Humans as objects of commerce

Humans as objects of commerce

McLuhan was, I guess, the first to express the insight that technology is an extension of the human body.

These hand-held gadgets for communication might very well represent the end of ‘understanding’ for almost all citizens by 2050. I can see it already on the Internet discussion forums where communication is becoming a stream of consciousness without coherent grammatical or thoughtful content or construction.

Rugged individualism might be an appropriate expression for all the creatures in the world, with one exception. Humans have, in the last few hundred years, moved from being rugged individuals to our present state in which we have fashioned an alien environment in which we have become chess pieces or ciphers. We have invented the Artificial Kingdom where, as Simone Weil once noted, “it is the thing that thinks and the man who is reduced to the state of the thing”.

I think that we, women and men, have become chess pieces. We have become objects to be manipulated by the market and the corporation. We spend our days like the chess piece; we have a quantified value and are placed on the board and used as desired by some one who may be a real person. The real person has still the human characteristics of creativity, spontaneity, improvisation, spontaneously reactive, discontinuous, a mosaic more than syntax or cipher. Just what we find is missing when using the telephone to contact someone out there.

In an effort to understand where we are now it might help to start back in time and move forward. In frontier days each person was very much an individual. Rugged individualism was a popular expression. Each man and woman was a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. Each husband and wife was a team that together could and had to do everything that was needed.

In early America we were an agricultural economy. Most families were farm families we were all rugged individualist. The farmer was very much the jack-of-all-trades and the master of his or her domain.

As we move forward in time we see this team become a man working in a factory or office and the woman was at home raising the children and maintaining the day to day necessities for all family members. She washed, cleaned, shopped, sewed, and was still much of a rugged individual. Slowly the man became a specialized worker in a clockwork factory or office.

Moving forward in history we arrive at the present moment where not only is the man working in the factory or office but the woman joins him there also.

When we examine the factory or office workspace we find a very different occupation for the man and woman than the rugged individualism of emerging history of human evolution. We no longer are masters of our own domain but are ciphers in a clockwork that functions upon modern economic principles.

A pertinent example of this mode of commodification is how we have converted what was political economics into the modern economics. Political economy is the study of social relations. It is the study of culture. Political economy focuses upon the problem of how to regulate industrialization within the context of a healthy society, it worries about the problems of labor within a context of the laborer as an end and not a commodity—an object of commerce.

Economics, however, in its modern form, has replaced political economics. Economics has removed the pesky concern about labor as being human and has replaced labor as being a commodity—an object of commerce. Modern economics is now the study of scarcity, prices, and resource allocation. Economics has legislated that labor, as an end, is no longer a legitimate domain of knowledge for economic consideration. In doing so, over time, society has become ignorant of such concerns. Our culture has replaced concern about humans as ends with humans as means to some other end.

In the rugged individualist mode of living the individual was creative and master even though the domain of mastery was small. An individual’s personality is dramatically affected. Labor has become an abstract quantity and calculated into the commodity produced. We are the only creatures who have completely removed our self from what we were evolved to be. We are the only creatures removed from our grounding in an organic world. We came from a long ancestry of rugged individualist and now reside in the Artificial Kingdom. To what end only time will tell.

Do you feel like a cipher in our culture?

People are manipulated and debased because they let it happen to them.

So, who is REALLY to blame?

Each of us has free will.

This does not mean that we have absolute freedom but it does mean that, in a democracy such as the US, we can create our own character and personality with a great deal of freedom. This freedom is generally used to make our self into irresponsible citizens to the democracy that makes this freedom available.

We have met the enemy and it is us.

so freedom must be dissolved and everyone needs to be trained to be drones working under the thumbs of the thinking class


ps: the usa is a constitutional republic not a democracy but that thought must be too critical

Hope you mean the human capital skills used as commerce not as smuggling people who were refugees to developed countries.

Is there a psychological term for the longing for an imaginary past when things were better? Besides Republican.


Regardless of how things used to be, the problem is a real one. George Orwell is turning in his grave as we speak. He was wrong about the year, perhaps, but if things stay on course, 1984 will more or less be a reality. USA is a kind of self-imposed dictatorship; the freedom is real, but the indoctrination and propaganda machine prevents most people from using it in an “undesirable” manner. By undesirable I mean anything that can be categorized as an attempt to make a meaningful impact on the things that matter.

This is no conspiracy theory, the evidence is readily available if one cares to look. Founded on genocide, built on slavery and maintained through colonialism, support of dictatorships, and a war every few years by using exactly the same approach as last time: scaring the hell out of people. Vietnam is turning communist and will destroy us, Grenada is going to destroy us, Iraq has WMDs and is going to destroy us, just like they were going to destroy us in the Gulf War too. Iran is about to build WMD’s and is going to destroy us as well, but Pakistan’s and India’s WMD’s which they have nearly used on each other are okay because we like them. Bills that the vast majority of the country is opposed to are regularly being passed, because the political parties needs funding for their campaigns and naturally needs to repay this in some way. That is acceptable though, because, like many of the guys that formed and shaped US democracy this century said: the people are a ‘bewildered herd’, too stupid to be involved in politics. We need to keep them away from things that matter, since democracy is a game for elites. They need to be protected from themselves, since we know what is best. This has been the prevailing view on democracy among elites since the very beginning of democratic thought. Lippmann, Niebuhr, Bernays, Podhoretz and countless others who were key theorists on how American democracy should be all thought like this, and if you look at the early days of democracy in the west you will see that it was bitterly opposed by the people who ‘knows best’ every step of the way. The evidence of their influence is crystal clear.

So how does this matter in relation to the original post? Well, none of this would be possible if the general public were allowed to be individuals. From the point of view of an elite that wants to control rather than be controlled by the public, it makes perfect sense to marginalise each person in the manner you describe. Just be a cog in the machine and spend the rest of your time on sitcoms, astrology, fashion and national football league. Just stay away from the important stuff, thank you very much.

It occurs to me also that the belief in their country acting in a righteous matter is nearly as strong as religious belief; even when faced with reality, many are simply unable to face the truth, namely that their country is in practice totalitarian and fits the very definition of terrorist.