It is nice to be happy-go-lucky, and flounce about laughing at dogs looking gormless as they wait for their owner outside a shop, but at the same time, the reality of the world is an urgent elephant in the room and it’s time to call bullshit on everything. I have cried real tears about the state of affairs that we’re currently living through, lamenting for future generations, for the utopic parallel universe in my head and the ignorant masses who have it so easy. Having mulled over three seemingly unrelated matters that point to one extremely anxiety-inducing future reality, it only seems right to share this news, because a problem shared is a problem halved, right?
At an unparalleled rate, the general population of level-headed folk is feeling a mutual sentiment that the planet we call home, and its goings-on, is losing touch with comprehensible reality. In layman terms, everything’s going a bit off-track. Not only that but the shock-factor of the global shitstorm that continues to wreak havoc upon our lives is massively intensified for our generation because of a very poorly timed political coming-of-age. Imagine the sweet, sweet ignorance of primary school students, even most secondary students, upon whose peripheral vision the political implications of Donald Trump and his tiny hands have not entered. They probably think populism is a Taylor Swift song.
Elsewhere, the Daily Mail recently published a piece of writing (I hesitate to use the word article out of respect for journalism) that brought my attention to the refreshingly real ‘Boyfriends of Instagram’, an Instagram and Facebook account that document the team of cameramen, i.e. boyfriends, behind the bikini clad “Follow me” poses that fill an obscene proportion of social media. Not only does this kind of photo promote an unrealistic and damaging body image to aspire to, it also constructs a completely artificial image of reality. It’s no revelation that social media enormously distorts people’s narration of their own identity and recognising the absurdity of uploading photos of yourself onto a platform of people who already know what you look like is no anagnorisis. What troubles me deeply though is that we, including myself, are still doing it. The growing community of people going “offline” has stirred something in me, a tingling anticipation for a future without the attention-gorging, lawless, auto-pilot inducing, jealousy fostering monster of the social space. If social media fatigue has moved the likes of Lena Dunham and Jaden Smith to a purely IRL experience, perhaps the masses will follow, for their own sake. (Side note: ironically, if you’re reading this it will most likely be via Facebook.)
Onto the third and final point – another massive illusory feat that corroborates the power of advertising. The title of Adam Curtis’ latest documentary ‘HyperNormalisation’ comes from Alexei Yurchak’s 2006 book ‘Everything was Forever, Until it was No More: The Last Soviet Generation’. Quick history lesson: the Soviet Union’s dream was to create a glorious new world but by the end of the 1980s, it was clear the new system wasn’t working. However, no alternative had been proposed, so politicians and citizens simply kept going and pretending that everything was fine. Eventually this pretending was accepted as normal and the fake reality thus created was accepted as real, an effect which Yurchak termed “hypernormalisation.” As the Soviet Empire collapsed, the West realised the extent of their false reality. Looking at events over the past few years, one wonders if our own society is experiencing the same phenomenon. Having gorged on ideas promoted by self-serving politicians and consumerist merchandise by the advertising industry, our society has reached the post-Christmas Day dinner equivalent of the 21st century, overly satiated with inauthenticity that we’ve fallen into a food coma of bullshit and the future is uncertain.
To continue the vent that I wish I did not feel the need to make, the light must briefly be cast on the absurdity of the current political landscape when it comes to refugees. How can someone say that a Syrian child, with no parents or welfare or safety, is not allowed to come into our country because he/she is a refugee? Are these MPs truly beyond all morality that they would deny aid and safety to another human being? From a perspective of even more heightened disillusion – how have we reached a reality in which the authority of a limited number of people, the majority of whom do not have pure motives, make life-changing decisions on behalf of a collection of people to cross or not cross an expanse of water, over a man-made border, into a different mass of land? To clarify, laws are helpful, they keep society in check and I’m not preaching some libertarian project. Alas, be outraged that the majority of UK MPs voted to not let in 3000 Syrian refugee children who are without parent or guardian. But even more, be baffled that at this point in history, we as a global population, think that we have a right to claim absolute ownership over nature, enforce lines across natural land and say in strict “legal” terms, whatever the hell that means, that a specific person can not cross that line. I call bullshit on the entire thing.
Whether it’s the madness of the former presenter of The Apprentice becoming PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES and the rise of populism sweeping the Western world, the fact that one out of every seven minutes is spent on Facebook, digesting clickbait articles and indulging in the false perfection of other people’s lives, or the infiltration of advertising literally into every single corner of our silly, little lives, somewhere along the way the world has lost touch with itself. All this absurdity, whilst acknowledged on some level, sometimes, has become so normalised that genuine experience, global compassion and independence of the self are endangered concepts.
words by Lorna Powell