Friday, 15 December 2017

What Christmas Cheer?

Christmas is an offering thrown to to the cultural black hole at the center of British society. What black hole? What center? What society? Fraulein Narrator, we are lost.

Fear not, dear reader: we would not subject you to the horror of new ideas (as if we have any). We go back to the old. If, as Margaret Thatcher said "There's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families", then the world must essentially feature a black hole. The effects of the black hole are seen in the disintegration of communal spirits, and the subsequent replacement of the visible manifestations of collective culture with solipsitically formulated replicants. If we see X Factor (or Pop Idol, or Britain's Got Talent) and Inside Out as being related, then we see that in a way, the basic configuration of "Talent" shows is to turn our mental processes inside out, in a larger-than-life-format. Our mental judgments could only gain such great power as to cause roaring cheers at every moment of approval, and loud buzzing, a glowing red cross, at our disapproval, within our minds. Unless, of course, we begin to see the proclamations of a who's-who panel of celebrities as the products of our own minds. X Factor is a capitulation to the black hole.

The replacement for community itself is the anonymous crowd. Although phones are often singled out as isolating us from each other and engendering narcissism, little discussed is how the various locations and systems we interact with actively prevent the formation of collective mindsets. While it is true that many people who share an environment (e.g. a workplace or a school) will end up having similar attitudes and approaches to a number of things, the largest part of this apparently collective mindset will be the result of external impositions, rather than the conscious decisions of individuals. This is because in so many environments, the individuals who form the anonymous crowd (be it a crowd of workers, students, cinema-goers, shoppers, etc.) are denied the power to alter their environment, and even more fundamentally the power to act within it. Having a power to act means no longer being fully bound to the dynamic between a consumer-object passing through a set of mechanisms and those who control the mechanisms. Symbolic concessions are the only thing that the anonymous crowd that gathers around a place are given. Those in control of the mechanisms are willing to introduce "change", so long as it does not challenge their authority to control the mechanisms. What is important about symbolic concessions is that the mechanism retains the functions it had before whatever "change" supposedly occurred. The ultimate supremacy of the mechanisms that make up an environment  over the people who are subject to it is asserted. In such structures, the community cannot even decide what it is, or determine the sense in which it is a community. Because it has little to no active presence in the environment, it is open to being fractured at the will of management, and represents no empowerment for the individuals that comprise it.

The concept of community has to be sold back to the people. This is again a sign of the black hole's effects. Gradually, cultural entities are replaced with simulations. "This is what hard work looks like", "This is what talent looks like", or in the case of the Army, "This is belonging". Culture is being liquidated. As it is liquidated, we are increasingly left stranded. Soon what will disappear are not only traditions and cultures, but the very possibility of them existing at all. As the symbols that we exchange to form a culture decay, become less valuable, have fewer connections to anything beyond the narrow circles of our own lives, we are forced to retreat, as the smothering fog of a second, virtual Industrial Revolution descends upon us. More and more, we are enveloped in the darkness of this fog, unable to really depend on anything or anyone, and suffer the stupefying effects it has on our minds.  Culture becomes another name for a cycle of pointless offerings, pseudo-practices and countless layers of self-delusion.

No comments:

Post a Comment