Occupy Wall Street had the best signs. As a protest slogan, “Shit is fucked up and bullshit” pretty much sums up the frustration and anger that has been bubbling in this country for a decade.
And it’s also really brilliant in the way it reflects a sort of inchoate understanding that we have reached a point in human history where despite the wins of the past, and despite the optimism of the young, all gains and all joy are local.
The media, like the machines in The Matrix, have figured out that to keep humans pliable, to keep them inline, we need a certain amount of anxiety and frustration. They feed us a steady diet of crime and potential crime, both real and fictional, raising the general level of anxiety such that we don’t know what to do with happiness. At this point in late-stage capitalism, happiness makes us uneasy in a way we don’t quite recognize.
Sure, we’ve got comfort. There’s the big screen TV, all the streaming entertainment you could possibly want, books galore, music on demand. We have access to our friends lives, or the version of their lives they want us to see, at the tap of a finger mediating our need for human interaction. You can even order frozen, prepared dinners and an appliance in which to cook them, out sourcing the most basic choice a human can make to some corporate entity.
But all of that doesn’t make us happy. I narcotizes us. It preps us to be more efficient workers, better cogs in the machine earning money more money faster for our corporate overlords. With efficiency as the prime driver in corporate America, is it any wonder we have so much more narcissism than we used to?
Empathy is inefficient. If someone I work with shows up in distress and I have empathy, I sit with them, letting them externally processes or helping them find an answer to whatever is causing that distress as they so desire, and that costs time away from getting the work I’m being paid to do completed.
The malignant narcissist, however, sees all relationships as transactional, interacting with people only to extract the value they can provide. It’s focused, efficient human interaction. And it’s why so much of tech culture centers on lone genius paving the way for a new world. Don’t believe me? Just see Elon Musk’s Twitter feed.
Shit is fucked up and bullshit pretty much sums it up.