Civil society and the individual it made possible, aren’t simply gone, it’s been stolen. In its place, the emoticon ..
Recently, an associate of mine posted the following quote.
“…The smiley face has become an established means of communication. People learn to place their center of gravity in leisure: in playing games or watching sport, conversing or dancing with ever more complex cocktails and chemicals, immersion-binging in the make-believe of gaming or Netflix, modes of instant messaging that make genuine sincerity unattainable.
Just like the riverside apartments are barely noticeable while silently accruing value for unseen people, today’s relentless tapping on touchscreens surreptitiously aids the quiet commodification of even the most private spaces. The imaginary becomes real. A parallel world of perpetual pleasure is no longer reserved for the avant-garde.
The bugman is the new bourgeois, and the old avant-garde the new aristocracy. He can gaze at his masters’ work in the Tate Modern, like a Lost Boy who’s forgotten he’s in Neverland, a semi-automated citizen in a world of play.”
It’s an extract from an article appearing over at Jacobite Magazine – and something in it, I guess you could say, really hit home with me. Thus eliciting the following rant; which, apart from a few minor typographical errors, is presented here largely as it was initially formulated:
~ ~ ~
On that last bit about being a ‘semi-automated citizen in a world of play” … we’ve got a situation, it would seem, wherein the very conditions of ‘making a living’ and all the rest of it are most profoundly “anti-life” [indeed, some might say, “ant life”].
It is significantly more difficult than it has any reason to be, to do the things that are not, so to speak, those of a “world of play”.
To do the things intrinsic, in a prior age, if i may be so bold to say, was part of “manhood”.
You know, things like ‘starting a family’ [even this is a historical amnesia-ism. We *continue* families that are already, as it were, ‘in train’ – at least in a more traditional understanding. Atomized ‘sub-families” or ‘nuclear families’ or whatever is, in retrospect, an early step on the road to the atomized individual …] ; having a dwellinghaus which might feasibly (if even a little imaginatively) be conceived as as one’s “castle” [which implies a sense of ownership, of *eminent* domain, rather than simply renting for eye-watering sums the property of another, and ‘bunkering down’ in a shoebox somewhere instead]. ; being able to provide for one’s parents as they themselves age and get older (a difficult thing indeed given that for many of us, our parents , both in specia and in aggregate as a generational thing, are likely to be far more wealthy and materially well-off even into their retirements than we are at the zenith of our working careers and lives); and taking a plenipotentiary role in the development and moral guidance of our children, should we somehow find ourselves in a position to actually have any.
To take a more ‘broad’ view … it is often said, these days somewhat derisively – and good grief! How much more sign of this most profound sickness do we need than that – that “we live in a society”. This is, if anything, a ‘cargo-cult’ ism. For we long ago (well, at some point in the past thirty to forty years, for much of the Anglosphere, at any rate) passed into the age of “There Is No Such Thing As Society” [and I note with some sad amusement that the second part of this quote – that instead, “there are individual men and women and there are families” has also fallen away. Much less what she *then* said about having a “duty” to “look after our neighbours” (gosh, can you even imagine such a thing being said by a monetarist ideologue today?). Such is the progress .. the ‘progress’ .. of the Thatcherite-Neoliberal demon now that it has been let out of its bottle. ]
But if we consider both the work of Hannah Arendt in this area – a figure often accused of having “polis envy” – it does seem that there are intriguing elements to be developed concerning the rightness and the righteousness of engaged conduct and belonging in the public sphere, the common square, as part and parcel of a ‘fulfilling’ life.
Certainly, our Grandparents’ generation (I hesitate to suggest our Parents’ generation), was very much of the avowed advocacy for belonging in movements and organizations and ‘activating’ and ‘organizing’ in a manner that would truly put these latter-day “activists” for “social justice” to shame. All done without twitter or texting or anything else of that nature! Simply accomplished through more traditional bonds of sodality and mutual interests (rather than simply having a ‘mutual interest’ so to speak – that is to say, a direct personal advantage to be gained by all of those involved in some sort of microcosm reflection of investors in the joint stock company), and often a very strong – if understated – sense of social responsibility.
Yet ‘today’ … what do we have.
Plato said that the penalty for lack of involvement/engagement in politics was to wind up being governed by your inferiors. He neglected to analyze the situation of the present day (presumably due to its utter incomprehensibility) – which is characterized not so much by “no matter who you wind up voting for, you somehow always elect ‘politicians'”, as “no matter who you wind up voting for – if you even bother to vote – the Technocrats are the ones truly in control.”
The individual, the family, the faith, the folk, the fire-brigade. All are disempowered unless they happen to “know the right people” within whose ears to flatter and to whisper in dim pursuit of some vague and vain level of amelioration to their circumstance.
Stick head above parapet, and watch it get shot at. Unless one is a “dummy” in which case, stick head with impunity! And extolling outpourings of support.
