Something about living in France: I’ve sort of gotten used to people telling me what’s wrong with the United States. They don’t do it to be insulting, the United States is just a really interesting place.
For example, Oceanne told me yesterday that America is decadent like Rome was decadent right before the Empire fell. Capitalism doesn’t work, she said. Ethical issues aside, capitalism is a system that simply can’t sustain itself. The economic crisis of the past several years is proof of that.
Of course this criticism applies to France and a lot of other countries too, but somehow all the world’s contemporary pathologies get magnified in the United States. And the ironic part is that we can’t solve the problem. We are the problem.
The American masses consume and consume and produce waste with the same inertia as a cancer. Cancer is an error in genetic code that replicates itself, and that’s exactly how our market works. Global warming is a symptom of the cancer that is American consumerism.
The error is that the masses have allowed themselves to be seduced by misinformation. We’re so proud of the fact that we live in a free country, but we don’t stop to think about what it means to be free. We’re “free” to sit in traffic every day on our way to the jobs we “choose” to work at in order to pay the bills on our little box apartments. We’re “free” to buy whatever food we want from the supermarket (but we don’t know what’s in it), and we’re “free” to watch whatever we want on television.
We’re “free” to sit here and complain about the world, and we’re also “free” to not try to do anything to help. Everyone’s a nihilist, but we’re not the noble kinds of nihilists that Nietzsche wrote about. We’re too saturated by artificial stimuli — reality TV and stupid youtube videos — too distracted to really reflect on what it means that God is dead.
Thanks to technology, we live in a world overloaded with information that doesn’t mean anything. “The medium is the message,” says Mcluhan, or rather, the fascination of the media itself implodes meaning. The masses are desocialized. Any attempt at real communication gets chopped up, accelerated and reabsorbed by the circularity of the model until the original referent is lost and all signification is liquefied. We the masses conform perfectly to the system of superficiality, and yet we absorb nothing. Because that’s the nature of the system: it’s superficial.
I’ve seen people my age have entire conversations by quoting their favorite sound bytes from TV. It’s satisfying because it’s instantaneous and everyone who watches TV is in on the joke. Thus communication gets reduced to its lowest common denominator. Advertising works the same way: the triumph of the superficial form. It’s all staged exactly like sex in pornography, without any sincerity. With the same tired obscenity.
This is why Baudrillard says we can’t analyze these media as language: it’s just a mirroring, a mockery, a spectacle. Why do you think every Republican presidential nominee for 2012 has his/her own reality TV show? They used to all be real actors — Reagan, Schwarzenegger — but we’ve moved into the 21st century now. Where does this blurring of politics and entertainment come from, you ask? I’m telling you. We live in a country that is no longer governed by educated statesmen, or businessmen, or even commodities. We live in a country that is governed by billboard images of commodities. Where politicians used to serve the nexus of corporate interests, they now serve only the nexus itself.
The simulation, the parody, the photo-shopped image of reality — is more real than reality itself. It’s like we looked in the mirror and then fell through it. We’re stuck in a hyperreality where everyone’s voting for Sarah Palin, eating Cheetos and watching Jersey Shore on TV. We’re orbiting around this big empty void where knowledge and culture used to be, and we’re gaining speed.
Our momentum can only be carrying us towards entropy or violent destruction, but we can’t stop. The masses are consuming, devouring, excreting, annihilating the remainder of all cultural signification. They’re caught up in a giant process of suicide through acceleration. It’s as if we’re trying to deny our own end through hyperfinality. As if by erasing the meaning of words, we can erase the very fact of mortality.
So that’s that. The end of America. I could make a critique of petty French retro-cynicism as well, but right now I’m just enthralled by this apocalyptic vision of my own beloved country. Capitalism didn’t work. Lady Liberty is festering with herpes, the twin towers have already gone down in flames, everyone’s shooting guns in the air and flailing cheap plastic American flags around like the flag is supposed to be bling for patriots or something. My only question is: when are we going to implode into utter chaos?
But maybe I’m a nihilist.