Despite the “attractive” allure of being aware of recent philosophical trends, there is the necessity of absorbing their effect. No matter the status of your personal (i.e. income- or cultural-based) condition, none of us are exempt from living with the consequences of decisions made by those in positions of power, be they politicians, academics and/or celebrities. As ever, the squeaky wheel gets the grease—whether deserving or not. This describes both the strength and weakness of internet-leveling of opinion.
Pre-internet, if I required information from culturally recognized sources, I would venture into the outside world of the library, be that local and/or institutional. In short, an investment in gas for the car would be required, plus the requisite time to locate and gather data from relevant books and other print media. Electronic (in the form of TV documentaries and independent film) sources were (mostly) out of reach, demanding approval in the form of signatures from professors invested in nothing beyond students’ acquisition of knowledge. Kent State University wasn’t going to permit anyone—let alone a dope-smoking 19-year-old—license to walk off with a fifty-dollar textbook.
So what, eh? Intentionality is what matters, and I wanted to have (in my “right-to-know” stance) the philosophical cross-section of history that would verify—or negate—the punk-music-powered “aesthetic” of rebellion flashing its black-light infernality in a mind wholly ignorant of its suburban white-boy privilege. Forgiving the excessive qualifiers, if you will, exposes what really was in charge: deeply conflicted views mixing awareness of Vietnam’s political sham with the narcissism attendant to middle-class kids raised to question (or entirely ignore) a war that demanded of them no personal sacrifice. If born five years earlier, I very likely would have been drafted.
Make no mistake, guilt played a large (albeit rarely admitted, no matter how fucked-up we were) hand in the common outlook: those who fought for the interests (investments, really) of “our” country had ensured progressive values would prevail. Who, after all, could disagree with supporting the continuity of post-WWII attitudes uniting everyone against fascism and outright extermination? Frankly, anyone analyzing even the barest surface would find much with which to disagree—unwilling, though, to forego personal comfort. We never had experienced the brutal reality of poverty . . . and the system that resists “rising above” that level. Some people, apparently, were more equal than others.
Shouldn’t I be concerned with the (apparent) general nihilism blackening day-to-day life in North America? Well, I am. But only insofar as it’s linked to the inarguable reality of even a destitute existence. Compared to ground-truth life outside welfare-assisted survival, few individuals have experienced the brutality of living without hope in a machine that requires participation—or else.
Hope dies, but not the necessity to exist. A subjective value, to be sure. But as noted by Dostoyevsky and other writers deemed vital to remind us of empathy, there is a limit (based on personal circumstance) to what is humanly bearable. Deprived of access to fundamentals like food and shelter, even the most mentally tough individual will succumb to the great equalizer: death. In North America, virtually no one considers this grim fact simply because it’s not required. We have safety nets. “Assurance” that we won’t sink to an animal war of attrition wherein only the most fierce—but not necessarily intelligent—persons will prevail.
Even the Christian bible warns against the fact of wisdom lost to those who bask in pride. As a much younger man who spared no one (including my parents) the consequences of believing this unequivocal nonsense, I asked why trivial “pride” even mattered. After all, two-plus-two equals four, a simple conclusion whether stated by an egoist or introvert. “Pride” didn’t enter into the equation, and that marked the end of my taking seriously any similar conceit of organized religion. I perceived the genuine “problem” had more to do with intellect—period—than “pride” in independent thinking. The “sin,” so to speak, was one not of pride but the very practice of intellect—questioning.
In a “free” society, critical thinking is vital to survival. This used to be a given, now threatened by post-post-modern relativism. In short, what is now “acceptable” is mandated by arbitrary authorities driven by bottom-line (capitalist) concerns informed by algorithms. A deathly, moronic process favoring the loudest mouth—no matter how stupid—over easily documented fact. Call ambivalence what you will—Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle included—be that musically manifested in Sunn O)))’s Grimmrobe Demos, Chelsea Wolfe’s mournful album Abyss, and even wholly “out there” noise artists like Puce Mary and Godflesh, the signs of implosion are being documented by those bearing witness. As a writer, music is both escape and confrontation.
While history has revealed the futility of apocalyptic (hence latent) vision as mere “drama,” what appears inarguable is that the means to consummate our collective end not only exist, but hesitate to be employed based on little more than practicality. Annihilation, so far, is an equal opportunity downer beneficial to no one.