Everybody who’s ever gone to a protest has, at one time or another, been told to “get a job,” and I’ve always wondered about the origins of this particular form of heckling.
I wonder no more.
A statute of the first year of his reign, 1547, ordains that if anyone refuses to work, he shall be condemned as a slave to the person who has denounced him as an idler. The master shall feed his slave on bread and water, weak broth and such refuse meat as he thinks fit. He has the right to force him to do any work, no matter how disgusting, with whip and chains. If the slave is absent a fortnight, he is condemned to slavery for life and is to be branded on forehead or back with the letter S; if he runs away thrice, he is to be executed as a felon.
The passage quoted above, is from the 28th chapter of Karl Marx’s Capital, and it’s too bad Marx never got to see the Internet.
These days I spend a lot more time on social media than I do protesting, and the online equivalent of “get a job” is “you can’t criticize capitalism on an iPhone.” Every leftist on social media has heard it. Every conservative on social media thinks that by repeating it he’s already won the argument. So how can you respond?
I suppose you could answer with something like “so you just made a homophobic joke on a computer, a device invented by Alan Turing, a gay man,” but these kinds of snappy comebacks rarely affect iPhone trolls. Conservatives believe that we the little people must defer to our betters, capitalists like Steve Jobs, and Alan Turing, an intellectual who invented the computer, but failed to profit by it, doesn’t qualify. In other words, “you can’t criticize capitalism on an iPhone” is a statement of loyalty by an already enslaved individual to his master. The social media iPhone troll won’t get an immediate reward like the medieval Englishman who denounced an idler but deep down inside conservatives believe that if they worship the billionaire class hard enough they may some day get to be part of it.
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The Freudians called it “identification with the aggressor,” as in the abused child who grows up to be an abusive parent. Then, there are those who want to be on the winning team even if they know the winning team is cheating.
But as Marx points out in the past there was a tangible reward. If you denounce an unemployed man as an idler, you then become entitled to his labor power for yourself.
I think I was referring to the willing slaves, who think there’s something right about that system.
Yes. But I think in this case there’s an eerie collective, historical memory at root of it all.
Agreed. The slave mentality thrives even today, in many guises. Those who want “leaders,” are those who want to follow, and they willingly give up independence to be accepted into the clique.