Everything that has a beginning has an end

The Powerlessness of Self Expression – One aspect of Hypernormalization

 

WE LIVE IN A STRANGE WORLD

OF DREAMS WIRES AND LIES

IT WAS BUILT TO PROTECT US

AND KEEP EVERYTHING STABLE

BUT NOW WE DO NOT KNOW

WHAT IS TRUE OR WHAT IS FALSE

WE HAVE BECOME LOST IN A FAKE WORLD

AND CANNOT SEE THE REALITY OUTSIDE

(HyperNormalisation)

 

Adam Curtis has released a new documentary, HyperNormalisation. This is how he describes its basic premise –

We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless migrant crisis, random bomb attacks. And those who are supposed to be in power are paralysed – they have no idea what to do.

This film is the epic story of how we got to this strange place. It explains not only why these chaotic events are happening – but also why we, and our politicians, cannot understand them.

It shows that what has happened is that all of us in the West – not just the politicians and the journalists and the experts, but we ourselves – have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. But because it is all around us we accept it as normal.

 

In an interview promoting the release of his new film, he discusses how the idea of ‘self expression’ especially radical self expression feeds into the illusion of bringing about change while in fact it only perpetuates the status quo as it becomes an empty symbolic perhaps beautiful yet powerless gesture to bring about change.

 

“I think one of the most fascinating giant shifts that’s happened in recent history started in the late 1960’s and really took off in the 70’s which was the rise of a sort of powerful individualism, a feeling throughout western society… that I as an individual [am] the most important thing and what I feel, what I want is the most truthful authentic and right thing. And the idea that you should be told what to do by politicians, by those in power over you is wrong. Its inauthentic … [and] that you should be true to yourself.

That became a very powerful thing … It was good in many ways. It liberated people and stopped us from being told what to do by corrupt elites … But it had a very strange effect on politics … If you’ve got a society of millions of individuals who all have their own desires, their own truth, their own idea of what is true then it is very difficult to craft a collective movement together … If you then get individualism rising up what you don’t want to do is give yourself up to [a commitment of] years, to a movement that you subsume yourself into. You want to express yourself. And why I think Patti Smith is interesting is that she is one of the first people you see making a shift from the idea that radicalism is giving yourself up to a group and becoming a part of something bigger to an idea that no, to be radical is to be a self expressive individual and the way to do it is through art. And what you can use art for is as an imaginative expression of your radicalism …

[The question is] How much power [do] you have as a radical expressive artist?

What was happening was that modern consumer capitalism was looking at this ‘me’ generation and these individuals and going, ‘We can help you express yourself’ and suddenly instead of giving you the same car, the same coat, the same clothes, you can have a whole range of different ones so that you can all be self expressive in your different ways. And there is an argument that … modern consumerism was rescued by the ‘me’ generation because it suddenly allowed you to sell lots and lots of different things to lots of different people who wanted to express themselves in different ways. Which means that the idea of self expression becomes absolutely central to the power of modern capitalism … So then if you have a radical art which is based on the idea of self expression … then however radical your message is and however powerful what you are saying is, the fact that you are doing it through self expression means that actually what you are doing is feeding the underlying ideology of modern consumer capitalism because it depends on the whole idea of you as a self expressive individual.”

According to Curtis, radical gestures are just that – gestures, and are absorbed into the dominant culture and are even, along with some movements, manipulated and in some cases created by powerful behind the scene forces so that the question of what is true or false has no clear answer. This is one of the dilemmas of living in a Hypernormal world. That we are being manipulated and are buying into the manipulation ourselves is just one aspect of the challenges we face at the end of an era. It remains to be seen how to break out of this illusion and see the world for what it really is. Perhaps as the film suggests it is not how we break out of the illusion but that reality will literally come smashing in. It already has begun to do so.

Please see his new film embedded below.

 

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3 responses

  1. Thanks for posting this. The film is really important, answers all sorts of questions I had. The reason we have Trump coming at us now is that it’s another kind of reality created for TV in the same way as Drama and Fiction is presented. Pretty scary…

    Like

    November 1, 2016 at 8:14 am

    • You’re welcome Tiramit. Curtis has made a whole series of this type of exploration of what are the underlying structures of power and manipulation. I am grateful that this has answered some of your questions regarding our current situation. It is pretty scary, you’re right!

      Like

      November 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

  2. thanks!
    an interesting perspective
    on modern existence
    which i’ll look forward to viewing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    November 5, 2016 at 5:35 pm

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