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Times a changin… or, my postmodern manifesto.

January 9, 2009

I watched a movie last night that somebody sent me to watch a year or so ago– ‘the Zeitgeist movie’. It reeked of conspiracy theory, and so it was no surprise when it started getting into the ‘real’ reasons for 9/11. Things like this bother me, and yet I appreciate them at the same time. These conspiracy theories, if done correctly, can shatter your worldview, regardless of whether they are true or not. I know that the first time I saw one of those 9/11 videos, my view on the topic was shattered. It terrified me (this was a few years ago). I think I slept with the lights on that night. Why did it terrify me? Because without the constructs of the ‘known’- without the tiny little box that my mind has created for myself, the world was all of a sudden a whole lot bigger. There is no certainty. Something that shatters your worldview reminds you that there is no certainty. You can tell the people with the smallest boxes– they are the ones who won’t listen to an opposing point of view, who surround themselves with friends who think the same way as them, and sit around verbally masturbating each other, discussing how very correct they all are.

So there are all these people, sitting around stroking each others’ egos, and when you listen to their conversations, it’s about stuff that they have no direct knowledge of– like this situation in Gaza (let me point out that I have only been to Israel once, and I have not been directly involved with any conflict there, so my knowledge is as limited as the next person’s). And although conservatives are annoyingly bad, what I find even more annoying are the intellectual-type-pseudo-liberals who hear something on Fox news and decide that since Fox news said it, the complete opposite must be true. In fact, the more extremely different the point of views are that they hear, the more correct they must be. Christ forbid it could be somewhere in the middle. Holy shit. Middle? What the hell is that? There is a common assumption in certain circles that to be ‘educated’ means to be ‘liberal’. That if you worship Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky you must be the cleverest of them all, because you have broken free of society’s expectations for your thought patterns. It reminds me of the hipster phenomenon.

There’s a guy in my office who wears tight jeans and converse sneakers and a t-shirt with a band name printed on it. This is the typical ‘hipster’ (fig. 1.1)— one who dresses differently to everybody else, except other hipsters of course. He calls himself “weird” a lot. You can see them congregating on Melrose, or outside American Apparel, or outside any vintage (read: second hand and very expensive) shop, with their big sunglasses and their obscure (read: crap) music. Of course, there is no understanding of the fact that there is nothing individual about dressing like everybody else and shopping at the same shops and listening to the same music. But there is a formula that has to be perfect: Be different, but not too different. Tattoo= cool. Facial tattoos= weird. Full 80’s gear= cool. Full 1900’s gear= weird. The myth is that this community allows freedom of expression, the truth is that freedom of expression is encouraged within certain structural boundaries that are unspoken but mutually agreed on.

fig. 1.1

fig. 1.1

This is similar to the university liberal for the same reason: the myth is that liberal= free thinking. The truth is that free thinking MUST be withing the boundaries of common far-left thought. That is, if Fox news said it, believe the complete opposite.

Which brings me to my point in the first place: Things are getting awfully extreme out there. Everybody has an opinion on something, and a stand to defend. If they aren’t ultra conservative, then they’re ultra liberal, and if they’re neither, then they’re a perspectivist (I too am guilty of this). You see the same in nutrition circles: Raw foodists hang out with raw foodists and think that everyone is stupid and evil for not eating raw. Vegans are self-righteous in their veganism. Meat eaters are self-righteous in their carnivorism. If somebody is following a diet, or a religion, or a rock band, it HAS to be the best (and only) option, because, by nature, we are egocentric creatures.

(Is it possible that human beings are just getting more and more self-involved? Will the end of the world happen because we discover our own reflections and cannot pull ourselves away, so the outside world will cease to exist at all?)

Of course, I’m generalising. People aren’t always extremists. My friend Carly is vegetarian and she’ll have a bite of meat every now and then, and she doesn’t lecture me for not eating the way she does (and I have stopped lecturing her about not eating the way I do). There are plenty of exceptions to this rule. But for the most part, we are either wrong or right.

Where did the middle go?

I know where the middle went, it got sucked into a cubist painting. Us middle-pathers are transfixed by the beauty of all these different perspectives out there, rendered immobile by too much choice, too much information, and no direction in which to turn, for fear of ‘choosing’ a road, and therefore losing our broad perspectives. Under the illusion of freedom, perspective, the big G of the modern era, is holding us captive.

I was talking to a friend the other day. She was telling me about a conversation that she had with her husband, where he told her that when she was depressed, he felt lost, because she was the one with the compass in the relationship. Does anybody else find that disgusting? Because I did.  An internal compass is not a difficult thing to develop, unless you don’t want to take responsibility for yourself and your actions. If you don’t, then the internal compass is impossible, because you are constantly looking outside yourself for the answers.  Personal responsibility is of great importance if we are going to survive as a race, and as more people become more scared and cling even tighter to their views, there are also going to be us perspectivists who will find ourselves more and more trapped in the vastness of the world of choice. We perspectivists think we are evolving, and, in a sense, we are, but if there is no inner guide through this world of choice, we are all going to be completely fucked– overwhelmed by the beauty of the great universe with no idea of which star to aim for. Paralysis is not an option. It just isn’t. We’ve come too far to be stopped by the devastating beauty of our own accomplishments.

I think Krishnamurti (fig. 1.2) said it best when he dispelled the Order of the Star of the East*:

You may remember the story of how the devil and a friend of his were walking down the street, when they saw ahead of them a man stoop down and pick up something from the ground, look at it, and put it away in his pocket. The friend said to the devil, “What did that man pick up?” “He picked up a piece of Truth,” said the devil. “That is a very bad business for you, then,” said his friend. “Oh, not at all,” the devil replied, “I am going to let him organize it.”

“I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others. This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented. Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it”

images

fig. 1.2

* The Order of the Star of the East was founded in 1911 to proclaim the coming of the World Teacher (Krishnamurti). Krishnamurti was made Head of the Order when he was a young boy. On August 2, 1929, the opening day of the annual Star Camp at Ommen, Holland, Krishnamurti dissolved the Order before 3000 members. (Hooray!)

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Charlee permalink
    January 11, 2009 08:22

    I’m SO into this post–of course I think there are a lot of over-generalizations but I think you yourself touched upon that subject.

    However, I could not agree more with the issue of there seemingly being no middle left. In my opinion, it’s just as important (if not more so) to understand viewpoints that seemingly oppose one’s own as it is to have a well-developed personal perspective. Unfortunately, that concept seems to be lost on most people nowadays…

  2. fairybekk permalink*
    January 13, 2009 06:07

    You’re right– it is totally lost on people. It’s almost as if peoples’ egos are completely attached to their ideals, and by even being able to see where the other point of view comes from, is like devaluing the worth of their own ideals, and therefore ego.

    *shakes head*

  3. Charlee permalink
    January 13, 2009 12:20

    It’s definitely an issue of egoism…

    Unfortunately though I think it pervades every aspect of our culture…in fact sometimes people are so focused on their view of things that they’re more concerned about disarming the opposition, so to speak, than the aspects in which the opposition could be helpful to them

    I’m really into your blog though, quite insightful, I shall be adding it to my list of procrastination tools

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