Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Social Criticism

...which all obscures the fact that it's so easy to be a social critic. It's like picking on a goldfish in your blender. No finesse or intelligence need necessarily be involved, and if there is, it's all the worse for it, since you should've been doing something better with that effort to begin with. Everything is dumb except what's not. So it is not a sign of brilliance or cleverness that someone can point out an obvious problem. You only think it's clever because it's what you were already thinking yourself, and you like hearing your own distended thoughts from someone else, since it absolves you of all responsibility for thinking them. The social critic is just a vulture who copied your thoughts back to you, because copying them back to you is a quicker way to appear intelligent than coming up with something new, and because shattering someone else's cognitive boundaries is easier than shattering one's own.

Our only solutions involve blowing things up in one form or another, or falsely idealizing a past in which things were also blown up, only less efficiently. The weather; the environment; the interest rates the forsaken charge their central banks; the ways in which the decay of the elephant and the wounds of the manatee are inextricably linked to the latest potential deviant killed by security services. I painted a purple picture of a stained syringe sitting in some rancid rainwater under the broken dumpster across the street, but does that make me a brilliant social commentator or merely an overly verbose photographer? What does the needle say about the decay of our inner cities? Another sanitation worker went missing on the south side, but they changed the records so no one noticed. It really makes you wonder, doesn't it? When will they come for us? Maybe they already have. Maybe the holographic universe split into an infinite number of new possibilities on that dark night last week, and in half of them, that sanitation worker is still alive, and in one of them, he won the lottery. What do you have to do and who do you have to blow to get assigned to one of the ones where you win the lottery, instead of realizing you've never done anything with your life except obeyed?

Voltaire can talk all night, all lifetime, maybe all lifetimes, but it makes no impact. If he found out the Ancien R├ęboot was having its offspring study his works in exclusive boarding schools, how long would he laugh before he picked up a knife, carved in a permanent smile, and started photoshopping memes about people losing their minds? And would anyone understand them if he did?

2 comments:

  1. I have mixed feelings about this:

    1) it is actually not that easy to write even a shitty book; there are many I feel I *could* have written, but I don't have either the motivation, or some baseline skills for handling and processing material

    2) It is true that some experiences I've had reading are simply the articulation of thoughts I have already had, but what if they stayed only half-articulated?

    3) and finally, often enough you can learn something new. For example, the labor theory of value was huge news to me.

    If by "social critics" you talk about the class in general, well surely they mostly suck. But the good ones exist, and I cannot completely discount the fact that they have all reached dead ends, in all directions. Mapping the cage is useful.

    As for coming up with something new, well maybe there is nothing new, and that could be the most important thing to know about the human condition, for all we know.

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    Replies
    1. (1) Objectively, how easy is easy? Some people go to Afghanistan for the fourth time but "can't" write a book; is it a question of skill, or merely a more refined ability to recognize that no one's likely to care? Subjectively, I get you; the problem most people have with that, primarily authors, is that they've been taught that writing is a technical act involving plot structure, which is why everyone hates, but keeps watching, Hollywood. GMOs aside, it's easy to build your own organic creativity farm if you learn to apply agency to everything you're writing about. Unfortunately, you have to do that with the outside world, first, but once you do it's easy to put it on paper, oops, screen.

      (2) Yes, they should be articulated. There's a place for social criticism just like there's a place for water. At this point, we're like the would-be marathoner who kills himself by drinking thirty gallons to hydrate the day before the big race. By all means, throw out at least twenty-nine gallons.

      (3) Yes indeed. Akin to the over-hydration example, we're all becoming googly-eyed at the quantity of people willing to say things on the internet. It's as though it's 1975, and we're amazed to see--in real computer-generated letters--someone writing something more critical than you could find in the local newspaper. So excited by these no-longer-revelations are we that we have turned the "critique" stage of the process into the final one. Potential pitchforks and torches are set aside as we congratulate one another for CFT, Critical Frankenstein Theories, while every midnight Igor steals into a different cottage and removes someone else's brain.

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