Notes from a Millennial: In Defense of Decency

A state religion is nothing out of the ordinary in human history, and even if a nation does not have a state religion de jure, they will almost certainly have one in practice. This applies even to supposedly secular societies, even the society administered to by the “world’s first secular government.” In America, however, a different worship took root: in a land made secular in order to accommodate all the religious beliefs of its populace, many of them religious refugees, a unified religion came to be understood by Americans, one defined by indulgences specifically proscribed against by their “true” religions.

Note: This article refers to “millennials” repeatedly. While the name for any generation is always going to be broad terminology, there are many differing opinions on who exactly is a “millennial.” The following article presumes them to be Americans born between 1982 and 2004, as per the more common definition of “millennial,” but again, this terminology is loose and should not be considered definitive, even within the context of this article.

Second Note: I’m not going to even bother addressing the hypocrisy of many of the criticisms against millennials in this article. There are matters re: millennials that I desired to address, and I think the aforementioned hypocrisy is self-evident (and if it isn’t, give some consideration to the fragile emotional constitution of the Tyler Durden-idolizing man-children who first spread “snowflake” as an insult).

“Forced worship stinks in the nostrils of God.”

 – Roger Williams (1603-83 C.E.), Founder of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (1636-776 C.E.)

A state religion is nothing out of the ordinary in human history, and even if a nation does not have a state religion de jure, they will almost certainly have one in practice. This applies even to supposedly secular societies, even the society administered to by the “world’s first secular government.” In America, however, a different worship took root: in a land made secular in order to accommodate all the religious beliefs of its populace, many of them religious pilgrims, a unified religion came to be understood by Americans, one defined by indulgences specifically proscribed against by their “true” faiths. Golden calves were erected; divinity was invoked to justify imperialist expansion into the western parts of Northern America; Americans worked on Sundays, seeking to satiate the capitalist god they held before their true gods; we coveted our neighbors’ goods. The ’80s came and the Reagan gang took power, and a predisposition in American culture toward crude materialism became a crass classism, and pretensions that the ideology that “anyone can make in America!” was meant to be uplifting were increasingly dropped in favor of a reading of social Darwinism into that same ideology, and beyond that, even mainstream apologism for eugenics.

For a country that prides itself on being so exhaustingly Christian, America’s culture is markedly shaped by a sternly resolute contempt for the poor. And so we face the timeless panic about The Kids These Days, who, to establishment culture’s dismay, are not ones to regularly associate themselves with organized religion, systemically racist institutions, or patriarchal politics, and who by overwhelming margins are rejecting capitalism and professing an admiration for anything ranging from a European-style mix of capitalism and socialism (more common) to full-blown communism (less common, though substantially more common than in prior generations). America watches in horror as the young turn to the writings of Karl Marx, even though America never even understood what Marxism is. The nation shields its eyes, shuddering to watch the carnage of a generation of Americans who believe god is dead or never existed, and simultaneously wagging a finger at them for wanting to help those who cannot help themselves, the central tenant of the belief system laid down by their own god; the very same whose rejection they bemoan. Millennials have rejected not just the mainstream religions from which the god-fearing populace picks and chooses their beliefs, they have, more problematically to the American establishment, also rejected the false gods of consumerism and the accompanying notion of “ethical consumption.”

There are regular articles which trot out polls detailing how millennials are incredibly socialist and really hate capitalism, but also millennials don’t understand what socialism is and also like aspects of capitalism. We get it, man. You want us to think millennials are dopey. They don’t even know what Betamax was; how ignorant! Except your polls don’t offer the option of a mixed system, and typically, when you look at the other generations polled, they know even less about what any of the political systems actually are. So the narrative is that millennials are vapid, ignorant, self-obsessed children in adult bodies, except apparently everybody else is even more vapid and ignorant. If millennials are self-obsessed, our adoption of the baffling insult “social justice warrior” as a golem for our political beliefs is, at the least, a strange way of expressing self-obsession. Millennial-bashers, blind to the juvenoia that they suffer like every generation before them, will look for the opening here and say that the millennial desire to support those who are disregarded is out of a selfish need for self-affirmation, the product of a culture where losers get trophies. Of course, it was these same critics giving those trophies who created that culture (if participation ribbons even had a significant impact on culture at all, which seems dubious), but this paradoxical critique of millennials’ competitiveness has already been hashed out millions if not billions of times on the internet, and at any rate, even if self-affirmation is the objective, if the means to that end are the establishment of a compassionate society, who even gives a fuck?

zizek would prefer not to
Pictured: Millennial expressing feelings on participation in capitalism.

