Isn’t memory a funny thing? I was convinced that a copy of a book I own was actually in French. The book in question was The Society of the Spectacle by a chap called Guy Debord. Debord was a major player in a philosophical / artistic movement called Situationism, a precursor to the Paris riots of 1968, terrorist groups like Bader Meinhoff and the Red Army Faction and musical movements like punk and rave. That’s the problem with extreme ideas, they can take you to extreme places if you aren’t careful. I think the reason I had mentally filed my copy of this book as being in French is that it is so hard to wade through that it might as well be in another language. The general gist of it is that many people don’t really ‘live’ and are merely spectators. We lead safe, predictable, lives and fill them full of meaningless nonsense, things that just wash over us. In this way it is quite easy to get a facsimile of a life where we fill up all our time with crowds to be part of, things to gawk at and stuff to consume, bury ourselves in work and buy stuff and book the occasional holiday as a pressure valve until we drift out of this world essentially unfulfilled and leaving no trace that we were ever here.
I’ve been just as guilty of this as everyone else, the one I have been trying to ween myself off of recently is the ‘Facebook flick’ where we trawl through seas of other people’s lives and desires and achieve precisely nothing. The decision to stop this has mostly been made for me as, over the past couple of years, events and activities both on a national and local level have been so depressing that I just don’t want to know anymore, I just became so sick and tired of the same people doing the same pointless crap over and over again that I went to great pains to no longer see any of it. That’s not to say I wish to be blissfully unaware of the political aspects of what goes on, I am just aware of how much of it is merely a puppet show for people to engage in, a pressure valve to keep people busy and convince them that they have a real say in matters that are completely out of their control. It’s surprisingly hard to do as when you shut down one source of garbage on Facebook, another one instantly opens up. It’s much like trying to shut off a tap by sticking your thumb over the hole but I got there eventually. Without that endless stream of who’s doing what with whom, who’s going where and why, all I see is art, toys, Japanese stuff, geeky weird crap and the occasional post from a close friend or two. Fortunately, it’s all so tedious that I’ve used the time I wasted to read a bit more.
I have never been much good at being a spectator or being passive in any way, I’m not a joiner of things or someone who can passively stare at the television, a cinema screen or stand in the audience at a concert or show without my mind drifting to a thousand and one things that I could be doing instead. It all seems a bit shallow and pointless to me though, time slows down and seems set in aspic as the minutes tick away in slow motion til whatever the thing is is finally over. It’s interesting to note that even things people actually engage in eventually become part of the spectacle, just another thing to turn up at and be engaged in to a give value of engagement. Do something once and it’s interesting, do something repeatedly and it becomes routine and habit. Routine has its place though, as does structure, a bit of it keeps us relatively sane and stable, a lot of it keeps us trapped. The difference between a prison and a fortress is merely the side of the door the lock is on and the thing we cling to can so easily become the things we are stuck to, or stuck with. I personally crave certain types of boredom, I’ve had way too much drama in my past and that sort of excitement is highly overrated. I do like a bit of cosiness and routine but only if it’s of the right sort.
As well as trying to live authentically (God! I do come out with some corkers!) I have been involved in the odd act of Situationism in my time, usually when something is going on that is so bloody awful, offensive , or cynical that it needs to be addressed in some way. In situationist terms this is regarded as detournment, the subversion of something to adjust the proscribed meaning and in doing so drawn attention to something that has been accepted at face value. I try and avoid it though as, with a lot of things in this field, you can nd up treading a fine line between art and madness and other places that you are better off not going to. On the whole though, if possible, I find the a lot of the world is best just ignored. It won’t go away but it’s not worth the energy it takes to focus on, as are many of the people and the stupid things they do.