Spiritual Medicine and The Dissolution of Workplace Faux Solidarity

-Margaret Atwood

-Margaret Atwood

The law of Diminishing returns is an economic law that has a formal use which refers to production and optimization. It is essentially an age-old law that helped push along the optimized entanglement of imperialism and the world market. It showed that to expand your endless accumulation of capital you cannot maintain the same output with the same space, the law indicates that you must develop to expand the workforce, or else the returns of profit begin to diminish as you grow your workforce. This is of course in the 1700s was when capitalism was still in its baby steps, and the expansion of the market was not yet realized and before there were other functional yet dehumanizing tactics used to increase capital. But casually, the principle of diminishing returns is that the more you use something, the less value you get from it. This is a term I often use when thinking academically about day to day bullshit, it is a synonym for getting less out of each new thing. I find it tumbling around my mind when speaking of growing older and increasing my debt while trying to catch up to my happiness. At times it feels as though the things that are expected out of life, at least in terms of what my family has always sought after or pined for me is just building a monument to nowhere.

The things that bring me closer to myself are education, laughter, and food. I find these things are not distractions, they fuel the fire. To love the people to have a reason to live and to fight for the assumed human potential, which is devoid of wage work and accumulation, we require spiritual medicine. In this forever push for isolation and dehumanization that capitalism or better yet neo-liberalism attaches to us the trend is to become so spiritually bankrupt where the idea of even a speck of communalism or the radical notion that people can be so great as well as so fucked up. And regardless of either that we deserve to live in a world that we can fully realize ourselves outside of the attachment to a job or a debt or an antagonism that melts our heart into puddles of helplessness. I believe in education because it is a collective endeavor even as an autodidact, we can find that pulling out the words in concert with people, food and or laughter exponentially swells the heart. The institution of school is a tricky thing to navigate, and as I hold my light through its hallways, I find traditional learning rarifies and often works to separate the heart and mind. I am vigilant in my observation of this and push to not let it rip the strings attaching the two for in my tribulations with the social world I have found myself easily frustrated and resentful and hide away behind the walls of the institution. And there is nothing braver than a small dog behind a tall fence. It is hard to reconcile the hurt that can come from social conflicts, and interpersonal guilts and restoration, but it is worth it for when you work to connect with the people and choose to love the people in all there humanness you join and enjoy yourself. It gives fuel to the fire of a burning love forged in resistance struggle or just a reason to live a life of contentful dissent.

You cant always grow where you are planted and blossoming without care is nearly impossible. If we want to bend with the undergrowth snaking out a way to the sun, we have to move beyond the previously known into the unknown. This idea of 'Worldmaking' is a radical endeavor that is achieved through day to day compassion, reflection, fluidity, and at risk for cliche plant analogies' constant watering.' Its harder to love people when you are serving them, I know. The dynamic sucks mostly within the context it is in with wage work. Work is not something avoidable and is not actually unenjoyable, it is something we do, but when we get to choose is the context where we flourish. At my current job, us working together has a type of solidarity, but it's not against bosses or the powers that are so obviously exploiting us, but against the customers who are often times unapologetically entitled and/or oblivious to the tragic betrayal that is wage work and its effect on the human. I dont say this as a neoliberal approach to burnout or working to change your attitude towards the customer so that you can be a better cog in the machine. I just mean the context makes us think we are a totally different species. It is systemic the efforts to pull your mind from your body, at my work you are not allowed to wear anything political, but you can have tattoos and colored hair, they encourage it just as long as it does not distract or deter the customer. They push us to 'allow' all people inside the store, and treat each customer with respect, inferring towards the homeless or drug afflicted as long as they are paying customers you treat them with respect. Human dignity is alloted to those that grease the gears of commerce. All others have to piss in an alley or sit far away from human sight. Fellow employees eagerly gossip about 'crazy people' who come in and shoplifters they caught; it honestly bums me out. The way work creates us into a predictable tribe in a mutual struggle gets us so little but really separates us so so much. Wage work is isolating, embarrassing, and is the absence of real human life, it is a nonspace where politics, history, and time do not exist. You just mingle in the soon to be plastic waste and suck air awaiting the hour where you can be human again. You work because if you didn't, you'd be homeless, not because you are a part of something worthwhile or are building a product you get to see and be proud of, you are separated from the ends. In the workplace, Mutual struggle does not mean the same thing until it is brought up in terms of resisting. At work, capitalism has adapted to create calming effects of mutual struggle; it's just like a communal complaining machine which binds us in the horror of our situation. We are placated.

