force for Power and the latter took full advantage of the terrorists taking advantage of air-travel, to create an authentic space of absolute control in the airports. Rather than feeling that one is passing through a gateway to freedom, airports today seems like an ugly, if thankfully brief, passage through a concentration-camp.

For Power, airports are an ideal laboratory wherein to explore the extents of control that the citizens of the so-called democratic societies are willing to endure, because whenever you travel by plane you are being asked an implicit question: what price (loss-of-freedom-price) are you prepared to pay in order to enjoy the freedom (time-winning-gain) of flying to your destination?

Power knows that the inconveniences, both the excessive controls as well as the possible threats of a hijacking or the likeliness of an accident, gradually become absorbed by society as ‘the way things are’ – an expression which is just as progress-numbing as terms like ‘destiny’ or ‘God’s will’. And this is exactly how things have played out.

To make air-travel less stressful and liberate airports from the concentration-camp models that we have today we need to rethink the whole militaristic conception of air-travel architecture. But, is that possible? Can we make more enjoyable airports? Could flying be a less-claustrophobic and more beautiful experience? Or, does the paradox between the freedom of flying and the measures required to ensure the safety of that experience imply that the airports we have today are the only kinds of airports possible?

The resolution of the paradox is a deep, essential problem, for the paradox is not just a conundrum of airports, but a paradox concerning the human-condition. As with air-travel, so it is with life itself. As with airports, so it is with our cities. The question is the same: Does the conflict between the desire for freedom and the needs of safety imply that the architecture structuring our lives today is the only feasible kind of structure that can deal with that conflict?

Freedom becomes popular when it is safe and safety implies regulation which diminishes freedom. In order to gain anything, how much must be sacrificed? It is a question as old at least as the first magical rituals. But the question we want to raise now is: is there only one solution to the paradox? Might there not be a better architecture than the one we currently have? Why are all the airports the same? How can the best model be so imperfect? Can we design our airports (and hence the entire structure of our societies) in a more comfortable, pleasant, and human way?

HABITUS

background

Pierre Bordieu argues[i] that control is created and maintained through habitus. Habitus is a cultural unconsciousness through which social activity can be regulated and harmonised, but it is also an enslaving force. Through habitus we act without being conscious of actually obeying any rules. Capitalist habitus has to be flexible and allow dynamism, but it must also rule out alternatives.

But, how can this be? How can anything be dogmatic and dynamic at the same time?

Bordieu says that this paradox is resolved by inducing aspirations and actions that are compatible with its dogma. In this way you can have individual desires and act according to the fulfilment of those desires without upsetting the status quo. Do whatever you want. Become your dreams. These are the messages that capitalism inculcates in us. Subjective aspirations are therefore defined by objective structures that represent capitalism. What matters is that which is determined by tradition: things are wrong because they are not the proper thing. They are simply wrong because we all know it, because our sense of decency tells us so, because it is common sense – because it’s always been like that.

But Habitus is really the Big Brother. He is watching, criticising, making sure our individuality doesn’t get out of control, making sure we work for the System without being conscious of working for it. Habitus creates the Matrix.

[i] See Pierre Bordieu’s dialogue with Terry Eagleton “Doxa and Common Life: An Interview” in MAPPING IDEOLOGY, edited by Slavoj Žižek.