The last of the so-called “millennials” will cast their first ballots in elections in 2022, and you older generations (and self-hating millennials; don’t worry, we won’t forget you when the guillotine blades are being waxed) are probably praying for a reprieve, but you’re not going to get it. Generation Z, our little brothers and sisters and our sons and daughters and nieces and nephews, are even further left, and they will cut you if you don’t respect which gendered pronouns someone wants to be referred to with. As someone who idled away many a teenage afternoon listening to the likes of George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Chris Rock, etc., I know I’m supposed be all bent out of shape about this for some reason or another, but none of those reasons really resonate with me. I get that people like to be edgy, but there’s two types of edge: the edge that makes you uneasy because the government might try to censor you, or corporations might try to use their leverage against you, and the edge that makes you uneasy because you know what’s being said is harmful to someone. One is punching up, one is punching down. When Lenny Bruce used racial slurs, he was demonstrating the ghastly language that could be used in the presence of police offers in attendance at his comedy shows, ostensibly to put a stop to “profane speech” that might come out of Bruce’s mouth. Bruce could say “nigger” and “kike” all he liked, but the second he used a Yiddish word for cock, the handcuffs came out and flexed the power of what truly was then a “nanny state.” That, state-enforced regulation of speech, is “political correctness run amok.” Society responding as it will to ignorance is not. Millennial culture’s greatest crime is desiring that those with their hands upon the levers of power be punched at as opposed to those crushed by the gears those levers operate. That doesn’t make it wrong to laugh at a joke that punches down; laughter is mainly involuntary, and can be triggered by surprise or the release of tension just as easily as by genuine humor. But is there impetus upon the speaker not to offend?

Jerry Seinfeld moaned that he won’t play colleges anymore because they’re too politically correct. Really? What jokes is Jerry Fucking Seinfeld doing that are going to cause him to be driven off of a college campus like a philistine, and if his act does actually reveal him to be a philistine, why should I object when a bunch of arts and humanities majors, whose money paid for the privilege of him speaking before them, tell him to shut the fuck up? In short, no, there is no impetus upon the speaker not to offend. But there’s also no impetus upon the audience to listen, or not to yell at him or not walk out, or even give him a platform to speak from in the future. Just as there’s no impetus for comedy club owners in multicultural population centers to book a comedian who screams racial slurs and death threats at black patrons. Free market, amirite motherfuckers?

big lebowski assholes
“Dude, ‘Chinaman’ is not the preferred nomenclature. ‘Asian-American,’ please.”

The final primary line of attack against the culture of millennials seems to be that their concerns are petty, and that while this makes them obnoxious, and possibly dangerously inert to the whims of society as a whole, their political capital is wasted on things like the aforementioned gendered pronouns, and they are essentially helpless to impart real change upon the world. This is a highly flawed reading of the situation. To my specific example, having society respect your desire to be referred to as a man or a woman specifically might not seem like a big deal, but if you were transgender, you would probably think that it’s a pretty big fucking deal. The fact that you perceive the group concerned as ancillary suggests that majority rule justifies bigotry against minorities, and forgets that all of the groups that you consider “ancillary” combine to form an incredibly large segment of society. Unconsciously, you reveal an “us or them” division in your social ethos that ultimately only distinguishes in a coherent way the difference between the majority and everyone else. As to the view of millennials being doomed to ineffectuality, the irony is that those holding this opinion are doomed to political and social obsolescence by it. No one can deny that American culture is undergoing an upheaval, and anyone who denies that the so-called “P. C. Culture” of the millennials is one of the two major adversaries is fooling themselves. None of this is to say that millennials are without opposition; there is, of course, the other side, the people who went to Trump rallies (but perhaps not the economically-disenfranchised who didn’t but voted for him). But the fact of the matter is, American culture is seeing a wholesale rejection of its ingrained norms, customs, and mythology, and the “social justice warriors” are one of the two main groups fighting that battle. To consider millennials ineffectual is laughably obtuse, and, perhaps worse, deliberately ignorant. If anything, millennials are the ones who should be cocky, as thirty years from now you will be dead, and they will hold most of the seats in Congress. Burying your head in the sand has never been considered a wise tactic, and certainly, to discount the scope of a major social force dooms those who do so to irrelevancy.