What we want is freedom, but what we tumble towards is far from it. I call myself a social anarchist. These are beliefs I hold because to me, in my limited research, this is the most closely related to an indigenous way of community building and structure, within the context of late capitalism, of course. It's a struggle to be both idealistic and 'real' at the same time. It requires both in a world that rips the heart from the mind. It is necessary in a world where we need radical ideas that choose the love of the people as a source for resistance power as opposed to just pure anger. You need both love and anger; they are building blocks of hope. What ideologies I choose to lean towards do not really matter label wise. I read that in many South American revolutionary struggles, they claimed socialism or communism to call out for international support. You need that when the imperialist empires are continually looking for weak points. But the terms never really stuck because the economic ideas did not fit the indigenous or farmer populations wholly. I think it is good to see this as an example of how these worldmaking concepts are best applicated within a fluid realization. We learn from the mistakes, and if you have the people indeed at heart the title makes no difference, we can pull from what we know and discover what we don't; believing that dialectical application is required and being ideological and 'real' is how we can make it work next time. It really doesn't matter to those I work alongside, nor do I ever talk to them about my political labels. I see them for them, and I am sure they understand me for me, to add politics sometimes makes a separation or a correction where one is not needed or even exists. There is no point, the life of a wage worker is political in an of itself, we are one of the same with differing politics. I see this as well in the realm of democratic socialists, socialists, communists, revolutionary socialist, or any of the many razors cut differences of those who want the same thing. An actual democratic society free from the state. One free of diminishing returns, because when we are free of the concept of wage work, the economic theory of diminishing returns goes away too. Things get old when you have no choice in the matter, you no longer enjoy things when they are unavoidable obligations. We want real autonomy, where the risks belong to us where we can find safety in danger if we so please.

As workers we talk of wants and inundated with liberal 'progress' we reach for low hanging fruit, so low its reached the floor and we pick up the rotten bits and consider it a win. Liberal standpoints prefer to ask for representation or progress through a system that is designed to accumulate wealth through extraction via our labor and imperialism worldwide. The empires have no interest in giving us true freedom that would deem us unprofitable free people. Work is inevitable, and we all want to work on the things we see as purposeful and sincere. That is a significant difference between wage work and chosen work. We are all wage workers forced to price our labor low and sell it to employers so that we can survive in a system that requires it. We don't mind work, we just hate being ripped off, we don't hate Mondays, we hate capitalism. The willful disbanding, investing in the myth of meritocracy and knowing we will always just be slugging away at a mediocre job unless we fully invest in the exploitation of others. These are bits in the cycle of oppression we buy into or are forced into I'd say under the current system. I see it when people become resentful towards those that do not work as much as them or label others LAZY for free time. How easily homeless are punished for being poor, while the precariousness of our own situation forces our hand into this judgemental panic where we other so many like the homeless in a fever dream illusion that we could NEVER be that. Seeing increased criminalization of mental health, drug, or monetary problems as simple moral failings as opposed to structural problems. The solution to rent is to own property, which is a snake eating its tail.

What you want is a type of truly democratic philosophy that allows us to reach our true human potential. The name matters less because anarchism, communism, socialism, or whatever you believe to be the best option for humans are all social theories only honed in on through practice. You cant expect theory to magically produce perfection there is a balance of praxis and theory which needs fluidity and less rigid standards. The truth I believe is that all anarchists are socialist, but not all socialists are anarchists, and the two could benefit from coalition building, and when post-revolution comes, the outcome could benefit from an amalgamation of theories put into practice. The most important part of revolutionary socialism is to learn from history and think dialectally and apply practice for what is relevant to time and place. The most important part of resistance is the day to day love practice of compassionate reflection. You have to find the things you find beautiful the things that make you rich in ways money could never afford. When you discover those things, you concoct that spiritual medicine and create bigger batches that can heal more than just yourself.

Richard Gutierrez