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Everything In Pieces

Anecdotes that begin with Back in my day… are usually a sign of some disgruntled notion, unable to cope with change. Every generation keeps them until nobody cares to remember anymore. The shift we’re encountering now is more than just the natural change of time, but an entire reformation of human experience. Most of it, anyway.

And there’s plenty that won’t be missed, fair or unfair, it’s simply the way things are.

I do wish that we’d not sacrifice our humanity for mindless immediate circumstances. Sitting in Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, I am thinking about the way these things used to be—airports, that is. Not long ago they were these fantastic buildings of sadness and joy, reunions and separations. Waiting at the gate, kids would burst from the doorways into the arms of waiting grandparents, suited businessmen into the arms of their family after a trip, soldiers and their spouses finally being able to feel one another after a tour overseas.

The amount to which the 9/11 attacks changed America—or, perhaps, just revealed its true and inhuman nature—is unparalleled in the modern world. Not even twenty years later and barely a facade of decency is left in this country, with consumerism and individualism running rampant as wars remain waged overseas for what remains an unknown reason.

I feel like the airports were a prelude to everything else; the security concerns unquestionably took precedent over any function the airport had as an aspect of American society and human civilization. Our nature had officially shifted from creating functional habitats that best suited people to creating secure environments for a subset, be they ticketed passengers in an airport or employees at a tech giant.

Not many Americans, percentage-wise, lost anything on 9/11. But in its wake we’ve all lost a notion of ourselves, a generation now raised entirely on a screen with the resonance of reality and sensory experiences losing all relevance (less they can be tagged in a photo).

I don’t know. It’s just sad.

10:00 / 23 January 2019
Posted to Opinion

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Ordinary Intersections

I forgot my headphones today. A full day of work at the library and coffee shop planned and I fucking forgot headphones.

Headphones provide a strange type of alienation from the world: self-imposed. A cue to the world—a visual Away MessageI’m not available right now. More than that, since the iPod’s first campaign through the modern Beats ads, they’re somewhat of a status symbol (no matter how dumb that status looks).

I try and be pretty aware of their use. I don’t understand wearing headphones absent-mindedly on walks. The sonic experience of both nature and the city can be equally enthralling.1 I also don’t get why people wear headphones when they drive, because of, well, you know. Safety concerns and all.

But a modern coffee shop is practically intolerable without some noise. It’s impossible to walk through a crowded cafe in America and find any square footage where you can’t hear some of the most inane bullshit you’re likely to experience all day.2 So tepid are Americans to discuss the society of our day that I’ve had art censored from cafés in Portland (of all places) due to their political nature. Some respond by talking about things out of their control—sports teams, the weather—and the response for me is to listen to something chaotic.

(The library is almost the complete opposite; the stunning silence almost begs for preferential sound to allow for focus, a way to keep the brain on a cycle while dealing with information and research and workflow. I can barely focus on the fact I’m having trouble maintaining focus on anything. A rather idyllic First World Problem, I know, but it’s these little inconveniences that can seriously fuck up the day’s output.)

      Notes
  • It wasn’t too long ago when Being Present was the hipster fashion phrase of the moment; how anyone could reasonably say they were aware of the ‘moment’ while wired into social media, the internet, music, podcasts, etc., is beyond me.
  • Long gone are the days of Les Deux Magots. Let’s face it: most conversations people have are, at best, barely tolerable to those involved. Nobody here is solving world hunger; most of the time they’re just deciding what to get for lunch. Business owners may not want to risk conversation that could be ‘offensive’ to customers, but that just further proves the influence of commerce outweighs any sense of sociopolitical self-preservation we have as a culture in America.

13:00 / 10 January 2019
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Tragic Spectacle

I find myself reading and re-reading texts that foresaw the age of the internet but were still published in the pre-digital era—McLuhan, Debord, Baudrillard—and can’t help but wonder what they would write in 2019 were any still alive to see how prophetic their texts truly were;

The alienation of the spectator, which reinforces the contemplated objects that result from his own unconscious activity, works like this: The more he contemplates, the less he lives; the more he identifies with the dominant images of need, the less he understands his own life and his own desires. The spectacle’s estrangement from the acting subject is expressed by the fact that the individual’s gestures are no longer his own; they are the gestures of someone else who represents them to him. The spectator does not feel at home anywhere, because the spectacle is everywhere.

—Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle

Each day offers new opportunity to observe how unable America is to comprehend the shift we are experiencing. Yesterday’s Oval Office address was met with liberal demands for fact-checking, as if proving Donald Trump a liar would somehow this time make a difference.

Obscene is an accurate definition for what Americans seem ready to give up in exchange for ‘normalcy’—seemingly unwilling or unable to realize that what we experience now is the new normal. There is no going back in time, there will be no re-setting of the rules of politics come the next election cycle. Late capitalism and its effects on the body politic is an exercise in existential natural selection: adapt or die.

They tell us, “everyone must do their part,” if we want to save our beautiful model of civilization. We have to consume a little less to be able to keep consuming. We have to produce organically to keep producing. We have to control ourselves to go on controlling. This is the logic of a world straining to maintain itself while giving itself an air of historical rupture. This is how they would like to convince us to participate in the great industrial challenges of this century. And in our bewilderment we’re ready to leap into the arms of the very same ones who presided over the devastation, in the hope that they will get us out of it.

—The Invisible Committee, The Coming Insurrection

The warnings that these philosophers voiced before the internet era regarding the overwhelming power of the information economy fell on the deaf ears of a generation that largely—and ignorantly—enjoyed its profits; one to which that very economy has since allowed for any individual to completely disassociate reason from society.1 From here on out we will endure the whims of those who control the tightening noose of capital, and until that issue is reconciled there will be no avoiding its representatives.2

      Notes
  • Not to mention the fuckers are profiting wildly from it all.
  • With the flaunted riches of unearned wealth and a strict belief in nothing but the market, Donald Trump is the ultimate capitalist; Hillary Clinton would be something like second place there, too. Delusion is the belief that these people will go away—or even remotely represent the true needs of people at large.

18:00 / 9 January 2019
Posted to Opinion

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