Remember when the Berlin wall came down and the Scorpions had a hit song about it? Were ‘we’ really as much more innocent then as it seems now, in retrospect? At the time, ‘we’ though we were jaded, post-Reaganite ‘computer-age’ people who had seen and understood all the movies the Brat Pack made. I was in high school. I thought I was very jaded.
It is just me, or is mass culture on some kind of an always-toward-more-cynicism trajectory? Really it is, and I think it’s the nature of capital that takes us there. Capital has no nationality and doesn’t give a damn about status quo. It’s all about the calculations, the maxima and the minima — both the micromaxima and the macromaxima and the microminima and the macrominima — of single columns of numbers. Capital has no culture and no history, no preference and no taste. It seeks to give us exactly what it helps us think we want — which usually roughly coincides with what it is maximally able to match to the limits of functional tastemaking at minimal investment with minimal risk.
And yet somehow, because of human fallibility, it never wins. Instead, we are always running from capital, trying to be ever more anti-consumerist, ever more sincere, more radical, less bought-and-paid-for. We are always trying to make sure that we haven’t yet sold out. I don’t think this is a political calculation, I think it’s human nature. I think it’s what simple people call ‘freedom.’ And yet, because capital is constantly performing the calculations, constantly engaged with the calculus, the base topology of ‘sold out’ continues to expand, to digest heretofore untouched regions of practice on its way.
So we get more extreme.
And because it depends on us for its existence, it gets more extreme.
Deep down, somewhere, we will always know that given the current state of things, for everyone to stop selling out en masse is tantamount to cultural and perhaps even physical genocide. So instead, we just continue to run, to hop half the distance to the boundary, which increases exponentially but is still within sight. But some day it won’t be.
I don’t know which is the correct answer. Is it a false dichotomy? Is there some third direction which renders the topology obsolete without at the same time destroying those of its inhabitants that lie at the margins?
We get more and more cynical.
That’s all. Our parents thought they were cynical during Carter. But then they saw Reagan. We thought we were cynical during Bush I. But now look at us. What’s next?
I wanna hear that Scorpions song again.