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How to quit being fake
May 22, 2003 8:02 PM   Subscribe

How to quit being fake John Kusch: “When I was 13, I decided to become a fake poet.... When I was 27, I decided to become a fake writer. When I was 32, I decided to become a fake personal assistant.... I was tired of dressing Fake Business Casual, of lowering my fake gaze in the boardroom while dropping off copies during a fake meeting, of waiting until the fake members had their pick before being allowed to have a leftover cookie.... So I got a job working nights in a jail, alphabetizing things that nobody else can be bothered to alphabetize, where I will be left alone, where I can be a real nobody in a real nowhere, under the radar screen that I am beginning to suspect is fake, too”
posted by joeclark (64 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Those are more hyperreal things than fake things. Hyperreality is the state of affairs where an event or series of events or set of objects is constructed as a perfect imitation of reality to avoid the fact that there is no underlying meaning or reality to the things in question.

*goes back to reading pretentious Europeans*
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 8:08 PM on May 22, 2003


What a remarkably soul-baring post that was. It takes courage to realize that what we think is important is often a sham. I understand where he's coming from, but I don't think it's as bleak as he makes it out to be. All he needs to do is to find something that interests him and makes him happy. I say this as though it's the easiest thing in the world to do, when many of us spend our entire lives not knowing what that interesting and happy thing may be. I wish him luck.

From his "about me" page:
I'm Feeling Meme-ey! (Or, 100 Things About Me)

He's soooo gay. To be honest, I find it refreshing

pseudo, I don't get it . . . explain the difference between fake and hyperreal to me.
posted by ashbury at 8:19 PM on May 22, 2003


ashbury: I'm guessing pseudo's referencing Baudrillard. I'm not that well up on Jean, but I think the idea is something like this: Disney World would probably be the archetypal hyperreal environment: something that's been crafted with exquisitely anal retentive care to evoke... whatever. Nostalgia for small town america (Disney's mainstreet USA actually created the small town restoration movement) or representations of "exotic" locations, or what have you. Those huge ass shopping malls/entertainment complexes are also hyperreal, in that they're totally controlled and engineered for maximum profit extraction..
posted by slipperywhenwet at 8:40 PM on May 22, 2003


Jeesh, I thought I was the only one that had bothered to get a copy of "Simulacra and Simulation", damn Matrix.
posted by bobo123 at 8:45 PM on May 22, 2003


"Disney against the metaphysicals"
-Pound

we can call it faux again...can't we?
or use the salinger...phoney.
posted by clavdivs at 8:48 PM on May 22, 2003


thanks, slippery, it makes more sense now. It's a pretty thin line between faux/fake/phoney-ness and hyperreality, isn't it?
posted by ashbury at 8:56 PM on May 22, 2003


Well, the fake is supposed to represent something real, but the hyperreal is, I think, about collapsing the distance between the "fake" and reality. The fake becomes the real.

Baudrillard is (duh) big on the web. A quicky google will turn up lots of good references. Fo' 'xample:

"The hyperreal, - either in a computer generated environment, in a tv sit com or in a simulated city as Las Vegas or Disneyland -, seems to be reproducing some original model existing in reality; however this simulachra don't have any true model in what used to be reality."
LA: blade runner to mickey mouse.


The matrix is sort of interesting.. isn't it hyperreal in the sense that it's appropriating these kind of ideas and representing them as commodity entertainment? Like Fight Club presents a radical anti-commodity story in the context of a hollywood blockbuster?

tyler durden could kick neo's scrawny white ass around the block.
posted by slipperywhenwet at 9:14 PM on May 22, 2003


The general idea of hyperreality goes a little like this:

- In the beginning, a craftsperson throws a cup on a wheel with his or her own hands, and either for his or her own personal use or that of someone in a small, local community. The cup bears all the marks of its maker, and retains the unique traces of that person's intent and skill (or lack thereof).

- Then comes industrialism, and Process. Suddenly, cups come flying off assembly lines (or out of injection molds, or whatever). Each one is perfect, identical, and anonymous - suitable for use by some equally perfect and anonymous generic ideal. Meanwhile, nobody makes cups by hand anymore: it's too inefficient, too contingent, too *human*.

