07.25.2014

All Power to the Pack Rats

In the sleek Apple future, our "outdated" possessions are turned into symbols of poverty.

The Apple ideology is sleek and clean.

It proposes a lifestyle without attachments or clutter, where people — unburdened by the “fuzz” of possessions — are free to chase down every desire. Like a nomad on the Steppe, movement, horizon, and conquest are the only concern.

The room of the modern person is stark, but in its simplicity it exudes wealth and sophistication. There is just an iPad and a simple bed or futon. None of the old-time accouterments, which signified intelligence, artistic interest, or a curiosity about the world, are evident. There are no magazines, books, or records anywhere. Just perhaps some high priced toiletries in the bathroom. Everything she needs is on the iCloud.

Things, stuff, and doo-dads are just hang-ups after all, serving to drag us into our past and harness us to prior ideas of who we were and what we were supposed to be. The Apple world is apart from the old world. It is one where we can be anything, free of the wretched past. Like our room, our body is also clean and shaven, streamlined for action.

The Apple proposition is a 1960s futurist-zen minimalist throwback, lifted from Nordic designers like Panton and Saarinen, whose functionalism was influenced by movements like De Stijl and the Bauhaus.

While modernism proposed ways of dealing with the cataclysmic upheaval brought on by industrialism, Apple’s proposition is the Western capitalist commercial: freedom, ease, and cool control of one’s environment.

We’re encouraged to lose our possessions. Music? Store it on the iCloud. Books? Store it on the iCloud. Movies, magazines, newspapers, TV — all are safely stored in the ether and not underfoot or stuffed in a closet. It’s a modernist monastery where the religion is Apple itself.

Meanwhile, those who have hung onto possessions are castigated, jeered at, and painted as fools.

The hit A&E TV show Hoarders identifies people with things as socially malignant, grotesque, primitive, dirty, bizarre. In a word: poor. Apple has turned the world upside down in making possessions a symbol of poverty and having nothing a signifier of wealth and power.

This is actually a bourgeois sensibility, an aesthetic of Calvinists and other early Protestant capitalists. While wealth adornment was a no-no, extraordinary wealth accumulation was a sign of godliness and beatitude. These bean counters were pioneers of the modern aesthetic: owning things was considered vulgar, having obscene piles of money/capital beyond what one could ever use, divine.

The anti-stuff crowd invokes Buddhism and Communism-lite in their put-down of possessions and the people who “hoard” them. It’s supposed to be a sign of superstition, a hang-up, a social disease, greedy, sick. People who have things are derided as “fetishists.” Why would one have a record collection when all information is available online to be had by the technologically savvy?

Why would one have a bookshelf when Google has taken all the book content in the world to be dispersed through their beneficent magnanimity? Books are heavy, dirty, dusty, and disintegrate into your lungs. Why should there be encyclopedias when there is the WikiWorld?

Why should there be record stores, shopping areas, kiosks, video stores, movie houses, bookstores, libraries, schools, theaters, opera houses, parks, government buildings, meeting houses, et al? Public spaces, markets, and interacting with one’s surroundings are primeval, germy and dangerous. After all, it can all be done online. The only thing one needs is Whole Foods, some hip bars, and an airport to jet to Burma before it gets lame.

This is fine for the cyber elite; they can live as they wish. But why is their ideology impressed on all of us through this shame-based propaganda? Why is the “hoarder” so loathed by the Apple authorities?

Because she is feared.

The hoarder has “things” after all, items like books and records that are clues to a past when things were stores of knowledge, signifiers, totems of meaning. The cyber lords want it all destroyed. The library must be cleaned of nasty old books and filled with computers. The record collector must renounce his or her albums and replace them with an iPod.

This is an obvious concern if the multi-billion dollar iTunes is to effectively rein in recalcitrant stragglers in a market it dominates so entirely, selling “songs” — which are, for them, just puffs of free digital smeg-phemera — for 99 cents a pop. No resistance to the realm can be tolerated.

But it’s not only the money they make from iTunes or their various other virtual marketplaces — which have left all physical businesses shuttered (aside from fro-yo joints, nail salons, and gin mills) — that they care about.

The computer lords want to control everything, and central to controlling all things is controlling perception. Perception of the way things are, the way things work, and what’s happened in history so that they can frame their version of events and control the narrative; mind-controlling the masses to make them into better, more compliant consumers.

Just as governments spend enormous sums of money on textbooks, monuments, films, and museums which heroize themselves and frame their particular version of history, the computer overlords are concerned about the myths of the culture. Their ascendency must seem inevitable, brilliant, brave, noble, just, and right. The “stuff” that the hoarder retains might, however, just tell a story, which refutes or challenges their version of events in some way.

The record collection or magazine or newspaper might reveal some clue to a social movement or trend or fashion or sensibility that defies their moronic stranglehold on consciousness. A burp of resistance. A clue to a way out. A signal that life doesn’t actually depend on high-speed internet access. And the physicality of the item infers that things meant something once, that everything wasn’t always a senseless, equivocal post on  Tumblr.

Of course, the “hoarders” who are profiled on the A&E show are extreme examples of people who hold on to things, but the message is nonetheless clear: the “hoarders” who are ridiculed, shamed, and “saved” on the television are meant to tar all owners of stuff with their brush.

The shaming of targeted “hoarders” is intended specifically to cajole, bully, and embarrass the population into giving up everything they have; not just possessions but ideas, ethics, rights to ownership (both intellectual and otherwise), privacy, decency, justice, fair treatment, and human rights. In the Apple-internet age we are expected to surrender absolutely everything; anything less is filthy and deranged “hoarding.”

All content is free for the internet lords who dispense it — or not — at their pleasure.

Apple Inc. is often seen to be selling an image or signifier of a lifestyle, but for them Apple is not just the means to life, but is reality itself. Apple demands that everyone throw out all their other possessions for their ersatz mid-century plastic designs. These devices, which never stop upgrading and are therefore almost immediately obsolete, present a world where it is only through Apple that we get our information, our culture, our relationships, our sense of self, our love.

Apple is the big apple … the world, the cosmos, sin, and godliness, and you’ve got to have it every day.

Apple’s proposal would be impossible without the coordination of their dear ally, the Swedish mega-corporation and original “i” demon, “Ikea.” No dorm room or young person’s house is free of middle-brow-minimalist Ikea things on which they place their Apple products. “iKea” manufactures items which paradoxically comply with the iWorld’s “anti-stuff” doctrine: instantaneous furniture and utensils created by the exploited that disintegrate or explode when moved.

How long before we’re convinced that hands, arms, legs, and appendages are just bothersome?

The cyber-lords have already convinced us that maps, paper, pens, and even push buttons are somehow incredibly inconvenient and clumsy, leaving us scraping and pawing like drooling bug life on their flat digital dildos. Google’s search engines and applications have likewise taught us to refrain from using our apparently out-of-date and hopelessly inefficient brains.

What’s next? Giving up all thought, consciousness, history, and agency.

Hoarders are the only thing standing between these incomprehensibly rich, all-controlling, indecent, digital super-despots and the complete destruction of any alternative consciousness  — and indeed any non-official history or interpretation of the world.

We must therefore say: ALL POWER TO THE PACK RATS! Help a hoarder consolidate and safe-keep their things today. Lend them money to rent a storage locker. Volunteer to help them keep their things at your place. Their stuff is the final shred of resistance to the destruction of all non-Apple-approved human endeavors.