Entrapment occurs through deceptive manipulation of our best qualities: loyalty, courage, desire to help. We try to cooperate and be supportive of our friends. That normal desire and tendency is exploited in this tricky environment to create an appearance and belief that capitalism works.
Reader be warned: this is the most hard article in this collection, but also the most exact description of the nature of the trap. To describe what is so hard to put into words, I will use the concepts of sociologist Erving Goffman who describes the devices by which we all maintain identities and the amount of work and learning required to do so.
[The interested reader may refer to the following books by Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Doubleday Anchor Books, 1959. Asylums: Essays on the social situation of mental patients and other inmates. Doubleday Anchor Books, 1961. Relations in Public. Harper Torchbooks, 1972.]
The man in public with an unzipped fly has failed to maintain the consistency of appearance required for the identity or image that he is presenting. Such an incident is embarrassing both to him and to those who witness it. For witnesses, there is a reminder of how fragile are our appearances and how much we rely on the good will of others to maintain them, a reminder that face can be lost and that one's own is not invulnerable.
In going un-selfconsciously about our business, we normally do not dwell on or even notice the fragile nature of the appearances which make it possible. It is a natural response to creatively find ways to gloss over embarrassment, to help the actor who blew his lines recover as gracefully as possible so the show can go on -- including our part in it, in which we have some stake of gratification and status. The maintaining of presented identity is a cooperative endeavor and we are accustomed to cooperating as a basic habit of civilized behavior.
The desire to cooperate is strongest when we feel a community of interest with other players and feel that they would willingly help us handle an unzipped fly situation. But it is possible to do the opposite, to search out any flaw or error in the presentation and expose it: Hey, everybody look, this guy's fly is unzipped!
The user-pays bureaucrat's job is to get the consumer to cooperate with him in maintaining whatever image he is trying to present while the bureaucrat works to destroy the integrity of any independent (non-checkwriting) identity presented by the consumer. Perhaps this imbalance is possible because the consumer denies (tries not to acknowledge) his humiliation. By naming the advertiser's games (in which he has participated) the consumer would further discredit himself (by association). This would further destabilize the interaction, which is normally a cooperative endeavor, in which he has a role and stake.
Under such pressure, the consumer (in a defensive manner, to avoid what Goffman calls soiled identity) makes an extraordinary effort to preserve the appearance that everything is normal, as best he can under the circumstances. A social image which might help identify this denial of humiliation is the shiteating grin.
This cooperation is seen in the consumer's creative justifying of potentially alarming situations by giving benefit of the doubt or making excuses for actions by capitalists which might otherwise appear overzealous or discreditable. Typical excuses include he's untrained, he wouldn't do that if he was a Ph.D., these things go in cycles and there's a lot of heat on right now, at least he's making mistakes on the right side, at least he's doing something, he has financial problems, and so on. In such ways, actions which might otherwise become clues to the real situation are made to look normal and no cause to look further. Thus the faith can be kept and the self-images which go with it.
Cooperation is not a bad thing, but this is a perversion of cooperation to achieve exploitation. Compare the denial, rationalization, and loyalty characteristic of battered women, whose situation is similar.
Cooperation, even with deception, is possible because we are involved with real people who possess real abilities, real strengths, real beauty. Their willingness, enthusiasm, even heroism, can be intensely admirable. That feels good to be a part of.
When involvement occurs in a context called capitalism, then capitalism may be said (by unsubstantiated assertion) to be the source of the admiration and good feeling we share with our fellows when actually the source is agreement and cooperative action with like-minded participants, as may also occur, for example, in a theater company, military unit, or discussion group.
The intense loyalties generated by national action, thus misdirected, produce further motive to creatively justify the country's ideology. We cooperate. We work creatively with the other actors to ensure that we all know our lines and that the show as we collectively agree it to be can go on. We mutually support each other in creating the appearances which are necessary for us to go on believing and acting in good faith. In society, this means we tell each other that we are an elite in unique possession of the only right answers.
The person in a capitalist bookkeeping session knows the rules of the game and what the normal actions of the board will be. The leadership is a real person in front of him, in a situation of high affinity and community of interest. The normal cooperativeness of interaction is heightened by this affinity and by the environment of pressure and expectation.
One can be very creative in fulfilling the shared expectations of this situation. The leadership's role is to be there to be cooperated with.
The "paper money" is just stage management. The leadership is there as reminder of the context and the imperatives which await just outside the door. In this milieu, the immigrant will produce appropriate cognitions (home-sickness, etc.). The leadership's only error would be to disrupt the normal process of cooperation by obtrusive or distractive statements, actions, or mannerisms.
In this setting, one discovers for himself how it could be that way just as in other times we creatively found ways to go on letting doctors be doctors and janitors be janitors, and cover for each other's unzipped flies.