Bill Gates’ Capitalist Realism

As Oliver, aka Voorface on twitter, pointed out about my previous post, the McDonald’s marketing video is an excellent example of what Mark Fisher described way back in 2009 as ‘Capitalist Realism‘:

“…we are inevitably reminded of the phrase attribtued to Frederick Jameson and Slavoj Zizek, that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism. That slogan captures precisely what I mean by ‘capitalist realism’: the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.” – Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism, p.2

That sense of inevitability is what I was trying to tease out of the McDonalds trailer, but I found even better example in the above image, posted to Facebook and shared by a colleague. The “realist” platitudes espoused by Mr Gates have a gritty and uncompromising tone to them (a favourite approach of the hi-tech libertarian!) but contain a vast multitude of unspoken assumptions about the inevitability of these states of affairs. I’m sure Mr Gates and those presenting these words as vital advice and visionary honesty truly think this is the way things are (and even should be!!!), but it’s a symptom of a closed-off imagination to alternatives, and of a shrinking of horizons.

In response, I proposed the following revisions of Gate’s 11 “rules” you will never be taught in school:

Rule 1: Life’s not fair – get used to it, but try and do something about it!
Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self esteem – all the more reason to care about other’s. We’re all in this together, rememeber?
Rule 3: You will NOT make 60K a year right out of high school. Unless your Dad is a Fortune 500 CEO.
Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. At least your teacher never exploited your surplus labour for their profit.
Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity, because as a good modern labour unit, you should have no dignity. Also, don’t question why flipping burgers has to be degrading. Capitalism is all there is so quit whining!
Rule 6: If you mess up, you mess up. Always learn from *everything* even your mistakes.
Rule 7: Your parents are boring because you were born and because modern life makes security hard to achieve if you even slightly deviate from the norm.
Rule 8: Winning and losing is a relic from the cold war in which there were clear winners and losers.
Rule 9: No one will care about your self-actualisation and that’s kind of depressing.
Rule 10: Television is NOT life. In real life, people have to work out of coffee shops because market signals have indicated that a precarious, casualised workforce makes for a more subservient labour pool. Freelance! Flexibility! You also won’t be able to complain about it without being labelled a “whiner” (this applies to most of the above also).
Rule 11: Be nice to nerds, because we are the new hegemony. ENJOY IT. OR ELSE.

Addendum: A twitter follower suggested that these words are probably not likely to have actually been said by Gates himself (and on reflection, I agree – I am much too credulous!) but that’s almost besides the point. It is believable that Gates or anyone in a similar position to him would say exactly these things. This is the ‘new horizon’ of the imaginable. Social progress? Care for others? What’s that, and how does it make money?

Double addendum: Matthew Burns directs us towards the Snopes page on these s-called “rules”. The original author? One Charles J. Sykes, who wrote a couple of books about “dumbing down education” and so forth. This list (plus 3 more omitted from the above image) first appeared in a bunch of newspapers, then formed the basis of his 2007 book ’50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn In School: Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education’.  Note particularly the use of “real world” in the title.