I couldn’t be any happier with that.

Mediocrity, Propaganda and Trump

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THE INTERNET IS ITS OWN ECONOMIC SYSTEM AND IDEOLOGY

History seems to move faster at certain times than others. Now is one of those times.

Karl Marx, thinking about industrialization, claimed that a newly emergent economic force/system was actually revolutionary in the sense that it reshaped all the territory and politics it touched. 100 years later, Marshall McLuhan claimed similar powers for the emergence of technology. The internet differs from prior economic revolutions in that it seeks to reshape the current geographic layout of man in order to completely replace it. It literally recreates itself by writing itself on the landscape-anyone who’s ever used Snapchat or even Pokemon Go could tell you as much. The internet, at this point being both a new technological and new political formation, presents a two-front war with all of us unfortunately trapped in the middle.

RADICALIZATION IS A FEATURE, NOT A BUG

A library science professor I had in college assigned an academic paper whose author and title I forget. It dealt with the “bridging” vs. “bonding” elements in how internet communities were shaped. A “bonding” community was one that tended to increase homogeneity and insularity-it brought together people with a specific set of interests/demographics and isolated them from the outside world over time. A “bridging” community brought people together across demographics/interests. Internet communities were found to be almost exclusively “bonding”, while groups organizing on the physical proximity of persons were shown to fall more evenly across a bridge/bond spectrum.

The alt-righter thinks by himself: “If I feel wronged about anything, no matter how stupid or  illegitimate, I’m sure I can find people willing to indulge or enable me, and the more wronged and isolated I feel about the thing, the more time I’m willing to spend on the internet with these people enabling me. Because these people are now my real friends, they hold disproportionate social influence over me and my initial attraction to them doesn’t suggest strong independent thinking skills to begin with.”

The vernacular of internet discourse has centered around increasingly shocking content and progressive desensitization to extreme materials for nearly as long as the internet has existed. This is how the neo-Nazis and ISIS both recruit. This is how Gamergate happened. Etc. Etc. Etc.

The thing after neoliberalism is shaping up to be equal parts dialectics and The Producers-the far right parties have realized the worse they govern, the more terrorism they allow to happen, the more they’re rewarded under the current system.

THE SHIFT IN PROPAGANDA:

1)

It’s very important to remember there is always an external and an internal propaganda system. The external propaganda system legitimizes the group/regime to those outside. The internal propaganda system legitimizes and normalizes the group/regime to its members. These two systems often seem to work at cross-purposes and most propaganda doesn’t make its intended audience entirely obvious, especially to its intended audience. Why would it? Things always seem much more enticing when you’re not the person who’s supposed to be seeing them.

2)

Let’s use the Nazis and particularly Nazi cinema to illustrate this point.

Internal propaganda systems: The Nazis were the first modern political party to use street graffiti and a large part of how the rural population was sold on Hitler was through traveling screenings of short news reels. In many of these rural German communities, access to movies of any sort was rare. These newsreel films looked partly like ones that would be shown in US theaters at the time between cartoons and features. However, the repeated visual symbols were mostly morphed copies of ones in the classic USSR silent films. Further cases of internal propaganda include the numerous lesser known Nazi features. Films like Hans Westmar, a fictionalized version of a false story of Nazi “martyr” Horst Wessel, or Jud Suss, Der Rothschilds: Aktien Auf Waterloo, etc., were sold as entertaining historical melodramas. Hans Westmar in particular broadly resembles recent sentimentalized “martyr” films like American Sniper.

External propaganda: Hitler attempted to normalize and bring prestige to his movement/country abroad the same way many state governments do-by making fancy movies and sending them abroad to festivals. These include Triumph of the Will and Olympia. While both were screened in Germany, their intended audience was abroad. The continuing public perceptions that the Nazi government was meticulously well organized (they weren’t, many high up officials including Hitler were on meth for extended periods) or that Triumph of the Will was what sold the Germans on Hitler speak to the enduring power of this strategy.

3)

How does the internet change things?

Per Ernest Becker (by way of Otto Rank) : Man needs to be able to feel as though he is the hero of the narrative of his life.

Per Ray Kroc: Why wait 15 minutes when I can have it now?

