Wednesday, 28 January 2009

It's a generation thing, buddy

The inspiration for this entry was a topic that was introduced and partially discussed in one of the seminars in my course. The wider context of the seminar was - or, I suspect, should have been - using Marxism to interpret literature. Instead, we mostly ended up discussing the implications and indictment of the modern English young working force suggested in the first part of Andrew O'Hagan's Orwell Memorial Lecture, The English. In the seminar, I managed to spout out some garbled nonsense about commodity fetish, upward mobility, and alienation - basically, things that could fit within the narrow context of Marxism in response to O'Hagan's polemic. However, I don't think those things begin to touch on the more important cause and effect of what seems to be disillusionment in the young English "proletariat".

This disenfranchised state in the mostly young (and I should mention that words like disillusionment, disenfranchisement, etc may well prove to be either misnomers or understatements) that suggests itself through an overwhelming amount of binge drinking and a high rate of depression is, I would suggest, the making of the effects of the post-modern condition. Post-modern condition: a vague term to be sure.

To be clear then, by post-modern condition, I mean the era marked by the appreciation of the implication of the "death of God". By that I mean a time in society when the people (begin to) realise that god has died and we humans are all alone in a vast universe.

The death of God, for anyone familiar with Nietzschean philosophy, was predicted to happen, and I don't know exactly when it happened. In any case, it happened; and while the mad man may have come too early for the occupants of The Gay Science, the news of god's death finally "reached the ears" of the English, and was transmuted to the young. That is the legacy with which we will have to live. However, with the death of god comes the inevitable loss of human transcendence. No longer made in the image of God. We poor creatures, evolved from what we would have previously derisively called "lowly beasts", have learnt to realise that we have no heavenly hand to tip a favour our way. The earth, it seems, is really just the palest of blue dots amongst innumerable other dots in the dark, stark ocean of space and time. In the true fashion of our oedipal instincts, we killed the father birthed to us by history - we destroyed his myths too. We had no choice.

Having destroyed the mythologies attached to God, it would have been necessary to create a new set of myths. Stories to encourage a meaning in life. Therein lied the problem. Killing god meant avoidance of metaphysics and overt pretensions towards attaching transcendental properties to humanity. We started constructing our modern mythos anyway. We had no choice.

These modern set of mythologies all bear the same instinct: perverse materialism. And in our extremely materialist mythologies, we gave into that base instinct that ensures we recreate in idealised images, and founded an unprecedented celebrity culture. With celebrity culture came high doses of commodity fetishism and the need to believe that life would be that much better if the average prole became a celebrity too. In fact, our myths evolved even more into something resembling: well, you might not become a celebrity, but life could still approach happiness and completion if you use the same commodities celebrities use. What a mythology. Further, with the availability of loans and credit, the finer parts of our myths were in some ways achievable - better yet, in a human lifetime.

The thing is, our myths were great until the reality of it all hit home. Perhaps that's the advantage the old myths had over ours: their aspirations were for a state after death; ours for status in life. Clearly our myths have shown themselves incapable. Worse, in the continued urbanisation of the better part of the world, they increase anomie and depression. Therefore, since nationalism is out, we need new religious myths. In America, the beginnings of a new religious myth can be seen: based on change through individuals feeling they are making a difference. Still retaining its humanist, secularist cloak, it, however, incorporates elements of transcendentalism of old mythos. Most importantly, though, the myth - built on a foundation of politics, nonetheless - has ensured that many of the people who at one time felt marginalised - alienated - now feel part of a community (even those opposed to the man central to the myth now have their own collective). Essentially, the individuals now feel they matter in an important way. Life has meaning then.

To sum up, I would say there's a problem in a community when a large number of its members seem to be channelling their death drive into binge drinking, etc. The solution may be not a socialist revolution, but invention of a mythos fit for our time.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

New Year, No Resolutions

It feels like it's been a century since I last crapped in this here bog. A New Year has come - full circle in the human conception - and I feel I should continue posting my messages to my future self - writings exist in history; bringing us news from the past; reminding what we will be of what we once were; subtly erasing the death lines.

I loved 2008. In its own way it taught me many things I ought to know, and I truly hate to see it go. However, time marches on. The future beckons. I have no firm decisions that might be counted as resolutions, so I probably should refrain from solidifying any of my options through typing them. What comes to mind, though, is that I want to write, read, love and learn to a great degree this year. Yes, I think I'll do those. I'll start with those and see what happens next. It's 2009, and it, too, will die soon. The trick is to make sure it doesn't waste away.

Happy New Year, fellow traveller.