Too much pressure

“(..)
Too much pressure, my life’s so hard
Too much pressure, and all them certain kind of people
Too much pressure, them having it easy
Too much pressure, them having it easy
Too much pressure, them sail through life
Too much pressure, them have no joy
Too much pressure, them have no joy
It’s too much pressure, it’s too much pressure
This pressure got to stop
This pressure got to stop
This pressure got to stop
It’s got to stop, it’s got to stop….
(..)”
The Selecter, downloadable from iTunes & whatever.

[Re-posted from The Old Site, original dd. 27-06-2009. If anything is this is the cash value of my ideas.]

Well, something to kill the time (mine & maybe yours). Good lyrics. Great music.

Pressure has always been predominant; struggle for life and all that. Heaven and hell and the risk of eternal damnation as well. But it has transformed, and is still transforming, no doubt.

Let’s start with the former.

In times we know only of our history lessons, the phenomenon clearly was that only the happy few had the time on their hands  to be tormented by their own,  at least to some extent, chosen targets. I’m not speaking of the rich and famous, of the powerful and rich. Wealth, fame and power are sources of pressure: pressure to achieve goals mainly set by others, or by a general (e.g. sociological) context. I’m speaking of the happy few intellectuals who – either through inheritance or through selection on a basis of intellectual or physical ability – wound up having time that – from the point of view of immediate utility in the framework of the then current society – was unaccounted for.

This was literally unchallenged time: stressless and detached. The people having it had a lot of it but there were very few people that had any of it. Not the rich, wealthy and powerful as all of them were (and are) under constant pressure to conform to the many demands of their status and the continuation of it, not only for their lifetime but also across generations (of kindred blood or spirit). Those quoted here are mostly of the specific class of happy few with time that they did not have to account for to anyone but themselves.

The happy irony (proving just how utterly unavoidable intellectual and societal progress are) is that this class of happy few (from gladiators over clergy to academics) are the by-product of numerous status quo’s, numerous regimes. Necessary by-products, because the rich, famous and powerful needed the rewarding mechanism of inheritance [and merit] to ensure their continued service to the status quo by the promise of, at least, riches to their offspring [and to the studious]. Necessary as well because any regime needs some selection of the intellectually and physically best in case there is some external challenge is to be defended against. Once selected they will mainly be idle, since in the status quo the challenges will be few and far between.

I didn’t forgot the irony.

The irony is that the necessary by-product of a status quo invariably generates the ideas that will underpin the overturning of the status quo that allowed them to be generated.

[Oh, come on: if you want your irony in one-liners – Go somewhere else!]

This diagnosis of ‘idleness’, or lack of pressure, is probably accurate over vast times from the first civilizations until recently. Probably until the first fin de siècle that was called the ‘fin de siècle’. Only then (examples are Musil, Proust, Wilde et al.) did this type of idleness become self-assertive; no longer defensive against the charges of ‘decadence’ but claiming decadence as ‘the way to be’.

Not that there weren’t precursors, Montaigne was one and there were others, but the archetype was more that of Darwin (and there is nothing wrong with him, he just did not claim that the type of idleness he had was a good thing, in general).

Anyways, it is no co-incidence that the timing of assertive idleness (and laziness) co-incides with growing industrialization and urbanization. Both these latter not only generated more and more people with some idle time; they also colluded in bringing idle people together in ways that exponentially increase the generation of destabilizing ideas. This made modern society and modern regimes inherently unstable (post-modern, if you will). In some of the more fortunate cases this instability is even guaranteed by a constitution.

This transformation has been a good thing but has not remain unchallenged (far from it, our modern history is the history of challenging the democratization of idleness). Even the mechanism of creating and sustaining idle elites has been put to work in a constant struggle against democratization of idleness. ‘Conservative intellectuals’, and its specific pinnacle symbol of think-tanks, have emerged and are, as of very recently, the dominant claim to intellectualism. Elitism with the as yet unstated goal of reserving idleness for a happy few and a, sometimes even explicitly stated, framework of restraining the instability that is brought by new ideas.

Decadence soon became a pejorative term again.

As it proved impossible to contain the increase of free time (although, of late, this is again something that is attempted afresh, see for instance pushing up the retirement age and lengthening the effective work week), their struggle has been to contain the freedom, the ‘idleness’, of people to use free time. This is done by putting pressure on people’s direct utility for society (e.g. a pressure to procure more expensive or compulsively time consuming habits during one’s free time). It is also done by creating a societal context in which free time needs to be ‘spent’ by ever increasing demands for the free time to be supercharged with events and other trophies and symbols of it being ‘well spent’.

The current balance is one in which the happy few of above have become the unhappy many.

Many of us have free time but almost none of us have it in such abundance as to allow us to be spening it idly in pursuit of our own useless, decadent goals. This has checked – and is constantly checking – the generation of new ideas, which is a pity. The fight to fight – against the consensus that the current elite has built to saveguard the prosperity of its offspring and other heirs – is the fight to claim the free time without having to be accounting for it to anyone or anything.

The fight to fight is the fight for unashamed decadence.

I kid you not.

An innocent quote, a complex thought. I apologize for all the usual incoherence. I am also under a lot of pressure so I don’t have the freedom to work these things
out to a satisfactory level of perfection.

[This is still true, I am unhappy enough to say.]

[Whilst writing this I was most appropriately listening to New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble, “Live in Paris” & The Selecter, “Greatest Hits”.]

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