Every New Beginning Comes From Some Other Beginning’s End

Forgive the dated Semisonic reference — I’m an unrepentant child of the 90s, after all. Oh the streed cred I just lost!

This is a new site. I don’t expect it to be like any others, including previous aborted attempts of mine. I blogged intermittently at The Dawn Treader, which was founded on New Year’s Day in 2007 and went through multiple failed iterations before I finally took mercy on the poor bastard and killed it. I’m hoping that a fresh start (albeit with old designs) will do the necessary trick. The change, however, isn’t in the URL — it’s in me. TDT tried to be many things, but mostly attempted to ape successful political blogs like The Daily Dish and TalkingPointsMemo without the consistency or reader base.

I wanted to be “respectable,” in the hopes of someday securing a posh law degree and a standing invitation to the Sunday talk shows, where I could enjoy face time without the slightest hint of accountability, concern for facts, or self-respect. All my life I’ve struggled with the lower-middle/middle-class/bumpkin Midwest chip on my shoulder — I went to a very good college and could never get over the misguided desire to spurn my roots and strive toward that prestigious and gilded version of the “successful American.” I wanted to be important, damn it, with an expensive car and fucked-up children at prestigious East Coast schools. I wanted to return to my Midwest family and shower them not with their stern God, but with his second-and-third-in-command: money and power. But you know what? Fuck that shit. It’s all garbage. Prestige, appearances, fat bank accounts stuffed with the proceeds of fake assets fleeced from the very people I come from — it’s all an illusion, as much an illusion as “market capitalism” or “democracy in the age of ubiquitous media.” It’s all fake. It doesn’t exist. The market is largely a lie, sold by those in power and standing to gain to those who vote based on their sociocultural prejudices, reinforced by the same media who stand to gain from their unthinking support. We’ve learned our whole lives that government is bad, that the free market is not only the best means of allocating goods and services, demand and supply, but also the ideological gold standard by which we should measure the rightness or wrongness of any other nation or people on the face of the earth. So the human rights abusing, totalitarian Chinese embrace the free market? A golf clap and a blind eye — and I’ll take my check in dollars or yuan, it’s all the same.

And democracy? Democracy requires a group of well-informed and engaged citizens, in the real sense of the word. We have fat, lazy, and ignorant fools — and those are just the pundits and media. Whatever sells ad space passes for journalism, and whatever makes for the juiciest controversy for political discourse.

So I’ll say again. Fuck. That. Shit.

I currently work as a research analyst at a market research firm outside of Boston, where we ask people about their perceptions of brands on the market, package it so that the data reflects what our clients want, and then spoon feed it to them so the executives can pat themselves in the back, deposit eight-figure bonuses in their bank accounts, and refuse their workers health care or the right to unionize. We survey people and ask them to report their opinions on brands, the raison d’etre of which is to manipulate people subconsciously to buy whatever bullshit story they’re selling. Then we ram that data into statistical models, which are “tweaked” so that the “story” remains consistent. Then we presume to present the paying client our “research” findings so to confirm their own beliefs about their brands, under the fiction that any consumer has any choice in anything. It’s complete garbage.

We live in a world that’s changing far faster than most of us recognize. Those few of us who understand the explosive nature of the changes blooming under our very noses on a daily basis mostly applaud it, trading a bit of convenience in daily life for the deep thought required to understand the collapse on our very doorstep. I named this blog Destructive Anachronism for a few reasons. For starters, I’m an anachronist and proud of it. I listen to records, I read flesh and blood books (and will NEVER own a Kindle or anything like it), I spend hours in a cafe drinking coffee and reading whatever the hell I please while my laptop sleeps at home, and I subscribe to a real newsprint newspaper. Anachronism in itself isn’t a virtue, and I would never maintain that it is, but the difference facing the world today is between a world of tangible objects, things that can be felt, smelled, incorporated into our tactile universe and a mysterious netherworld of nonobjects, the creation, storage, and manipulation of which very few of us understand. Digitality is not a virtue. Convenience may seem beneficial in the short run, but the long term costs may tell an entirely different story. I consider myself an anachronist because I oppose the encroaching digitilization, manipulability, and opening to social totalitarianism conditioned by marketing that seems to characterize more and more my generation, and completely the younger generations. There is a tangible difference between the New York Times in print and on a Kindle — and the difference is tangible. The yes-men of technological subservience will object that the feel of newsprint, the struggle to fold a paper just right while holding a cup of coffee or glass of Shiraz, the gray residue on fingerprints, the smell of ink are irrelevant, that the information is what counts most, but that misses the point. What matters is the experience, the tacit and tactile understanding of the mental and physical work that thorough and skeptical reporting requires. Immediacy can never substitute for contemplation.

Does no one understand that the world has gone fucking crazy? That nothing we do during our increasingly longer days at work has any real value, any real meaning? I spend my days masturbating in Excel to produce a completely meaningless and worthless product that my company has succeeded in conning to clients eager to squeeze every last cent of surplus value out of the market. There’s no “choice” or “freedom” in this weird world we’ve created. A handful of collusive companies control our media, our food, our clothes, our means of interacting with each other. Advertising is the new opium of the masses. It soothes them to complacency with its low prices, its glimmering celebrity skin, its forever unfulfilled promises of earthly bliss, the perfect body, the proper sexual techniques, the acceptable formulae for regulated health and beauty.

Anachronism is a futile protest against an inexorable wave. It need not be an attempt to stand in the whirlwind and demand stasis or even retrogression, but how can one explain a position of joy of modernity and technological advance combined with abhorrence at the eternal and omnipresent digital ghosts summoned forth at every turn to things incapable of either nuance or subjectivity?

All of these things — Facebook, Twitter, World of Warcraft, Second Life, LinkedIn — serve only to intensify and strengthen the hold monopolistic capitalism has upon what once was human social life. The convenience, the entertainment, the increased potential for communication are obvious, but does no one ask at what cost? Because Facebook doesn’t charge for membership, does anyone really believe it’s free? What do you give up in terms of your relation to your own subjectivity, to the crystallized and reified remnants of subjectivity your associates cling to or discard like yesterday’s not-soy-enough latte?

Which brings me to the destructive part. I have no greater lust than the permanent destruction of all these entities which claim to represent humanity’s greatest hopes and aspirations, but in reality represent only their own self-interest and that of their peers in forever dissecting and pathologizing any aspect of human behavior which doesn’t fit their models, which can’t be incorporated into their mission statements, stowed away in their Blackberrys. Humanity has not advanced from ancient Greece — we remain clannish, Macchiavellian, playing greater lip-service to diversity and difference on the one hand, while exercising all power on the other to subjugate and eliminate those voices which would point out the injustices done in the name of efficiency and artificially-created demand. It is all a gross fiction, told by liars to the naive and unthinking, who have never conceived the world as other than it is, for who would that profit?

A politician is not sufficient for hope. A change in party affiliation not enough for change. Change and hope require a fundamental reorganization of human thought and being, an ontology that bears some connection to concrete reality. They require hours spent in silent solitude, a glass of wine and a cigarette before an open window, with a thumbed and marked-up paper book on the windowsill.

I am a lazy fool, prone to inaction, alcoholism, and depression, but the one thing I know above all else is that the “real world,” the world of the moon and sea, of candles and grass, of shit and saliva and blood is worth more than anything else on this godforsaken planet, and I’ll fight to the death for that world. I reached the conclusion some time ago that I cannot live in a thoroughly sanitized, administered, disinfected, optimized world, because I am a human. If that world is gone forever, then I won’t stick around to see the fallout. I’m going to quit my job and write feverishly and passionately, because it’s the only damn thing I know how to do. I don’t think anyone wants to listen, but that won’t stop me until all hope is gone. This is our world damn it. It’s real. Rather humanity in all its senseless and messy lust, passion, anger, and hope than a sanatorium in which all individuals are perfect avatars of irreversible decline.

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~ by Benji on 29 December 2008.

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