Jacko, Lotto and Blotto: alienation in practice
We live in an alienated world. I was reminded of this by the massive queue at my newsagent’s to buy tickets in the $90 million OZ Lotto draw and the outpouring of grief for Michael Jackson. And the constant booze and gambling ads on during the football.
In The Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Marx summed up alienation:
The fact that labour is external to the worker, does not belong to her essential being; that she therefore does not confirm herself in her work, but denies herself, feels miserable and not happy, does not develop free mental and physical energy, but mortifies her flesh and ruins her mind. Hence the worker feels herself only when she is not working; when she is working she does not feel herself. She is at home when she is not working, and not at home when she is working. Her labour is therefore not voluntary but forced, it is forced labour. It is therefore not the satisfaction of a need, but a mere means to satisfy need outside itself. Its alien character is clearly demonstrated by the fact that as soon as no physical or other compulsion exists it is shunned like the plague.
Alienation arises from the very way production is organised. To abolish alienation means overthrowing the very system which produces it in the modern era – capitalism.
They are easy words to write, but they will go unheeded for the moment.
The working class in times of social peace can respond in destructive ways. Grog, drugs, religion, entertainment, gambling, sea change, tree change – all express in some way or another the desire to escape wage slavery.
And so we stand in line to buy tickets to win an amount that is incomprehensible to most people. Or we buy the music of a person divorced himself from our reality.
And maybe we baby boomers see in Jackson’s death our own mortality, our life in being between becoming and nothingness.
One common outlet is the booze which escapes us for a time only to reinforce and worsen the alienation our individual humanity suffers.
Yet only a collective response can address this profound human fissure that is alienation under captilaism.
The hope of winning and the grief of loss are real, as is the relief of grog.
So too is wage slavery real and for all of us - workers and the ruling elite. It pervades and distorts us all.
I long for the day when we are all superstars, drunk on our collective power and rich beyond our means.