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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Book (Review): Oscar Wilde's "The Soul of Man Under Socialism"

Photography is back! But this time I continue this with a book review. Haha, I have more spare time for now as I'm currently in my holidays.

The reason why I titled the picture above as "Change Towards Humanity" is this book maybe a guideline for a more humane world. Well, do we realize that the world is getting more and more humane than ever? Well, in the past, our ancestors condemned the criminals blindly while they were sentenced to death, or being put to torture in public. Today, we say "No!" to capital punishment. Even the methods of killing a victim is subjected to the idea of punishing someone with a "painless" death.

To begin with, I began noticing this book, from one of Youtube's most popular talk clip, by one of Europe's finest philosophers, Slavoj Zizek. He included this book as his source for one of his talks called "First As Tragedy, Then As Farce". Well, Mr. Zizek was meant to criticize the idea of charity in today's world, but then I will be talking about this fact later. 

But first, do spare some time to view his clip, if you want to.

Now, all I wanted to say is, it's kinda surprisingly that this book, even though was published in the end of the 19th century, has the contents that is still relevant to the present world today. (NOTE: I am not a socialist, in ideological terms I'm for The Zeitgeist Movement's moneyless resouce-based economy (RBE). What this book generally wanted to highlight is the slavery mentality of people who are in a capitalistic world. 

With the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true, beautiful, healthy Individualism. Nobody will waste his life in accumulating things, and the symbols for things. One will live. To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.
Well, capitalism is a productivity-based ideology that focuses on supplying the demands, and thus social stratification is encouraged within a society that practices it. In Marxism, Karl Marx divided and identify 2 types of classes in a capitalist world - first is the bourgeoisie (the ruling class/corporate and business owners), and the proletariats (the working class).  To survive in such a world, one has to be a capitalist - a person who is capable to capitalize both men and machine to generate profits. In nation building, the same thing happens as the dominant party capitalizes all of its corporations and working class into competing against other nation-states. 

And thus, this system can be exploitative. Hence I will move on to:

Part 1: The System Doesn't Care A Damn About You.

I once mentioned this in my Facebook status. "One who votes and supports capitalism or any form of right-wing politics are people who are programmed to be SLAVES, a slave that works under a system that doesn't really care a damn about them". 

Indeed, we're living under a system that treats us as if we're under a human resource factory. You were born, registered as a citizen, being sent into the education system where you were told to follow the syllabus from the age of 7 to 18, and then you get your college degree and you enter the workforce. In your "career", you were told to go to work and face unnecessary stress and traffic jams from 8 am to 5 pm every weekdays just for a devaluing thing called "money". Now, with things getting busier and busier over time while the financial system continues to break down, tell me, if your life happier when you know you have to get up in time to work and face stress in the office? 

The books quotes
In a community like ours, where property confers immense distinction, social position, honour, respect, titles and other pleasant things of its kind, man can naturally be ambitious, makes it his aim to accumulate this property and goes on wearily and tediously accumulating it long after he has got far more than he wants, or can use, or enjoy or perhaps even know of. MAN, will kill himself by overwork in order to secure property...
 True, isn't it? I remembered I'd entered a direct-selling group meeting, seeing a group of people having some ambitions of wanting to achieve statuses and titles, to be rich, etc. And the sense of motivation over there was so strong that it makes me sick to think about other people saying that "I want to achieve this", "I want to achieve that" with a smile on their face. I don't say that it's wrong, but then I can feel that social disease of people. Maybe I have a strong Christianity background that makes me anti-materialism. I am able to foresee the bright future of direct-selling business like Amway, Elken, AMC, etc, but for me to interact with people who are too obsessed with materialistic goals, sorry. 

That doesn't just happen on direct-selling members, the career world also faces that. But in an office, things can be shallow and sinister. You can't feel it in a part-time job, but when you're going full time, that is another story. 

And what if technology grows in capitalism. The incentives for men helped humanity to create more modern machines which will eventually take over human labour, which brings us to...

Part 2: The Rise of Automated Labour. 

"Human Slavery Is Wrong, Insecure and Demoralising." - Oscar Wilde. 

