“While modern capitalism constantly develops new needs in order to increase consumption, people’s dissatisfaction remains the same as ever. Their lives no longer have any meaning beyond a rush to consume, and this consumption is used to justify the increasingly radical frustration of any creative activity or genuine human initiative — to the point that people no longer even see this lack of meaning as important.” - Pierre Canjuers, Socialisme ou Barbarie #27

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Uncomfortable Questions



It's funny, because it's true.  Carlin had some valid points.  In another genre and context, so did Agent Smith:


I'll have something to say in future posts on the use and abuse of anti-materialist and nihilist philosophies by popular culture.  There are more important questions to ask first.  Most generally, how far do we follow these thoughts?  How do you know if you're really awake?  The matrix is everywhere...

Carlin's monologue is comical, Agent Smith's is dramatic: both are memorable because of the ideas they tap into, ideas that are neither original nor new, thoughts as old as human beings themselves.  For all the love, depth and meaning we can find in human existence, can we ever escape the sense of living inside an enormous, meaningless cosmic farce?  Philosophies like antinatalism or movements like VHEMT (each, of course with subcultures and subreddits of their own) seem to take a kind of sociopathic delight in their iconoclasm, so often that it becomes nearly impossible to tell who is sincere and who is just along for the ride.  But then, in the post-Baudrillardian pseudo-culture (and this side of the notoriously disappointing Matrix sequels) of 2016, is there a difference?

I've spent a lot of time this week working on "downsizing" - selling things on ebay and amazon, taking bags of stuff too worthless to sell to charity shops.  It's been satisfying to discover how many of the cherished paper books I thought were hard to find are in fact readily available online for free if you're persistent, but how despite this many of them still hold their monetary value as things, making the process of bothering to sell them worth my while.  But there's an inherent danger in enjoying this sort of thing too much - a kind of holier-than-thou sentiment of what I've dubbed "frugal fetishism" that's all-too-easy to lapse into.  How far can I go along this path without disappearing too soon up my own arse?