Thursday, August 24, 2006

Saying, Yes sir, no sir, yes sir, no sir, yes sir, no sir - Work !

9. "...or our labor will devour us whole."
~Theory of Achievment

The idea that work, money and product is essential to life is inevitable. It also sucks. A lot of people do jobs they hate, hate themselves and are constantly worrying about money. And why is this? Well, let's think about the beard. And yes, that is my good friend Karl Marx (who in my philo text, I had him being played by Rutger Hauer in the new film The German Ideology. Oh the train of thought in Touey classes.

So my text for this post is Marx's Alienated Labor. He looks at how our job will "devour us whole" until the person working becomes the commodity and the product becomes the focus.

"The worker becomes poorer the more wealth he produces, the more his production increases in power and extent. The worker becomes an ever cheaper commodity the more commodities he produces. The devaluation of the human world grows in direct proportion to the increase in value of the world of things. Labour not only produces commodities; it also produces itself and the workers as a commodity and it does so in the same proportion in which it produces commodities in general."

One thing Marx gets at further from this point is the whole Creater idea. God was the creater of man and now humans have more focus than God. His labor produced something alien to him and what he produced became more important. Such is our work. And it's true. Materialism is disgusting. I fall into this many times, but now that I am broke and can only spend minimal amounts of money on things (beer), we realize how important the products we make have taken over. Advertising, sales, marketing and such have become the new thing. Humanity is the biggest commodity out there. Although we buy a 6 pack of Rolling Rock, its not the selling of the beer that matters, its us buying it and spending the money on it that does. So we are the necessity in the transaction. Without someone to buy something, those objects are meaningless. But they have that market, so the commodity is what matters, and that commodity is now us.

Hal Hartley, again, nails this with his short film Theory of Achievment. His portrayal of Brooklyn, New York as the Paris of the 20th century, as a hub for art, shows how "unskilled, middle class, college educated, white, broke and drunk" starving artists have more to them then the business men and women of the world. But they are poor. They rove around, drink and, well are basically my group of friends.

These starving artists are always on the quest to find truth. Much like myself, I love reading, art and such to find answers to the unending questions and just like another Hartley short, Surviving Desire, it sometimes isn't the answers we need to worry about as much as asking the questions. The questions focus our "reading" of the world and we can get a better grasp of what it's all about.

So this labor reading I noticed is that pertinent to the rest of the focus of what I am going for in this series. So I gave up. Instead I am going to continue with other ideas and readings. However, I may come back to this after I work for more than 4 days.


Dom said...

Interesting post; I think I disagree though, I'm not sure materialism's all that sick. I'll definitely be in touch re: your eventual DC invasion... When's the Electric Six concert, again? I wanna plan on coming to the Chili place with you guys.

Paul Tsikitas said...

Well what about materialism is good minus the whole economic factor? It is essential, but society has lasted without such disgusting decadence that our society is in. Think about how much crap is marketed to kids these days between cell phones and iPods and beer. Yes, I love all three (well, not true... I hate cells) but society has turned away from values due to materialism. Weak arguement, Dom. I was excited someone disagreed, but back that shit up! Let's get some discussion going!

j. leo said...

I just typed a 1000 word essay and it deleted it. I hate comptuers.

j. leo said...

Materialism is a double-edged sword, although I sometimes struggle to find the good end. Yeah, I’m pretty fed up with the way our marketing-driven culture rejects things that aren’t dumbed down enough for everyone to understand them. You know where I stand on that as an artist. Just say the words CULT CLASSIC to any exec out here and see them shudder. They are more reluctant to take on projects that have any depth because they will not sell as well. Unless they’re an indie niche studio, and even those are always looking for Napoleon Dynamitesque projects that could catch fire with a bigger crowd. Look at freaking TV, much like Hartley said. Once in a while you have someone like Mitch Hurwitz or Paul Feig come through, but they don’t last.

But I also think about the good that comes with today’s modern age. I’ll go with media because I feel like it is one of the few unnecessary (to basic living needs) outlets for us that I can accept. It’s a wonderful thing that we can have all this music and film at our fingertips. Think about kids in the old days, who never got to hear singing unless they went to church, or never saw art at all. Only the insular artist communities really got to experience much of it, and the majority of people never did. And think about how many kids today have access to the internet and television. Even if it isn’t really teaching them anything, 300 years ago most of them would be illiterate. And yeah, we are in the minority, and my DVD obsession is nothing like the kid who buys Bad Boys 2 just to put on his shelf. But still, it’s something,

There is still immense suffering around the world and illiteracy. But I do believe that it has changed for the better. There’s a horrible imbalance between the rich and the poor. And, well this has gotten worse recently. But it’s still a lot better than the middle ages when only a few royal families and nobles had all the riches and everyone else had SHIT. If we keep pumping out stupid leaders like we have been, we may be headed back that way, but as for right now, I think the materials are helping more people than they ever have.

But you are right in that the intense materialism of our society can be dangerous. I see it in those frightened suburbanites I know so well. They buy and buy to have, not because they need. They want to have the best looking house on the block, regardless of how satisfied they are with their own house. This has led to a lot of waste. Waste in ways that people have never had before. It’s disgusting. But then, was it any better in the old days when kings and sultans had chests of gold and millions of servants who meant nothing to them? I think the difference is that today, there are more people being wasteful. But that means more people have enough. Or they should, and they don’t realize it. Is that better than not having anything? I think so, as long as we can continue to find ways to get the waste reused and sent to the needy.

I don’t know how to close this, or if I’ve made any sense at all or have just been going on circles, but I do know this: marketing is a disease, but I would rather have an overload of information than no information at all. Does this work?

Paul Tsikitas said...

It all goes into that Machievellian thing on "the ends justifies the means." Materialisms end is happiness (which is going to be something I write about soon... this drive for happiness that we are always searching for)but the whole idea of look, image and such is bringing society down. I blame the huge age of production and commercialism for that. However, I'm in no way a communist. I think capitalism works. But its the societal change that has brought on the negative. The whole idea of the product becoming more important has definitely come into play. That is what I mean to convey through my interpretation of Marx.

I disclude art as commericalism because I believe that although the people who own the big businesses and such are evil, but the actual artists (directors, songwriters, musicians, writers, etc) are the best part of this new age of TV and Film and Novels. So although the commercial drive and financial aspect is there, at least its giving the starving artists out there some small chance of getting what they deserve. It allows for the Wes Andersons and Warren Zevon's of the world be artists and make money and have them enjoy what they do.

Dom said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dom said...

Ah! I didn't know my comment would develop into such a discussion!

I'd much sooner condemn personal failures (on a mass scale) or failures in education than materialism itself as what's wrong with capitalism. Members of society that use product as a substitute for personality, and iPods as a substitute for ideas, are what's really sick in the capitalist system. These members of society go with the right end (happiness, as Paul said), but have NO clue how wrong they are in deciding the correct means. These members' failure, whether it be their own failure or a serious educational failure, is what perverts materialism and makes it a monster.

I think that materialism can work, so long as we exercise our rational faculties well enough to know that goods and services we buy as consumers aren't end enough.

As Ayn Rand says, money doesn't corrupt men; men corrupt money.