Per Neil Postman: If you don’t think the medium of communications biases what can be communicated, try translating Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” into smoke signals.

Per Twitter: 140 characters or less.

Per Marshall McLuhan: The content of the new medium is always the medium it’s replacing.

Trump’s rise is inconceivable without the internet. Memes are graffitti/propaganda writ large and reduced to their simplest form. TV and cartoons were more effective than any propaganda medium prior because of their immediacy; looking at a comic strip or single panel lacking words, by the time you think “do I want to read this?” you’ve likely already read it. A meme is even more immediate-it lives or dies on the extent to which we can already predict what it’s going to say. At the same time, it creates a fake sense of community built around knowing who “Scumbag Steve” or “Bad Luck Brian” is. The sense of inclusion is created by removing all communal standards beyond the basic self-referential acknowledgement the “community” exists. It allows a sense of familiarity to push out critical judgement.

I got some shit for writing about Elliott Roger’s “manifesto” more than a year ago, but in retrospect, it seems to pretty accurately reflect what can be understood about the psychology of Trump voters-how many people in this country based their self-esteem and sense of specialness on how many Pokemon cards they had? How good they were at video games? The very fact that video games seemed to offer a clearly delineated meritocracy, however meaningless? How horrible was it when they saw on the internet there would always be someone with more Pokemon cards or a higher score; who made the commonplace banality of their struggles obvious; who pierced through any notion they were special? The internet of course also had little tribes and klans collecting these fresh malcontents; sometimes they were already assembled and simply soured when they felt angry enough on realizing however ironically they were not the special snowflakes they accused everyone else of idealizing themselves as; they were just waiting to be scooped up on bodybuilding forums and other pits of the internet.

And as with toxic narcissism in all its forms, the playground taunt “I know you are but what am I?” isn’t just the mature response but the necessary one. Much has been made of the fact that the districts most reliant on subsidized health care and welfare programs overwhelmingly voted for a man promising to eradicate these programs they depend on. Much of this discourse has unfortunately taken the closed discourse of self-satisfied liberalism-“What idiots!”-instead of investigation into the mechanics of self-loathing.

4) 

How do the internal and external propaganda systems of the US work?

Internal Propaganda Systems: These consist largely of the tendency that people are reaching at when they refer to “the mainstream media”. All the major news sources, particularly those on television, work first to legitimize the current political system by overemphasis on chaos and terror, by reporting on everything from tornadoes to mass shootings to the “inherent scariness” of non-mainstream ideologies. Their first priority is to legitimize the current system in whatever form it takes, both forwards and backwards in history. This is why all the reporting when Reagan died, even from ostensibly liberal outlets like NPR, was focused on his “great statesmanship” blahblahblah, while never mentioning Iran-Contra or his exacerbation of the drug or AIDS crises. Their second priority is partisan. MSNBC is already broadcasting stuff about how “presidential” Trump looked on Tuesday night because he…took advantage of the widow of a Navy Seal he sent to die for literally no reason for a photo op. Without the prestige of the government, the banal careerism of the many reporters employed by these institutions collapses. A popular war helps the media as much as it helps the president. The internal propaganda system also places a heavy emphasis on popular media-everything from the boring politically empty celebration of civics in something like Parks and Recreation through to the superheroes-as-Blackwater Wagner-lite of the Avengers/Iron Man movies to the sleight of hand use of martyrdom to cover a broken ideology in films like American Sniper to the use of hundreds of drones during the Super Bowl to normalize their use all feed into this larger ecosystem.

External Propaganda Systems: These would involve a much larger article. Ross Snider has written about them pretty extensively on this website. Overthrowing elections, exported versions of the propaganda vehicles mentioned above, etc etc etc.

5)

How do we innoculate ourselves and rebuild media into something humane that serves society?

Well, that’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it….

The Signifiers of Monsoon in Hindi Cinema: Parallels from Brecht and Cultural Studies

The cultural industry of Hindi cinema has banked upon its geographical richness since its inception. While the inclusion of every season and the festivals therein is quite balanced, it is unequivocally the representation of monsoon that sets up aesthetic metaphorical constructions on the silver screen. Whether it is Kuleshov Effect or the use of montage, the idea of representing monsoon as an alienated concept from the central narrative or ‘life’ of the characters is a notable Brechtian characteristic in Hindi films. Such conception of monsoon is presented as an idea in itself that provides a perspective on the lives of the characters involved rather than becoming a naturalised happening of their milieu.