- But then along comes a longing for the world before automation, a world populated by "real" people and the "real" things they've created. In the wake of this longing comes alienation and irony...and a market. Now, things are mass-produced with "imperfections" designed to evoke the "authentic" world that has long since disappeared; a perfect example, for those who have ever eaten at a Loretta Lynn's Country Kitchen, are the mass-produced "jam jar" glasses one is given, complete with threaded rim, that mimic those a poor Coal Miner's Daughter would have grown up drinking from.

Or Las Vegas's New York New York, at which I once heard a grotesquely obese woman in a knockoff Ralph Lauren Polo sweatshirt (!) aver that "now [she] never had to visit New York, since [she]'d already seen all the good parts."

Repeat on the scale of an entire society. Live your entire life inside.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:15 PM on May 22, 2003


It's a pretty scary concept, yet strangely compelling.
posted by ashbury at 9:22 PM on May 22, 2003


I'm an architect.
posted by davidmsc at 9:33 PM on May 22, 2003


...yet strangely compelling.

It better be. It's what's driving advanced capitalism.

Anyone want to do a marxian reading of the matrix? Nahh. Too easy.
posted by slipperywhenwet at 9:35 PM on May 22, 2003


French intellectuals notwithstanding, all I can do is note that John Kusch seems nuts-deep in self-loathing, which is, as these things are, fascinating in a train-wreck kind of way to look at. Makes me feel a little dirty doing it, though.

It's one of those questions that it will either set you free or drive you mad, though, and therefore one of those questions to keep at the front of your mind at all times : is my life a real life authentically lived, and if not how do I make it one?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:45 PM on May 22, 2003


Oh no! That must mean... WE'RE ... IN ... THE ... MATRIX!!!
posted by timyang at 9:48 PM on May 22, 2003


stav, I think it's both easier and more difficult than that.

I think inside each of us is a very highly tuned bullshit detector, and I think we all always already know when we're being inauthentic.

I sure as hell do: I sure as hell know, when I'm contemplating one or another purchase that's driven primarily by my need to match some idealized profile, that what I'm about to do is less important - less "real," if you will - than other options.

The difficulty is in attending to this bullshit detector consistently, because the sad truth of the matter (as slipperywhenwet observes) is that being fake is functional and adaptive in our society, there are plenty of incentives to maintain the facade and comparatively few (if profound and strangely satisfying) ones militating against it.

But, hey, sit quietly with yourself any time you have ten or fifteen minutes. (I don't give a rat's ass if you call if prayer or meditation or self-criticism.) And just sort of gently review the choices you've made: the CDs on your shelf because you know you "ought to" like them, the clothes in your closet because they match the image that people expect of you, and so forth...

You already know. We all do.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:53 PM on May 22, 2003


And lest someone waggle their finger and ask me what 'a real life authentically lived' actually means, with a flourish and an 'ah-hah', I'd venture that it means precisely what you want it to mean.

On preview : no timyang, I know you're joking, but the question is nothing as trivial as that, nor is it sophomoric ventures into solipsism and such. It's possibly the single most important question that I've asked myself in my own life, and threads right on back to Socratic discourse on the nature of the Good Life. How do we live well? How do we keep from wasting the opportunities we are given simply as a consequence of being alive? How do we genuinely inhabit our lives, through the good and the bad?

You know, goofy shit like that.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:57 PM on May 22, 2003


Whoops, I see adam's post now.

I think we're talking about two different facets of the same thing here, adam, and whether it's the kind of disgust with the bullshit consumerism you mention or an existential self-hatred at a life lived inauthentically like the one that seems to me to be driving the journal post joeclark linked to, it's all springing from the same deeper doubts about what is good.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:01 PM on May 22, 2003


When I was 13, I decided to become a fake poet.... When I was 27, I decided to become a fake writer. When I was 32, I decided to become a fake personal assistant....

