The Situationists called post industrial life an empty existence filled with meaning by mediated images. Images that replace everything that has ever lived with the notion, the correct version, of how life is to be lived. In a significant way, this holds true in life’s most dire situations. In some difficult situations I’ve experienced, I’ve often seen that most people seem desperate to find a predefined act that can help them handle the situation. They are willing to mentally go through any number of books, plays, tv shows, and movies, in order to aid them through the hard times.
Usually, friends and family are also quick to respond to that same situation by parting some knowledge, or trying to tell their – “similar” – story, however far fetched, in hopes of consoling, or helping out emotionally. The truth is I think we like it that way. Having a preset role to play could help you out to better handle your emotions if you don’t have to worry about acting “wrong”. Although, and I cannot stress this enough, it isn’t without a cost for some of us. Having the feeling that you’re only behaving in a scripted fashion, sometimes causes more anxiety about your behavior rather than doing away with it, in my experiences.
However, in a more relaxed setting, we still like to adapt ourselves to the correct ideal. We like to be as right as possible, because the opposite is terrifying. Being wrong is universally frowned upon. Luckily, the vast library of shared knowledge – the Internet – is readily available to a lot of humans, including you and me, so we can effortlessly prove ourselves right.
In a way I started writing this to explain how I feel that the Internet could be the Holy Grail of situations that the Situationists might have wanted. A large scale project that enriches humanity with knowledge, that allows them to “wake up” from the nightmare of having life displayed as a spectacle before their eyes, luring them in to join on stage, delivering the same monologue about the everlasting, neverending, always improving, modern day life. Sadly, I do not think I can find a way to get to that point.
I’d like to valiantly say that the reason hipsters do what hipsters do – and that we since the late 1990s have been trying to define that what they actually do – is because of the knowledge they can partake in. I’d like to argue that the reason young people are devoting their time to retro activities is because the Internet allows them to be more savvy about knowledge from the past, that the homegrown, home baked, homemade movement is because of somewhat forgotten ideas of how to garden, bake, and thread a needle, finally getting the respect and light they deserve.
That we are – optimistically – moving towards a society that relies less on prefabricated and massproduced dreams and products and more on the intuitive creations of human hands. I’d love to write that we can safely venture into any idea without it having premeditated rights or wrongs about that idea.
I believed I could write something that would result in the explanation of the betterment of humanity, due to this deep well of knowledge. That somehow the retro-avantgardism of vintage clothing, handmade, organic, photo filtering, and whatnot could be the effect of us finding sources that could disrupt the consumption of everyday tchotchkes, both physical and mental. Even if it looks like it, at a glance, I see now that it is the other way around. They may start out as such, but they are quickly swallowed, commoditized and sold back to us, in the expanding umbrella named “lifestyle”.
“What appears is good; what is good appears”
And in thesis 18:
But the spectacle is not merely a matter of images, nor even of images plus sounds. It is whatever escapes people’s activity, whatever eludes their practical reconsideration and correction. It is the opposite of dialogue. Wherever representation becomes independent, the spectacle regenerates itself.
My hopes of conveying a message that the Internet somehow interrupts the thought patterns of our daily lives – where being is having, and having is merely appearing (to have) – are therefore quite low.
For what is the point of tchotchke activities, e.g. baking sour dough bread, having a colorful fixie bike, wearing ironic clothes, or similar “non-hipster” type things, such as retro-collectibles, organic, homegrown, urban life with a maximum of leisure time, and actively trumpeting every newly learnt skill, activity, or happening to others via blogs or social media?
The point is for others to see. For there is no point for them not to see, as seeing is believing. Believing makes it real in their eyes, and thus in our own. So, we’re left where we started. Being is having, having is appearing. It is still a “social relation between people that is mediated by images”2.
The relation is so strong that we even fetishize not mediating that image. For every time you hear of someone “disconnecting” from the Internet – while on vacation, by going somewhere remotely, or just turning off for some mindful peace – you’re hearing it because they want you to know that this is something they are actively doing, in order to convey their image of themselves to you and others as being free from that relation. In reality, they are realizing that very same relation.
Online life is so tightly woven with offline life that it might as well be called the broadcloth of the 21st century. Cutting through it will recquire special tools and some creative skills.
For the Internet to become the true pattern disrupter, I believe it is necessary for activities of your own devotions to stay secret.
The secret activity is one of the few activities left, for an individual, where you need not to rely on others for praise. It is the only way to ensure that you are not distorting an activity by looking for acceptance from others3. It is how you escape trying to belong, it is the evasion of groupthink. It is where the sought after feeling of losing oneself to the realness of the activity, when it is not made with the purpose of being put on display.
The Internet as such is hardly a place to keep secrets, and sadly not yet a place where one could hope to find the disruptive situations that we, as humans, desperately need to become more aware of the realities around us, but shame on those who don’t try. My suggestion is simply to take the model above and think once or twice about the Community you are trying to engage when you keep informing them of your activities — like this blog post for instance. That’s why I’ve decided to…