It is because of aforementioned reasons that I went on to call monsoon a ‘signifier’ in itself. When songs such as Pyaar Hua Ikraar Hua (Love Happened) from the movie Shri 420 and Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Main (In the Rainy Nights..) showcase romance between the two protagonists, it is not the romance that is realistically evolved and subsequently expressed in common parlance. It is a romance that is showcased as romance itself. Romance which has its ideological presence separate from the presence of the lovers involved. Therefore, in both the songs mentioned above, the idea of romance does not become synonymous with Raj Kapoor and Nargis or Rajesh Khanna and Zeenat Aman. Rather, it is the creation of the idea of romance itself through which the cinematic positioning of these characters are understood. So, this distinction between romance as an idea and the characters as mere forms of it, makes monsoon a cinematic as well as cultural signifier to represent the signified (romance).

Image result for bheegi bheegi raaton mein - Rajesh Khanna and Zeenat Aman

After understanding the alienation effect that Hindi cinema creates and has created over generations between the monsoon as a language and the characters as content, we shall now look into the various meanings that monsoon generates within the representational system of Hindi cinema.

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  1. Romantic Anticipation – The two songs mentioned above are a perfect examples of monsoon being used to describe the romantic anticipation and blossoming curiosity between the two lovers. Another addition to this can be a song that came almost three decades later – Sawan Barse Tarse Dil (Monsoon hovers as my heart craves). In Sawan Barse  there’s a shift away from the context of isolation as shown in the previous two songs. Unlike Pyaar Hua and Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Main, where lovers are shown in an isolated atmosphere under a moonlight sky, Sawan Barse uses Kuleshov Effect by using the busy streets of Bombay to show the carefree mindset of the two lovers involved. However, there is hard to trace the Screen A – Screen B direct metaphorical juxtaposition in the third song, it becomes evident in the closer analysis of the music video. Thus, I believe that completely crediting Kuleshov for this would not be a perfect idea but the commonalities are also hard to ignore. A notable example of a piece where both the isolation effect of the previous two songs and the carefree effect of the third song intersect can be Aaj Rapat Jaaye (If today I tumble down) starring Amitabh Bachchan and Smita Patil.

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2. The Longing – In the era of 90s and early 2000s, monsoon acquired a much more sexual connotation in terms of using representations of cravings and fantasies. In Tip Tip Barsa Paani (As the rain drops) and Lagi Aaj Sawan Ki (Today, the rain is falling like old days) there is intense use of emotions and clever use of editing by utilizing more space while building upon developing sexual desires. Such was the heat of these songs, that Raveena Tandon’s orange saree from Tip Tip became a major symbol of sensuality and sexual liberation in pop culture. Another notable example of this category can be Saanson Ko Saanson Se from the movie Hum Tum (You and I) where the red saree of Rani Mukherjee and the beautiful set up of two lovers rolling on the beach sand under a moonlight is a visual delight in itself.

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3. The Liberation – Out of all, this is the most celebrated representation of monsoon in the Hindi cinema. And, I would say, the most relatable. Although, the relatability of this representation comes as a rite of passage to carefree state of mind, and probably goes against the Brethian principles, it still saves the grace by not creating the empathetic relationship between the audience and the character. In Barso Re (Let it rain) and Bhaage Re Man Kahi ( My heart take the strides) it is the breaking of the monotony, the creation of the antithetical to gender roles, that comes across as the most fascinating use of monsoon as a signifier. While in Barso Re, we see Aishwarya Rai celebrating her freedom of choice to choose her own lover and the further course of life, in Bhage Re Man we see Kareena Kapoor, who plays a bar dancer, taking a time off her constructed reality to subsume herself in the bliss of falling droplets. In both of these songs, it is the momentary split between the character and the context, between the constructed reality and the unguided display of liberation that creates a beautiful trajectory for the audience to analyse monsoon as a concept alienated from the narrative of the film.

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Although Hindi cinema is decorated with blissful songs on monsoon, I had to quite painfully restrict myself to a handful. However, I feel that the songs that have been discussed above are quite deserving symbols of the spectrum. Hindi cinema has been celebrating the idea in their isolated forms in order to create a separate space to the entities that exist around us. This separation and the  further use of these ideas as an existent matter of thought in themselves have empowered the audience to think of these ideas objectively and without the distractions of the cinematic construction of the plot or the personal lives of the characters. Such thought provoking use of signifiers such as monsoon gives Hindi cinema a democratic nature that allows every viewer to think of these signifiers independently and imbue their own understanding or relation with them. For me and I hope for the supporters of Bretch and Kant, this is surely fascinating.

