Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Reify Wall Street

Try telling zealous patriots or ardent fans of a professional (corporate) sports team that their feelings of loyalty and allegiance are misplaced. 

Once an institution is reified and bestowed (linguistically or legally) with person status, it then becomes a potential target for our sympathy, empathy, respect, affection, and our anger and derision as well.  All of these psychological postures are misplaced, of course.  Institutions are conceptual constructions: organizational technologies designed to facilitate the coordination and direction of human behavior toward nonhuman ends.  They can neither appreciate nor return our feelings. 

Enter occupy Wall Street.

Who or what is the target of the protest message? There are numerous specific individuals “occupying” positions of power within the machine’s organizational structure who deserve the guillotine—or worse.  But the protest—at least in my corner of the occupy movement—seems to be directed primarily at abstractions such as “the corporate system” or “greedy banks” or “capitalism” or “rich motherfuckers.” 

It is clear to just about everyone that “the system” is the source of the problem.  One would think, then, that the obvious solution is to eliminate the system. 

One would think. 

But this thought appears to remain sequestered in the minds of a few anarchists.  The majority of the occupiers want to reign-in corporate power, apply various patches and tweaks to the wealth-distribution process, and then get on with business as usual.  The emphasis on nonviolence and non-engagement with the police is open genuflection to the status quo: the system itself must remain in place.

Slaves begging their masters for a little more meat in their Christmas gruel.

What if we actually treated corporations as if they were human beings? What if we acted as if they could actually bleed, actually suffer feelings of grief and insecurity—actually experience all of the physical and psychological pain that they generate for real people? What if we considered all forms of corporate-owned property as the exposed appendages of their physical bodies? What if broken windows and burned delivery vans and shattered computer monitors and severed power lines hurt? What if blocked shipments and crippled communication conduits caused them to feel actual frustration? What if the defacement of a corporate logo on a billboard or building caused them to feel actual humiliation? 

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