Like any new relationship, we set high expectations for the New Year. Of ourselves we determine that this year we will be fit, love more, find a new job, get out of debt, and the list goes on. These demands give way to disappointment and if we weren’t already anxious about the resolutions, we certainly are now for disappointing ourselves. I understand these moments of high anxiety as a symptom of capitalism. Economic theorist and philosopher Karl Marx explained, “Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.”*
Marx knew that capitalism was out of control. That it was far too big and there was an “economic and political sway of the bourgeois class.” In capitalism, it is the overlords, the CEOs, the bourgeois that control the means of production as well as politics, ideology, foreign relations, and culture. Back to my main argument: how does capitalism create anxiety? Simply, persons without the power: the workers, the proletariat, “the least of these” acknowledge, at least subconsciously, that they are under the control of bosses, cops (who use force to sustain the capitalist system), and patriarchy.
Hence we demand high expectations of ourselves because this is the only way we can relate to the world. This is all that we know. We live in an America of bosses beyond bosses, cops beyond cops, and a stock market as our conscience! Possibly, to relieve this symptom, we need a high dose of an egalitarian community. Jon Grinspan wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times titled, “Anxious Youth: Then and Now.” To summarize, the anxiety in Millennials is nothing new or creative. Even in 1859, young persons were concerned about their love lives, when to get married, and if they were ever going to find a job. Here’s a gem from the article:
“Another solution (from the anxiety) was to find like-minded young adults, to share, as one later put it in his memoir, their “baffling discouragements and buoyant hopes.” Nineteenth-century young people were compulsive joiners. Political movements, literary societies, religious organizations, dancing clubs and even gangs proliferated. The men and women who joined cared about the stated cause, but also craved the community these groups created. They realized that while instability was inevitable, isolation was voluntary.”
In the 21st century, we realize instability is inevitable, but we are too busy hiding behind screens. Of course, I believe social and political change and agitation can happen through the use of social media. Just look at what was accomplished two years ago with SOPA. Yet, this protest was particular to the internet.
Yet, we still need bodies!
We need them protesting, present at hearings, in Congressperson’s offices, and gardening. Our future depends on it.
If we direct our anxious energies toward housing reform, ending poverty, fighting for LGBTQQII+ and women’s right, environmental concerns and changing economic policy; something might change for the better!
*All the Marx quotes come from The Communist Manifesto, which was published in 1848. If you have never read anything by him, the Manifesto is a good place to start.
Paul Ricoeur, twentieth century philosopher, developed a way of reading called the “hermeneutics of suspicion.” Simply put, it is the concept that the way we read and understand texts (not only things written, but also spoken) must be challenged through conscience efforts. This means when reading a text, we must understand that we live in a context that influences our reading, as well as the authors (or speakers) also have their own context. The final goal of reading a text then would be to know our context as well as the writers and try our best to come with a good interpretation. For example, referring to the parable of the talents, the ministers in a country that follows capitalistic tenancies will normally emphasize the investment aspect of the parable or spiritualize the text. They will use the word talent as common English defines it, a special ability that one has and then bypass the last section when the servant condemns the master. If I were to use the “hermeneutic of suspicion” on these sermons, it would question if they had indeed used the entire parable for the sermon or just parts. It would question whether there is any historical context in accordance with the economics of the first century Palestine. Finally, I would ask about their influences on whether s/he thinks that God influences the world, and id they believe that God is the master in the parable.
Ricoeur’s hermeneutic is a well rounded approach to reading texts and listening to a speaker. Something that I did not add was that Ricoeur used the likes of Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche, whom he thought were primitives to this approach. We must go further than these authors and towards an even more radical and inclusive hermeneutic, since they all ignored feminism, were hetero-normative, and even more, thought of universals rather having more contextual and subjective theories. Thankfully, postmodern theory has aided to a more inclusive hermeneutic, i.e. deconstructionism (this certainly is not the be all end all of hermeneutic).
Along with the idea that when we read texts we must be critical of both ourselves and of the text, it has gained momentum in conservative ideology (this does not mean that the neo-liberal ideology which is rampant in the world does not have its suspicions, especially of other political ideologies). In a recent debate, the issue of climate change was set before the Republican candidates. Rick Santorum said that climate change is
“an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion, saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life,”
This is not an example of hermeneutic of suspicion, but rather a falsification of another’s ideology. Santorum wants to bankrupt the scientific ideology by saying that when science wants others to conform to its ideas that it produces fear. The problem is that Santorum’s own capitalist, hetero-normative, patriarchal, and conservative ideology is using the same tactic (whether or not this is true of the scientific ideology). Santorum also in this debate says that he wants to get rid of the EPA so that there may be more “freedom” for capitalist businesses. In an upcoming post, I will share my thoughts on freedom and how we have a paradoxical view in the U.S. Therefore, Santorum believes in the negative definition of freedom, in which we are free from things rather than the positive definition where we are free for things. A good position would be that of the idea of the common good. For example, a neighborhood could take the position that “none are safe unless all are” and start a neighborhood watch that consists as neighbors taking turns walking around the neighborhood in he late afternoon in to the night. This freedom would show that freedom is only true when all are safe and able to pursue their own pleasures because they are free.
In conclusion, if one wants to commit to performing a hermeneutic of suspicion, one must also question their own ideologies and contexts. This is something that Santorum fails to do. We must try harder to question ourselves and others, while at the same time being humble.
Since I left my hometown and no longer have cable television, my desire to watch the Super Bowl has dissolved. Before I would watch the game for the half-time show and the new commercials. Although, I was never a big fan of sports, my parents and brother were/are and my mother still tells me about my brother and father’s arguments about which team is better, etc. Noam Chomsky explains this obsession with sports as
“…And I suppose that’s also one of the basic functions it serves society in general: it occupies the populations, and it keeps them from trying to get involved with things that really matter. In fact, I presume that’s part of the reason why spectator sports are supported to the degree they are by the dominant institutions.” (Understanding Power, 100)
This is usually how I understand corporate sports (differentiating between local sports in which one can participate with neighbors). Corporate sports are supported by corporations, forcing players to advertise with logos on their uniforms, and have many commercials inserted during breaks. One of the reasons I did enjoy the Super Bowl was because of the commercials. Reflecting on it now, it seems that commercials help to reinforce the ideology of capitalism in the U.S.. Teams compete against one another in hopes for winning, which is the capitalistic dream, for businesses to compete with one another in hopes of gaining more profits than another. Vidyadhar Date explains this beautifully in the article Capitalism and sport: Sports for a few
Competitive sports generate belief in capitalist values. We start believing that competition is the order of life, when in fact we should be striving for cooperation and friendship. Competitive sports make us feel that one must reach the top, be the first, and be willing to make any compromise.
Corporate sports is a reflection of the society at large and present no new challenges to culture or society. With this in mind, it makes sense that these sports are also pro-patriarchy. Since all of the players on the field are males bodied persons, this also includes the announcers, coaches, etc. This gives them an authority that other events do not, e.g. women’s tennis. If we are to shatter patriarchy, and capitalism, we must form coed leagues that have no corporate sponsors. This will probably never get air coverage, but the people involved will get to know one another better.
One final note: In Indiana, the location of the Super Bowl this year, the governor passed the controversial Right to Work law, which helps to bust up unions. The governor signed this bill privately, bypassing all of the public procedures that a governor has to do to pass a law. Thus, Occupy the Super Bowl began. Hopefully, discussion of this bill will be brought up sometime during the Super Bowl and in the weeks following, more dialogue with Gov. Daniels about repealing this law.