Someone should introduce him to Jayson Blair. I think they'd hit it off.
posted by SPrintF at 10:25 PM on May 22, 2003


When I was 32 I decided to become a fake pundit, and created a Metafilter account.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:29 PM on May 22, 2003


Adam, playing devil's advocate, maybe that lady in Las Vegas is better off not having to come to New York City to experience the real thing. I'd rather she wouldn't as well ;)
posted by gen at 10:29 PM on May 22, 2003


This reminds me of Robert Pirsig's book,Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance where he attempts to discover "Quality"
"And what is good, Phædrus,
And what is not good...
Need we ask anyone to tell us these things? "
posted by JohnR at 10:48 PM on May 22, 2003


I think I understand exactly what this means, but I have my doubts. Maybe it is just the whining of a fat hairy gay atheist radioactive liberal.

The "hyperreal" concept sums it up pretty well, but basically everything this guy has said relates to the "artificial social constructs" that I hate so much. Whether people deliberately choose to live in a fantasy world, or are incapable of real thought, they constantly play out highly ritualised behaviors called "life" that I want no part of, and each generation builds monuments to these irrational behaviors which will influence the next generation in thinking evidence of "life's" importance is all around them.
posted by son_of_minya at 11:51 PM on May 22, 2003


can't a conscious decision to embrace artificial social constructs be as authentic as anything else?
you could decide that yes, status symbols etc. are what you most authentically want, because, more than anything else, how you are perceived by others is genuinely what is most important to you.
how is that sentiment, that life, any less authentic than one that chooses not to participate in such constructs?
posted by juv3nal at 12:52 AM on May 23, 2003


juv3nal:

By "artificial social constructs" I don't mean mere superficiality. I'm talking complete social inventions, like prisons or factories or chalkboards -- anything which is designed to influence and control.

As I've grown older, I've come to accept that the way I'm perceived by others is important. I do drive a car, and wear clothes, which were specifically chosen because they don't draw attention from the police. Even if I were completely authentic, I would still be concerned about my safety, though.

What bothers me is that people make a decision like that -- and usually on a more extreme level than the ones I've made -- and then they forget about it. They just completely block out any memory or thought of that decision to do something fake. Then, they actually are offended when anyone even mentions it.

There are people who actually ignore reality, (and I think that was the point of the transcribed conversation in the linked article) because those people think their role is more important than what is actually happening in reality. Surround yourself with enough of these people (which is hard to avoid doing) and you will find yourself becoming Alice in Wonderland, which is as uncomfortable as you might imagine.


So, I do partly agree with you. A conscious decision to do something fake is fine...just so long as you do not actually become fake.
posted by son_of_minya at 1:24 AM on May 23, 2003


(somewhat off-topic) Anyone else see A Confederacy of Dunces parallels in the alphabetizing? There's another unreal world.
posted by win_k at 4:39 AM on May 23, 2003


Oh wow, a mid-life crisis. That stunning time of irrationality associated with the realisation that life isn't quite how you wanted it.

I find this less an epiphany than a mistake. Someone has just given up the entirety of what was once their life, just because they weren't happy. Big news: nobody's happy. Nobody wins in the end, and giving up on society and a career for a solitary existance in some lonely, crap-ass job is never the answer.

Trying to justify it by pretending nothing before was more than a superficiality is just juvenile, and is simply a mechanism to enable this person to drop out of their previous life while not feeling like they have lost anything. It's much the same as when people join a cult, though this is the cult of self.
posted by fnord_prefect at 4:43 AM on May 23, 2003


Somebody send John a copy of Dr. Phill's Self Matters. . . STAT!
posted by spslsausse at 4:48 AM on May 23, 2003


of the constant scream that has consumed where my feelings are supposed to be.

amen.

oh, and the matrix is a fucking movie. this guy is talking about real fake life. grow up, for christ's sake.
posted by quonsar at 5:29 AM on May 23, 2003


Sorry, I had to run off to work there for ten hours unexpectedly. Yeah, I'm channeling Baudrillard (just finished "America" and "Forget Foucault", working on "The Vital Illusion"). Here's another link to a bunch of his stuff, though nothing really super-important.

