08
Oct
07

Trying to focus….

Ok, I’m going to go off on a thought tangent again in order to try and solidify my thoughts (to an extent) of my subject matter….. right, here we go. 

I’m interested in how our collective consciousness redefines our environment.  How we have established constructs that influence the majority, and can only be influenced by a minority. 

These constructs that I keep referring too are, in their broadest sense, capitalism and the modern mass media.

How what we believe is real life is actually a construct that is the result of collective consciousness. 

How if the sun were to stop shining tomorrow, everything that we have to contribute too in order to satisfy our basic needs would be obsolete. 

We as human beings only contribute too this construct in order too survive.  We live in a capitalist, media orientated society, and if you want to be a part of that society you have to contribute to it.  You have to act as a pawn in a seemingly endless chess match where you will never be the queen that can facilitate the ‘check mate’. 

We get on the bus, in a car or on the train everyday too, in most cases unwillingly, to contribute to this construct.  We adapt to our man made environment because it the only way we know how to survive.

I want to now write a section on Karl Marx, and his views on the structure of society. 

Marx believed that society was organized and predominantly affected by two entities that facilitated its functions.  Firstly, he suggested that the institutions we built, the philosophies we adhered to and the culture of society were all influenced to some extent, by what Marx identified as, the economic base of society.  This base referred to everything that is economic.  The political, legal and educational systems are examples of the class nature of society, which in turn is a reflection of the economic base.  Secondly, Marx proposed that the economic base had generated a superstructure that facilitated its function.  This ‘superstructure’ legitimates the organisation of the base, it maintains the coherent and meaningful structure of society and engenders society’s characteristic organisation and consists of everything that does not produce.  The superstructure is the particular form through which human subjectivity engages with the material substance of society, the institutions of society are reflections of a world created by human activity and therefore reflect the material conditions and circumstances in which they were generated. 

Marx hypothesised that what essentially sets us apart as human beings from non-human animals’ lies with the actuality of consciousness.  Human beings make their life activity itself the object of our will and of our consciousness, unlike non-human animals that are immediately at one with life activity and only produces what it needs for itself and its young, human life is an object for man and in this sense he is free and universal (Marx, 1884) With regards to this premise Marx evaluated that the exploitation of the proletariat was contributed to by a deficiency in ‘class-consciousness’.  Class-consciousness refers to the self-awareness of a social class, and their capacity to act in their own rational interests.  The authority that the bourgeoisie possess to subtly influence the thoughts of the working classes and to determine what is ‘common sense’, lures the proletariat into, what Marxists hypothesise as, ‘false consciousness’, where material and institutional processes in capitalist society mislead the proletariat over the nature of capitalism.  This consequently leads to the worker becoming divorced and isolated from the society around them, a process Marx referred to as alienation.

Marx believed that the predominant force in capitalism is the purchasing power of money. This power is so strong that money becomes an overruling authority against the individual and the fundamentals of society. The quantity of human value is evaluated by how much money he possesses, and not for his integrity, prowess or intelligence for example.  Capitalism has the ability to alienate the worker from his production process;

The responsibility to earn money to survive in society overwhelms the individuals’ autonomy.  The worker mentally and physically loses control over his productive activity so it no longer belongs to him.  Consequently, by being alienated from the actualities of his activity ultimately alienates him from the products of his labour, where at work he is left with ‘a feeling of misery rather than well-being.’ (Marx 1884) Man finds himself only freely active in activities such as eating, procreating, or relaxing.  He does not produce for himself but for the capitalist where his efforts are redefined and sold as commodities. 

Does our man made world breed a sense of anonymity? Where we lose control over our productive activity and are consumed with a lack of ‘class consciousness’?  We are a communal species that has excelled to the position we are in due to the fact that we work in groups; our collective consciousness has created our environment.  But by being effectively forced into assuming a role, which we get rewarded for with money, redefines the act of survival.  We no longer pursue our tasks because they lead to a sense of fulfilment but because it is what we need to do too survive.

We still technically work together to satisfy our basic needs because society is our environment, but we pursue our lives on anonymous level.  We are removed from what we are actually contributing too because we may only do it because of the monetary reward.  We have been alienated from our purpose, we are confused by the situation and may see it impossible to rectify. 

This creates an anonymous society where we are constantly communicating and contributing to one another’s’ existence but are simultaneously being alienated from our exploits via lack of relativity, only to be rewarded with a man made construct, the construct of currency, which we need to ascertain in order to survive.

This is a very big question, one that I will never intend to offer a solution too.  Yet I do feel that as an artist I can attempt to approach of this phenomenon and our position within it.  I hope to offer departure points for stimulus for the individual to begin to comprehend this situation.  I feel it is a subject that everyone is aware of, and submissively accept.  I’m not saying that we will ever be able to significantly change it, but we can at least try to begin to understand how we can make it work for us individually.

Maybe we are doing what we have always done, adapting to our environment. But presently the need to adapt to our natural environment is diminishing and the need to adapt to our artificial environment is perpetually increasing.    

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