"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Aug 13, 2011

Breaking the Buffer

We who are not powerful are worn around concentrations of power and wealth as layers of buffering. We absorb diseases, and discontent. We act as filters, and bellwethers. As isolated communities, as artificial families, we absorb the animosity of opposed and opposing sects, neighborhoods and polities. "Left" and "right" matter, not only because we model our capitulations accordingly, but because they divide us into buffer zones. We team up, according to training, temperament and disposition.

Concretely, as accident and as structure, we exist as perpetual human shields. That is our secondary function.

First, we labor - we build the systems by which we are contained and captured. We build hierarchy, and maintain it. For a least into the foreseeable future, it is impossible to maintain a complex civilization, and the benefits which accrue to those who run and own it, without captured laboring and consuming populations. We create value, and values.

But, we serve a second function, the usefulness of which, to the factions of the ruling class, is increasing. We absorb discontent for factions. And we provide it, against other buffer populations. We are chained up in our own loyalty, and it is a faith with obligates us to squander ourselves. We are encultured, and believing such and such to be true (sometimes, the content of belief matters far less than its context), we are made and remake ourselves into "fidelities." We devote portions of our lives which are not formally labor to the defense of those who rule us. We politic, and church up. We defend.  A work, without recompense.

Where we do not do this willfully, we still serve the function anyway.

If you are not a hermit, or inclined to wander some wilderness for most of your day, you probably live near to or within a corporative community - a village, town or city conceived as such, one which provides an identity to you, even by opposing it. As a member, you exist around a nucleus, or competing centers, of power. These have orbits, captures of labor, capital and property. You work at one, and for one. You serve it.

It's even likely that you are, at least seen from a distant perspective, tossed around between several gravity sinks - church, family, work, party, team. Your labor for them, your loyalty, your emotional defenses and your memories are all coded and caught up as buffers. As protection for the hierarchy which exists within them, in order to steal the greatest possible benefit from their continued existences.

It is ominous, then, when the state which exists to co-opt and coordinate these factions into a whole that serves the needs of the ruling class, is publicly re-conceived instead as an adversary of these buffer communities, these protective layer populations, these absorption zones and social filters - as part of a declared war to remake civilization and civil society with an eye to triaging not only the poor, but the superfluous:



Cüneyt said...

That's a good way of putting it. In my opinion, left or right are just identities. My identities are fluid; sometimes I feel like my ethnicity is more pertinent, other times my sex, other times my sexuality, other times my experience... I refuse to give up the left label, just as I refuse to give up my cultural labels, because they mean things to me and they're part of my interaction with myself and the world.

But if I let them become too rigid, too important, too necessary to define me utterly, I play into the hands of those who would quantify and sort me. I refuse to hold any identity that splits me off from others for too long. Even "human" is a label that keeps me apart from a lot of life.

This whole debate has taken a lot of energy from me today. Something you wrote here let me get some back. Thanks, Jack.

Frederick said...

ominous shmomnous.

zencomix said...

"while promising compensation for those affected by violence."

Ha! So much for Austerity!

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

If you are not a hermit, or inclined to wander some wilderness for most of your day, you probably live near to or within a corporative community - a village, town or city conceived as such, one which provides an identity to you, even by opposing it.

You might even be a user of the internet.

ergo said...

This is a really good post.

David K Wayne said...

It's intriguing - but worrying - how foreign commentators seem to viewing all this with a clearer head and less knee-jerk prejudice than British ones.

Thank you for this, Jack.

Jack Crow said...

Thanks, folks.

This is a concept which is clearer inside my brain case, than it is when I translate it to words.

Nearly a decade ago, when I was busying myself with money and trying to be less of mercenary at the same time, an old (and no longer) friend asked me a question about the poor.

He is and probably always will be a small holder. While fighting to avoid becoming his father, the only man he actually respected was the same. He wanted to be a Bohemian musician, and his parent's minor wealth helped him cultivate a sense of his own value, and accomplishments, by buying him the time to learn several instruments at leisure.

Even as a grown man, he was still bringing his laundry to his parents' home, to be washed.

We were sitting in a coffee shop (there were no "cafes" in Manchester at the time) and he was trying to explain why he hated the poor. It was fairly standard glibertarianism: the poor as vectors of moral disease; people who lacked the Self to want to succeed. Despite going bust several times, because his father overextended a few small businesses (this was never his father's fault, of course), and having to move from a large house to a much smaller one for a time, he never developed an understanding of poverty as a social mechanism.

A poor person, he argued, was someone who lacked the cohesion of personality to succeed.

I asked him how he could know this, having never been poor.

Quite defensively, he insisted that his father losing a business was poverty.

I invited him to accompany me to Holyoke, Massachussetts (a city divided into poor black and Latino quarters, and upper class but declining Mount Holyoke style neighborhoods).

He refused, insisting again that he understood poverty because he [had to move from very comfortable small town NH, to comfortable small city NH] did not get everything he wanted as a child, and still occasionally had to work, perhaps as a bartender or salesman.

It was after this conversation, while working a twenty hour shift to cover for a sick employee, that I tried to work out an explanation for poverty, as the image of itself, as a matter of perspective.

My first mental construct was the idea of poor and working populations as herds of disease absorbing cattle. My own employees, at the time, did not absorb diseases directly - but they were my buffer. I could, at any time, sacrifice one of them, and please those higher up the hierarchy as myself. Or I could protect one against undue upper mgmnt pressure, and "earn" loyalty (and more buffering) I did not really deserve.

Thus, from whence the above came...

David K Wayne said...

That comment should have been a post in itself. Your former friend sounds all too familiar, unfortunately.

davidly said...

What the others said, plus W. Kaspar: As if the post itself weren't already great enough, you manage to - for want of a better expression - outdo yourself in the comments.