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341. Enthusiasm (V)

“Why do you do your job?” “I dunno, got to make a living. Got to make money.” This is the answer many people give, and it is an answer that breeds communism. The promise of communism: it will be just like now, except better—the consumer goods will be free and whatever labour you do will be non-alienated, it will be fulfilling. It may sound counterintuitive but there is a link between financial materialism and communism. Now the right, at least since Burke, if not before, has always taken a dim view towards financial speculation; in Britain, the Tories were basically the landed aristocracy and the rural folk opposed to the industrial manufacturers and the deracinated proles; eventually, skilled politicians would develop the industrial liberalism that favoured the manufacturers into the socialism that would expropriate said businessmen.

The right always maintained—and this is true—that the rural hinterland is a nation’s strength; unlike the city, where stockjobbery allows quick and dissolute profits, the rural folk are wedded to tangible wealth that can be seen and felt. The city is parasitic upon the countryside, it draws in the rural folk and uses them up; just as the world-cities draw in the intelligent and able today, often digesting them before they can breed.

Yet what Marxists call “alienation” depends upon a separation between self and other: I am an economic unit, a biological unit as determined by science, and I work to secure calories and social status. In this state, the person is in conflict with work; the work is an onerous chore that must be done to achieve material goals—a cause-and-effect relation. Career progression: I must get from A to B to C—perhaps screw over some people to get there. Decadent money-making is like communism because it is after the shortcut; it is the Instagram influencer who endorses a product because the bonus is good, whether or not they use it themselves: “Fuck it, it’s more money, right?”

The non-decadent attitude is to see work as a yoke in which there is no division between self and work; there is, as the Buddhists say, a mirror to polish daily—and the mirror will be polished whether there is a reward or not; just as the rural peasant is never sure his crops will flourish. The labour is its own reward, for you disappear into the activity; you submit yourself to it and forget yourself in it. There is no ego that says: “Only twenty-five more years before I can go fishing.” The person who thinks that way, even if they make a lot of money, is already close to communism—to the “abolition of labour”.

Communists cannot say work is its own reward because if they do so their ideas about alienation fail; satisfaction can be found here and now, not in the future communist state. It is roughly the difference between a vocation and a job; in mass urban societies, people have jobs that they hate—not because they have insufficient consumer gadgets, but because they are estranged from what they do. Marx was right to identify alienation as a problem in mass industrial societies; but the solution is not revolution to abolish labour or property. The solution is to see labour—and gardening and shopping, any activity—as a discipline.

Yoga literally means “the yoke”; it is only when you refuse the yoke that it hurts, but submission means to admit that you are not important; and free-market consumerism and communism both promise, in different ways, to make you feel important. You go the Buddha and ask why there is suffering; he says: “No reason.” Whenever there is a reason, whether a hedonistic libertarian who boasts about ever-greater consumption in a free market or a Marxist who says planning will solve our problems, there is an error: these are two sides of the same attitude, the quid pro quo. The religious attitude acts for the same reason the cosmos exists; just because.

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