The hyperreal is not just the fake that becomes real, although it encompasses that. Basically, hyperreal things are simulations - where there _isn't_ a real thing to copy. It's like, Mr. Kusch talks about being a "fake" waiter, but you ask, what _is_ a "real" waiter then? And the answer is, there is no such thing outside of what Mr. Kusch experienced. His "fake" waiting is the entirety of the experience - shitty pay pretending to be polite to people who tend towards jerkdom. It's a simulation (because it's a set of pretend actions and norms - a game we play), but it's not simulating anything but itself. So to call it "fake" or "real" is missing the point - it's the hyperreal. in B.'s view, just about everything in our lives is a simulation at this point, mostly due to the course industrial civilisation has taken into consumerism.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 6:29 AM on May 23, 2003


Big news: nobody's happy.

Speak for yourself.
posted by kindall at 7:40 AM on May 23, 2003


possibility 1: all things are real

possibility 2: all things are artificial, fake, imitation, phony; but through some mysterious hocus-pocus they are all exactly as they would be if they were real.

choice: the two cases are absolutely indistinguishable on any imaginable evidence. Therefore Occam's Razor applies, choose the simpler possibility.


Oh, you weren't being metaphysical, you just got your nose out of joint because you noticed (bad old reflexive self-awareness) that you sometimes play roles instead of being as authentic as the Buddha 100% of the time, and the wood on your Acura's dashboard is really plastic. Well, get over it. If trivial poop like this makes you miserable you are one of the many for whom the unexamined life is not worth examining.
posted by jfuller at 7:55 AM on May 23, 2003


son_of_minya

> you will find yourself becoming Alice in Wonderland, which is
> as uncomfortable as you might imagine.

Alice: But I don't want to go among mad people.
Cheshire Cat: Oh, you can't help that...
posted by jfuller at 8:09 AM on May 23, 2003


Feh. Whiny pain in the ass.
posted by FormlessOne at 8:36 AM on May 23, 2003


This thread is 10x as interesting and illuminating as Kusch's pseudo-intellectual booger-pickin'.

Just for the record, although the case can be made there there is a bright line between the real and irreal, one must act as if everything is real, since perceptually the difference is negligible to the individual. As the sage Constanza observed (echoing Eco): It's not a lie, if you believe it.

PS: We do not live in the Matrix. IF you were a machine race, why keep humans around? As chemical batteries go, we are wildly inefficient.
posted by UncleFes at 8:37 AM on May 23, 2003


ashbury, Pseudoephedrine, adamgreenfield et al: thanks for the JB discussion. My 2c: a fake is a copy of something else somewhere else; a (hyperreal) simulacrum is a perfect copy of something that never existed in the first place :-/
posted by carter at 8:53 AM on May 23, 2003


My only edit to that, carter:

"...or has ceased to exist."
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:15 AM on May 23, 2003


Damn my immersion in Beach Boys/Charles Manson lyrics!
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:16 AM on May 23, 2003


Here's a thought: isn't fake real? Or was Plato right and there is somewhere a really real reality where the voice of perfect eternity is encoded intrinsically into things. Fakeness presumes the essential--from which the fake deviates. Don't get me wrong: I'm with y'all on the practical value of mindful self and world examination... but on a purely theoretical level, if we acknowledge the constructedness of reality, what can we use as a "constant" to check for fakeness? See also False Consciousness. Great thread by the way. Fuck the Matrix.
posted by squirrel at 9:17 AM on May 23, 2003


This reminded me of an oldie but a goodie: The guy I almost was at electric sheep.
posted by whatnot at 9:22 AM on May 23, 2003


are we all forgetting Descartes....
posted by clavdivs at 9:46 AM on May 23, 2003


If he'd just gotten his pick of the cookies none of this would have happened.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:52 AM on May 23, 2003


whoah man, nothing is real man.
posted by Satapher at 9:57 AM on May 23, 2003


Rance Muhammitz: You must call me "Rance Muhammitz".
Jimmy Carl Black: "Rance Muhammitz"? Stupidest name I ever heard of.
Rance Muhammitz: Yah, but you must remember that within the
conceptual framework of this filmic event, nothing really
matters! It is entirely possible for several subjective
realities to coexist. It is possible that all things are a
deception of the senses.
Don Preston: Right on, Rance! The functioning of our senses
has been spiritually impaired and chemically corrupted by the
fake, artifical food coloring.
Rance Muhammitz: By the way. Mr. Volman, I have--YOUR CHEESBURGER.
Don Preston: We must evolve. We must progress. There must be growth!
Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood: Yeah... macrobiotic foods and tie-dye
shirts!


