Ready, set, sigh. I’m about to blog about the Blog, capital B as in Big Thought, capital B as in Bullshit.
Blogs are two things at once. They are fierce indicators of individuality – what blog do you read, what do you write on your blog – and they are tools of consumption. We define ourselves based on You Tube videos (yo, this Hal Hartley flick is sick), music taste (yo, check out this classic Spearhead track), movie reviews (yo, this Hal Hartley flick is sick), and product sponsorships (Obama/Biden 08). We yay or nay posts about our dearly beloved celebrities and snark attack an ideology other than our own. It’s communication, baby, web 2.0, the twenty first fucking century.
I suppose the ultimate irony could be if, unlike Denny Green, we are not who(m) we thought we are. If the changing geopolitical climate can provide the necessary confluence of circumstances to make the election of a black madras attending man with the middle name Hussein our President then what roles exactly do our own tastes and preferences play in our lives and consciousness?
Like a true Modern Jackass I pontificate above my pay grade. I come home for the holidays, go through some old college text books, crib a quote from Marx and Engels out of context and surmise from it the course of human history. But how can you not rock an academic double take when you’re brushing up on Josephine Donovan’s Feminist Theory and you reacquaint yourself with the concept of materialist determinism – one of those thought bombs professors dropped on you sophomore year during a discussion section you missed because you were too busy watching arbitrary VH1 countdowns in your apartment. Marx wrote in his preface to Critique of Political Economy:
“…the mode of production of material life conditions the social, political, and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”
In other words, you think, therefore you are, but what you think is determined for you by the systems that surround you. The implications of this perhaps explain the oft cited criticism of blogs and internet chatter – that everyone essentially says the same thing, some with more wit than others, some with way better artijokes.
At a certain point the aimlessness of trend spotting sets in. Fighting hard for The Wrestler essentially boils down to fiercely defining yourself based on the “surplus value” of a specific commodity. Bands we love, whose t-shirts we wear, whose music we defend or dismiss, become wares in our cultural transactions. We are, it seems, what we consume, what interests we list on our Facebook page and what likes and dislikes we have in common. I’ll see your Deerhoof and raise you a Fucked Up, after which you’ll counter with a Five Easy Pieces and I’ll compliment with a e Aronofsky.
David Foster Wallace died a hero to a generation. His works were early explorations of the meta circles we’ve begun to run our minds in, talking ourselves out of feelings, thinking ourselves out of instincts. He explored the fragility of human interaction in an increasingly complex and commodified world. Marx said we were alienated from ourselves once we were alienated from our labor. Today technology has taken the place of praxis and we overcome our isolation through virtual means. We Facebook; we blog; we boil ourselves down to away messages, chatus updates, buddy icons and Yelp faves.
But how do we know we love what we love? How do we know our favorite things aren’t already selected for us and waiting for our minds to catch up? Of course ridicing a bicycle became cool because the war in Iraq, rising gas prices and environmental data regarding global warming came together in a delta of timing and determined our material response.
How else can we explain the importance of timing in the birth of trends? Ralph Nader represented the Green Party with a blatant environmental platform against Al Gore, the man who would later win the Nobel Peace Prize for a lecture on global warming. In 2000 Nader’s populist platform was unorthodox and unrealistic. 8 years later, the financial systems nurtured by Clinton-Bush collapse and a Senator from Illinois wins the Presidency and captures the hearts of America running on a platform some considered idealistic, but which was in reality more conservative than Nader’s 8 years earlier.
Obama supporters would slit their necks in sacrifice to their candidate, but they blame Nader for the demise of America. At a certain point it becomes clear politics, issues, platforms and ideology were not significant factors for those who pledged allegiance to Obama – their surroundings simply cast their vote for them. Obama was indeed the chosen one, his perfectly crafted image was a perfectly crafted product of the times.
I’m sure there’s probably a Heidegger quote somewhere that would complicate the existential debate between materialist determinism and free will, but I’m simply not at that chapter in my book. Besides, there’s something in the air that tells me Marx is really hot right now. I think I read it on some blogs.