By Patrick McAuliffe
You may ask yourself, “But homie, the satire issue was last issue! What gives?” You’d be right, homie, but I’ve come to realize that you whippersnappers are truly and deeply sheltered, for the most part. I don’t pretend to clairvoyantly know where you come from or where you’re going, but after a while in the corporate world (where most of you will probably be going), you may feel the same exasperations that I feel, tugging at your mind but unable to be pinned down definitively. Allow me to give you a sneak preview of what these inevitable feelings might be.
Karl Marx’s labor theory of value and view of history as constant class struggle are deeply flawed, even dead wrong in ways, but that doesn’t mean that other lessons can be gleaned from the words of, arguably, one of history’s worst Germans. Joining him are Hegel, from whom Marx drew much of his inspiration; Kant, who spoiled empiricism and started Europe down the dark path of continental philosophy; and one more guy…can’t quite put my finger on him…Heifer? Hitman? Might have been a chancellor at one point? I digress.
One of Marx’s points that I’ve come to agree with is that the Industrial Revolution began to alienate people from their labor. In my view, this wasn’t nearly as true in Marx’s day as it is today; toiling away on a labor-saving machine at least gave the laborer a vehicle by which they were able to see concrete fruits of their labor. Sitting atop one’s brand-new tractor as one’s field is plowed or sending off the pieces of the Model-Ts from one’s part of the assembly line could still give the laborer a sense of pride in their work. Something concrete and tangible is being made or changed, just faster and with much less strain on the laborer. Human suffering was reduced in multiple ways, both with the labor-saving technologies of the era that saved a worker time and strain, and the myriad products now able to be mass-produced for beneficial consumption, among other ways. Labor, even recreational labor (think arts and crafts, or a pet project like restoring cars or building models), is something humans are wired for because seeing the fruits of that labor gives us pleasure and a sense of self-fulfillment. Plus, we need it to survive a harsh, uncaring world that gives and takes with no discretion.
It all goes downhill as the Information Age takes root. The tangible work for money to survive that existed in the Industrial Revolution is nearly obsolete in developed countries. Our economy is now primarily based on “logical work”, like typing on computers, sending emails, and using various operating systems to perform bureaucratic pencil-pushing. For example, at my job, I produce nothing; I perform a function so far removed from the creative process that, one day, I could easily be replaced by an AI algorithm. I exist inside my computer. Many others — salespeople, IT professionals, administrators, and bureaucrats — may feel this frustration as well. Well-off people in developed nations are so far removed from the very real threat of struggling to survive that their functions can just as easily be completely eclipsed by technology, should it continue to develop at its current rate. Should they lose their nest eggs and fall destitute, they would be like shivering children out in the cold, bewildered and unequipped to handle this dangerous world.
I’m grateful for the things that humans have developed as our inventive minds branch out into previously uncharted territory; a small Victorian child would drop dead of fright (and probably syphilis) if he walked into a modern home full of the smartest smart gadgets of the day. I’m grateful that most humans in developed nations don’t have to struggle in the same ways as people in poorer nations halfway across the globe, or even in the same ways as their ancestors did 100 years ago. Unfortunately, this global affluence has brought with it unforeseen and mind-numbing consequences. I am by no means saying that struggling every day to survive like peasants in the Middle Ages is the proper state of humanity; I merely believe that our modern “work” has alienated us from our creative processes, and we need that creativity and productivity — TRUE productivity — to fully actualize and realize our humanity. Marx was right about that, the little fucker, but I hate to admit it.
If there’s one thing I ask of you, dear reader, it’s to find ways to break out of the cycles of monotony that the Information Age has instituted for the vast majority of us. Paint a picture, pick up a hobby, grow a garden, learn a new skill, or, hell, write for Binghamton Review. Squirrel away moments for yourself and your loved ones so that your unique, extraordinary, human existence isn’t confined to your computer or your Metaverse avatar. At all costs, avoid being chronically online and try to enjoy all the wonders that this harsh, uncaring world has to offer, should you be brave enough to look.