Grendel’s Laundry List

Being an irregular but continuing series of readings in texts helpful to an understanding of the Atheology and Theodicy of the Seventh Day Atheist Aztec Baptist Church.

An earlier stage in the economy’s domination of social life entailed an obvious downgrading of being into having that left its stamp on all human endeavor. The present stage, in which social life is completely taken over by the accumulated products of the economy, entails a generalized shift to having to appearing: all effective “having” must now derive both its immediate prestige and its ultimate raison d’etre from appearances. At the same time all individual reality, being directly and completely shaped by that power, has assumed a social character. Indeed, it is only inasmuch as individual reality is not that it is allowed to appear.

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Media stars are spectacular representations of living human beings, distilling the essence of the spectacle’s banality into images of possible roles. Stardom is a diversification in the semblance of life–the object of an identification with mere appearances which is intended to compensate for the crumbling of directly experienced diversifications of productive activity. Celebrities figure various styles of life and various views of society which anyone is supposedly free to embrace and pursue in global manner. Themselves incarnations of the inaccessible results of social labor, they mimic by-products of that labor, and project these above labor so that they appear as its goal. The by-products in question are power and leisure–the power to decide and the leisure to consume which are the alpha and omega of a process that is never questioned. In the former case, government power assumes the personified form of the pseudo-star; in the second, stars of consumption canvas for votes as pseudo-power over life lived. But, just as none of these celestial activities are truly global, neither do they offer any real choices.

Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle, 1967

Our most elementary experience of subjectivity is that of ‘the richness of my inner life’: this is what I ‘really am’, in contrast to the symbolic determinations and responsibilities I assume in public life (as father, professor, etc.). The first lesson of psychoanalysis here is that this ‘richness of inner life’ is fundamentally fake: it is a screen, a false distance, whose function is, as it were, to save my appearance, to render palpable (accessible to my imaginary narcissism) my true social-symbolic identity. One of the ways to practise the critique of ideology is therefore to invent strategies for unmasking the hypocrisy of the ‘inner life’ and its ‘sincere’ emotions. The experience we have of our lives from within, the story we tell ourselves in order to account for what we are doing, is thus a lie – the truth lies rather outside, in what we do.

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Is not, then, the internet, where we supposedly express on screen our deepest truths, really a site for the playing out of defensive fantasies that protect us from banal normality that is our truth?

Slavoj Žižek

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One response to “Grendel’s Laundry List

  1. Debord might have credited the Romantics,
    “have, get, before it cloy”.
    Zizek has yet to impress me,
    for all his reputation. The Net
    is crammed with abnormal banalities.

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