The Struggle Of Conflicting Values Inside Of A (W)Hole Man

An installation by TEEMU MÄKI.

the struggle installation overview

The Struggle
, overview of the installation, Laznia Contemporary Art Center, Gdansk, Poland, March 2003.

First shown in my doctorate exhibition, Helsinki Art Hall, January 2001. After that in The Lönnström Art Museum (Rauma, Finland), Jyväskylä City Art Museum (Finland) and in then in the above mentioned Laznia.

For Elaine Scarry.

Multipartite work. Dimensions variable, needs a room with about 80 square meters.
Sculptures, found objects, painting, drawings, a shirt, balloons, music and a text.

Contains the chapters:
"Globalization", "Life Has No Intrinsic Value", "Wheels Of Capitalistic Production", "All Things Humanly Possible", "I Live In Myself", "The Shirt For An Über-Mensch" and "The Real American Flags"

The following text segment of The Struggle is an extract from my essay Broken #4 (1998–2001):



What is globalization? It’s the liberation of capital and commodities. Capital and commodities are made free to roam, without the limits that countries individually or together used set for them. It’s said that this increases cost-effectiveness. And it does. Commodities are manufactured there where the raw materials and labor force are cheapest, the burden of taxation lightest. Commodities are sold there where the population’s buying power is biggest. Participation in global capitalism is not voluntary. It penetrates your life by force. To understand globalization you must comprehend the sly disposition of violence. I’ll now try to compare two of the many variants of violence: the explicit and the institutional/structural.


Explicit violence is that which is recognized as violence by almost everybody: wife beating, bullies in the schoolyard, rape. The victim of explicit violence and the bystanders plus usually also the aggressor him/herself see the act of violence as violent. Explicit violence often results from the institutional -– never the other way round. A person anguished by his/her own unemployment can end up beating his/her kids, which could be an example of structural violence giving birth to explicit violence. Violence results so often from the structural to the explicit that it can be difficult to tell the two apart. It’s still worth trying.


To feel rich you need the poor. To be good you need the evil. As the point of comparison.

What is institutional/structural violence? It’s organized, consciously or unconsciously, on the community, company or state-level. It presents itself as something else than violence; it presents itself as plain voluntary commerce, as rationalization of production, as cultural heritage, as humor. Global capitalism is the largest form of this exploitation.

The institutional/structural violence of global capitalism, rationally organized, industrially manufactured and seemingly transformed to work and production, causes more death and fruitless suffering than the explicit, physical, desperate violence that appears in society as disorders and exceptions, not as accepted practice. Why does it? Why is institutional violence so much more destructive than its private and ’senseless’ little cousin, explicit violence? One reason is its technical superiority, efficiency, and the superiority of economic stranglehold when compared with the miniscule power of a lonely stiletto. A more important reason is the way in which the institutional violence complicates, conceptualizes, makes more multi-interpretational and abstract the relationship between the exploiter and the exploited, to such a degree that its basically violent nature is invisible often both to the exploiter and to the victim. This is why it doesn’t provoke the kind of primitive gut reaction of fear, disgust and empathic sorrow in the exploiter and reflex of disgust and hate in the exploited that open blood shedding would. This makes it easy to commit acts of structural violence. So a benign office-worker and mother can, semiconsciously, just by her consumer habits and voting behavior, commit more violent acts and more often than a serial killer. Her mere will to power, competitiveness, greed and even possible sadism would, as such, not demand this. They would settle for less blood. We have in our civilization sanitized and disapproved explicit violence out of sight, so creating the belief that we are almost non-violent, civilized more than anybody anywhere before or now.  But actually our violence has not withered; it has just put on a mask and grown interest.


An European corporation branches out to Indonesia, buys a big slab of natural forest from the state and cuts it down. The timber is used on furniture manufacture whose markets are in U.S.A. New trees planted on the area, the forest is replaced with a timber plantation, an unfit environment for the natives that used to live there. The corporation exports both the products and the profits and pays little or no taxes to the Indonesian government. The natives of the ex-forest have no option but to send their young to the big cities to earn money. In the city you can get work as a prostitute, in an international sneaker factory or as the guy who washes windshields at traffic lights and then begs for money. These occupations bring in just enough money for daily survival but there is no possibility of climbing the wealth ladder – even though now the integration to the world market has happened. The sneakers are sold in Europe. Multinational companies pay dismal salaries in Indonesia and few taxes if at all. At this end of the chain of exploitation I'm wearing every year new and improved sneakers that somebody stitched together on the other side of the globe, as a part of a 12-year-old's 16-hour working. Each year the sneakers are a little cheaper and better. However, in the shoe store I’m not a sadist and neither are you. The new sneakers feel good and as long as they are new they look good and like the starting point of a new and better life. The pleasure that the new pair gives lasts for a week, and it’s a pleasure that doesn’t arise from the fact that the pair was paid with some unknown nigger’s blood, on the contrary, the whole sophisticated idea of structural violence is that the blood it sheds remains invisible for him who consumes the fruit it bears.

