The Underground Lady [Page Thirty-Eight]

Americans are ill prepared to deal with a depression, which of course is what they are experiencing.  The older generation of Americans in particular, the “boomer” generation, are spoilt and lazy.  They have relied on a fantasy of wealth for a long time, fed by entertainment media, and middle class “boomers” have existed inside a virtual bubble of conformity and illusory national success for forty years now.  What they are discovering, what they are finally being forced to discover, by a set of harsh conditions which must seem almost demonic to them, is that they live in a poor country.  Close to a hundred million Americans depend on the service sector for work, or live in a household that is dependent on one of these near slave-wage positions.  These people, real working people, will no longer be mollified by vague promises from either the right or the left.  And the middle class is beginning to fear this fact, and fear for their own safety.  They should.  The illusion has exploded, and working Americans, for the first time in decades, are beginning to talk about getting organized.

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Unions are problematic for the left.  The rather outdated attachment to the ideals of Revolution and Transformation lend an air of unreality to contemporary radicalism.  The dispossessed are immune to such bourgeois ideals today, they don’t respect false intellectualism anymore, and the transparency offered by instantaneous diffuse media denies the intellectual left the power it used to have to contain and control working people.  This ridiculous gambit is no longer up to the task, so one can expect the power system (which after all continues to be solidly bourgeois and essentially reactionary) to resort to more and more violent means.  Already in Italy, Berlusconi—always considered on the forefront by his corporatist peers—has instituted measures resembling martial law.  The army will patrol parks and other areas deemed dangerous because regular working people gather there.  A closer look at the United States would probably reveal the same attempts, at a local level, in cities in particular, to harass small businesses that cater to working people—that is, what few places like this have survived the organized “cleansing” of the working class from neighborhoods, a process usually referred to as “gentrification.”

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Working class culture needs to be revived if there is to be a large scale resistance to the coming corporatist state.  By this we mean the corporatist state in its final, cancerous stage, with all pretenses of democracy removed.  Already in practice of course this exists—corporations dictate policies to government officials and they legislate the plan described verbatim.  But this is still inadequate to the needs of the corporation, an endlessly needy institution, the source of the endless, wheedling neediness of consumerist populations educated and controlled by it.  The corporation, as an absolutist, totalitarian organization, requires nothing less than perfection in everything, including its own authority over consumers and the agents of power it employs.  It will never stop short of total control, a fact that stands behind every veiled threat made by corporate executives and their legal representatives when faced with tougher regulations backed by popular demand.  Go ahead, they say, and we will find a way to circumvent the law.  There is not even any dissembling on the matter anymore.  This is how far it has gone, and things will only continue to go in this direction unless a widespread resistance is built up and executed.

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Government, as is increasingly obvious to most citizens, is a distraction.  Government is not the problem, it is merely one weapon wielded by the corporation against the people.  We need a counter-weight.  Government obviously will not provide this, and to get involved in yet another round of interventionism is to do only what corporate leaders want one to do.  We must break the pattern, we must break the corporation at its base, tear it out by its roots.

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When I say “attack the corporation,” I mean this literally.  Attack it in all its forms.  Attack it culturally, attack it through the media, attack its funding structures, its operations, its political influence.  Attack its officers, its investors, its willing and unwilling participants alike.  Organize its workers against it, set its own machinery on itself, embarrass and ridicule and trivialize its so called accomplishments.  Show people that THEY are not IT.  Because this is what the institution argues for all the time—that we are continuous with it, that there is no rupture between the person and the thing.  Bullshit.

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The Underground Lady says, “Americans are everything they once hated: slavish, robotic, helpless.”   “I know, I know,” I answer, “but what is one to do?”  “Fight,” she says, and she looks at me as if I were insane.  She’s right, of course, the alternative—giving up, giving in to corporate rule for centuries to come—is lunacy. 

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In the coming fight, one of the main sources of support may be, surprisingly, the growing anti-consumerist Christian movement.  There is a deeply contrarian nature to some forms of Christian faith—don’t underestimate this.  There are many Christs, and amongst the most powerful, the most persuasive, without a doubt, is the Christ that ejected the money-lenders from the temple and taught that offering succor to one’s brother,  over and against the wishes of authority, is the most profoundly Christ-like act.  We can tap into this, despite all attempts by religious institutions and their agents to re-contain this sentiment, to bend it to the needs of dogma.

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The people in the consumerist countries (or the “rich” countries as they’re immodestly called), live a grey, miserable existence.  Look at them.  They even have to dose themselves with legalized psychoactive drugs to feel anything, or rather, to feel what advertising tells them they should feel in spite of the conditions of their lives.   The American Psychiatric Association has become the most reliable arm of the pharmaceuticals industry, practically sending out their members to stand at the doorways of companies and, as the workers file out at 4:30 (nobody works til 5 anymore in America), handing each a tablet, and telling them, “Go home, medicate, and come back tomorrow with the right attitude!”  Only of course it is television commercials that do the outreach.  

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Robbe-Grillet says:

“The narrative, as our academic critics conceive it—and many readers after them—represents an order.  This order, which we may in effect qualify as natural, is linked to an entire rationalistic and organizing system, whose flowering corresponds to the assumption of power by the middle class.” ** 

In the 19th century, he continues, “certain important certainties were in circulation: in particular the confidence in a logic of things that was just and universal.” **

All of this has now been reproduced, long after its saleability has gone sour, and the public desire to participate in such a gargantuan absurdity has been lessened, through years of broken promises and cynicism, to almost nothing.  So one can see why we say that something is about to snap, something is about to give.

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** Alain Robbe-Grillet, For a New Novel (translated by Richard Howard).

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