The Moment of Truth — February 20, 1999
Corporate Language Darwinism
Hi, I’m mejeffdorchen and welcome to the Moment of Truth. The one artifact of the broadcast universe that guides our gaze away from the mad hypnotic visage of capitalist media, the one artifact of the broadcast universe that we can focus on with our entire depth of soul, and through it, as through a prism, glimpse the richly hued spectrum of human possibility.
Very early in the history of this segment, the Moment of Truth, we talked about mass culture and the kind of world and the kind of people it describes. We said that mass media and the culture of extreme capitalism tell a propagandistic story about a world in which everything can be bought processed packaged and sold. Or more accurately, they filter out everything that CAN’T be bought processed packaged and sold. In doing so they project before us an image of ourselves as a society of shallow, munching robotic drones who live to purchase, unwrap, and consume things. Mass media and the culture of extreme capitalism, through their editorial process of selecting only those elements of images they need to tell the story of buying processing packaging and selling, create a language organism that exists in a state of genetic purity that actual xenophobic, racist human beings can only fantasize about attaining. This being, this language organism, is racially pure. In the Darwinian world of the language beings, it is the master race.
See, once upon a time, the original language fish crawled up out of the primordial ooze of grunts and screeches and oinks to breathe air. The language lungfish begat mutant language organisms that each founded its own dynasty of language creatures. Eventually there evolved an ecology of language mammals running around the grasslands. There was the language of poetry, the language of religion, the language of justice, the language of music, the language of communal cooperation, the language of love, the language of healing, the language of war – oh, many many species and subspecies of language beasts galloping around the grasslands. But it was the language of commerce that was the first to fashion a tool, the first to walk erect, the first to manipulate its environment. Or so the story goes. And because of its superiority, it came to dominate the other languages, subjugating them, enslaving them.
But though the language of commerce ruled over the many nations of language creatures, and borrowed from the customs and lore of its subjects, never did it allow the seed of those inferior language races to pollute the purity of its bloodline. Certainly it borrowed techniques from the language of poetry, but never did it allow itself to be infected with the idea of the beauty of words for their own sake. Yes, commerce borrowed the idea of paradise from the language of religion, but its mind was far too rational to fall prey to actual spiritual revelation. It tossed around the terms of justice, but never was it just. It could parrot the melodies of music, but never did it fall under music’s spell. It spoke about community, but never gave anything of itself that it wasn’t sure of recovering later, with interest. It whispered and cooed like a lover, but never did it love. Met the sick with a look of compassion on its face, but never offered a treatment without extorting the highest possible fee. Even in war it spoke the language of patriotism but had loyalty for no one, playing each faction against the other for its own profit.
And it has been just this ability to steal from the other races, this flexible and absorbent quality, coupled with the genetic constitution to resist being corporally polluted by the inferior races, that gave the language of commerce its evolutionary edge. It is this twin nature of commerce that has given it dominance over the world of language organisms and nurtured its development into the master race we know today as mass media and the culture of extreme capitalism.
The question is, are the other, less successful languages dying out? Well, they may be on the ropes, evolutionarily speaking. Those in our society who speak a language other than the dominant one of buying processing packaging and selling don’t have it so easy. We know poets are usually miserable – they often feel misunderstood. Of course they are! They’re speaking a marginalized language. The language of capitalism is on everyone’s lips. How many people carry poems around in their wallets? Not many. Why would you? You can’t trade a poem for a month of living in an apartment, unless you’re really lucky. But you don’t even have to be able to read the pieces of paper with the message of capitalism on them. We carry them around with us everywhere and their message is instantly grasped by everyone.
But I don’t believe that mass media and the culture of extreme capitalism will ever entirely starve the other languages out. Without these other languages capitalism would have no vocabulary, since it long ago lost its own. It would be a skeleton language, a grammar and syntax with no words to fill it up.
Because originally an economy was a system of moving resources and services around among a society of people. But capital has evolved away from that original source of its existence. It had to separate itself from the idea of the needs of a society of people because that idea weakened its language and its purpose. It was weighing it down, keeping it from soaring free. We might call the idea that resources should move according to the needs of human beings in a society the gold standard of economic language. Once economic thinking unhooked itself from this idea – or "went off the gold standard" as it were – it became a language based entirely in abstract wealth. These abstractions are only given life by attaching themselves like leeches to things in other language organisms that people care about.
Let’s take, for example, children. Real human beings care about children. Parents, supposedly, care about children. The language parents speak is about caring about children. Insurance companies steal from that language. They fill their skeleton syntax up with words about caring about children. But we all know that they don’t give a tinker’s turd about children, they only care about taking your money and hopefully never having to give you anything in exchange for it.
The face of mass media and the culture of extreme capitalism is a babbling paper mask with nothing behind it but the skeleton of a language that barely props it up, barely keeps it from crumpling to the ground. But the mask is adding more and more cultural elements to itself. It’s becoming an overburdened collage of that which it steals from us. The day may come when the mask is so heavy and the language supporting it so empty that the entire structure will collapse under its own absurdity. That may even be beginning to happen. I don’t really have any evidence for that. I just feel like ending on an upbeat note.
This has been mejeffdorchen with the Moment of Truth.