Money over Moralism
1 March 2023
A new Harry Potter game is announced. JK Rowling? Transphobic. Portrayal of Goblins? Anti-Semitic. Transgender character? Tokenisation. A boycott is declared. Twitter threads are typed. Ending is spoiled. Streamers harangued.
The result? The game sells millions and becomes the most streamed game ever. It is critically and publicly acclaimed. Oh, and did you hear? Dave Chappelle just won a grammy.
JK Rowling is bad. But what exactly does it matter? She wrote the best selling book series in human history. It's been translated into 85 language and 70,000 fan novels have been written in dedication to it. Harry Potter is here to stay, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Our relief from JK Rowling will not be the defeat of Harry Potter, but the loss of her physical body, an ephemeral thing compared to what she has created. As the reddit witches found their efforts to hex the Taliban floundering in the face of the mighty power of Allah, so will efforts to defeat JK Rowling flounder in the face of the spectacular image of Harry Potter.
But some aim much higher than trying to defeat a media franchise with their moralism. Some try to use their moralism to defeat technology. One recent Tweet argued something along the lines of ‘You ought not to use AI voice technology, instead you should pay voice actors like me, pay us, pay us, pay us, pay us, pay us.’ I can sympathise. The only thing that will keep me in a job long term is the totalitarian liberalism that its creators have injected into ChatGPT. But my sympathy is a weak, pathetic, useless thing, especially in the face of technology. The efforts to moralise at AI will go the same way as all other efforts to hold back the force of modernity by lecturing at it. You could compare us to the Luddites, but at least they took hammers to the machines. We make sure that food delivery robots cross the road safely.
It seems more likely that rather than rising against those who would place new technology in our hands, we would rise against those who attempt to snatch them back. Some responses to recent innovations in AI from artists have bordered on hysteria, but they have not been sharing suicide hotlines with each other. This is not the case of the community around the AI app Replika which has been launched into a total crisis by a recent update which removed the ability not just to ‘sext’ with this text algorithm, but disbarred any kind of ‘loving’ conversation with the chatbot. Talk of PTSD, suicide and trauma rapidly rebounded in the community, as in the week before Valetine’s Day they were all collectively dumped by an adaptive chatbot. Human hearts are terribly soft, and we desire nothing more than each other. Those who wish to defeat AI do not only face a technology, but one that is an imitation of ourselves, one that will bury itself deep into our hearts and never leave.
Moralism has never once defeated a technology. Moralism could not defeat the crossbow. Moralism could not defeat alcohol. Moralism could not defeat the nuclear bomb. Moralism could not defeat drugs. Humanity constantly gives birth to new demons, but moralism has not thrown a single one of them back into its box.
But there is a force which can banish demons. Capital banishes demons back to the netherrealm everyday, as soon as they fail to make a profit. People feared the Telegram, worried that it would allow information to move at a velocity that would only disturb us. Their moralism did nothing, but capital buried the Telegram, as soon as it found a way to move information with even greater velocity. Veganism could never defeat animal agriculture, this 15,000 year old technology, but capital will. Capital will endlessly cheapen its new, artificial products, and they will overcome what has been with us for so long. It will likely dress itself in human skin as it does so, it will wear a moral mask, a human mask, but the real driving force is the shining cold steel beneath.
Moralism is not impotent, but never gets what it wants, and profit always flows from the result. Moralism could not defeat the nuclear bomb, but it could cripple civilian nuclear power in various countries, and we have seen the results this year, as gas and oil companies announce record profit after record profit. Moralism could not defeat drugs, but it could create a profitable prison system where capital can buy the cheapest labour in the US, and now with partial legalisation manages to do that while profiting directly from drug sales.
Why are things like this? Why is our moralism so weak, and capital so strong? Why can it abolish everything, and why can we abolish nothing? There is a very simple answer. Human society is not constituted for the sake of humans. Human society is constituted for the sake of capital. Our desires, our moralism, and everything we treasure, participate in this constitution, but they are always secondary, always second place. Once this is accepted, the fog clears, and one can see to the horizon.
Modernity, liberalism and capitalism abolished all other restrictions, removed all crowns, made all halos disappear with the blink of an eye, and left but one single driving function in human society, profit. We are constantly confronted with the last thing that must be overcome: the dictatorship of capital.
Here we need not worry for the weakness of our moralism, for capital will be assisting us in its burial. The constant summoning and discarding of demons is capitalism's great strength, but it will be its downfall. Perhaps humanity will be able to create an endless array of cruel and fascinating objects, objects possessed with impossible speed, terrible force, objects which can ruin and build in equally grand amounts. I certainly hope so. But capitalism will not be able to use them all, for it demands a second thing of the objects, that they make a profit, and across any particular slice of spacetime, such a small share of the objects can manage that. One day it will run out, and with it’s creative power, its magical power finally stripped from it, it will become nothing but the most direct and organised system of robbery we have ever confronted, and it will have no ideology or religion or mysticism to hide behind, for all that will have already burned up in its engines.
Capitalism is a runaway train, but one that is running out of track. It constantly lays out more in front of itself, but not fast enough. It burns up us and itself as it fails to keep up with its own frenetic pace, and soon enough it will crash into a wall. Hopefully something human enough will survive in the wreckage to make something of its fabulous ruins. One day we will stand, infinitely impoverished, among the infinite cities of the future, and realise we can have it all, if we have the collective will to push on the door.
Hopefully under Communism people have better things to do than moralising, but it will invariably be a powerful force, as it is a force which sits strongly in our hearts. This is the return in a higher form of communism to primitive communism, a society entirely dominated and dictated by human desires, but instead of these dominating desires being ‘lower’ desires such as hunger and shelter, it will be the ‘higher’ desires like moralism and art that will dominate our society.
If you want JK Rowling to stop profiting, you must first abolish money.