Tag Archives: consumerism

The self was a good idea but its time has come to fade away

Identity is the new Holy Grail. Everybody is looking for something that does not exist, and still would somehow magically transform their mediocre existence into the golden rule. The quest for identity responds to the post-modern question of belonging. Whether they are patriotic nationalist or universal subcultural causes, we constantly contrive collectives within which to identify with other people. This is post-modern because it is a melancholy for modern times when belonging belonged to the self-evident, except for those who self-evidently did not belong – the gays, the displaced, the ill, the Western Easterners, the out-of-luck. It’s the excluded who shaped these post-modern times because they frantically started a quest for being included ‘somewhere’. This was, for them, of the essence because not-belonging was the essential problem they experienced in modernity.

The rule is that the exception always has a tendency to become the rule. The exception is entropy, and it causes energy to shift to keep it under control. This is how in modern times the excluded discovered this problem of identity, that quickly became the post-modern problem for everyone. The meaning of life was transformed into the meaning of me and here we are trying to resolve our selves in an identity with others. Continue reading

The Winter of Our Discontent

“Men don’t get knocked out, or I mean they can fight back against big things. What kills them is erosion; they get nudged into failure. They get slowly scared. I’m scared. Long Island Lightning Company might turn off the lights. My wife needs clothes. My children – shoes and fun. And suppose they don’t get an education? And the monthly bills and the doctor and teeth and a tonsillectomy, and beyond that suppose I get sick and can’t sweep this goddam sidewalk? Course you don’t understand. It’s slow. It rots out your guts. I can’t think beyond next month’s payment on the refrigerator. I hate my job and I’m scared I’ll lose it. How could you understand that?” John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent,  p. 14, Penguin Books, 1961.

I started reading again; luckily I’m not a man to keep with any plan. This is great. Steinbeck is great. American lit is great. As if it feels a responsibility to make up for the lack of American history. When I read this in context I thought this is the kind of stuff capitalism generates.  I was wrong: this is the human condition. The problem is not hope but the lack of it. Or, seen from the other angle, the problem is not hope but the omnipresent all-pervasive fear of losing it.

The key word in the above, for me, is ‘refrigerator’. Continue reading

Awkwardness

“Such is the joy and burden of being human – we will never be free individuals freely entering into contracts.”, Adam Kotsko, Awkwardness, p. 87, zero books, 2010.

After two to three weeks of doing what I am critical of in others, I’m too lazy to look something up so I just quote from what I happen to be reading. I am not convinced awkwardness is a concept that is very central to humanity. I am sure on the other hand that it is one of many exquisitely exclusively human concepts.  Studying it authentically cannot but lead to something insightful. Such as the above quote and the below question:

 What is most awkward: to belong or not to belong?

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The Soul of Man Under Socialism

 “(..)But the past is of no importance. The present is of no importance. It is with the future that we have to deal. For the past is what man should not have been. The present is what man ought not to be. The future is what artists are.”

“(..)But it is exactly these existing conditions that one objects to; and any scheme that could accept these conditions is wrong and foolish. The conditions will be done away with, and human nature will change. The only thing that one really knows about human nature is that it changes. (..) The systems that fail are those that rely on the permanency of human nature, and not on its growth and development.It is to be noted that Individualism does not come to the man with any sickly cant about duty, which merely means doing what other people want because they want it; or any hideous cant about self-sacrifice, which is merely a survival of savage mutilation. In fact, it does not come to a man with any claims upon him at all. It comes naturally and inevitably out of man. (..)”

“(..)The new Individualism, for whose service Socialism, whether it wills it or not, is working, will be perfect harmony.(..)” Oscar Wilde, “The Soul of Man Under Socialism”, The works of Oscar Wilde, Collins London & Glasgow, 1949, pp. 1039-1043.

[Re-posted from the Old Site, original dated December 12th 2007. Only small adaptations made, it’s surprising I was so open to conservatism back then but the argument is a good one and the remark below therefore has to stand.]

I could have written this better. William Blake could not. Oscar Wilde is older than I am but by far the younger of Blake.

As simple as that (if you read on):

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