Jimmy Carl Black: Listen man, I just wanna know two things. Is
there any beer in this fake nightclub, and when do we get paid?
Rance Muhammitz: Just a minute, just a minute, in a moment or two
you'll be able to get your hands on all the imaginary beer that
you want.

----------------------------

Rance Muhammitz: I'm deeply offended by your lack of artistic sense.
Jimmy Carl Black: Look here, Muhhamitz, or whatever the fuck they
call you, I don't even give a shit man, I got five fuckin' kids at
home and can you lend me a coupla bucks until the end of the week?
Who are you, anyway?
Rance Muhammitz: Oh, she writes for the Imaginary Rock and Roll
newspaper in San Francisco.
Jimmy Carl Black: San Francisco?

----------------------------

Lucy: Janet, did you see those guys with the hair?
Janet: It's those guys from the fake stage across the street from
our house.
Lucy: Eww, I get so excited when someone from a group gets near me.
I just.. eww, I just..
Janet: Don't you have any taste? That one guy's got gray hair,
and the other one's too fat.
Janet: Didn't you notice his binoculars?
Lucy: No, he's got binoculars?
Janet: He watches us through them, he's a pervert!
Lucy: Oh, I get so hot just thinking about perversions... Maybe
when we go down to the fake nightclub tonight we can meet him, and
find out if he really is perverted.
Janet: Just take my word for it; he is perverted.
Lucy: Mm. And English, too.
Janet: They're all that way.

----------------------------

Lucy: Look, over there!
Janet: What?
Lucy: He's doing it, he's watching us from the fake bandstand with
the binoculars!
Janet: Who, the english dude?
Lucy: Oh, rivet-boy!
The Hot Nun: The rivet boy? Where?
Lucy: Over there, wipe that stuff out of your eyes. It looks like
he's beating off.
Janet: Beating off? I knew he was a pervert.
Lucy: Eww, how exciting. Hey, are you still trying to O.D.?
The Hot Nun: Yes, this definitely is the end for me! It's growing
so faint! So weak!
Janet: Good evening honey, that was the most imaginary collapse I've
seen since last week.
Lucy: Janet, do you think she's going to die?
Janet: Are you kidding? Did you see her hit the floor?
The Hot Nun: I'm going to die. This time its real.
Janet: Listen, Lucy, we gotta get ready for our big dance number,
we're going to the fake nightclub tonight.

----------------------------

Jeff: Hey. Listen, do you know where I can uh, get any dope in
this imaginary town?
Don: Man, there's no dope in this town. Just these vile, foamy
liquids.
Jeff: Well, they're fake aren't they?
Don: No, they're real! I mix them myself at home, and then I
bring them in the morning... secret spiritual formulas...
Jeff: Ew, what's a secret spiritual formula?
Don: The stuff that goes in the elixer, the potion, whatever I mix
is irrelavent to the result.
Jeff: You mean they're fake potions, right?
Don: Look, it doesn't matter what's in the mix. It's the liquid!
The concept.. of the liquid.. is enough to trigger a special cosmic
state. Its because I'm so spiritually evolved...
Jeff: Oh, listen, I just wanna get out of it, and go back to me
fake motel room and play the blues, you know. Fuck your spiritual
evolvement. Anyway, what happens if a new and exciting blues
talent such as meself drinks your stuff?
Don: Here. Take this back to your fake room. Drink it.
Jeff: I'd feel a lot happier if there was something I could smoke.
Don: Well, here. Dip this in it. Now, let it dry out. That ought
to get you a little high. Or something.
Jeff: Ew, I can't take you seriously.
Don: Look, you might as well take this too.
Jeff: I know its only fake potion. Well listen. We should get
together sometime. Have a jam. Yeah, play some blues. Extentions!
Why not some extended blues licks? White people can play fake blues
too, you know.