And meanwhile, those bodies, those organizations, those movements which have existed at some level *between* the crusts of the personal in the sense of those “individuals and their families”, and the political in the sense of “the state” – ‘civil society’ or ‘civic society’ or whatever it is in the jargon – have painfully atrophied. The ‘meat’ has not, as it were, “gone bad” … it’s been stolen. Declared off-limits. Replaced, insofar as it has and can be, with various forms of indigestible tofu and/or gristle. Often in the same sandwich and with nary a forthought nor regard for preference or necessity, in so doing.
[Indeed, we’re just about at the point of the whole thing being replaced with tapwater in the manner of the alleged ‘water sandwich’ supposed to exist somewhere out there here in New Zealand]
This isn’t just the ‘disenchantment of the world’. It’s the outright, abject soul-sucking Vortex of Doom.
(except it isn’t even a ‘Doom’. Not really – in the olden sense. That implies far too much ‘meaning’, to much ‘traditionality’, too much ‘appropriateness’ and heavy laden of emotional meaning and significance. This is, if anything, a far more fundamentally bleaker ‘apathetic’ not-even-nihilism; which is set upon us)
So what do we have left? What adds ‘flavour’, let alone ‘filling’ to our lives?
Well, exactly that posited in that last line of extracted-article: “Fun”. It’s not really ‘fun’, of course, but to the mind-numbed and cornea-seared and dopamine-desensitized nerval input receptors, perhaps it matters not so much in difference.
Great if you happen to be in the business of providing or purveying “fun”, of course. you’ve suddenly found yourself with a veritable MONOPOLY on “meaning” here in this benighted time – in the manner of the only person selling matches down a very dark and dismal cave (and best nobody talk about the potential for gas-pockets, or oxygen-depletion .. or how the blind-man’s already rather better adapted for such conditions .. ) .
And it’s a helluvalot easier if you don’t have to “think” about the whole thing, lest you might potentially realize just how unhappy and unsatisfying the whole post-crumb toast-sandwich edifice actually is.
So – “semi-automated citizen in a world of play”, it is.
Except without, in anything but the most venal and vaguely legalistic sense, the word “citizen” in there, much of the time.
“Citizen of the World”, indeed.
It’s Long Gone. [this is life (On/) The Beach]
Hell, at this stage you’re not even a Citizen of the *Under*World. you might *possibly* make it to “Citizen of MovieWorld” , and insofar as Clownworld *has* ‘citizenry’ – often advertised via its franchisee, McWorld, – I’m sure you can potentially try and buy your way into a corporate membership in the curiously non-elective polity ruled over by (apparently) Mayor McCheese and/or the paper-difference King Burger, with occasional spicy coup potential from a most enigmatic Colonel.
I guess what I’m arcing towards here is a sad coda on the maxim popularized amongst the radical set of the late 1960s: they held that in a society which had destroyed or otherwise abolished adventure, that this therefore meant the only adventure left would be to destroy or otherwise abolish society.
I’m here to tell you that you’re *too late*. You’re not even going to really make the rubble bounce. If you’d like to see fervor, you’re *only* going to see it in a handful of dust because that’s all that’s left.
“Nil illegitimi carborundum” has, it would seem, been replaced by the ultimate results of “carborundum unto Ni[hi]l”
And no doubt someone’s *still* attempting to sell you the resultant ground-up superstructure as nose-candy.
We’re not even in a situation wherein one can confidingly say “this is the way the world ends ; this is the way the world ends ; this is the way the world ends – not with a bang, but with a tumblr”. [yes, I know due to certain post-psephological events of the past two years, it would perhaps have been more fashionable to suggest that it would be with a *twitter* [possibly immediately preceding a “bang”, with or without the ‘hush money’] that would trigger the End of the World .. but that is, at its most significant, barely only a symptom..]
That is not to say, of course – obviously, even – that we have witnessed the Immanentization of the Eschaton.
Because, put bluntly .. we *haven’t*.
Instead, some strange beast slouched its way toward Gomorrah, TORE DOWN THIS WALL, and then proceeded to build another one, ever higher, yet curiously impermeable to Babel-ish fate and apparent divine deficits in structural engineering … with which to permanently, it would seem, *impermeate* the ‘barrier’ between us and the Infinite, the Eternal.
(how else to explain the apparent fact that the Eschaton, rather than being/becoming Immanentized, has instead Immaterialized. Instead, we’re not even in a senes, a senex of Time with a Capital T anymore. Just this post-teleological This Goes On ; And On ; And On ; And On ; It Goes On ;And On ; And i’m not simply talking about the length of this rant. But rather the very nature and notion of causality in the manner akin to a Roadrunner cartoon wherein the coyote continues to run in the air heedless of the fact that he’s run out of cliff to run upon- except shock and horror of the ant-age , suddenly the laws of physics themselves no longer seem to apply regardless)
“The Meek” haven’t just “inherited the Earth” … they’ve damn well produced, doctored, and then mischievously infiltrated a fundamentally fraudulent will (both to the cosmos, as well as, ultimately, to themselves and inherent in the term “benefactors”…which implies some “benefit” has actually been derived here) before immediately killing the policy-holder(s).
At this rate, the proverbial meteorite strike would probably count as ‘gentrification’.