We find the having mode in everyday experiences when switching on our TV sets, touching the keys of the command buttons of our remote controllers’ eternal ‘clicking’ sounds, watching the latest Youtube video, radio, technologies and just things, consumption of things everywhere including how we relate to people. Regarding sexual perversions, the bombardment of huge assess and massive tits is at the forefront of the imaginary of any walking pedestrian or couch potato. Thus when talking about sex, this crazy society craves impossible bodies and objectifications of people damaging both men and women’s own self-esteem and decreasing control over their lives, especially the young ones. Some even talk of regimes of social control based on the image of the ass: the Ass Regime (la Culocracia, Feinmann). Instead, a healthy and enriching being-mode would allow us to feel well with ourselves, feel comfortable and good about our bodies, sex and health. Thus opening up possibilities for fearless relationships with others and within our self, outside the boundaries of eternal marriage (understood as possession), the family order or the possessive effects of relationships.
In my previous post I explained that the having-mode existence rested on the idea of private property, profit and power. In today’s capitalist society, private property (from Latin privare “to deprive of”) by one master is elevated to the level of sacredness where a minority deprives others of its use or enjoyment. That is, excluding others from the commons; access to something that pertains to everyone. Its effects are worrisome transforming everybody and everything into something dead and subjected to the Other; the authority of power. Its illusion rests on an idea of permanency, that consecrates the object to its master. However, as Fromm explains, this is just an delusion to those who hold onto something for social position, privilege and power. Permanency is not sacred and our relationship to others and objects can change over time and our way of looking at things. It can be ultimately destroyed, it can be lost or it can lose its value. That is, it is not permanent. For instance, your relationship to your house as a having mode may be subject to immediate change, you can lose it due to evictions or just climatological reasons or it could well be that it loses its value like it did during the financial crisis of 2007/8.
The relationship between the subject and the object, money for instance is one where my self does not exist but I am because I have money. My property constitutes myself and my identity. I am because I have X, hence my lack of freedom. If the having mode is about identifying with the object, the object has me. Hence, the having mode of existence is not established by an alive productive process between subject and object; it makes things of both object and subject. The relationship is one of deadness, not aliveness. In the same manner those who are deprived of a roof over their heads, are excluded because they are not X. They are nothing to those in a having society.
Our relationship with things and others go far beyond just depriving others of their access to goods, and possessing a sense of entitlement over things that supposedly pertain to us. It is as if by magic one person would have created their own self in the present by having already a house, a job, a marriage with someone (preferably sexy), lots of money, an awesome car and power. This idea of the self-made man (always masculine of course like Risto Mejide) is completely ideological in the sense that it normalises a norm by which a society functions only to mould the characters of its members based on: individualism, selfishness, masculine power, competitiveness and greedy ambition. The norm forces you to think that stepping over others, cadavers in the words of some entrepreneurial gurus, is necessary and good (for your own sake) in order to reach the summit of full success. This norm affects everyone, even the poor people who also cherish the having mode- the little possessions they have and what they ought to become-. Their role model is someone with fame, money, well-spoken, controversial, ego-maniacal, etc.
The power of the having-mode is felt everywhere. Its extension has reached its highest frequencies: its norms and the deprivation effects of private property has socialised across the whole of society – a totality as some people would call it -. So much so that it has even affected the way we relate to our closest relatives including loved ones, children and ‘friends’. We talk about others as if they pertained to us in a possessive manner, and not only that; we use them instrumentally in our favour which is even worse so that they become disposable bodies like kleenex tissue papers. We call them when we need them and when we don’t we just deprive them of us and throw them away.
This is obvious by just taking a look at how we speak: we talk about my girlfriend, my doctor, my lawyer, my friends, etc without even questioning our sense of appropriation of others. Love understood as possession (jealousy, domestic violence, gender violence, physical abuse), friends understood as only immediate satisfaction of our own self, fun and business networking (egos and beneficial connections), family relations only reduced to possessive faculties and rituals of possessiveness (marriage, houses and heritage money). If we look at this we soon realise that even our micro relations amongst our closest people are commodified.
Fromm states this very succinctly:
“Persons are transformed into things; their relations to each other assume the character of ownership. “Individualism”, which in its positive sense, means liberation from social chains, means in the negative sense, “self-ownership”, the right – and the duty – to invest one’s energy in the success of one’s own person.”
This reminds me of decrypt people such as ‘lady Beckham’ or the charlatan ‘Risto Mejide’ or even that guy from social dynamics called ‘Tyler’. Their ego is the most important thing they hold dear to. They are blasted in social media and stupid TV shows, where they create their own image based on an aggressive market place where the latest news and rumours about them are the norm. Their words, their actions, their expressions, they way they dress, act, their names used as trademarks, social status, fame, drugs, and possessions they hold. This performance on stage and, perhaps even outside it, foments a given identity which everybody wishes to emulate. Why? Well, the having-mode loves this kind of people and their media success. They act out as figureheads of society, who are venerated by the young and are consumed much the same way as biscuits from a bottomless jar. You consume it by acquisitive means, they transit into your being for some time, you attempt to emulate them, you fail and then you replace this with other figureheads, then you buy a new acquisition, and like that ad infinitum. You never really know who you are, what you desire in life and how you can become an authentic person. The poverty of the having-mode.
Marx resounded this critique of capitalism and its demential aspects well in the 1840s:
‘ The less you are and the less you express your life- the more you have and the greater is your alienated life…Everything the economist takes away from you in the way of life and humanity, he restores to you in the form of money and wealth’
How do we allow this to happen? Well, it happens over time by a complicated process of indoctrinations, where resistance is reduced with rewards, norms, punishments and fitting a set of hegemonic ideas – what is normal and what is not-. So engrained is the idea of the having mode that questioning becomes uncomfortable and even violent. Imagine if you were told everyday that you would become someone famous and rich, but in the end you become little known except in your own neighbourhood with a medium salary in order to subsist (this happens in reality). It is difficult to assimilate this situation and become frustrated since our identity has become so attached to having things and treating people only in our own self-interest (in the image of these impostures). So what do we do in those cases where we know that it is shit out there and that those ideas are completely false. Fromm would say that we enact self-repression. Others just become cynics but still do it (Zizek). One could endless think about why people still continue to alienate themselves, but to list a whole set of theories would be a task beyond this article. I will only explain Fromm’s ideas.
We suppress the truth of reality and our own will to become someone else. Someone authentic and free of all this non-sense and decide to alienate ourselves. However, can we ever know for certain the truth of reality? And how can we de-alienate ourselves from this totality of capitalism? Freedom for Fromm is not absolute, because subjects live within a given structure. Freedom is not only freedom from a structure but also the freedom to grow according to the laws of the structure of human existence (autonomous restrictions). What would this structures look like and how would we determine them?
In later posts I will explain what it could mean to de-commodify our society engendering a more fulfilling good life in the being–mode.
Finally, the having-mode necessarily produces the desire for power. A supposedly necessary characteristic to control other living beings and break with any kind of resistance. Based on a Hobbesian understanding of the insatiable desire of human beings for lust, greed and power in all instances, I (notice the I) ought to protect myself and my private property from the desires of others and their lust for more. Needless to say, this requires force, and a sense of security for the power-elite. Their foundation is based on the defence of private property and their capital accumulation by violent means. From this we can say that if the having-mode is based on possession across all areas of life within a capitalist system, we can state that it is sustained by violence across it. We call this systemic violence.