-- Frank Zappa/Mothers of Invention, 200 Motels
posted by jfuller at 10:01 AM on May 23, 2003


squirrel, I am not a philosopher but I would say yes, metaphysics of fakeness do presume the authentic; which can be problematic, because where for instance does John Kusch find a definition of 'real' authenticity to henceforth model his life on? How does he know when he's found it? But you can also see 'fake' and 'real' as just terms which make sense most of the time to us within our own terms of reference, or what Wittgenstein calls our 'language game.' I think (although would be very happy to be corrected/clarified on this) that the later Wittgenstein might say that the intellectual dissonance caused by thinking about concepts that do not appear able to occupy the same conceptual space simultaneously and harmoniously, is a consequence of conflicts in the underlying rules of the language game in question, rather than anywhere in 'reality.' That is, such conflicts and problems arise out of our use of language and our assumptions of definitions of words such as 'fake' and 'real.' I think ;)
posted by carter at 10:04 AM on May 23, 2003


Being real involves taking risks, even if, despite the clarity of your intentions, you don't know where those risks will land you or the perception involves something fake. The reactions to your actions (which, conversely, may well be reactions to the actions of others) may lead you into frequent side quests of despair. You will fall flat on your face. The purpose is to tweak your actions for quality reactions and thus progressive action for all parties. The great rub, of course, is that to effectuate this, you will have to pay your dues and fail. Repeatedly. Over and over again. Until you get it right. Or the holisitic reaction improves.

It's very easy to condemn your own efforts, particularly if they result in failure. It's harder to get off your ass and try again, learning from your mistakes and not beating yourself up because you were an idiot. In the words of Yoda, "No! Try not! Do. Or do not. There is no try." Although I would amend the little green mystic's words to read, "No! Try not! Do. And keep doing. There is no try." Consistently doing not makes you nothing. Consistently doing, even if it involves repeated failure, makes you somebody.

Life's too short to allow self-pity to get in the way of another effort or to celebrate your own efforts, even if they resulted in another dropkick into the mud.

There isn't a desert of the real if you regularly act. There is only the desert of your own diffidence.

Life: Do you have what it takes to keep doing? Do you have what it takes to greet your own failure with cheery hosannas and keep going?

This message was brought to you by the Self-Help 101 Foundation, an organization hoping that the general populace will stop investing so much money in self-help screeds and lend a pat on the back and a deferential ear to those who need it.
posted by ed at 10:09 AM on May 23, 2003


pseudo, I'm a huge JB freak. Wrote my thesis on him, he'll show up a bundle in my diss as well (in progress). Have you seen his most recently translated essay: The Violence of the Global? A good read, and an interesting argument. Take a look at it after you finish Vital Illusion, since the more recent writings all see to build from and relate to each other. Then post it, maybe we can start a solid JB discussion.
posted by hank_14 at 10:17 AM on May 23, 2003


carter: I agree.

Satapher's dismissal of his/her inferred "nothing is real" argument refers the now outmoded objective-subjective dilemma, man. Objectivism argues that meaning is intrinsic; subjectivism argues that people create meaning individually. Those inclined toward objectivism or who fear the slippery slide into relativism dismiss subjectivism, often with hostility or sarcasm that betrays a fear of losing coherence. Yet the objective-subjective dilemma is false; some social constructionists suggest that meaning emerges in the process of communicating, that it's a cooperative and ongoing process. And speaking of joint construction, is it 4:20 yet?
posted by squirrel at 12:11 PM on May 23, 2003


This thread is freakin' awesome.
posted by oissubke at 12:48 PM on May 23, 2003


some social constructionists suggest that meaning emerges in the process of communicating, that it's a cooperative and ongoing process.

