IF you haven’t finished your holiday shopping yet, don’t bother.

Skip the mall and the neighborhood store, resist the urge to shop online and, by all means, don’t buy anything you don’t truly need.

So says Kalle Lasn, 70, maestro of the proudly radical magazine Adbusters, published in Vancouver, British Columbia. Mr. Lasn takes gleeful pleasure in lobbing provocations at global corporations — and his latest salvo is “Buy Nothing Christmas.”

When you are a kid you are told by those around you to ‘follow your dreams’. What they forgot to mention is that all people are not born into a system of egalitarian values. Indeed, nearly all of us are born into systems of oppression and exploitation. What you are told in your youth then is a fabrication. For we citizens of the United States the “American Dream” is the refined epitome of this lie. Ultimately it is the fallacious idea that we can achieve maximum freedom within a system of socioeconomic hierarchy, or more to the point, within a capitalist system that exploits us, our non-American brethren and our fellow non-human Earthlings.

In America everybody believes they can get rich. As John Steinbeck once put it, “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

In our culture the “American Dream” is the ability to attain wealth, which is predominantly, but not limited to, monetary value. This is the preliminary requisite for the capitalist acquisition of power; and in America it is synergistically related to our conception of freedom. Here it is believed that wealth, and therefore power, is the vehicle to greater choice. And it is, but it is a particular type of choice—the self-maximizing sort. The sort that disadvantages others. In such a system there must be winners and there must be losers. The more losers, or the greater number of the oppressed and exploited, the fewer, but freer, the winners.

So to be a winner, to follow your dreams, to acquire lots of money and power, we have to adopt a backwards view of freedom. We have to accept that for us freedom means the freedom to exploit the losers, which must include poorer Americans, even more so non-Americans, animals and always, always our landbases. Literally for us to be free we have to steal from others their rightful agency.

This is how hierarchy must function. It cannot function otherwise. It must stamp out egalitarianism and replace it with exploitation or it will die.

The “American Dream” is the falsification of hope. To paraphrase Raoul Vaneigem, it is the leash of submission. We falsely believe our economic system will provide enough choices to create enough opportunities for all people to amass wealth and generate the power for their own agency. Indeed, within the parameters of this system, if the premises of oppression and exploitation are accepted, the “American Dream” can be a reality, but only for the few.

In this falsification we have no agency over the conditions of our future. The “American Dream” is the individualist’s rejection of collectivism. It elevates the value of one far above the importance of us all. This is the equivalent of a man in a boat of several people beginning to drill a hole under his seat. In dismay the others will scream in protest, “What are you doing?” And he will reply “What business is it of yours? I am doing this under MY seat. It does not affect you!”

The reason this is the reality of the “American Dream” is because we have been duped into accepting premises never presented to us. They were slipped by us with enormous success. We believe the “American Dream” is real; it is good; and it is obtainable to any and all. Worse still, we believe that it is predicated on substance of real value. It’s not. The fact is nobody will show us the oppression. It must be felt. Nobody will show us we are exploited. We must be made conscious. The “American Dream” is one of many opiates to a population that has lost virtually all agency to its future condition. As we fail to realize this our remaining freedoms ebb away like a sandy shore utterly failing against the mighty currents. It pains me that so few are awake.

– via @americawakiewakie

Few films in recent decades have so successfully spoken to the day-to-day realities of service sector employment as 1999’s “Office Space.” Written and directed by Mike Judge, the fictional film is extraordinarily witty and remarkably popular. Though a comedy, it subtly confronts its viewers with a number of questions which thinkers within radical and leftist political circles have pondered for quite some time: Why are jobs often so dissatisfying? Why do many of us constantly seek out ways of escaping? Can anything be done about it?”

“The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact.”

– George Orwell, 1984

The American Dream grafitti

The American Dream grafitti

“When we were fighting AIDS, hunger, water shortages, global warming, and so on, there always seemed to be time to reflect, to postpone decisions (recall how the main conclusion of the last meeting of world leaders in Bali, hailed as a success, was that they would meet again in two years to continue their talks …). But with the financial meltdown, the urgency to act was unconditional; sums of an unimaginable magnitude had to be found immediately. Saving endangered species, saving the planet from global warming, saving AIDS patients and those dying for lack of funds for expensive treatments, saving the starving children … all this can wait a little bit. The call to “save the banks!” by contrast, is an unconditional imperative that must be met with immediate action. The panic was so absolute that a transnational and non-partisan unity was immediately established, all grudges between world leaders being momentarily forgotten in order to avert the catastrophe. But what the much praised “bi-partisan” approach effectively meant was that even democratic procedures were de facto suspended: there was no time to engage in proper debate, and those who opposed the plan in the US Congress were quickly made to fall in with the majority. Bush, McCain and Obama all quickly got together, explaining to confused congressmen and women that there was simply no time for discussion – we were in a state of emergency, and things simply had to be done fast … And let us also not forget that the sublimely enormous sums of money were spent not on some clear “real” or concrete problem, but essentially in order to restore confidence in the markets, that is, simply to change people’s beliefs! Do we need any further proof that Capital is the Real of our lives, a Real whose imperatives are much more absolute than even the most pressing demands of our social and natural reality?”

Slavoj Žižek (via azspot)