Invisible Plastic Shovels

In Baudrillard’s Challenge: A Feminist Reading, Victoria Grace takes politics to the playground. Liberals and conservatives are like children fighting over broken toys in a wet sandbox—punching, slapping, and kicking each other where the sun don’t shine. Our wounds are real but these battles are nothing more than simulated political sideshows trending before they (never really) happen.

While some push for a wall to prevent illegals from stealing American jobs and receiving Social Security benefits, in 2015 the income levels of the top 1% reached a new high while the bottom 99% posted incremental gains.

Migrant workers have clearly rigged tax laws in their favor.

While some insist that Obama is coming for our guns, suicide rates in the United States surged to a 30-year high in 2014, with more than 50% of all cases involving firearms.

Guess Obama missed those homes.

While some label climate change a hoax, a recent study says we can expect the oceans to rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet by 2100, enough to swamp cities across the east coast.

Millions of Americans drowning in debt will slowly drown in their easy chairs.

There’s a common enemy here. To paraphrase James Carville, the Ragin’ Cajun democratic strategist: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Long before economics became a science, Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations in 1776. In it Smith refers to the Invisible Hand that guides self-interested citizens in their relentless pursuit of objects, property and status. When hardworking entrepreneurs utilize laissez-faire economic policies to increase their bottom lines, society as a whole benefits. Free markets magically improve lives and deliver us from the evils of bloated government bureaucracies.

So much has changed since 1776. Smith knew nothing of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, junk bonds, adjustable rate mortgages, or tax-evading multinational corporations defined as people.

There’s a dark side to global capitalist expansion we can’t deny: greed, excess, a politics of exploitation and exclusion. A blatant disregard for non-human lives and the environment. Poverty, starvation and the spread of disease. Collective despair. Mass incarceration. Soaring anxiety. Obesity. So much obesity. War drones. Amazon drones. Trump Tower. The Clinton Foundation.

One week from the general election it’s a jungle gym out there. As our teachers, parents and legal guardians hang from the monkey bars, we the children fight over invisible plastic shovels in the quicksand that is perpetually now, hyper-connected, consumer capitalism.

Online Bating

Ever the provocateur, Baudrillard tells us in Baudrillard Live about “the story of the woman to whom a man sends an ardent love letter” (p. 110). “She asks him what part of her seduced him the most. What else can he answer? Her eyes, of course.”

The plot twist: “He receives in the mail, wrapped in brown paper, the woman’s eye.”

The ultimate play of appearances, a literal seduction: “She loses an eye, he loses face.”

Who writes ardent love letters today? Who sends anything in the mail?

The web eliminates distance and, paradoxically, my desire for intimacy. No time for relationships or sexual relations: today I have at my fingertips an endless stream of naughty amateurs with fully functioning lady parts and bills to pay.

If “Amber” ever asks, here’s what about her seduces me the most:

  • her webcam
  • her microphone
  • her keyboard
  • her mouse
  • her modem
  • her internet speed
  • her Wi-Fi connection
  • her ISP
  • her IP address
  • her domain host
  • her SSL protocol
  • her firewall
  • her customer service department
  • her virus protection
  • the vacant look on her face
  • the fact she accepts American Express