Stages; On, Off and Against

Without being a Marxist, I can say that virtually everything about Capitalism is obscene. I can say this without concluding that Capitalism is in itself evil. I am not going to venture an analysis of socio-economic systems, nor will I compare communism and capitalism, which so many Americans still like to do, nor am I going to contrast western bourgeois capitalist civilization and Islamist civilization(s). I do not assent to Capitalism being an evil, nor do I agree that Capitalism is a good, and neither do I assert that perhaps it is neither good nor evil, some neutral or neutered system of organizing an economy. Many might prefer to conclude the latter when a discussion of the economic basis of. and relationships within, a society neither affirms nor condemns. What is is, but I refrain from concluding that what is is right.


I avoid asserting what most ideological Capitalists like to assert, and that is that Capitalism is natural, more organic to humans and their interactive needs than any other socio-economic system. No economic system is more organic to humans than another. What is inevitable for humans in their social interactions is to develop an economic system, whether that is a complex one or simple one. Any economic system in particular is a product of culture; culture being whatever is done by a people in a time and in a place among themselves. Culture is anything produced including ideas and systems of interaction. So, any economic system is in itself a cultural product and thereby adaptive to the needs and the negotiations of the culture.

Capitalism is not more natural to humans than Feudalism, feudalism not more organic than communism or varieties of socialism. Capitalism and Feudalism serve different social ends, if not because of this, different social needs for those whose ends are not directly or principally served. But a society develops the system it needs (necessity is also subject to social negotiations, but not always equally or with a balanced effect from all of its members);  or a society allows a system to grow in a way that serves the needs of those who control power, who stand in authority or disseminate influence. In America, Capitalism,  more specifically, finance capitalism, serves the need of the monied and power elite.

To perpetuate the kind of elitist control of society, where 1% if the population controls  more than 50% of the wealth, yes, capitalism is more suited. Humans are always confusing their culture for nature, so economic systems being the product of cultures, it is inevitable that we will assume the socio-economics are facts of nature. In America, the socio-economic system that binds Americans financially is understood to be more natural for humans because what is more natural for Americans, Americans will assume is more natural for all people in the world. This is how the ideas behind or within discussions of human freedom and democracy are always bound up with the advance of corporate capitalism in its financial control of the world, at least from all who have sworn allegiance to Western Bourgeois Capitalism. It becomes the new colonialism in the world.

Nonetheless, Capitalism creates obscenity on an unparalleled level (forgive me the cliche). Obscenity, Baudrillard reminds us (and I do understand how quickly even many educated Americans [especially educated Americans] might recoil from any critique of their most fervently pursued and defended faith from a French intellectual)–yes, Baudrillard reminds us that obscenity is not restricted to sexuality. Obscenity (herein consciously repeated as one might hear in advertising or political campaigns or in totalitarian propaganda that our own advertising mantras parallel) is pornographic; but then there are applications for what is pornographic other than sex and sexuality. Pornography has permeated everything everywhere in our society including the sex trade (as we like to call it when we want to soften what we think about trading in sex, buying and selling human beings and what we call sexual gratification. Yes, if sex is included in trade, then the obscene must be okay–whatever is sexually pornographic has to be good. If it makes money, how can it be bad; or, whatever is bad in it is counterbalanced by the money one makes. We do prefer our criminals who make a lot of money and make money for others, usually corrupt politicians–yes, we prefer these money-making criminals to the decent man who makes little money. I am not herein asserting that all pornographers are criminals or that pornography in itself is criminal. Nevertheless, there has to be something wrong with the man who is good to a fault in the marketplace). Of course, I understand that I am using ‘obscene’ in a restrictive sense, one that has been given to us through a prolonged negotiation in our society. In its etymology, ‘obscene’ comes from the Greek ob skena, which literally translates, off stage. There are other meanings applied to the prefix ob. Another appropriate one is ‘against.’ Scenes of violence and sex were to take place off-stage in Ancient Greek theater. Orestes’s revenge does not take place on stage. Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon ob skena. Moreover, what then is obscene if everything is seen? But then, the removal of our stages, the elimination of the theater of society does make everything we do, ob skena, acquiring the taint of former obscenity for everything we do and say. Obscenity is also that which can be called against staging; therefore, all that is confrontational in its presentation, all that is against the conventions of social staging–all the world again . . . .

The pornographic, which is the prime connotation of obscenity, if not the most widespread synonym, permeates all commodities, all communication, all interactions. Public space shrinks and becomes oppressive, almost as if everything and everyone were in extreme close-up, as are sex acts in a porno film. At the same time, the boundaries of our private spaces are being erased, re-defined, made transparent for the voyeurism of the public who need to observe ever more microscopically because the spaciousness of space has been eliminated and revised not for our our vision, what we see with our physical eyes, but for (ad)visory claims, what is taken under advisement (notice we are under as a female porn star in a gang bang film). What we see has been refocused for us. These changes in the conditions of the Public and the Private are confrontations with our conventions of Public and Private staging.

The duality of public and private space, public and private selves with a many-selves Self has been shattered. Am I too quick to conclude hyperbolically? Overstatement and understatement are broad and contingent categories; they are often mutual and reciprocal in their intensities in spite of their broadness; their dynamic energies have co-influence. The bull’s eye of expression is a narrow band and more times than not we writers find our critiques in one or the other, hyperbole or litotes. Of course, there is a willfulness to either of the latter two Greek terms when applied tom speech or writing. What I am expressing here is not a willfulness but an unavoidableness, an inevitableness to one or the other. The world Shakespeare understood to be a stage has been dismantled. The theater of our lives, of our world, of our selves is no more. What is filling this void is something for which our traditions of communication and communicating have little facility.


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