And yet, meanings, even if they do emerge in interaction, are also shaped by the a priori assumptions each of us makes about the world, and how we think it ought to be. Yikes!
posted by carter at 2:16 PM on May 23, 2003


Yikes, indeed. And yet ask yourself whence come these presumed "a priori" assumptions. Are they truly intrinsic? Do we acquire them whole? Construct them piecemeal? Is there a physiologically embedded kernel of Truth around which we organize ideas? Descartes said, "I think therefore I am"; Ken Gergen suggested that he should have said, "I communicate, therefore I am"; Vernon Cronen later updated this to "We communicate, therefore we are." I might change the verbs to their gerund form, to emphasize the continual process through which our communicating creates our existence.
posted by squirrel at 2:36 PM on May 23, 2003


Cogito ergo sum. When I think, I am communicating with myself. By thinking and communicating with myself, I influence people and objects around me, either through action or inaction. I am real, not fake. My contributions to society are real. The gears and cogs that run society are real, since the gears and cogs are made up of people who think and communicate with themselves. Society is hyperreal.

I see a paradox, here. I think what Mr. Gay Man is undergoing is more of an identity crisis than a mid-life crisis. If you goes through your life without thinking about these things and then it suddenly hits you, it doesn't hit softly, it hits you like a ton of bricks.

This stuff is too heady for me.

Fantastic thread, though!
posted by ashbury at 2:57 PM on May 23, 2003


Great thread, people. I'm almost intimidated to step in here, as I'm not as philosophically trained as many of the posters are, but here it goes.....

A priori assumptions have always frustrated me, in that a priori statements appear to be devoid of any factual content. A priori assumptions can only describe how we connect concepts through language, but tells us nothing about the larger reality. For example the cogito states "I think therefore I am," at a glance there seems to be something defined, but further review shows the statement only describes the way Descartes views his own existence. Niether I, nor Thought is defined by the statement, only the relationship between the two concepts. One could say, I think, therefore I think I am. The argument would then be: there must be a thinker in order to have thought, but what makes that true? How do we know our thoughts are our own?

I might want to step out on a ledge as say meaning itself is hyper-real. Phenomenon, independent of the Universe are meaningless. Phenomenon within the context of the Universe have meaning, but the meaning is only found in the phenomenon's function within a larger system. Meaning, as we seem to know it, depends upon an assumption that meaning exists beyond, or without the universe, which has never been true. At best, meaning is the search for meaning.

On the issue of the authentic vs. simulations I 'd claim that we are what we pretend to be. If I pretended to be a poet and wrote pretend poems, how is it I am not a poet? If I pretend to rob a real bank, am I not a real bankrobber? Certain things can be "faked" to the point they become "real." I'm not saying simulacrum don't exist, in fact I love adamgreenfield's cup example, but that some simulacra have a way of becoming not the simulation of an object, but the object itself.

I hope that made any sense to anyone.
posted by elwoodwiles at 3:22 PM on May 23, 2003


squirrel: I guess I'm trying to see if it's possible to negotiate between these two schools of thought. First, European/post-structuralist analyses of class and power, especially those that rely too heavily on Rousseauian (Manichean?) notions of an authentic substrate of human existence since corrupted by modernity/commodity/capitalist relations (take your pick). Second, American pragmatic positions that rely too heavily on the assumed capability of agents to act freely and reflexively in the construction of a (their) just world. At the moment I found Giddens to optimistic and Foucault too pessimistic on this; so any suggestions therefore welcome (and thanks for the Vernon Cronen reference - new to me - I'm just downloading some of his stuff).

If you goes through your life without thinking about these things and then it suddenly hits you, it doesn't hit softly, it hits you like a ton of bricks.

ashbury: I like what Raoul Vaneigem said in the opening paragraph of The Revolution of Everyday Life: "The history of our time calls to mind those Walt Disney characters who rush madly over the edge of a cliff without seeing it: the power of their imagination keeps them suspended in mid-air, but as soon as they look down and see where they are, they fall."
posted by carter at 3:28 PM on May 23, 2003


Just think about how happy we'll be when the new versions of the DVD and super flat TV's come out. I just got new speakers that let you hear *authentic* music. None of that fake shit. Waaaay better man. Totally worth selling my life away eight hours at a time.