But why should I be against this global class society, if I’m a member of the advantageous minority? This is the relevant question for everybody, not just for a relativist like me. Many people say that it goes without saying that you must fight against exploitation, not only of yourself but of others too, because, like it’s said, otherwise you lose your self-respect, or the starving nigger will come here tomorrow and take his revenge. I do not believe that. Isn’t our way of life a crushing proof of exactly the opposite? Daily on TV-news we see proof of the misery of the majority of the world’s population, but despite that we can buy a six-dollar-per-litre premium ice cream to enhance the night’s movie. In abstract we know that those 6 dollars would be enough to give 6 months more life for some starving family on the other side of the globe. We know this, but it doesn’t spoil the taste of the ice cream. So why fight it?


What is capitalism? An economic system where the means of production are owned by private individuals. The owners of capital and the means of production decide about their use and direction of development. The goal of the owners is personal profit. The capitalist says that the vigorous striving for personal economic wealth increases the output of production and as a by-product automatically results in the common good. I disagree. When chocolate accumulates on the top of the pyramid of wealth, it won’t necessarily ever trickle down to the ground floor.

Capitalism increases economic activity and intensifies technical progress but this is not necessarily in our common interest. Capitalism increases production and our consumer ability, but selectively: only the production and consumption of a chosen few things grows, namely those that are the most profitable. These most profitable products and services are not necessarily the ones we urgently need. That’s why the fastest growing branches of production are things like the gambling industry, prison industry, entertainment industry and brand industry. With the last mentioned I’m thinking of a bottle of water whose physical content is exactly the same as tap water’s but which can be sold with an unit price 100 times greater because of the mental associations that have been attached to it by marketing efforts, very different mental associations from those attached to tap water. Capitalism is a system where selling alcohol to adults and the trendy toy of this Christmas season to minors is more profitable for the enterpriser than taking care of the sick or the production of experiences that are as intensive as religious fervor (but without the side effects of religion and heroin). Capitalism is a system that makes the richest man in the world to be, by turns, the owners of the Mars chocolate emporium, an oil baron, a stock-exchange speculator and a businessman who terrorizes the computer market with his monopoly.

Capitalism claims to be the most effective form and platform of production, where the consumers are the decision-makers, democratically. A system where the needs, desires and demands of consumers, instead of an arrogant bunch of state officials, guide the flow of production. This is false. Capitalism is efficient in figuring out new ways of production, because competition in business is so ruthless, but the branch of athletics that the capitalists compete in is not the satisfaction of consumer needs but the production of consumer needs. The kinds of needs profitable for the one who brought those needs about. The law of supply and demand does give a calculatory exact price for each commodity but it doesn’t prove that the commodity in question is good for the consumer or for the common good in the long run.

The victim of institutional/structural violence often doesn’t even know that he/she is one, and if he/she does, there is no way to articulate the hurt, because the common language is the language of the exploiter. And as the exploiter in the system of institutional violence doesn’t see or acknowledge him/herself as the exploiter there is no room in his language for the voice of the victim. An anorectic is silent and defenseless. To adopt the mainstream concepts of beauty means submitting to the values behind those concepts. These values work for someone else, the owner of the commerce whose products are marketed, the ruling class, keeping up the order of the class society. The whip and rifle of the consumer society is the esthetic propaganda with which the citizen is equipped with the desires that serve the an-end-in-itself ritual of the acceleration of production and consumption.

