“Speaking to the manager” is a sort of tyrannical helplessness; it is the haughty demand for intercession on one’s behalf by an array of greater forces you assume are servile. It is worded like a demand, but it is in fact a plea. It relies on a deeply held belief that society has been ordered for your benefit, because you bought it. And by repeatedly reminding those in charge that society is not entirely to your liking, a number of dutiful institutions or solicitous political Jeeveses will course correct and bring things “back to normal.”

It also assumes a hierarchical society, ordered like a restaurant: some eat, some serve, and there is a manager to keep it all going. This is why these same liberals tend to find the prospect of greater popular control over the media, economy, or society chilling, because they must confront the possibility that they will no longer be served and tended to.

We have been conditioned by the market to believe “the customer is always right.” But the power the customer holds over a business is a thin simulacrum of power. Power is classically understood as the ability to compel others to do what, but for you, they would not have done. Yet “consumer” power relies on businesses doing what customers say when it is in their interest to do so. The human construed as a customer can pull but one lever for change: “no.” The customer can decline to purchase, even voice displeasure, but the role of customer is inherently passive.

“The Resistance” really is ultimately a passive movement (if indeed a concept so passive can even be regarded as a movement). Liberals and centrists will never bring about meaningful and lasting change—as many of learned under Obama—precisely because they are ultimately guardians of a status quo that’s working just fine for them. To fix the systems spiraling out of control around us, we’re going to have to alter the assumptions underpinning the systems themselves.


Can I Talk To A Manager by RJ Quinn