We’re all fascinated with how its going to turn out. Fair enough, but there’s something about the way in which the world settles down to watch that wants a little enquiry.
We look on as though it were a reality show rather than reality. Everyone is fascinated with what Donald did next, hero or villain, we look on as if it were Noddy and Big Ears.
We’re a culture of spectators, which is perfectly understandable given that we are so invested in the future and the fantasy of what it takes to secure our redemption that we are only allowed to be Now in a very reduced capacity. Spectating leads the field.
And for Spectating, one must have Snacks.
When I was very young, just four perhaps, we lived in a tin rondavel way out in the bush on the Serengeti plain in Tanzania. There were leopards about so we were surrounded with a high fence of thorn. One night a leopard got in and attacked one of our Ridgebacks, lion dogs and no pushover. The screaming and snarling were terrible. My father rushed to the door in his pyjamas, picking up a heavy bladed panga with one hand and a packet of biscuits with the other. Thus armed he rushed outside to join the fray.
Ever since, I wondered about those biscuits. And perhaps decades of psychological training were less about my private troubles or wanting to save the world and more about the need to get to the bottom of this mystery. Only just recently I realised that when you are Spectating you must have Snacks.
My father was a man who had much more invested in how he might appear to others than in the demands of circumstance. He was what R.D.Laing calls an ”alterated” character, someone busy pretending at being themselves, as though life were a card you could retract after you’d played it, or, you were only playing for matches anyway. He was always a step removed from himself and therefore one of life’s eternal bystanders, perpetualy looking on, even in the thick of raging tooth and claw…
for which one must have Snacks.
Which is fine, except that it does cost us our connection to reality, as rushing out into the night to take on unknown assailants armed with a packet of Garibaldis would seem to testify.
Consumption does not discriminate between fact and fantasy too well. Its not just that it ties you to a life style that enslaves you your whole working life. Reality itself gets messed with because Consumption doesn’t care if its real or not so long as it can be swallowed whole. The fact that the world’s most powerful job is being contested by the Uber rich and sold to the prols as Democracy,…. all this easily becomes another day of Bread and Circus, a form of reality TV.
Meanwhile, the climactic episode of the Archers makes it to the headlines of the newspapers as if it were happening in real life. Anyone from the planet Zarg could really be forgiven for believing that they were significant players in important current affairs.
We tend to think of Consumerism as though it were some random unfortunate outcome of an otherwise…if not perfect, then superior world. Its difficult to think of it as a strategy for creating the illusion of freedom. We even think of it as healthy, as retail therapy, or at worst, something that’s naughty but nice.
But its something that alienates people from themselves and the world. This is most obvious in the Narcissist because once in his presence you will be the event he’s one step removed from. Today’s amusement and the author of the need for Snacks.
Consumer culture is the collective expression of Narcissism, something that is part of our makeup simply by our affiliation to millenia of Single System systems that forbid us from being Now and that for Centuries killed off anyone who claimed to have their own revelation based on personal experience.
You can’t control people who have discovered their own inner authority or who have realised that Heaven and Hell are Now, depending on your inclination.
On one level, Consumerism is our response to the desperate collective sense of remaining unfed by thepromises of redemption based on being good. Something, anything to try and fill the gap where unconditional love might once have been, before the days when you had to spend your life in a queue awaiting divine judgement, over doing the Tacos, Mountain Dew and corporate playthings in the meantime out of frustration and boredom.
But its more than boredom, and worse than frustration. Being in the Queue is to be eternaly divided against oneself, even if it is as an admiring onlooker where we might be protected from the dirt of real life but pay for it with being forever on the outside looking in, exiled from personal experience and the core of our own selfhood.
an exercise in unreality for which there had better be Snacks.
totemic transitional objects that both bind and separate, that toy with what’s real.
Except that Reality will then toy with us back and rub our noses in the fact that we’ve relinquished our common sense into the bargain. We now need the NHS to put adverts in buses telling people to use a hanky when they have a cold. At journeys end a toothbrush with instructions, ‘do not put batteries in backwards.’ En route, a shop window adorned for Halloween, sporting broomsticks for sale with labels,’ does not actually fly”.
The conflict we have with Now, wherein stuff like Common Sense resides, impacts most obviously in Sex and Aggression. The reality blurring power of Porn is not just the corruption and substitution of real relationships. Nor is it limited to its idealisation/denigration of the feminine. The voyeur becomes dissociated from his own masculinity.
The guy on the screen is the alpha male. You can watch but you get nothing. You are now of a low rank and will not be permitted erection.
But never mind, hey? We still have War, Consumerism at its demonic peak, wherein all the usual rules are suspended and you get to write you’re own handbook. You can make ‘executive decisions’, and call civilian atrocity, ‘collateral damage’, dissociate from the carnage.
I new a man who’d returned from one of our many little wars, shellshocked and neurotic. He couldn’t understand why. He’d never ‘seen action’. But he had pressed the little red button on the consol that made rockets go whoosh over the horizon. And pictures on screens, but not the imagination of Now to connect the two. He couldn’t recover his wits until he accepted that he’d gotten drunk on God’s Will and killed people.
Yet somehow it’s a more mundane and trivial story than the one above which makes me wince most at the extent to which we proud white folk are divided against ourselves. I was speaking to an aquaintance, a ‘countryman’ who had mightily come up in the world, married well and was now Lord of the Manor.
You might see him striding purposefullyabout, and with a slight limp at the effort, from one important thing to another. I mentioned to him in the lane that I’d heard the first blackbird of the season, joking that it was ‘officially’ Autumn. He turned and said, ‘I wouldn’t know a blackbird if I heard it.’
Still, there will be Snacks.