Image result for aishwarya rai in Guru

Consumer Impotence, Consumer Rage: A Shot By Shot Analysis of “Dilbert 3”

A QUICK DISCUSSION OF RAGE COMICS

The “rage comic” has gained its incredible self-propelling internet momentum from its ability to funnel the repetitive rudiments of alienated consumerism into the universal relation of the cliche. The “rage comic” is always about either basic moments of anxiety or exaggerated disappointments in the consumer experience. Insofar as the identity of the consumer is specifically manipulated by peddlers of product into the binary relation of “consumes” or “doesn’t consume”, the consumer then internalizes this identity; the chaotic contradictions in the mechanism of desire must bleed around the corners of this constraint and seek the blood, metaphorical and actual, of others when the blood overrunning these corners runs dry.

Man-as-consumer, so wonderfully magnified and typified in the “gamer”, finds the origins of their constituted self in similar mazes of meaninglessness that promise no endpoint of actual gratification. The crisis of faith in the benevolence of consumption is reinforced in the repeated folktale of the consumer miracle. The vision of the Virgin Mary in a slice of toast, the statue that cries, becomes the vision of an Xbox at a garage sale.

Similarly the minutia of “fan” (re: consumer) identity are drawn out in seemingly hyperbolic terms of having lost or found meaning or truth. Their frequency would seem to suggest this as a collective homeopathic aversion therapy; if repeated enough times the intensity of the underlying real anxiety might be diffused; it no longer threatens because it becomes meaningless. In one way, this is a classic function of the joke; the outsizing of a dilemma to grotesque proportions so it can be written off as irrelevant while still being engaged. That these jokes tend to repeat themselves over and over suggest the illusion of their confident sarcasm.

The users of internet messageboards like Reddit, where a large portion of rage comic production goes on, can frequently be found in the throws of bipolar shifts between blind gift giving (“Random Acts of Pizza” etc.) and angry lashing out in all directions at each other and anything outside themselves that threatens the tenuous illusion of community on which the message board users draw their impetus to continually recreate the message board. The hive mind, because of its constituent complexity, tends to push its individual components toward more and more simplified forms of expression and the repeated use of cliches as a lingua franca to bond them into a sense of unity. The ultimate thing the user desires is a sense of community; for a universality of experience that can bond them beyond the glass barrier of the screen. This bonding of course can only take place through the medium of the screen and as such can’t actually be reached or resolved; it can only escalate in tone.

Rage comics work on endlessly recombined images of exaggerated emotional states and sarcastic commentary so that they can resemble a lot of people. In the chase to resemble each other they chase their own tails; the celebrity of the internet is not the exceptional person but the sum total of the internet’s desires; the internet’s 2.5 children; its hyperreal. The hyperreal is that which is more real than the real and no more is the more real than real the reality than on the internet.


A DIALECTIC OF YOUTUBE VERNACULAR AND YOUTUBE AVANT-GARDE

Realism in the Youtube video gives little romance to the present. Endless videos detailing recent purchases of DVDs and video games and Oreos by people alone in sparse rooms and empty kitchens are too directly of their own present to be anything besides an evasion of something else. The thing evaded must be presumed to be the frightening simple legibility or chaotic illegibility of their interior life; it’s only in the automatic visual writing of things like memes that this turbulent arena of the interior briefly presents itself.

The narrative tension of the video below: will a woman eating Doritos on her couch like them or not? For over 9 minutes, she pulls chip after chip from the bag like petals off a flower. “Do I like them? Do I like them not?” And by this oft-repeated exercise the product blogger strives toward some greater weightless grace in which to dance the courtship ballet between layman and Dorito.

As the crisis of the self in the present is very much the degraded quest for meaning (“meaning” in the abstract is pretty much always the constitution of the contours of self), the most effective proponents of the avant-garde come to their effectiveness not in terms of insight but in the space where the cycling dialectic between blunt recognition of the real and the hallucinatory approaching the same object/lack collide into train wrecks that survey their own wreckage in the reflected glow of their own combustive friction. Nowhere is this disturbing glow more brilliantly reflected than in the short animation “Dilbert 3”.

