Header credit: Robert Yarber, Unknown, Oil on canvas
We live in a world where the powerful deceive us. We know they lie, they know we know they lie, they don’t care. We say we care, but we do nothing. And nothing ever changes. It’s normal.
Welcome to the post-truth world.
IGHT now, the entire planet is in a state of confusion, fear, and evolution — underpinned with the general knowledge that catastrophe is on its way. A four-decade-long state of chaos which has been characterized by technological advancement and globalization. This Western entropic attitude has eroded, from at least two entire generations — X and Y — the passion for change and for any kind of progress. Even before I was born, the accepted outcome among individuals had already been decided. Every country, every city, every person; constantly drools for any kind of salvation to escape — if even just for a single moment — from this manufactured, unhinged and complex place that we call our home. Although the last part of the 20th century was diluted of all organized resistance towards the power elite, the rise of the internet has broken the psychological grasp that the corporate media had on the public. This has ultimately given way to numerous artists, writers, activists, and filmmakers who are fed up with the lies and are now exposing all of the information that has been kept classified.
In an age of image and entertainment, in an age of instant emotional gratification, we do not seek reality. Reality is complicated, reality is boring. We are incapable or unwilling to handle this confusion.
We ask to be indulged and comforted by cliches, stereotypes and inspirational messages that tell us we can be whoever we seek to be.
–Chris Hedges, On Contact
One great example of what happened psychologically started in the 1970s, where self-expression — instead of collective political action or activism — had become the only-left-remaining outlet for most forms of public compassion and rancor. Instead of organizing in groups together — like the past generation did in the 1960s — to protest for change, people started to exclude themselves in front of screens or around other electronic devices. Radicals today are no longer considered to be “radical” as they once were — they are seen to be threats to the delicate fabric of the market system. Adam Curtis, the BBC filmmaker who wrote and edited the 2016 film HyperNormalisation described this process in his own words: “Instead, radicals across America turned to art and music as a means of expressing their criticism to society. They believed instead of trying to change the outside, new radicalism should try to change what is inside people’s heads, and the way to do this was through self-expression, not collective action. ”
This withdrawal by many generations of youths from organizing and from political discourse, has, in part, led to the numbing of all real forms of political activism in their children. Curtis continued, “But some of the left saw that something else was going on. That by detaching themselves, retreating into an ironic coolness, a whole generation was beginning to lose touch with the reality of power… The revolution was deferred indefinitely and while they were dozing — the money crept in.” The inception of postmodern art in the 1970s (the images in this post by Robert Yarber are postmodern) gave that disconnected sickness an image to relate to — rather than to be a part of. Many other art movements, most notably neo-expressionism, captured the dissolution perfectly. Even now this abstract view of expression — distorted and confusing to the viewer — is the only form which is palpable to our minds. Postmodern art was the artistic release of understanding actuality for a reality which had endless possibilities.
In the 1980s, just before the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, the politicians in power knew that they were not going to be able to bring about real communism, so they kept things going as if everything was normal. Everyone knew it wasn’t genuine. This is when the hyper-normalness began to infect the entire world:
The Soviet Union became a society where everyone knew that what their leaders said was not real because they could see with their own eyes that the economy was falling apart. But everybody had to play along and pretend that it was real because no one could imagine any alternative.
One Soviet writer called it Hypernormalisation.
They were so much a part of the system that it was impossible to see beyond it.
The fakeness was hyper-normal.
The collapse of the Soviet Union also had a powerful effect on the West. For many, it symbolized the final failure of the dream that politics could be used to build a new kind of world. What was going to emerge instead, was a new system that had nothing to do with politics. A system, whose aim was not to try to change things, but rather to manage a post-political world.
The fall of the Berlin Wall which symbolized the end of the Cold War was more than just the completion of a conflict between two nation states, it was also the beginning of a new period in history. The 90s would become the first decade which was intentionally fabricated outside of the constraints of actual reality — to construct a facade of politics, a system which would be controlled by the economics and not by the law.
One of the first people to describe this dramatic change was a left-wing German political thinker called Ulrich Beck. Beck said that ‘any politician who believed that they could take control of society and drive it forward to build a better future, was now seen as dangerous.’ In the past politicians might have been able to do this but now they were faced with what he called ‘a runaway world.’ Where things were complex and interconnected, and modern technologies so potentially dangerous, that it was impossible to predict the outcomes of anything you did…
Politicians would have to give up any idea of trying to change the world.
Instead, their new aim would be to try to predict the dangers of the future, and then find ways to avoid those risks. Although Beck came from the political left, the world he saw coming was deeply conservative. The picture he gave was of a political class reduced to try to steer society into a dark and frightening future; constantly peering forward and trying to see the risks coming towards them; their only aim to avoid those risks and keep society stable.
The image that gets painted after watching such a long movie like HyperNormalsation is truly alienating. It brings to the surface our deepest collective desire: How do we save the world? Curtis has once again successfully created a piece of art that dissociates our flimsy relationship with our own self. He forces us to individually examine our societal flaws. The film shows us a timeline of exactly what we’ve missed for decades and it allows us to realize how easy it is for them to trick us into believing whatever they want.
If it wasn’t for documentaries, movies, music, artwork, social media, memes, websites, corporate culture and all of the other things that make up the complex psychology of the 21st-century human — we’d be completely helpless against the forces which influence us. With monumental weapons such as creativity, individualism, artistic expression and exceptionally fine journalism — all available on the internet — we are able to feel like we are defending ourselves against the influence of the global elite that makes up a corporatocracy which controls everything we see, think and do. But are we really? We have such a stupendous opportunity to take back control from the one percent, from the global banking executives, from all of the financial enemies which seem to be holding us back. With this thing that we call a “free market,” where less and less people have a real chance to move up the social ladder, where more and more wealth is put into the bank accounts of less greedy men who do not redistribute their billions to hungry people. Philanthropy is just another way that millionaires and billionaires get more tax cuts.
My generation is happy with being medicated by doctors who will prescribe them opioids to numb the pain that’s caused by regular emotions, or by treatable illnesses like depression and disorders like OCP, ADH and PTS. We’re a unique cohort that has had our entire lives posted onto the internet, for everybody to see. We’re in a deep trench of uncertainty and shame when it comes to the world around us and especially our economy. The social order that we’re passing on to the next generation, on to our children, is one that is still entirely unpredictable because we don’t know what we’re thinking and our leaders don’t know what they’re doing either. Neoliberal economics, the current form of capitalism, will probably end up in disaster if left unchecked any longer. It’s time to start realizing that.