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I Love Systems (2002)
Michael Scharf in /ubu Editions
I love systems; corporations exploit systems and deform them to channel capital. I love habits; capital destroys habits so that implements must be replaced, which requires further raw materials to be drawn and further labor added, and fetishization and idealization to be the main quality of cathexis. I love cathexes; people murder and hurt one another because their drives have been pushed into fucked up images or ideas, either by genetic predisposition or by a variety of family pathologies, psychological or physical abuses, that often stem from economic factors, but cross class lines and can express themselves in large-scale non-egalitarian modes of power, as well as in their more familiar manifestations within the living space, a determiner of roles among those sharing it. Neglect, a pathology, results when unstructured time, which is now a kind of structure, is eroded by capital, which requires labor in order to accumulate, via the insinuation of value into cathexis as a result of consumerism, and not consumption, which is necessary. Even when actually coming into contact, people carry distorted images which they bring to their chosen objects, and they hurt these objects, which are people, because such images represent strong cathexes and demand to be reproduced. People also create systems specifically to coerce people into exchange, to force them to play prescribed roles which have real psychological and material realizations. These systems draw energy from libidinous dementias, from partially destroyed cathexes, and result, at best, in exchanges whose participants are profoundly alienated and which are mediated, however indirectly, by money, which was itself created when the direct comparison of the values of goods proved impossible, and is the basis for city life, a kind of idealization, which seems to be preferred by artists because of the kind of social contact it allows, because of the care that its infrastructure evinces, or has remnants of, and because of the kinds of work it affords. There is a little time to write. I am paid per hour for my cube labor, which involves writing, a “shit where I eat” problem, since writing is one way to resist the incursions of capital. But I am an agent. I love systems; they are but structures for action, for encounter and exchange, and come to life only when taken up, providing terms for decisions, terms that should be able to be accepted and used or rejected and reformed but are not, but yet not all of them are corrupt, although the rate at which they are corrupted as they arise, meaning those systems that do not have to do with law or state or corporate power, the lag time in which they are allowed to hang, poised and expressive, is shorter and shorter, as the movement of capital has become more and more efficient, part of which is due to computers, though studies dispute the actual gains. Systems must be changed from within by agreement or destroyed by revolution, which means destroying sets of images and the people who carry them, which is accomplished by agents, who are people, and replaced by other systems, but distorted images linger as traces embodying former sets of terms, in books and in pictures, in buildings and in testimony to be discovered and recovered, or reproduce themselves through genetic predispositions triggered by abuse. Power itself forms a current wherever there is more than one agent or its image, so that in the absence of state power or enforced legislation, which often appears to itself as a coherent, logical system directed at a collective good, but can also appear, even to itself, as an organized and perpetual structure for murder, in its absence, arising when one or another group, concentrated in a locality, has the power of enforcement without the rule of law, which is just as often abused, the results seem to be worse, as we know them from books and images, recordings and translations. Some argue that this is the case in parts of the world of which I have no right to speak, especially being a subject in a state that creates and acts on the indirect or direct demands for their exploitation, particularly in terms of labor power and raw materials, and in terms of culture and in terms of peoples’ bodies, their very lives. In the U.S. itself ideas and images have been, within some formations and often involuntarily, replaced with a more subtle brutality taking the place of the old, overtly physical and more directly linguistically transmitted subjection. There will always be exchange, the question is how to structure it, what system to use. People have been coerced into habits and cathexes that lead, directly and indirectly, to the exploitation of others, but this exploitation and its results are hidden from consumers, who must participate in the system or perish, ceasing to exist within recognized or vigilantly maintained alternative social formations, dying, though there will be a day when to be a consumer will not be a pejorative, for there will always be consumers as long as there are exchanges, and there will always be exchanges, but for now the exploitation and its results are hidden, so that responsibility for consumption is made impossible by more active participants in the systems, who produce them and produce the images of them, and work to shunt the capital into calibrated sinks, or accounts. Those with ideas for more efficient or transfixing systems can either work for corporations, or strike out on their own as entrepreneurs within legally defined structures, a decision which is represented as a kind of freedom. There are magazines that cover, that reproduce with words and pictures using raw materials plus labor power, including packaging and delivery, the imagining and actualizing, the building and maintaining, the reacting and the prescribing of system creation, cover it from the idea or image stage to the addition of capital, which allows systems to materialize, literally, and to shunt the needs, habits and cathexes of people, who put their money into weighted exchanges that concentrate it with the corporation or entrepreneur, which as a legal entity has discretion as to how and when it will again appear in the public domain. Often, because of