Up to the present, man has been, to a certain extent, the slave of machinery, and there is something tragic in the fact that as soon man had invented a machine to do his work he began to starve.
In the past, there are people working as lift operators, factory workers, traffic men (the ones who were then replaced by traffic lights).  Today, these jobs are gone. Wanna know why? Technology has allow us to create machineries to overcome human labour. Machines are unlike human beings. They never complain, they no need any income, and they are more efficient than human. Today, we have this thing called "Artificial Intelligence". Slowly, technology will replace human labour, this is a fact. Our system has to change. 

This is a good example for the modern world. The picture above is taken in 2007, where you are seeing the world's first automated restaurant in Nuremberg, Germany. Named's Baggers is the name. >link< More restaurants like this means more unemployment. 

How about this? Automated robotic surgery? I'm not sure if our own National Heart Institute (IJN) of Malaysia has this machinery or not, but this is surely a state-of-the-art technology that may make millions of surgeons jobless in the future. >link< 

Humans have to change the way we live. If we continue our capitalistic ways of living, more people will be jobless, homeless and all will enter poverty. 

There is no doubt at all that this is the future of machinery....machinery will be doing all the unpleasant work.
 Indeed, machines will set humans free of work nature. 

Part 3: Instead of Charity, Why Not Redesign Our Culture?

You see, in the past, I hate Karl Marx and Communism, thanks to the history books. I thought Communism was a form of dictatorship that enslaves the people and cause the Communist nations to spread their ideology through violence (like during the Emergency 1948-1960). But, when we were taught about Marxism in college, I felt that Marx actually wanted to create Utopia, the perfect world you and I wanted to live in. What makes Communism corrupted is the greed of power. A Communist nation should be classless and property-less (also means, moneyless).

And thus, Oscar Wilde proposes an classless, non-capitalism individualism, for the rights of the individual. 

During the Cold War, there is this battle of public opinion between capitalism and communism. And I can say is, both ideologies were corrupted by greed of power and profit. Today, communism went into socialism, while capitalism has evolved into a new form of itself called "Cultural Capitalism", according to philosopher, Zizek. 

The capitalism we are in today encourages us to be an environmentalist. The Earth Day, the green policy of brands and corporations, and the donations organized and sponsored by them - all of them are categorized in charity. They make you wanted to give to society, help the needy, make the world greener, etc. 

But here, according to the book, Wilde argues that....
The majority of people spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exeggerated altruism. They found themselves surrounded by an hideous poverty, hideous ugliness, hideous starvations. It is inevitable that they should be strongly moved by all of this. The emotions of men are stirred more quickly than men's intelligence.....Thus, they very seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task of remedying the evils that they see. But their remedies do not cure the disease, they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are PART of the disease..
Like the example of Zizek in the video above, when you enter a Starbucks shop and they tell you that part of the money you spent on them are used to ensure that the coffee bean owners get the fair shares in their business, do you really trust them? A few years ago, there is an airline company added a green surcharge to its passengers, telling that we are also responsible of air pollution while we were travelling by air. Tell me, are they using that excuse to gain extra profit? Think about it. 

With all the encouragements by corporations, a.k.a, corporate social responsibility (CSR) going around, you can feel the sense of hypocrisy around them. 

Why not redesign the world instead? Haiti wouldn't face much medical and resource crisis in a more socialist world, I believe.

So, in conclusion, this book, though published in 1891, is a very timeless advice for humanity, as we are working towards that now. We have the technology that unites man, with all the social networkings, blogs and instant messengers. People should read this book more, regardless any ideologies that you support. At the end of the day, it's all about humanity and empathy

....Restore society to its proper condition of a thoroughly healthy organism, and insure the material well-being of each member of the community. 
To Christians, Wilde also wanted to leave this message to you. 
 What Jesus meant was this. He said to a man, "You have a wonderful personality. Develop it. Be yourself. Don't imagine that your perfection lies in accumulating or possessing external things. your perfection is inside of you. If only you could realise that, you wouldn't want to be rich. Ordinary riches can be stolen from a man. REAL riches cannot. 
 Thanks for the patience of reading it. If you want to read the whole book, >click here< Have a nice day. =)

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