Gotta go home now, dog’s got a bone now
listen and you will see, coming on in to me
If the last several years hadn’t already drilled this into your mind, yesterday should be the most clear demonstration that market forces are not the benevolent forces they are typically sold as.
As impossible as it seems, stock brokers on Wall Street appear to be trying to answer Catherine Malabou‘s question, “What is to be done to avoid the consciousness of the brain coinciding directly and simply with the spirit of capitalism?” Although there are several reasons to believe that the global stock market should be in a bit of a panic in light of political instability in Greece, an unclear election in Great Britain, at least two more years of subprime housing stock imploding in the U.S. and what may turn out to be the largest ecological disaster in the history of the United States. Today the official statement from the Powers That Be is that yesterday’s hemorrhaging of value was the result, mostly, of human error (but no one is stepping up to say whose).
This post will be less about pop culture in terms of celebrity and more an amusing discussion of media-tized living. While previous posts have primarily concerned a discussion of alternatives to living as recommended by celebrity and an exploration of the question “how is sovereignty possible in a world intended for no one in particular (really a place for everyone and no one at all)?”
Guy Debord, in Society of the Spectacle, introduces an assessment of the impact on human relations of the promulgation of celebrity and entertainment as an emancipatory force (what he calls the spectacle), “The spectacle is not just a collection of images, but a social relation among people, mediated by images.” This leads to a capitalist colonization of living itself, where our desires are commodified and sold back to us as the primary way in which we can understand freedom. An alienation from ourselves through the purchasing of a sense of self. Similar to Wilde’s story about the needles and magnet, today we wonder how it is possible to operate in a world that, à la Žižek, admonishes us to be ourselves.
Largely unaffected by this sort of alienation is the dog, after whom the ancient Greek philosopher, Diogenes, advised we should model ourselves.
Diogenes the dog, as he became known, was the only man to ever publicly mock Alexander the Great and live. According to Plutarch, Alexander, having been recommended to Diogenes asked Diogenes, “Is there a favor a king can do for you?” To this Diogenes, who was sunbathing, replied, “Yes, please remove your shadow from me.”
That’s right: he told the man that would conquer the known world to get out of his sun.
Diogenes seems to have taken kindly to the dog moniker, once saying, “I am Diogenes the Cynic, called a dog because I fawn on those who give me anything, I yelp at those who refuse, and I set my teeth in rascals.”
There is a bit of a play on words here. The word in Ancient Greek for dog is kynon and Diogenes’ teacher, Antisthenes, taught at the Cynosarges, the Place of the White Dog; thus, Diogenes was called kynikos, dog-like. It is from kynikos that we get the English term cynical.
Peter Sloterdijk, in his Critique of Cynical Reason, outlines and explores the development of contemporary cynicism and contrasts it against the cynicism of the Ancient Greeks. Sloterdijk characterizes the contemporary form of cynicism as action defined in terms of a fatalism, a purely materialistic sort that reduces the “ought” (how one might live) to an economic strategy aimed at maximizing profit. Against this form of thinking is contrasted an ethos of holism, a willingness to embody the austerity that sometimes must come with making principled decisions.
So, Greece has been experiencing significant social upset over the past several years – primarily as a result of the draconian measures implemented by those in power to enable Greece to enter into the European Union. What Marx described and explored in Capital was at that time still an experiment, there was still the possibility that the bourgeoisie would be repressed by the Ancien Régime. Today we are witnessing the triumph of capitalism, as it realizes itself by becoming the ubiquitous mode of production and consumption on this planet (and perhaps the universe?)