squinting at pop
August 15, 2011, 5:23 am
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , , , ,

Facebook status updates are quite a bit about life actualized:  sushi lunches and manicures on days off, chillin’ with single malts in Brooklyn lofts, cedar planking salmon, safariing in east Africa, prix fixe with poached flounder, taking post season dips in the Tyrrhenian Sea, generally jetting about, and so on.  I like reading them, but must admit many are giggle inducing.  Would they, gathered together, make a viral tumblr?  No doubt.

The actualizing set has seductive new tools.  Facebook’s ‘like’ and Google’s G+ are innocuous but powerful little buttons built on the human need to have and to express strong opinions about — well, about everything and nothing. Essentially, they are curatorial tools, which puts everybody in the desirous position of editor.  They give delusions of influence and power.  That they are viral shows our deep need to know, to be culturally evolved and experienced.

These days, it’s either all this fussy actualization or it’s degradation of intelligence, and no middle ground it seems.  There are a lot of us who are intent on dismantling society altogether:  no more schools, no healthcare, no government, no common ideals for making and improving life. No, no, no.  It leaves us with a terrible choice:  the nattering, endlessly unfulfilled acquirers vs the homeschooling, self medicating, inbreeding, cave dwellers.  Can’t there be something in between?

These two classes are a bit at each others throats.  In the following excerpt, Victoria Coren describes the actualized classes who have honed their skills of discernment and taste to such a refinement that they start to reject anything that everyone else likes.  The act of separating oneself from the undifferentiated masses is a natural and seductive instinct when you have the means to do it.  But Coren says a spade is a spade, and to denigrate what most people want because of their number and difference of insight is an act of misanthropy.

What about the idea that both extremes are bankrupt?  I don’t believe for a second that something that is popular must have quality, as Coren says below.  And I can’t begin to understand how capitulating to demands for lowest common denominators will enhance living.  But in addition to its misanthropy, mere acquisition of status and knowledge is pretty empty too.

There needs to be a reoccupation of the evacuated ground that sits empty and windswept between these two camps.  A repurposing at the level of constitution and definition:  if it’s not self fulfillment, and nor is it retrenchment, what does it mean to have a good life and a good society?

From the article:

There is a certain sort of person who hates and mistrusts anything popular. Many more, without vitriol, will simply assume the mainstream can’t be the best. Perhaps the tendency runs lightly through all of us: the instinct to champion a great film which nobody’s heard of, while being disappointed by one that everyone else says is brilliant. Or the moment when a favourite band finally have a number one album and we think they’ve “sold out”, genuinely believing their previous work was superior.

It isn’t about jealousy, but it is a sort of misanthropy. Logically, having mass appeal is one indicator of quality. Unless you think the masses are idiots. If you are by nature a Basil Fawlty or a Blackadder, convinced you are surrounded by fools, then mass appeal becomes an immediate indicator of deficiency.

Harry Potter and the Deadly Dullards, Victoria Coren, Guardian

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