I’d give a specific trigger warning here but I’m not sure any single one would suffice. Do with that what you will. Definitely NSFW.

This video explores an undercurrent that was already present in the actual Dilbert comic strips. As a blurb for one of the collected books states: “Millions of office dwellers tack Scott Adams’ comic strip to their walls when murdering the boss is not an acceptable option.” In Dilbert 3, the enigmatic filmmaker only known as Cboyardee explores the conflict of sublimation in the Dilbert figure; the socially impotent employee/consumer. The best way to explain what’s going in this video seems to be in a shot by shot analysis, so follow along with the captions…

The internet message board’s mythology; the expression of the psychology of the product internalized. The product cannot be sated; it answers positive attentions with tone deaf and increasingly diminished repetitions of itself until their through-line is revealed; their essence: a voice that says “buy me” in slight distortion of the range of tones a person says “love me.”

In Marx’s formulation “first as tragedy, then as farce” lies an incomplete dialectic; a thesis and antithesis with the synthesis conspicuously absent. Dilbert 3 is a product of this synthesis, the thing that is simultaneously tragic and farcical and neither.

Money Hates Your Heineken and Wants to Fuck

 

money-case-163495_1280“You can get money for blood,
Blood money for doing no good,
But they won’t take my love for tender”
-Elvis Costello, Clean Money
“Pimp put on weight from fighting them off,
In the mall, you see it and like it, it’s yours,
Thats a nice fit, you ain’t gotta price, shit,
I pays for it like the mics in The Source”
-J Dilla, Won’t Do
“Defendant testified that even though both Plaintiff and her mother told him that all they wanted was an apology, he called Plaintiff’s home and spoke to her mother to offer money for Plaintiff’s ‘education.'”
“One never could ‘buy’ indulgences. The financial scandal surrounding indulgences, the scandal that gave Martin Luther an excuse for his heterodoxy, involved alms—indulgences in which the giving of alms to some charitable fund or foundation was used as the occasion to grant the indulgence. There was no outright selling of indulgences.”
“You got one that’s cool,
Nowadays everybody got two, that’ll do,
but I need another one,
and another one”
-J Dilla, Won’t Do
“… Further, it is anticipated that discovery will reveal that various business associates were aware of Defendant’s actions and not only failed to warn Plaintiff but actively participated in her victimization.”
“It was the ’70s, everybody—people did this. And there it all was: monsters, rock-and-roll, a spooky castle, leather jackets, motorcycles, cannibalism, polymorphous perversion, and, as promised, ‘lots of larfs and sex!'”
“When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?”
-Allen Ginsberg, America
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Money as cleansing baptism. (Screencap from Duck Tales. copyright: Disney Corporation)

A map published of the terms most used in searching for pornography in the United States shows the Republican areas surrounding the Stand Your Ground state of Florida searching the term “ebony”. Florida’s top search term is “cream pie.”In a similar manner, money’s most closeted desire and intensely focused lust revolves around its own miscegenation. It wants to make markets with anything and anyone, but in the privacy of globalization. The “developing world” is the bathroom where money jerks off for fear of anyone seeing it. Globalization is the sex tourism of the thing without sex.

Its sexuality intermingles with its castration anxiety in a potent stew that pushes the dialectic of the personal and private toward new extremes. What was once termed “the denial” is now also the confession; this is the true meaning of Orwell’s “doublespeak.” Linguistic obfuscation is so widespread as to replace its opposite and become meaningless.

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To he who hath all shall be given. To he who hath not, even what he hath shall be taken away.

The social chameleon, the method actor, the corporate sociopath, the confidence man and their overlaps. All embody the deeply shared dream of complete elasticity of identity.This is why we obsess over them.

Marx calls money “the universal equivalent“. McLuhan frames it as a thing that translates objects and puts them into rigid spacial relations in the manner of the printed word. It’s a translation tool the way a map translates the environment. With urban planning, the map comes to replace the primacy of the environments it initially describes as the money takes centrality over the use-value of the products it translates.

The beloved method actors (Streep, Nicholson etc) have two primary characteristics at the center of their styles: 1) they seem able to “become” anyone, 2) in doing so they tend to also dominate their environment.

Performers who can translate themselves with perfect fluidity so as to dominate their environment.

