I have been involved in discussions on the Vegan Freak forums with a number of people about the links between speciesism and capitalism, and have had a number of sticky questions raised that I have dwelt on for tangible examples for some time. Whilst testing by bike trailer set-up along the waterfront trail in the city I am currently in, I crossed paths with several people enjoying being outside, the ambiance of the waterside and being (at least partly) away from the machinations if industrial capital/urban sprawl and the relations of capital more broadly
Some of these people were walking with friends, lovers, animals or riding bikes, etc. Others still were sitting by the shores of the harbour dangling a line in the water. This site made me reflect on thoughts I had dwelt on in the past and a number of recollections emerged. I must state that my thoughts relate to the concept of fishing, specifically as a ‘pastime’ and not a ‘sport’ – although there is a significant cross-over in what I am thinking (I may come back at another time to the ‘sport’ angle).
I often recall a story – its origins I can’t pinpoint, and one I have heard many versions of from many different people – about someone who is found sitting by a river kitted up with all the regalia one who goes fishing generally takes with them. They are sitting there, yet the line is not out. What are they doing?
Before I get to that question, the same seems also true for fathers who take their sons (it is generally portrayed as a gendered role) on such outings. The bonding that being together facilitates is had irrespective if any animal is caught and/or killed. This is especially true if nothing is caught. I have also heard stories as to their being no hooks on the ends of lines. This can ward off any potential questions/comments that may arise (with the explanation this will become clearer).
For me both the source of such questions/comments gets to the crux of (one aspect of) the mediation of our lives via capital – and it is so pervasive and hegemonic that we are not even aware of it. Why did this person/these father-son events need said gear with them? My interpretation is that to be sitting at a river-bank without being productive is unquestioningly seen a waste of time. The boundaries between work and leisure are so eroded in a society mediated by capital as is ours that work is life and life is work. We cannot be seen to be sitting quietly enjoying nature – we need to be doing something. This is encompassed on that we also feel that we need to be doing something that further reinforces, panoptically, a perceived need to have the gear with us (to draw a broad analogy/paint with a broad brush).
Our lives are mediated via capital…
There is, however, a positive to this. The crossover and/or blurring of the boundaries between life and work also has at its root a fundamental loci for fighting the machinations of capital. Antonio Negri implies/refers to this as part of his socialised worker. As life is mediated via capital, capital is mediated via life. Our workspaces and time are shifted to be more accommodating of our own individualities and resistances to the homogenising of capital. This is something that I can only foresee as at its initial stages – with the effects of capital in mediating what our individualities are (and the adaptability of capital being a locus of its ability to exercise power over) still having a strong foothold. As with all things, it is up to us to seek the necessary self-empowerment, to see the prison within which we live everyday, and to work towards freedom for all outside of these shackles.
First you must discover whose face lies behind this mask, but you must never know my face…
The above quote is purposely taken out of context, and for its applicable, however different, meanings for capital. If we were to see its face, would we see much more than our mediated selves…?
To return to the issue of fishing, this is one example of how our inter- and intra-personal relations are mediated by capital in such an unmarked manner. Consider the term ‘partner’ as used to describe a lover. I myself am guilty of this (though never again I hope). It was adopted and is still used by many attempting to escape the rigidity and homogenisation of relations as dictated by capital. Whilst it can mean equality, it is both a term and an expression of the relations of capital unmarkedly entering and mediating our lives apparently outside of capital relations. Before things can change, or even be expected to change, it is these small issues that need to be seriously addressed at least at the same time as working towards the bigger aspects of change also essential.
If you have not yet worked out where the above excerpt originates, perhaps the following will help:
Anarchy wears two faces, both creator and destroyer. Thus destroyers topple empires, make a canvas of clean rubble where creators can build a better world… you never told me what I am supposed to do
As the excerpts from the original, written V for Vendetta indicates, there is no prescription: to do so is not merely futile, it is oppressive. We need to work things out for ourselves and reject such homogenising for what it is. Seeing the mediation of our lives via capital on all levels and working to redress them is a big step. How can we fully criticise others for letting capital mediate their everyday attempts to escape it (i.e. fishing) whilst we still allow it to mediate ours (i.e. partner)?