Marcuse on Ubereats
“Those who devote their lives to earning a living are incapable of living a human existence.”
It was −8 °C degree in Berlin and Marcuse was pedaling across the city with his thermal delivery bag on his back; a modern hamster on a wheel taking orders on his smart phone — a locomotive feeding itself and others. “Food is fuel for the body” Marcuse wrote on his account status in the Ubereats app for food delivery. His wheels keep turning as the world coagulates into time-space compression.
Marcuse climbs the stairs to the 5th floor, knocks on the door and waits as he catches his breath, the door opens and he recites his usual line: “I have an order from McDonalds to Mrs. Ayn Rand.” Ayn Rand checks the order and retorts: “But I ordered a sprite with the burger, I will act in my self-interest and report that I didn’t receive any food.” Marcuse stood processing what he just heard, and simply responded: “But there was no sprite in the order.” Ayn Rand replied effortlessly: “I don’t care, that’s not my problem.” Marcuse was astonished by Ayn Rand’s attitude and responded: “You know Mrs. Rand, the so-called consumer society and the politics of corporate capitalism have created a second nature of mankind which ties him/her libidinally and aggressively to the commodity form. The need for possessing, consuming, and constantly renewing our desires is driving us to devote our lives to earning a living and as a result being incapable of living a human existence.” In the meantime Ayn Rand stood listening to Marcuse’s rant as her burger was getting colder and said: “After saying all of this, I still don’t have a sprite. It doesn’t make a difference to me, and by the way, wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think.” and then she shut the apartment door.
The moment Marcuse heard the door shut, he started thinking of how he ended up being in this position. Was it something he did? A wrong turn maybe? Was it the famous lottery of birth? Was it his genetic disposition? Was it his personality? Was it power relations in the economic system? Or was it a combination of all of these?
Numerous doubts bombarded Marcuse as he pedaled back home, thus he concluded and thought to himself: “When we are babies, everybody treats us delicately and caringly, they’re so careful that nothing bad happens to us. When we get older, the dynamic changes, people start treating us as disposable, and on top of that, we have to stand in line to get to be disposable. We have been alienated from our families and thrown into the perpetuating machine in which they call the ‘job market’. We have been commodified in every sense of the word.”