Stephen’s recent post on Simon Hardy’s manifesto got me thinking… there’s 50 ways to leave your lover according to Paul Simon. Well, clearly many of us have been and are falling out of love with our economic and social organization. What should we do about it? How should we break up?
I think the metaphor (although I’m not really sure it’s a metaphor and not just the case) of our relationship to capitalism as an emotional and sexual relationship is instructive. It encourages us see that falling out of love with capitalism is not enough. We’ve already done that. But we’ve got other needs to fill. We’ve got to get our kicks somehow and while we might not love our economics and social relations anymore, I think that we are still very much making the odd booty call to capital when we get that itchy feeling. We know it’s wrong, we know we shouldn’t, we know neither of us will be able to move on but … unfortunately we are getting any action anywhere else.
In other words, capitalism (or corporatism) might be a horrible partner but it sure fucks us good. Smartphones, long haul flights for 1p, strawberries in winter, massive houses and massive debts, these things are just to tempting. We need them (or at least us smart people can find very convincing rationalizations for why we need them). .
No matter how much we hate each other, then, it seems too hard to tear ourselves apart. Like the battered wife or kidnap victim we cannot help but make emotional attachments to even the very worst of partners. But what would we say to someone trying to leave this kind of relationship: you’ve just got to get out of it, the big gesture, the arguments, the endless heart to hearts just keep alive the false hope that you can change the other person.
Indeed, I had a friend once who was in a relationship that he hated. He convinced himself that the girl was both his ultimate partner and his worst enemy. He loved and hated her. Rather than deal with it, he’d talk to anybody and everybody about it. He’d get drunk and pour his heart out to strangers. Of course, he never did anything about it until he came to realization that he’d have to go a few months without sex in order to keep his sanity, his friends and his livers from frying.
That’s why I’m not convinced about the whole occupy movement. It has great symbolic value but what else does it achieve? I’m not sure it really achieves much. It’s got a few academics on telly and youtube, it’s made a few of us feel better, but it seems to me that it actually ties us even closer to the very things we hate. We all know that out computers are made in horrible conditions that we wouldn’t wish on anyone but what choice do we have other than to buy them! We buy sustainable tuna when we can, we don’t get plastic bags we don’t need, but fuck man, we need a smart phone to know what’s happening at the occupy camp. We can politically offset it!
Just as we wish our partners were freaks like the Pussycats Dolls, we wish that some alternative economic and social relations could do the kinds of things capitalism can. At some point we have to move on. Occupation is not enough. We need to get over it.