The future civil war and Apple Town Square

Christian Pattersone
2018-10-05
Underground Mall

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One thing alt-righties have whined about since the beginning of the “Trump era” is the upcoming civil war between the alt-right and the radical left. This is nonsense at this point in history, since no mainstream politician openly defends either the alt right or radical left.

The thing the Left has to remember, in order to not buy into this type of flawed alt right thinking, is that history is determined by social relations. And in American society, our currency (ie, the object used to mediate social relations) facilitates a system where people who have money, have everything, and people who have no money, have nothing.

But going back to the idea of currency as the medium for social relations, think of it like this: At our homes, we do labor for ourselves, for our own gain. We also do labor for friends as favors — maybe in exchange for pizza, but no precise and rigid exchange. But when we are relating to a larger society, we can’t exchange in the way we do with close friends. If I do a ‘favor’ for a complete stranger, then I need some sort of compensation. Currency is a medium of exchange. It’s a tool used to relate our labor, ourselves, other people, and commodities within a system.

This relates to the alt-right’s idea about upcoming civil war, because in order to throw around political power enough to instigate a Civil War, you have to be backed by Capital. There is no capitalist interest in the alt-right and there’s even less on the radical left. If there were the early rumblings of armed conflict between far-right groups and radical left groups, the government would not pick sides. Democrats and Republicans would not pick sides. American politicians aren’t going to sacrifice the position they are in to pick sides with fringe paramilitary groups.

The reason I’m pointing out why this is a bad belief, is because there is an impending civil war in America, but not in the way the alt-right think. The future ‘civil war’, if there is one (and if there is, it will not look anything like a conventional civil war), will be between Silicon Valley and the US Government.

Silicon Valley doesn’t have an army, or govern anything. It’s a collection of private corporations. But these corporations have so much concentrated capital that they have government-like power. For example, Google gives Americans a lot of useful tools that could conceivably be tools supplied by the government, such as Google maps, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Drive, etc.

Of course, the US government would never offer something as useful as free cloud storage. Why not though? Governments are best when they are most useful to us, yet it is inconceivable for the U.S. government to do useful things. When Silicon Valley corporations like Google start integrating more into people’s everyday life, the people will realize (correctly or not) how little we have to give to Google for useful services, and how much we give to the government, while not getting much.

The flaw in the alt-right understanding of civil war, is, as typical reactionaries, they see the world as a culture clash. They see it as a Turner Diaries fringe Nazi group vs a Bolshevik Vanguard Party. No. The real ‘civil war’ will be US vs Silicon Valley, because the US government and Silicon Valley have the money, fringe political groups don’t. It’s ahistorical to not recognize that material causes propel history.

I don’t know what this ‘civil war’ will look like, except it won’t involve actual military combat, and will more likely involve types of economic sabotage.

Some other evidence I would point to is that Apple is inching its way into healthcare. Google is building entire villages with private transport systems between the Google villages and Google jobs. Amazon is expanding their impending monopoly on all consumer goods, now that they own Whole Foods and the proliferation of things like Amazon lockers. Silicon Valley is increasingly producing shadow-government type billionaires like Peter Thiel, who is at least in conversation with far-right affiliates, including Curtis Yarvin, major contributor to the neo-reactionary movement. Tesla has started reterritorializing the U.S. automotive industry into the the Silcon Valley fold. Elon Musk and others are trying to greatly expand mass transit in the private sector. Many tech companies are flirting with the idea of cryptocurrencies. The list could go on.

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And, how this all ties into Apple Town Squares: If you haven’t heard, Apple unveiled a new retail store concept called Apple Town Square. These will essentially be rebranded Apple Stores, with extra features, most notably, ways to learn about Apple products.

As mentioned at the beginning, currency is a unit informing social relations. In a capitalist system, the nature of the currency (ie, its ability to be accumulated, its distribution to property owners, and the distribution to laborers in the form of wages) informs how we relate to others socially.

Conventionally, a ‘town square’ is a public place. It’s where the people can gather regardless of their positioning within the social relations. However, the US has always been, and increasingly, in new ways, been a private country. The implication of ‘public’ is that some service or good is provided outside of the currency-based social relations. For example, public transportation often costs money, but it’s a service provided by the government, and in an ideal world, the cost of using that service is merely maintaining the system and compensating labor. We know that public services frequently push to sneak in privatization, but that’s another issue.

On the other hand, the implication of ‘private’ is that the good or service you receive’s social relation entails the money going to a proprietor, followed by the distribution of wages to the workers, and the passive accumulation of profits after all expenses.

Since the U.S. (and capitalism generally)’s most protected characteristic is that of privatization and the accumulation of wealth by a property owner, then it makes more sense for a town square — the symbolic place for society to commune — to be at a private place rather than a public place.

For example, in Philadelphia, the most tangible example of a ‘town square’ is City Hall, Dilworth Park, Love Park. Basically the parks around city hall, leading towards the museums. However, if you go a couple block south of City Hall, there’s one of the biggest Wawas in Center City, and it’s always really busy, both inside and outside.

This Wawa feels more like a town square than most parks, or actual “town squares” in America, feel like town squares. Go to parks or plazas near the center of an American city’s downtown. Now, go to the nearest convenience stores. What will be the better representation of “the public”: the people at the central parks, or the people at the nearest convenience stores? The closest thing to a famous town square in the U.S. is Times Square, which is just an intersection with billboards.

So when Apple announced the Town Square idea, there was backlash (for about a day, as with everything in the news), but there’s two big reasons why it makes 100% total sense:

  1. the U.S. government is a government FOR and run BY people who own private property. The government doesn’t represent us, it represents whoever replaced Steve Jobs. If the government was for the people, and by the people, then it would make sense for a town square to be for the people. But it isn’t, and that’s why ‘town squares’ even as a concept is an empty husk in America. It’s about time Apple acknowledges its role in our society.
  2. On top of that, if a conventional town square, whether useful or not, is supposed to be provided by a governing body, then it makes sense, with the huge concentration of capital and influence in tech, that Apple would be pushing the boundaries of business into regions typically provided by the government.

The U.S. government has ceded elements of their control to private corporations, because the U.S. and private corporations works hand and hand. However, what happens when a large group of those private corporations creep into territory previously claimed by the U.S. government?

Remember, the Russian Revolution was essentially won by the People seizing a train station. As the U.S. government seemingly tries to cling to power, there is only one group with the power to seize things like “train stations” (whatever technology the train may represent in 2018–maybe the internet?), and it’s not the People, it’s Silicon Valley.

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[This is an updated version of a post I made on my old Medium page, from Nov. 2017]

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