© Heba Malaeb

Sad Chips

Object comfort—different from creature comfort, different from retail therapy. The comfort of knowing that you have a hand and the hand can hold things. The friction, resistance, of material, that will remind you of your body as body—limited, delineated, squishy.

Object / comfort. Commodity / fetishism.

What is an object that is not a commodity? Is a tree an object? Is an egg an object? What does an object become, that has life imbued in it?

If we start to think of things not as things but as products of labor, what does that do? (Further: if we envision laborers as living beings with hands and bodies of their own, what does that do?) I got a bag of chips gifted to me the other day when I bought a taco, because, the person who made my taco said, I was the first person to thank him that day. I ate the sad chips and thought of my body not as a body but as an ingester of sad chips. My body as an ingester of sad chips is my body as a witness to the inhumanity of life under capitalism.

I love the bodily comfort of a fluffy object, a just-heavy-enough object, a delightfully pink object. But the haptic experience of them is rarely loud enough to obscure the gnawing question: where did you come from*?

When I learn how an object came to be it ceases to be an object. It becomes a representative of the conditions that created it, most often a matrix of systems of exploitation and profit-generation that are so normalized we forget to remember them. I crunch chips and peer at the harm done daily to make the running world run: the harm sitting inside history and in the present, still patiently crouched behind a flower-pot in the game of hide-and-seek we abandoned for dinner.

* This is also true for me of objects that are not sensory-focused (i.e. more “functional” objects), e.g. a tampon, an electric egg beater, a toilet brush. The only objects whose provenance I forget to think about are those that present ideas; when reading books I rarely think of printing presses, and only sometimes do I stop and think of the components of, and the labor that produced, my cell phone.

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