Friday, January 4, 2013

4 of 95: Pushing upstairs - these are my intentions

4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

[Part 3]

Humans form communities. About everything. Music, ideas, software, cats, particular humans - you name it, and there's a community about it.

This in and of itself is not as surprising as it should be. Therefore, it's time for a short detour back in time. Not because I doubt your knowledge about history, but because the point I want to make will be made more clear if we go back to the beginning.

In the beginning, there were mammoths. Huge mammoths. Huge enough that if any one guy wanted to fight them, they'd be at a tremendous disadvantage. They'd just stare at each other for a moment, and then the mammoth would do what mammoths do best: be huge.

Clearly, one on one-battles favors the mammoths. They are too huge to fail.

But. If that one guy gathers some other guys and makes the fight into a cooperative venture, then suddenly there's a fighting chance. Where the one guy just had the option to run, the community had the option of digging a huge hole and then lure the mammoth into it.

As you can see, size only matters up to a point.

Jumping ahead a bit, we have agriculture. The biggest advantage of agriculture over mammoth-hunting is not that it produces more food, but that it allows the community to do more than one thing. That is, once the farming process is set in motion, there's enough food to allow for non-farming occupations. Thus, toolmaking, pottery, shipwrighting and so on could happen - but only for as long as the community as a whole held together. If the toolmakers and the farmers didn't get along, the toolmakers didn't get any food and the farmers didn't get any tools.

Cooperation is a powerful tool.

This goes on for quite a while. We could write a small tome on the history of cooperation through the ages, but I think you've gotten around to the notion that people working together can produce miracles. If and only if they get around to actually work together.

Enter capitalism.

Now, if you've spent any time at all with economists, you know their standard rant about free enterprise, freely entered agreements and free markets. If one spends too long around them, one might start to think that their idealized notion of rational free agents roaming about the world has anything to do with what happens in the world we live in. Which is a bad idea - almost as bad as getting into a one-on-one fight with a mammoth.

What actually happens in actually existing capitalism is that people get reduced to consumer patterns. Everything about their identity - what they eat, wear, listen to, read etc - is translated into the logic of consumerism. Everything is available on the market, marketed and assigned a recommended prize range.

If you're not in that prize range, then that identity is not for you. However strongly you might feel about it, and however natural the identification with it might be.

This is not the natural state of things. This is what happens when the channels of communication are monopolized by commercial interests trying to become interesting in order to commercialize. This is what happens when the logic of the market is allowed to colonize too much of what it means to be human.

You, as a consumer, are not part of a community. You are an individual playing at and paying into the image of a community, and once you stop the playact, you're out. If your worth as a human is defined by how much you've spent on making yourself appear to fit in to the malformed culture of market values - then your value is zero once you stop paying your daily fees.

Being part of a team of hunters taking on a mammoth is a communal experience. Feeling alone at an overpriced cinema with equally overprized popcorn as you only prize - isn't.

Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

I may not have told you until now, but this is my default approach to Twitter. I'm not there to sell things, not there to drive home a point, not there to do anything else than to just say random shit with random people in a voice that - because it is devoid of externally impressed motives - is as human as one can be.

And, to be honest - I'd much rather make unintelligible subtweets about the Horse with my friends than wonder about if I should buy this thing or that.

 It might not be the most profitable thing I could do. But, then again: why would I want to autotune myself to the tune of what the market wants out of me? Why choose commodity when there's community?

I'll see you again tomorrow for part five. Do pay Les a visit - she has this most beautiful voice. Or call upon Eli for a piece of information theory.

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