Whether run along a conveyor or embedded in a network, a human serves the same end: the resplendent valorization formerly reserved for objects. Only when human beings become sympathetic objects will objects become sympathetic. Only then will guillotines be embraced as readily as fond relatives or long-absent lovers.
The mix tape left room for the accidental, for the clumsy-fingered pauses, the crackle of worn vinyl, the skipping of a needle, the crimping of metal ribbon, the intrusion of a voice once loved. Accidents that resist replication on a mass scale, but that exist side-by-side with the products of mass reproduction.
Walkable cities radiate an organic vibrancy. They have dense roots in neighborhoods of storied provenance, have complex zones of eclectic social and economic activity. City planners are beginning to see the virtues of these version–1.0 cities, metropolises that have more in common with the Paris of the Second Republic (minus the smog and the hordes of irredeemable poor) than the indifferent, anomic settlements of the American West.
Fatigue, anxiety, headache, neuralgia, and depressed mood are the hallmarks of neurasthenia. The American Psychiatric Association has removed the term from their Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Diagnostic Disorders, but given the number of people I know who suffer from these complaints, perhaps a re-institution is in order. For if the present moment resembles anything, it resembles that time of economic chaos and the neurasthenic has the right to come out of the closet.
It may not be altogether hyperbolic to say that, if the turn of the twentieth century belonged to The Culture of Time and Space, the turn of the twenty-first belongs to The Culture of Slime and Waste. In The Culture of Slime and Waste, environmental crises have grown so acute that metaphors of depletion, imbalance, and destruction proliferate to such a extent that toxicity becomes more than a state or condition. It becomes a discourse, a representation of a Foucauldian web of relations out of which precipitate objects who share a common metaphoric tenor. Today one hears mentioned not only toxic areas or habitats, but toxic assets, toxic people, toxic relationship, toxic ideas, and toxic language. The poisons to be encountered in the wider world are so multifarious and omnipresent that it’s a wonder one ever leaves his house — which doubtless contains toxic drywall.
Americans young and old have sold their souls for a bill of dubious goods — and services. But at least the baby boomers were alive and kicking during decades that saw real revolutionary spirit in play; many of them got to participate in protests that were more than just excuses to don organic-fiber keffiyehs and declare a universal right to equity realization (all while shaking ineffectual fists at Wall Street). That’s got to count for something, right? That’s fodder for man’s (or woman’s) search of meaning, yes?
When someone utters words like “sustainability” and “sustainable,” I hear “intended to technologically progress no further.” Think about it: An orchestra cannot at the same time sustain one chord and strike another. The one sustained chord thus signals the entirety of the musical piece, its beginning and its end. So, if someone presents you with a piece of sustainable technology, you can be certain that you grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great grandchildren will be using the same kind of device in the same kind of form.
You can’t escape from history and its merciless repetitions. These things grind slow and hard. Lloyd Blankfein isn’t going to have his head chopped off anytime soon. The streets aren’t going to explode in a heatwave-fanned plebeian rage. The New York Times isn’t going to start reporting on news that actually matters outside of Manhattan and the boroughs. It supposedly took the American Revolution ten years to get rolling. It supposedly took the American Revolution ten years to get rolling. Sometimes, in my most fevered dreams, I imagine it will take twice as long for the American people to avenge themselves on the scoundrels, cheats and usurers that have grasped control of this country so completely. In fact, I know it will take at least ten years for that ball to get rolling. History lumbers along at its own pace, headless of the truculent demands of our brains so agitated and dizzied by the instant gratification offered by Blackberries, iPads, Droids and whatnot. And with that realization comes the recognition that an entire decade of my life will pass in desultory strivings and fruitless ravings against a regime that dies hard — or, indeed, not at all.
It seems like almost everyone know that fashionistas are also fascists, even if they can’t define the term. But it is interesting how we seem stuck in some eternal return of the same twentieth century horror. Whether it’s corporate fascism, or simply a Versace spread in a magazine, it seems we can’t get out of some infernal loop begun well over a century ago. To dwell on how fascism and fashion go hand in hand seems trivial nowadays, given the fact that one can longer deny that we live in a fascist state.
Generation Y represents the undiminished legacy of the neoliberal 1980s and ’90s, the decades of their inception. They are all ripples and surfaces illumined by sparks of excessive self-regard. They are the people for whom life is one elaborate reality-TV show. More troublingly, they’re a generation for which the contortions of public relations have become a veritable habitus: Good is what nourishes the ego; evil is what you didn’t get away with.