The fruits of structural exploitation have a confusing feature as commodities: they are mild and they have almost solely relative value. It’s confusing because to acquire these feeble pleasures the exploiter too has to work very hard – he has to organize and maintain the huge global machinery. The result is an endless amount of TV-channels, trends of fashion, chocolate and a life expectancy of an unheard-of length – all pleasures that do not make you cry out of joy. The fruits of consumer capitalism are instantly gratifying but feeble and quickly evaporating effects that slowly make us numb. This is our real dead-end, not the suffering of the poor that is the cost of these fruits because we, the rich, can stand all the suffering that the poor can suffer. Actually we even need the suffering of the poor. Seeing on TV the slaves working for us in the engine room of global capitalism gives us the point of comparison we desperately need, and all of a sudden our personal empire of commodities that fills our homes appears real and valuable, at least for a moment. This is the first reason to be against the consumer capitalistic global class society.


…the nature of capitalistic business is the nature of war. That business operates by seduction, with private property and illusory individual freedom, on a seemingly voluntary base, only makes it that much more dangerous. To be exploited without really knowing it is in the long run more harmful than to be openly enslaved. In the latter you know the reason for your hurt, and can locate the violator and then work against him/her. In the former it’s difficult to even realize that you are being castrated, decapitated, when the blade is nowhere to be seen and your misery is covered with quick-fix surrogate pleasures...

The unemployment rate is now permanently high in the rich countries. Either openly or covertly. The latter means that a big segment of population is either working only part-time, getting insufficient income for normatively decent living, or having many jobs simultaneously, so badly paid that even the combined income from those is insufficient to support a family. It has also become common to label the unemployed as lazy parasites and then take away their social welfare and force them to become below-the-nonexistent-minimum-wages-servants of the rich. In a society where the number of truly necessary and common-good-producing jobs is steadily decreasing, thanks to the vast increases in productivity, productivity increases not only because of technical progress and feverish competition but especially because the society is built only the growth of production cost-effectiveness in mind. Why then, despite steadily growing national gross product, do societies find it more difficult to maintain or develop public education, care of the elderly and health care? Because in short-term plans those functions of society merely lessen the competitiveness of the nation and companies in it.

Those activities that produce the common good, that which is good and necessary for everybody, are automated and become a private property and profitable business of a small minority. This is why the majority of labor force is losing its useful and productive role in society. There are fewer truly necessary jobs in need of workers. Instead, more often people are forced to take any humiliating and ridiculous job offered them, to attain the normative consumer ability, to reach your human worth. There are not even these kinds of jobs for everybody. The workers fight for their survival as workers, competing against each other and when they lose they are told: ‘Work harder. Educate yourself to be better qualified than others. Start your own enterprise. Make yourself wanted and needed!’ But, the new forms of private enterprise are increasingly artificial, forced and more frequently harmful to the common good. We need continually more laborious brainwashing and self-suggestion to convince ourselves that we still are able to enjoy more TV-channels, chocolate bars, types of sport, kitchen gadgets and the weather forecasts you can get on your mobile phone.

The social function of production and work changes. It’s no longer about organizing the maintenance of society effectively through specialized professionalism guided by collective decision-making in order to liberate ourselves to be free from toil and anguished competition, free to fulfill ourselves. It’s now more about trying to figure out still a few more seemingly profitable forms of production, through strained collective self-suggestion, in order to make us seemingly useful – not to ourselves but to the machinery of production. Simultaneously consumption is transformed into work, we try to deceive ourselves into becoming charmed by the insignificant commodities others produce, in order to be able to trust that the others in turn will be thankful for the meaningless products we manufacture, at least till the moment of purchase. That means the position of the owner of the means of production gets more and more advantageous while the position of the worker simultaneously gets weaker. The worker has to be all the time more flexible, give in more, work more efficiently, commit him/herself to his/her job, because otherwise he/she can be replaced with a greedier, more desperate one. How did this happen? Wasn't the main point of civilization to liberate us from the need to commit ourselves to work, to liberate us from the stress of living with a knife to our throats because of competition? Capitalism liberates the effectiveness-boosting competition – but not us. What used to be labor force, the workers and the middle class is becoming useless as workers and useful, to the rich, mainly as consumers of frozen pizza, Tittytainment and profitable trademarks – and as house-niggers.

If institutional/structural violence abuses not only the helpless poverty-stricken people on the other side of the globe but also the relatively poor in my rich homeland, I’m in danger of slipping from the role of beneficiary to that of victim. Everyone who is mainly a worker and not a financially sound owner is in danger. Structural violence numbs the exploiter into a quick-fix-junkie and pummels the exploited, inevitably the house-niggers too, into minced meat that the bwana’s dog is fed with. This is the second reason to fight against consumer capitalistic global class society.

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