Nonhumans under the Power of the Company
- onSeptember 4, 2018
- Vol.41 Autumn 2018
- byLee Seung-U
Seo Yoo Mi recognizes the usefulness of fables in raising awareness about contradictions in the world and the wretchedness of civilization. In a way, a fable functions like a loudspeaker in the hands of someone who speaks up in order to make indifferent passers-by stop and listen. Who takes to the streets with a loudspeaker? Those with something to say. Those who have seen or heard something that others have missed. Or those who cannot pretend not to have seen or heard what they’ve seen or heard, unlike others who put on a pretense because they are shrewd or simply lazy or for some other reason altogether. To someone holding a loudspeaker, the reenactment of the truth feels so slow and diffuse that it becomes inefficient. That all prophecies and revelations omit realism is not unrelated to this.
Seo ruminates like Franz Kafka and prophesizes like George Orwell. Kafka and Orwell serve as useful points of reference in the following aspects: a) Seo’s work reminds us of the overwhelming power that the world order exerts on the anonymous individual whose existence has grown negligible; b) it reveals that the pre-existing world order never changes but tries to change people instead; and c) it warns us that people will diminish to become only temporarily human (“Temporarily Human”) until they’re replaced by nonhuman entities and turn into nonhumans themselves (“That’s Not Even Human”).
Those who do not avert their eyes from reality get to behold the future. Those who peer closely into reality observe the future in detail. The future is like a bear curled up in hibernation. It is bound to wake. The overpowering world order, alluded to by a number of twentieth-century writers through images like the huge mysterious castle, the bureau, or Big Brother, turns humans into nonhumans. Seo, a writer of the twenty-first century, calls this world order by its true name: “the company.” Under the capitalist system, the company is omnipotent and omniscient. It is at once the basis for judgment, the center of thought, and the purpose and cause of action. It is the only power that has a firm grip on all other powers. The company gives orders, summons, monitors, evaluates, and adjudicates. If God or some dictators of the past with absolute power come to mind, you can’t avoid the criticism that you’ve failed to notice the curled up hibernating bear in real life. The company has inherited the attributes previously given to God and dictators.