Dear Dirty America


The Anthill Is the Mark of Social Disease

March 22
15:00 2012
Los Angeles

Credit: R. Crumb

Doc Sarvis makes use of an anthill to explain a larger social issue:

“The anthill,” said Doc, “is sign, symbol and symptom of what we are about out here, stumbling through the gloaming like so many stumblebums. I mean it is the model in microcosm of what we must find a way to oppose and halt. The anthill…is the mark of social disease. Anthills abound where overgrazing prevails…the plague of runaway industrialism, prefigures technological tyranny and reveals the true quality of our lives, which sinks in inverse ratio to the growth of the Gross National Product…” (80).

Dr Sarvis is a comic character in Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang, yet he makes a salient point about what we become after we clear the land of its greenery and natural habitat and set up an arbitrary society based on production. An anthill of busy, bustling workers. Runaway industrialism. The name of the game is to produce more, be more efficient as we do so, and keep the system’s many sections moving.

Industry. Diligence in employment or pursuit. Systematic, habitual labor. At least that’s what Webster says about the word “industry”. And while industry might be useful, and systematic labor good for many reasons, runaway industrialism is not.

It robs humans of their creativity, their energy, and their minds. Systematic labor numbs and conquers the average citizen, beating him or her with the dreadful pounding of habitual thinking routines or physical actions. While that lifestyle may be fine for ants, and for anthill societies, it is not a just and proper lifestyle for human beings who have been bestowed upon them the gift of consciousness.

Our labor force is divorced from their work. Our workers have very little incentive in what they’re creating or producing. They have nothing to take pride in. They sell their labor power and, in good faith, wait for the capitalist to pay them two weeks later.

We live in an anthill. In runaway industrialism. We are a society that only needs the worker to spin his labor into something of value for the capitalist. Only so many workers are needed, and they become expendable. Too many workers means not enough work, and in this system, that means many workers will not be able to have a roof over their heads, or food on the table for their families.

At least anthills are more efficient. I never read about anthills suffering from runaway inflation and unemployment. If our society is going to be built upon systematic and habitual labor, then at least give everybody a part in that workforce so they can earn a suitable paycheck.

But our capitalists are not even that smart. If America was built in an intelligent capitalistic system, it would find every creative way possible to pay workers higher wages and provide them with quaint places to live and raise a family. That way, the worker and family remain plugged into the system, frequently buying the goods and services provided to them by other capitalists. The workers go to work, earn a decent living, and spend it on crapola, but at least, for the capitalists, they are spending, consuming, and continuing the cycle.

That way, the system doesn’t implode. Workers don’t go “postal”. And most citizens are being happily used up.

But our capitalists are stupid, greedy men who either consciously or unconsciously shut down America’s economy. By crashing the system, Wall Street and Big Capital have run our economy into the seabed. Capitalism is like some species of shark in the ocean. They absolutely must keep swimming forward, or die.

Credit: Kormoran

Our anthill is dying. So not only did we set up a messy capitalistic system of habitual labor that separated workers from the fruits of their laboring, we constructed that anthill so poorly that it couldn’t even sustain itself, and at every turn its lifeblood was sucked until there wasn’t even enough vitality to crawl forward.

As our GDP increases, the quality of our lives plummets. Even if everybody had a prominent part in labor and production, and people were paid enough to really live and play in society, the satisfaction and personal fulfillment isn’t there for the vast majority of worker ants, or human drones.

So fucking what if you’re a superstar on the Walmart sales floor? Where is that personal expenditure of energy getting you? Do you get stock in the company? Does Walmart extend its billions in profit with all of its employees? No, you make minimum wage or just above. Not enough to buy your own home, or a new car, not enough to support a family, or even a great health insurance plan.

Minimum wage earners sacrifice their energy and their lives to servicing others in this society, and very rarely are they rewarded with the money or satisfaction they deserve.

We are a nation devoid of purpose and unity. Without common cause or care. We are not even as good as an anthill that takes care of itself and its citizens. We worship our inadequate paychecks because we can’t fully appreciate our contribution in the fruits of our labor. We worship the wealthy and hope, someday, to be rich too.

But there is a gaping spiritual hole. An internal chasm beyond measure between mind, body, and spirit.

And I didn’t even get into technological tyranny. More on that next time.

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