Fifth Column – The Smoked Glass Society – Issue 25

ONCE upon a time, on this side of a metallic curtain, ‘party line’ meant more than one conversation simultaneously. However, now, in the 21st century, one of global, free-market economics, ‘party line’ has returned to the good old Stalinist days of definitive truth, which tolerate no conversations. Social media might seem like a refutation of this notion but look at the lack of influential engagement in most issues.

“How has this happened?” I don’t hear you ask. Creeping corporatism that has, like a trojan horse, entered our psyches as electronic gifts from the scientific gods, has slowly at first, but with ironic increased productive outcome, eroded freedom of ideas and free-speech. I can hear your outrage already. We can say what we want, after all, isn’t what we are doing in this magazine, free speech? Well, it certainly looks like it on the surface, however, you just try offering an alternative opinion in one of the growing corporate enclaves called workplace: all hell would be let loose, and, alarum bells will metaphorically sound, and the counter-revolutionary person will be silenced in the time it takes to delete an e-mail. The keenness in some of the corporate lackeys reminds us of the real power mentality when it comes to freedom of thought and speech. You only have to look at the number of cases where censure or prosecutions have taken place for daring to criticise the corporate ideology. This ‘criticism’ can be first-hand experience of the conditions, yet the reality of the person is denuded of validity when the absolute truth of the corporate project is cited and immediately understood as the arbiter of value of what is real and true. Not only is this denial of a person’s experience of their own lives effectively removing them from history – a la classic Stalinist practice – it is evidence of an intolerance of any alternative thought relative to any real world we mutually inhabit. Try making a light-hearted commentary of the next piece of corporatist propaganda that appears on your screen in your workplace. Not only is there no time for levity, after all we accept that time is money, there is only time for elevation of corporate values as the sole value system for social organisation. Next time you have a conversation with friends or acquaintances, make sure you produce something that can be turned into a commodity and sold for profit. If you do not produce anything like this, then it has been a waste of money, sorry time.

What has happened over a lifetime is that abstract ideas, the stuff of ideologies, have been manufactured as material means to achieve the end of legitimate, vital and imaginative conversation and debate. Our silence has been manufactured in these corporate enclaves, initially in contradiction to what we might vote for in terms of free-speech and thought. Lately, the conflict has been ‘negotiated’ away by the growing number of edicts and diktats based solely on what corporations require. Speed and productivity, and the outsourced, abstract systems of output measurement, even though nothing material is produced, and perceived customer satisfaction are put forward as the ultimate outcome of satisfaction for the increasingly subservient service provider. The great illusion is that constant improvement, on a sliding scale that can be powerpointed as proof of success, is possible and an idea that our speech and thought must absolutely refer to. As you may have noticed, whenever you achieve any target set, it is instantly increased, so the contradictory dialectic is one where success is failure because, in reality you can never satisfy a customer given its only ‘rights’ by demanding exactly what serves the corporations, which is customer satisfaction. It becomes a classic tautology characteristic of totalitarian ideologies: Eternal improvement that fails to satisfy due to the limit being eternally increased just as satisfaction is produced to prove the previous targets as real and definitive truth. Those making the rules, the corporations, are gaining credibility by default, especially as we no longer question or debate the premisses of the ideas that have failure and fulfilment in the same instant. We are preoccupied by producing quality, like Marx’s alienating division of labour which produces atomisation and ignorance of the whole process, in that we become singularly obsessed with producing the abstract quality as an expression of ourselves. This abstract means to an end has replaced our more individualistic forms of expression. Expression of ourselves that might be manifest in free-speech and thought, has been reduced to the corporate ideology of customer satisfaction that, due to the eternal nature of increasing productivity, will never be enough.  The principle of atomisation sees our self-realisation as individuals referring to our economic commodity value as servants, as the only definition we should recognise with: we are our economic role, and without it we are less than human. The way unemployment is viewed today is illustrative of this point, even if you remove the inherent class-loathing legislation by Tories.

Just look at the number of behavioural edicts in the personal development plans of corporate workers and you’ll see evidence of our enslavement to the all-pervasive ideology of customer satisfaction that has abstract notions of so-called quality as a basis of human value. Freedom of speech and thought’s death knell can be heard in the pledges we are expected to make in subservience to the party line ideology. Not satisfied with a dignified exchange of labour, the corporations want inner deference to their ideology, and the destruction of last vestiges of freedom as individual. Ironically, the drive for smiles on servants’ faces as evidence, is not necessary. O’Brien’s torture finger-play exercise showed how power as ideology is accepted by even reluctant or desperate enactment; ideas become reality through enactment as acceptance, whether voluntary, coerced or enforced. All totalitarian regimes in history have been intolerant of dissent, but with corporatism, reluctant subservience isn’t enough; they want to inculcate their cost-units with the ideology so that the individual is obsessed and consumed by a desire to please: not content with service industry, corporations want servile industry, as if pleasing a customer rather than fellow citizen, is the sole aim of our existence as a working-class economic value unit: High-Yield Society.