November 08, 2013

Lenin, Khrushchev, ropes for hanging, and the capitalist #iPhone

Photo via Secrets of the Fed blog.
Did Steve Jobs forget a condom one night?
Vladimir Lenin once said:
The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.
Then, about half a century later, Nikita Khrushchev said:
We will bury you.
Well, capitalist politicians, political scientists, political commentators and economists have all enjoyed laughing at Ulanov and the hog farmer across the decades.

But, what if they were right, just a century, or half a century, or so, respectively, too soon?

It's all about that magic gizmo, the iPhone.

Well, it's about smartphones in general, but since Apple likes to brag on its overpriced version of the product, and enough people are dumb enough, or branding-gullible enough, to pay that extra price, the iPhone deserves an extra degree of criticism vs. the generic smartphone for illustrating this capitalist, or even hypercapitalist, rope of the capitalists.

That photo up top is one of 23 at this blog post that indicates that Lenin and Khrushchev may indeed be right and that we're all doomed.

The other 22 have iPhone and Android users taking selfies in the mirror, smartphoning while eating dinner with friends, smartphoning (it's my blog, and I'll invent new grammatical forms of words when I want to!) in an art museum, etc.

That blog post goes hand in hand with an entire Tumblr site devoted to nothing but selfies at funerals. The Twitter caption says it all, beyond any I might add.

The narcissism behind such an act, even as old Vlad is laughing in his grave as he understands the word "selfies," actually shouldn't be tsk-tsked by oldsters as much as it should be soberly accepted as part and parcel of the behavioral drives of the modern "Western" hominid Homo capitalismus, subspecies Americanus.

It's entirely that self-centered feeble-mindedness that's behind capitalism, as even Adam Smith, in his philosophical myopia, knew when he admitted the word "greed" to his analysis.

This particular hominid, after all, can be greedy for power and fame just as much as for money. Since the iPhone in general, through the mystique of branding, touts the possibility of acquiring power and fame via some magical osmosis (surely not from your fingerprints that Apple wants to lift from the iPhone 5, because it would carefully segregate your file from a celebrity's), it's the perfect tool that way.

Meanwhile, per the author's comment in this CNBC piece about the funeral selfies, the exponentially growing Narcissism 2.0 is apparently trickling back up the age curve to people near my age range.
Believe me, I'm as guilty as anyone. I've posted selfies looking my absolute worst all done up in foil under a hair dryer at the salon. I tweeted a photo of all the functions available on a public toilet in Japan (though, technically, you don't see me in the photo, but you get the picture, if you know what I mean). I, like so many others, need to step away from the "send" and "share" buttons. But even I wouldn't snap a self-portrait inside a funeral home with Grandma visible in her open casket behind me. Someone else did that. 
Shocked am I? No. After all, the kiddos at Ground Zero of Narcissism 2.0 are often the stereotypical progeny of stereotypical helicopter moms. Where do you think they learned their narcissism?

But, beyond that, the hypercapitalistic world encourages its associates (Walmart through a Silicon Valley blender) not to think. Let the device do the pseudo-thinking for you. It encourages the narcissism that lies behind all greed, the narcissism that "I'm different," and therefore, "Therefore!"

And, none of that is to mention the literal self-absorption that mobile online devices seem to promote, above and beyond traditional computers. Combine that with the absorption that Facebook can promote, and voila, Lenin's capitalist rope is clearly visible.

Yes, it's fashionable for conservatives to say that America is in decline.

True liberals and left-liberals can point at these images and say, yes ... America is indeed in decline, because of the hypercapitalism you conservatives worship.

Meanwhile, in another piece, from the Atlantic, there's more reason to call this all a capitalist rope.
For those of us lucky enough to be employed, we’re really hyperemployed—committed to our usual jobs and many other jobs as well. It goes without saying that we’re not being paid for all these jobs, but pay is almost beside the point, because the real cost of hyperemployment is time. We are doing all those things others aren’t doing instead of all the things we are competent at doing. And if we fail to do them, whether through active resistance or simple overwhelm, we alone suffer for it:  the schedules don’t get made, the paperwork doesn’t get mailed, the proposals don’t get printed, and on and on.

But the deluge doesn’t stop with email, and hyperemployment extends even to the unemployed, thanks to our tacit agreement to work for so many Silicon Valley technology companies. 

Increasingly, online life in general feels like this. ...

Often, we cast these new obligations either as compulsions (the addictive, possibly dangerous draw of online life) or as necessities (the importance of digital contact and an “online brand” in the information economy). But what if we’re mistaken, and both tendencies are really just symptoms of hyperemployment?

When critics engage with the demands of online services via labor, they often cite exploitation as a simple explanation. It’s a sentiment that even has its own aphorism: “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”  ...

While often true, this phenomenon is not fundamentally new to online life. We get network television for free in exchange for the attention we devote to ads that interrupt our shows. We receive “discounts” on grocery store staples in exchange for allowing Kroger or Safeway to aggregate and sell our shopping data. ... Of course, we shouldn’t just accept online commercial exploitation just because exploitation in general has been around for ages. Rather, we should acknowledge that exploitation only partly explains today’s anxiety with online services.
Ian Bogost goes on to say, in essence, as I interpret him, that, online services also create a general existentialist angst in the way that previous exploitation did not.

No comments: