Boy, the so-called first world certainly doesn’t seem to be capable of coping with the fairly routine reality of “sometimes shit goes wrong and people die” that the rest of the world live on a daily basis. Just saying.
So, millennials, huh? What went wrong there? And golly, Enid, those flappers sure were a real menace, what with their reefer and jazz music and sex in motorcars.
And then with the beatniks! And don’t get me started on those dirty hippies! Punks! The world is going to hell in a handbasket!
Hmmm, now that I start to dig into it a little, it’s almost as though there’s always been people who insist on framing things in terms of generational conflict. Who go for the layup of old versus young (or vice versa) when they want to get their dander up about something. Goddamnit they aint gonna let something like not having anything interesting or useful to say stop them from getting their spleen on!
And then oh what a bland cul-de-sac of the zeitgeist we find ourselves in.
At this point, those of you expecting a hit piece on millennials are probably wondering what the fuck I’m doing.
The short answer is: You’ve been clickbaited.
Now, there are two camps of people who would respond to such bait: those who agree that millennials are terrible; and those who took offense at the title and came looking for some more of that sweet, sweet offensive fuel for their raging fire of righteous indignation.
For those of you in the first group who came looking for something of an echo-chamber to amuse yourselves: sorry, there’s not going to be much here for you in terms of that. But do feel free to pull up a chair and hang about if you’re so inclined. I do actually have a point here and it might not do you any harm to check it out.
Now, for those of you who came torches and pitchforks in hand, I would ask you to take a step back and ask yourself how it is that you’ve been clickbaited. Not why (that’s an easy one: it’s to drive traffic to my content), but how?
The how of it is actually pretty simple. It’s an old sales technique and one of the tricks in the How To Win Friends and Influence People bag. To combat indifference and disinterest, the manipulator instigates the target’s irritation or anger. These feelings, while negative, are an emotional response. The target now has engaged emotionally with you; a connection has been established. From there it is child’s play to defuse the anger, and what follows is a dopamine rush from the perceived conflict resolution, however minor. In that state it, the mark is much more likely to buy that used car they didn’t want.
But this is the internet. There’s no car for them to sell you. So what’s the payoff? Attention. Traffic. That is the currency. You see something that pisses you off, and what do you do? You share it, you comment on it; then your friends to the same. Attention. Traffic.
You read something that pisses you off and you click to read more. In order to do what? What need does that impulse serve for you? I have already told you what need of mine you have serviced, but what service are you doing yourself? The only logical answer is that you like being angry and offended. Fair enough then. But if you don’t like that mental state, then what the fuck are doing to yourself? For my benefit, no less.
This is the media cycle we now are meant to participate in. The celebrity offensive act or tweet, followed by the mea culpa apology circuit. These are not missteps; they are calculated manipulations.
Their name is trending on Twitter. Attention. Traffic.
This is not to say it isn’t useful to get angry at things sometimes. But take a second and think about how you are interacting with what has angered you. Is your attention hurting or helping the object of your ire? Are you signal boosting exactly what it is you claim to be fighting against?
Get angry, sure. Say your piece, even better. But don’t serve their fucking agenda. Make a case for what you believe without linking to that offensive tidbit that baited you into action. That’s the way to do it.
Think of it in terms of that old philosophical exercise:
“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a noise?”
The answer is: no it doesn’t. Noise is a human concept. There are vibrations in the air, but they are not interpreted by a human mind that makes a judgment about what is noise and what isn’t.
So, if a shitty tweet is posted and no one reads it, is it offensive?
Without human attention and interpretation, all of this is nothing more than dust blown into the void. Binary ones and zeros dumped into a sea of data storage.
Until you make it something.
Character is what you crave because authenticity is what you lack. Character can only be developed through the slow grind of real life; being put to the test and succeeding or failing on one’s own merits.
It is not to be found in sterile confines of a safe shoebox life.
It is bodily fluids on concrete.
It is realizing there is nothing to be done and yet trying something anyway.
It is failing spectacularly.
It is staring death in the teeth and surrendering to its will; then leaving that moment alive, realizing you have been spared until another day.
The artificial patina of photo filters overlaid upon your phone’s window to the world does not cut it. Nor do you tattoos. This is all product.
You know it.
Get the fuck on with it already.
When hyperbolical postures are taken, liberties are sure to follow.
Meat is murder, is it? An animal’s soul is the equivalent of a human’s, you say?
If I look perturbed at this point it is only because it odd to me that you could believe those things, and tell me so over a lunch where I chow down on animal right in front of you.
“It’s been fun calling you a mass murderer while watching you engage in your crime and spending money in a place that profits from it! Let’s do it again soon! Same time next week?”
You don’t get to adopt a posture that paints me as evil and then remain my friend or even a friendly acquaintance. Because once you do so, I will lose all respect for you. Either you don’t believe a fucking thing you say, or you are comfortable with self-delusion and complicity in evil to a degree that would make Eva Braun wince.
If you want to hate me for what I am, or the kind of ideas I have, or the things I have done and do, that is your business. You are more than welcome to. But understand that I will not be a prop in some identity constructing, moral outrage performance. I am not a scratching post. Call me the devil because I’m a white male? Disregard my perspective and voice because of it? So be it. I can understand why a person would choose to adopt that posture. The second you do, however, you and I are done.
No great loss to either party, I suppose, but there it is.
So this is modern life. What wonders.
Peer into your phone.
The modern Oracle.
This is what we live for now.
If nothing is meaningful without transposition into pixels and code,
then how can I have meaning?
Take that selfie.
There you are. Ones and zeros in dots of light.
That’s better. Now you’re something.
Why is it all so empty?
Why do I hate myself?
Why do I hate the ones I love?
Why am I empty?
What do I have?
What do I want?
What do I need?
What am I?
Who am I?
There are no answers for this most important question in your new Oracle.
A sea of likes and circle-jerk positivity will only muddy your mind.
Don’t worry too much though.
Though it wounds like a thorny parasite worming its way through you,
shitting cancer as it goes,
this is the modern condition.
The gift of consumer capitalism.
Suck it up.
They have pills for you to numb the worst of it now.
Ask your doctor what is right for you.
Say! Those are some swell tattoos.
So, you’re a pirate, huh? Cut your teeth sailing the high seas, raping your way across the Caribbean in search of Spanish gold?
Have you even been on a sailing vessel?
Again with the no.
Then I suppose it could be said that all your tattoos of pirate iconography just make you look like some kind of poseur hipster cunt.
Good thing for you that you’re appropriating the unearned badges of honor of a bygone criminal underclass. This way you’ll never need to have that, “so, tell me, where the fuck did you earn that ink? Who you with?” conversation with an actual, real life hardcase.
If you ever met a real pirate your booty would be the booty.
To start with, let’s get one thing straight here: capitalism isn’t bad. Basic capitalism isn’t the problem. People selling their goods and services for money that they can buy goods and services with is a fine way to function. There’s nothing wrong with this.
It’s the parasitic class of corporate capitalists that are the problem.
Let’s say I notice a hole in the market. I see there is a need for a product that does not exist. I form a company: Gizmo Inc. Then I make a small run of this product: The Gizmal.
The Gizmal works! I sell as many as I can make. Success!
However, I have a problem. I am not a multinational corporation. At this stage, I cannot afford to make all the Gizmals that I would be able to sell. I don’t have the capital to produce that much. But I only have a limited amount of time before other companies copy the Gizmal and exploit that market.
I have to scale up and make those Gizmals.
Well, thankfully, capitalism has developed a system for doing this. I take Gizmo Inc public to raise that capital.
The market analysts check us out and see that we’ve got something here. The numbers look good! We raise all the money we could ever need, and more, and scale the fuck up. Gizmals are flooding the market. It’s a hit!
In year one after going public, we sell ‘x’ number of Gizmals.
In year two, we sell 3x.
In year three, we sell 6x.
Our stock keeps going up and up! Gizmo Inc is flying high. With increases in sales like this, our profits are increasing at a level that makes the company very attractive to investors. The corporate capitalists love us! What could possibly go wrong?
Well, here’s the thing:
The market for Gizmals is finite. There are only a certain number of customers that need Gizmals. By year three, the market is saturated. Everyone who needs a Gizmal has a Gizmal.
Now, thankfully, we expected this, so our engineers cleverly designed Gizmals to only last for one year. They are designed to fail.
So, thanks to this clever planning, in year four we still sell 6x number of Gizmals. We also know that we will continue to sell 6x Gizmals every year until the Chinese figure out how to copy the Gizmal. But that will take them years. The profits will continue as before and we will keep churning out those Gizmals.
Good enough, right?
See, the market capitalists are in the mix now, right? 6x Gizmals sold in year four is unacceptable. This is failure.
The market capitalists, with their analytics and projections, valued Gizmo Inc’s stock with the assumption that profits would continue to increase at the exponential rate of its first three years.
Getting the same profit this year that we did the last is not okay. This is failure!
Seeking to please the market capitalists, Gizmo Inc brings out some new products. We release the Gizmole, the Gizwizzle, and the Gizwizard.
Sadly for us, none of these new products are something the market needs. They sell okay for a year, but people quickly realize the products are bullshit.
The market capitalists need to be satiated, though. They need their fucking profits.
So, onto cost cutting. We slash jobs and move production overseas.
Success! Profits are up!
However, now the Chinese are catching up faster than ever, as our foreign production facilities hemorrhage workers to the competition as fast as we train them.
As well, the quality of our Gizmals plunges, effectively erasing the difference between our product and the Chinese knockoffs.
By year eight, Gizmo Inc is fucked. The market capitalists pick over the bones a bit, chop up the subsidiaries to sell whatever intellectual property still has value to the highest bidder.
Then it is done. Gizmo Inc is over.
And the market capitalists move on to the next host.
And begin the process again.
This is our world now.
A system requiring unlimited, constant growth trying to force its will on a finite world.
The highway has to run out sometime. Going full throttle right to the end of it might not be the best choice.
It’s the outrage scavenger hunt! Hooray!
It’s time to get offended! Time to get outraged! What fun!
What’s this? Is that a white woman wearing a kimono?
Appropriation! Let’s all pile on and ruin her life!
It’s time to make a difference.
Did someone ignorant share an extreme opinion you don’t like?
We can’t just leave that alone to die a quiet death all by itself. No way!
This is important work we’re doing here.
Piling on. Ripping other little people to shreds.
Fixing the world.
One ruined life at a time.
You can judge me all you want. That’s fine. But it doesn’t stop me from understanding you.
I think I am a troublesome rascal for you, and this is why you pester me so. You have constructed your notions of the world through the prisms of your philosophy, requiring everything be made to fit into stark categories. All this in aid of your Cause. Black and white. Right and Wrong. Those who are evil and must be judged, versus those who fight the good fight alongside you.
Now if I was simply evil to you, I think you would not trouble to assail me. It would be sufficient to stick me with some standardized label of dismissal. But something in my mere existence angers you. I do nothing but quietly live my life in a way slightly different than yours, but still you attack me as though I was the worst of those you fight. Yet I think even you must admit that in your spectrum of evil, I barely occupy the mildest edge.
This is the trouble with stark absolutes. You look at me and see mostly white; yet a white stained with stripes of black. You would decontaminate me of those stains: purify me through an immersion in your philosophy; a baptism into your Cause. What you fail to perceive is that there is no clear division of my parts. Grey is not a dirty white, it is its own entity. And I am nothing if not a spectrum of greys.
“But there is black there,” you may scream, “and I cannot abide it, for I have sworn myself its bitter enemy.”
Well, if I cannot be grey to you, then I must be black, and you must despise me as you do your worst enemy. But I am not your worst enemy, am I? Nowhere near it. And this is why you are so angry with me: for in me you see your Cause’s ultimate failure.
Why I am able to anger you so, simply by asking a question?
Because you have no answer that doesn’t paint me as evil. Your absolutism requires that you convict me based on thoughts you suspect I have. For in your philosophy, thoughts themselves become crimes. Your entire philosophy depends upon this, and without your philosophy, your Cause is mere noise.
You seek a revolution, yet paint those you would have fight for you with the same brush you swipe at your enemy.
So I say again: you can judge me all you want, and I am more than happy to leave you to it. I simply ask that in future you keep your judgements of me to yourself. You are no longer of any more interest to me than a puzzle solved. Until you can speak to me from within the beauty of a spectrum of greys, I have no more use for you.
Good day to you.
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