I grew up in a place called America. As a child I was often confused as to where or what America actually was, because on the map there is clearly a North America and a South America, but no America. There is a Central America, but it is not where I live. So how I lived in the miraculous place called America, when it did not seem to exist, I could not fathom. Now that I am grown nothing is any clearer. There are we the Americans, and there is The World. My globe is here, soaked in the red blood of the corn fields and the white bones of the plantations and the blue sky where drones scour foreign mountain ranges for evidence of terror activity. The water that comes out my tap tastes like hard work and blue collar sweat. Broad swaths of potato fields remind me of the magic of an order of small fries.
Somehow in the air America drifts. It is not any one of the fifty states, no, but it is an ether that is carried in jet streams throughout the land, replenishing its many components. I cannot help but see this place America as a trinitarian being-metaphysically it follows the same kind of blueprints as Jesus Christ. It remains fifty independent states, though it is also the United States, and finally it is America, which is a non-physical concept we all intrinsically understand but cannot really put into words. Christians feel this when they step out of church on Sunday and order a quick Starbucks on the way out the door, or hit up Hardees for some cheeseburgers to top off the Body of Christ.
But America is bitter sweet and we know it. On certain evenings it feels like something uniquely folky, something risen from a tameless wilderness and constructed in rebellion. The rebellion of a culture that we used to see as petulant and silly, if we’re honest. America is ranch hands and deer hunting and guns and Native American genocide and black slavery and loons and grizzly bears and the Bald Eagle. America is rugged. We have committed every sin so we know the tricks. We instinctively mistrust rich blood.
And yet we are the very bastion of capitalism in the west, a burden we don’t yet know how to carry. A title we were never sure how to carry. What did the cowboy ever want to do aside from ride off into the sunset with his sweet loving lady? What’s he supposed to do with nuclear arms races and with global trade activity and international espionage? He’s not cut out for this world.
We are approaching a world of global automation. Capitalism has gave way to such extraordinary heights of luxury that we are inevitably on the path to transferring huge amounts of our daily labor to machines that will do our work for free. There will still be jobs to be had with these machines, but they will be highly specialized tasks carried out by specialized workers. So the question is arising in our culture now- how do we keep capitalism creating prosperity for humans when machines do capitalism better than we do?
I find the poetic justice to be too sweet.
History is actually just the story of people who think like machines killing people who don’t think like machines, with machines. Ask any nation’s indigenous tribes and they will spin for you an accurate yarn. Today’s systems are more efficient than ever before: communism, capitalism, or any hybrid of the two, are machine systems. They take the spirit of the human person and place it within a clearly defined set of directives. The existence of all subjects are reduced to the will of the system, of the government, or the economy. On many levels these systems mirror the workings of a machine, made to carry out a single task and to just keep doing that thing forever. Capitalism has found a way to create growth at staggering rates despite the ecological ramifications and it does not know how to do anything else. It is built for one thing only: profit and growth and prosperity for those who adopt it. It does this with a ruthless efficiency. Communism was never able to achieve levels of economic luxury, but it did find highly exploitable methods of controlling populations and rendering them loyal to fanatic regimes.
In this new world we are entering, communism and capitalism will both be utilized under single entities. China and its bulldog Hong Kong have already demonstrated clearly how devastatingly efficient this hybridization is. Even Marx admitted that communism could only be completed with the help of the capitalists. Luxury communism rests on the fruits of capitalism.
And so capitalism, in order to remain efficient, must adopt its nemesis in order to remain relevant in the world that it created. It’s Shakespearean. After all this time, a piece of that holy American trinity is ready to be dethroned: America, the metaphysical spirit of our rugged and often violent roots. It will be forgotten. The spirit, though filled with scandal and turmoil, was a precious one. It was rooted to the earth, albeit a bloodstained one. Without it we will be mere actors. Or more correctly, machines.