A COMMUNITY OF ONE

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He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power […] he becomes the principle of his own subjection” – Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punishment

Long ago we created religion – the sharing of rituals and beliefs – to help us to maintain communities that were essential for our survival, because alone we were no match for stronger, faster beasts that surrounded us. Religion made us feel safe, but it was the community, not the arbitrary rituals and beliefs, that actually made it so.

But soon enough, like anywhere there is power to be had, hierarchies developed; servant became master and the early theocratic tyrannies were formed. We were no longer safe because the most dangerous beasts were now us. For quite a while religion and government were as one, but eventually the secular and the spiritual authorities divorced, and in most places, amicably. But in relativity recent times, two new authoritarianisms broke that peace.

Science was the first. That faith’s discovered knowledge was more productive than old school religion’s received wisdom. Government rituals and myths being more flexible than religion’s embraced science and the new couple quickly banished religion to Sunday mornings and cable TV, except when campaigning in red states, of course.

The corporation was the second new authoritarianism created. Corporations are essentially feudal entities, in that they are amoral hereditary and meritocratic chimeras. They didn’t have to fight to defeat government, they just had to buy it one elected official at a time. Today the purchase is mostly complete, our governments are essential a network of subsidiaries of a network of corporations.

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Corporations, our newest despots, believe what is best is what is most profitable. Cheaper work forces – wherever they can find them – lesser quality ingredients, and or fewer regulations are more profitable, so therefore are all good. Pair bonding, families, homes, religions and other community-based drains on worker productivity are bad. To corporations “investing in a community” is just a waste of money.

Careers, too, are going extinct. Corporations wants workers to be simply devices that process raw materials into cooked commodities. The workers are only valuable for what they do while on the clock, not what they want to with the rest of their lives. Workers who are self-motivated and ambitious tend to want more compensation, respect, and promotions which means less profit, so this is worse than the inconvenience of communities etc., it’s sacrilege.

Corporations, contrary to their HR spiels, want workers just to be separate and interchangeable units of production and consumption; disposable, temporary things that work and buy in turn. And they are getting their way. The gap between those who own and those who labor has been growing steadily for half a century. Shown here is a laborer, a unit of production and consumption. When he’s got a job, what he does is all he is; and when he doesn’t, his being is nothingness. He’s a community of one, confined in his panopticon cell, consuming an abyss that’s consuming him.

Can new communities save us from the still stronger, faster authoritarians? Or would they start the cycle over again with new kinds of religions, governments and corporations? Who knows.

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