psychology, and, currenly, because of poorly theorized neo-evolutionary demands, capital is concentrated and passed down among those whose genetic bases are most similar. I personally have benefited from this system in myriad ways. When my father became sick with Hodgin’s Lymphoma, he and my mother, 27 and 26 respectively, if age affects decision-making, took out a 100,000 dollar policy on his life, on which they were, with the help of other family members who had accumulated capital, able to meet the very high monthly payments as his condition worsened, and then improved, until his sudden death on May 15, 1974, after which the policy was paid in full to my mother. This policy was a partial image of the labor power represented by my father and reflected a bet by a corporation against his early death; that the labor he did, which was adjusting the habits and cathexes of people who were not able to function completely and efficiently within the system, arguably serving the ends of capital as well as of those, more directly, whose suffering he worked against, was not relevant. The apartment in which I live, in which I write this and which I own with my wife, who is 28, was bought with money directly generated by the investment of money from that policy, by the further accumulation of capital that resulted from the payment being committed to certain corporations, including Merck, Thermo Instrument, and Archer Daniels Midland, of which I had fractionary ownership, and is itself, the apartment, a form of acculated wealth, though its exchange value is dependant, like currency, on the market and easier to pass in the U.S. to people with similar genetic material or with whom legal relations are permitted. Writing this is a form of narcissism, now in wanting to insert myself in a debate over a magazine, but originally as a reaction to answering a questionnaire, which asked for certain cathexes and, indirectly, economic conditions to be named, thus aiding a kind of class consciousness; since the naming recalled an image or idea of a “life,” as a life is a construct made up of representations of decisions plotted over time and intimately bound up with the control of capital, the commonality of the terms of which led to narrative conventions, the questionnaire established a basis for comparison with the decisions, cathexes and degrees of control of the participants, all of whom are at least acquaintances through text-based exchanges. The expression of my cathexis with an image of my father, here and elsewhere “in my work,” can be said to be a luxury afforded by the capital that I accumulated as a result of his death, although the cathexis would remain, I feel, regardless of the amount of capital involved since it was not known to me, conceptually let alone with numeric specificity, when the cathexis formed, which allowed a kind of cathetic purity that is often idealized, the image of love pointed toward transcendent value, one that can trump the market, within literature and most religions, and within many actual lives, if I can speak of them, other than mine, but writing depends on material conditions unattainable in most. If I am allowed to speak of your life, a set of decisions plotted over time, it is a form of exchange; because of certain histories of exploitation, the subject position created by my relative control of capital and my physical characteristics encounters quite forceful and correct barriers to exchange in various contexts. Though they are often portrayed as protecting images of sets of physical characteristics or images of set of habits, called race and culture, gender and sexuality, such barriers are forms of resistance to the incursions of capital, because capital tries to keep as many of its mechanisms as possible hidden, including labor, a transcendental category, in that in most climates one cannot live without working or paying or forcing someone else to work, so that capital, an image or meme carried by people, makes use of psychological prejudice as part of its hidden mechanisms for exploiting labor; it blurs into such habits and cathexes comfortably and easily, through other ideas and images, and attaches itself to them without dissipation or diffusion, as well as targeting the barriers resistence to such images provokes. To target these incursions via economic analysis is the “class trumps race” theory, which can be extended to other categories, and which when implemented led to the splintering of the left in the late 1960s in the U.S. and to the attempted recovery of origins, previously subsumed by the promise of reform and of a better life,both of which are images, origins and promises, though when lived attain the status of memory and experience, testimony and impression, and then out to the endgame of economic self-justification. Such analyses are abstracted so as to locate the systemizing terms at work, finding them in appeals such as “France for the French,” which paradoxically allows a majority within a locality to feel that their genetic material benefits from redistributive action, though the complications of having 3,000,000 post-colonial citizens, if I may speak of them, particularly as a Jew, since Jews have been closely associated with the market and demonized via that assocation by Christians and others, leading many to convert or to become adherents of Marx, a son of converts who conceived of class consciousness as the royal road to revolution, but the presence of those citizens in France has led, because of the contradictions it heightens in certain images and ideas, to the creation of parties such as the National Front, which tries to define what the French part of “France for the French” might mean, and has certain distorted cathexes with that idea, though anyone can shop at Fauchon if clean. Similar movements exist. Class does not always seem to trump race, or gender, or sexual orientation, though this may still turn out to be the result of false consciousness, which most often today is applied to consumerism, and there is no right of return, a material re-creation of images, for anyone. Some theorists believe hetero- and homosexuality to be chimeras created by capital, and believe race and gender to be so as well, though one does not hear the latter spoken of as lifestyle choices, and medical research continues into their bases.