Our ‘communities’ are under siege and have been for a long time.
During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, congress passed the CARES Act as the first stimulus bill for the duration of the pandemic. Most outlets who reported on what was included in this bill at the time said that it provided $500 billion for big corporations, $380 billion for small businesses, and around $260 billion to individuals. On the surface this sounds like a decently even spread for the parties represented, however this was grossly misreported and as per usual the devil is in the details. The fine print says that the corporations who were the beneficiaries of corporate socialism (despite having more than enough money to take care of themselves) had a multiplier in the amount of money they could receive from the Federal Reserve at a magnitude of ten, meaning that they can receive $5 trillion dollars in stimulus, which as we all know can be extended ad infinitum. Keep in mind this is free, whereas small businesses get loans to pay back.
I say it often, but this is unsurprising. The media’s role, as Chomsky detailed in his work Manufacturing Consent, is to condition the opinions of the public in service of the ruling class. Many people think that the role of the media used to be to challenge the government and the rich and now they have been corrupted into serving them as one well-oiled machine. This may have been the case far into the past to some degree, but the manufacturing of consent has always been there, it is just accelerated now with things such as the CIA program ‘Operation Mockingbird’ where the ‘intelligence’ lemmings infiltrate the media to control the conversation and opinions. A work on this subject whose importance cannot be exaggerated is Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes by Jacques Ellul.
Forbes reported that 25% of small businesses that existed before COVID are now out of businesses, and some sources say it could be as high as 1/3 nationally. Amazon fulfillment centers and Walmarts could remain open while a ‘mom and pop’ corner store had to close their doors by order of the state in much of the country. It is not that the government didn’t have the ability to help these businesses. Allowing small-commerce to suffocate was and is a deliberate policy of the U.S. government. As I’ve said before, the consolidation of capital is a tendency of the technological system in order to best exercise technical development. Political technique has become so streamlined that any president who makes it to the White House is essentially the same in their practical policy and only differ on relatively unimportant aesthetics. The machine has its talons deep into the governing bodies of industrial nations and will do so in other nations as they ‘progress’ in industrialism.
As small businesses close down, corporations swoop in to gobble up the properties left behind and install their cancerous franchises. Money that was previously flowing through the community (to the local business owners who paid their local employees and shopped locally) is now being sent to corporate HQ far away in another state or another country. Wealth is being extracted from the locale and just enough is dripped back in to pay the local employees to keep them alive. The old woman who used to own the fabric store and employ several people now has to work as a manager at Walmart.
Local is not just under siege materially but psychologically. In order for the technological system to maximize production and development it has to exercise increasingly sophisticated techniques of control over men. Jacques Ellul said of this atomization in The Technological Society:
- ‘At the same time (and this is the second factor which made for the plasticity of the social milieu) a systematic campaign was waged against all natural groups, under the guise of a defense of the rights of the individual; for example, the guilds, the communes, and federalism were attacked, this last by the Girondists. There were movements against the religious orders and against the privileges of Parliament, the Universities, and the Hospitalers. There was to be no liberty of groups, only that of the individual. There was likewise a struggle to undermine the family. Revolutionary legislation promoted its disintegration; it had already been shaken by the philosophy and the fervors of the eighteenth century. Revolutionary laws governing divorce, inheritance, and paternal authority were disastrous for the family unit, to the benefit of the individual. And these effects were permanent, in spite of temporary setbacks. Society was already atomized and would be atomized more and more. The individual remained the sole sociological unit, but, far from assuring him freedom, this fact provoked the worst kind of slavery. The atomization we have been discussing conferred on society the greatest possible plasticity-a decisive condition for technique. The breakup of social groups engendered the enonnous displacement of people at the beginning of the nineteenth century and resulted in the concentration of population demanded by modem technique. To uproot men from their surroundings, from the rural districts and from family and friends, in order to crowd them into cities still too small for them; to squeeze thousands into unfit lodgings and unhealthy places of work; to create a whole new environment within the framework of a new human condition (it is too often overlooked that the proletariat is the creation of the industrial machine)-all this was possible only when the individual was completely isolated. It was conceivable only when he literally had no environment, no family, and was not part of a group able to resist economic pressure; when he had almost no way of life left. Such is the influence of social plasticity. Without it, no technical evolution is possible. For the individual in an atomized society, only the state was left: the state was the highest authority and it became omnipotent as well. The society produced was perfectly malleable and remarkably flexible from both the intellectual and the material points of view. The technical phenomenon had its most favorable environment since the beginning of history.’
These are not just unfortunate conditions produced by moral defects of character in the ruling class. This is the fundamental tendency of the leviathan system we live under. It will make us as alienated and atomized as possible, there will be increasing ways to pacify and control the population, we will rely on the state and the agents of technological development whether they be under the veil of the capitalist corporation or the nationalized labor of the planned economy.
One would think that urbanization would create communities, and while this may be the case to some degree in the realm of arts and ‘activism’, people in urban areas are more isolated than ever when it comes to a genuine human community. Most exit their apartments, go to work at their corporate job where they, for a moment, are in the presence of other people (unless they drive), and then go back home to stay in their apartment. The internet is a surrogate community for the most part, creating an empty shell of actual interaction that sadly comes to substitute any genuine contact with humans for so many.
For most, the family and the church is the last community they have left, but these things are on the decline as religiosity is falling and families are separated most of the time. This is not to say that the pioneer family who attends church 5 times a week is the ideal for everyone to strive for (though that’s perfectly fine if it’s what you want), it is just to point out that these safe holds are too being eroded by the technical civilization.
Due to the massive damage that this siege has done to communities, it can be incredibly difficult to detach from spending money at the mega-corporation. Putting your money back into your community is incredibly important, even if it makes your tomato cost 25 cents more. Otherwise, you end up with the monstrosity of ‘highway towns’ that are all over the US, essentially just a hive of mega-corporations on both sides of the highway. When you spend your money somewhere, you are generally making an endorsement of them, the way they treat their employees, and the effect they have on your area and the nation. Where things cannot be bought at the local, they ought to be produced as much as possible.
Some might say ‘but what do we need healthy or genuine communities for? I don’t see anything wrong with shopping at Walmart and eating at McDonald’s on the way home.’ The detriment is that you are selling you and your fellow locals’ community to corporations who are sucking your money and sending it far away where hardly any of it ever makes it back to the community. When the money does make it back (in the form of wages to those that work for the corporation) it is once again spent at a corporation where even less of it comes back. People have deeply ingrained learned-helplessness because the groups that determine most of the parameters of our lives, like corporations, governments, banks, international political bodies, etc are so large that citizens have little to no recourse to change anything and are thus at the mercy of the massive, detached overlords who give them the privilege of working a job so that they don’t starve on the street. America used to have a thriving labor union culture which has been completely decimated. The graph below is harrowing.
Most people will prioritize convenience or savings over silly things such as convictions and ideals. This is not to be elitist, that is just how effective and coercive the system is. I would encourage the reader to take a step back and think about how they can actually be part of a community rather than simple cohabitation near people as a collective of alienated laborers for a distant enterprise. This means removing as much of your business as possible from the corporate terrorists, increasing local production, cooperation, and social activity. Do not allow your lands to be plundered.
Stay safe – Normandie