The ultimate Oscar bait role is that of the currency.


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Memory wipe.

I searched “money” on Google images today and 90% of the results were either:

1) Stacks of it arranged to resemble architecture, the urban environment in back-translation.

2) Pictures of it in rolls unintentionally resembling paper towels or intentionally like toilet paper.

Money is a cleaning product. It allows us to get dirty without lasting consequence.

We dream of being baptized in it and reborn like Jay Gatsby. Gatsby’s greatest sin, the reason he had to die, was that his money was “false.”

Money baptizes and cleans by making things real. Telling people I shot a film for $53, they frequently respond “Oh, ok, I thought you meant a real movie.”

I’m in my mid-20s. People ask me all the time:

“So when are you going to get a real job?”

Robert Ashley states it best:

“Television is neither true nor false.
It’s industry.
Television made without industry…
Alone, in a word…
Can cause a sinking feeling.
There can be a loss of trust.
Fear not darkness, i.e.,
Not industry.
Nor your own…
Desire.
Everybody works to be a part of industry.
To be a part of industry is to be real.
If you’re a part of industry, both in your
Industriousness and in the nature of your work,
There is a chance that everybody will like your work,
Because it is a part of industry.
And things that are not a part of industry
Are not possible to like.
Likeability is less important than
Recognition by the industry.
‘N that’s a reason to be serious.”
Capitalism is a Catholicism that runs entirely on indulgences. The calls of the neolibertarians are an argument for its secular divine right.

“SKINNY” IS AMERICA
 Charles Atlas.jpg

You’ve all probably seen this ad before.

It works entirely in visual reversals organized like an onion. The first and last panels are mirrors, as are the second and second to last. Skinny becomes “real” by literally becoming the bully in different colored shorts.

And the little ball at the center of the onion, the self-creation of the image. Skinny can’t be sure he’s ready to return to the beach for revenge until going through Lacan’s mirror.

The dream is colorful and draws the eye. The actual Charles Atlas, black and white and quite possibly dead by the time this ad was printed, can hardly compete. The top half is the promised wish-fulfillment of the image; the bottom its translation into the then language of the preceding era, an era as dead as Charles Atlas, the massive block of text.

Of course the all caps “YOU” next to Atlas’s head is the missing double to the cartoon’s unpaired image of the mirror. The second person is the written word’s invitation to style ourselves in its carefully distorted reflection.

The male and female reader will validly and subconsciously read the seemingly empty female character legitimately but differently the same way I don’t look like you in a mirror just because we both looked into it.

The female reader sees her as the prize being fought over, the man sees her as the emperor in the gladiator’s arena giving the thumbs up or down.

How do MRAs feel oppressed and not silly? That’s how.

The woman here and elsewhere in the terrain of mass media-the invisible-visible specter of social rejection. Skinny can give the bully a “love-tap” actively but only passively hope for the approval of the supposed thing he actively desires. In the possessive male gaze: the anxiety nothing is looking back.

The beds have been changed but the dreams haven’t.

America initially existed as the fervent prayer there might be a world elsewhere. The denial of the utopia only seems to increase its absent presence as a ghost floating over the proceedings of existence.

We look at America and see ourselves or our absence and little else.


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The mirror does not return out gaze.

A new sort of capital is fought over in the distorted photocopy of class war that dominates the present-the careful, controlled distribution of assertions against the anxiety of non-existence.

Defined functionally: the “like” button, the “upvote”. The strike of the current moment is the consumer strike.

To go back to the beginning of this series of articles, I again ask myself of the Reddit strike: “Why didn’t they consider it a strike? Why wasn’t the thing they wanted compensation?”

I answer this time: the Reddit strikers were asking for were improved conditions in their corner of the internet, the factory where they work all day consuming things. They self-define as consumers. They revolt on these lines. Internet revolts are revolts of the consumer. They ask for their favorite TV shows to be renewed, they fight ardently for equality in the space of image production. The first and most ardently protected part of Occupy Wall Street was the “Media Working Group”. When the park grew they eventually escaped the park into the privacy of an office.

McLuhan mentions in Understanding Media: “When the Spaniards were besieging Leyden in 1574, leather money was issued, but as hardship increased the population boiled and ate the new currency.”

Cannibalism has always been most rich as a metaphor. Fully commodified man, the product sold to advertisers, has become money walking. He can only revolt by eating himself alive.