/zerzan
posted by hellinskira at 4:01 PM on May 23, 2003


Good comments, elwoodwiles.

Carter: First, European/post-structuralist analyses of class and power, especially those that rely too heavily on Rousseauian (Manichean?) notions of an authentic substrate of human existence since corrupted by modernity/commodity/capitalist relations (take your pick).

I'm not clear on this. You may have missed a verb. This isn't a snipe; I value your opinion and want a clearer idea of what you mean. I infer your meaning as post-structuralist analysis of power dynamics implies a rejection of intrinsic human nature. Yeah?

I'm glad you're enjoying Cronen. He and Pearce worked on their Coordinated Management of Meaning theory between 1975-95. Pearce seems to be running that show now, which is too bad. Cronen has the philosophy background and Pearce the linguistic charisma. Without each other they're respectively densely and fluffy.

Hmm. Dense and fluffy. My goodness, it's 4:20 already!
posted by squirrel at 4:21 PM on May 23, 2003


Thanks for the interest, squirrel. Uhm, I'm thinking of post-structuralist/critical theories that use notions of ideology, hegemony, false consciousness, and so on, as at least partial explanations for the observed bad state of things (power, oppression, inequality, etc.). Implicit in these notions (and as is discussed in your fake/real comment above) is an opposite notion of 'non-false' or authentic consciousness that stands in opposition to this false consciousness but is somehow hidden by it.

The pre-post-structuralist grand-daddy of them all here politically may well be Marx (I await correction), although the notion of a hidden underlying current of 'authentic reality' that we do not see because we are blinded by a false consciousness is both very ancient (e.g. Buddhism, gnosticism, hermeticism), and also very contemporary (e.g. The Matrix).

Marx used some optical metaphors (such as lenses) to sum up the relationship between false and revolutionary consciousness in his theory. For Marx our 'everyday,' false consciousness reality is an inversion of revolutionary reality, turned upside down by capitalism and the social relationships it engenders. Further to this notion is the idea that sometimes authentic consciousness is buried so deep it takes 'revolutionary' breaks in false consciousness to tap/unleash it.

This 'inversion' metaphor is found in many areas of late nineteenth century and twentieth century political, philosophical, and artistic thought (see e.g. Greil Marcus's "Lipstick Traces" for one contentious history).

So (to finally answer your question): rather than saying "post-structuralist analysis of power dynamics implying a rejection of intrinsic human nature", I'd say instead that post-structuralist analyses of power dynamics suggest that false consciousness leads us to cover up/reject/deny our intrinsic/authentic human nature. And thus questioning this cover-up leads John Kusch to the conclusion that he has led a fake life, for example.

That's just my take, of course ;)
posted by carter at 5:18 PM on May 23, 2003


Oh yes, the critical movement. It's funny how Marx (who I would agree is the modern mack daddy of old school critical theory) is every contemporary critical scholar's whipping boy. Too much focus on economic superstructure, not enough focus on other power proxemics, (e.g. race, gender, queerness, etc.). I like critical theory on a gut level because I'm an activist. I worry, though, and am unable to commit to their doctrines because I find the status quo-radical change dilemma dimensionally challenged. Radical anti-anything positions presuppose an essential-anything correlative, which raises flags. Put another way, the critical scholars seem to me to be saying "that" consciousness is false while "this" consciousness is true. I've seen some shoddy critical scholarship, though, so I'm biased. I see the critical school as more of a political organization system than an ontological investigation. Some critical scholar please kick my ass on that point. Frankly, carter, I think the crowd has left this cafe. The waiters are sweeping up around us. Drop me an e-mail next time you find a happening thread. I'll be looking for your posts.
posted by squirrel at 9:26 PM on May 23, 2003


I'm sure that this lights have long since gone on and the barmen are making long faces but Ithought that I'd chip in...

Not to want to be anti intellectual about this but weren't the postmodern (and to a lesser extent post structuralist movements) the academic equivalent of the Dunkirk retreat? Post 1991, realising that the argument was lost, previously absolutist Marxist academics cooked up the notion that one point of view can't be privileged over another, thus sidestepping the accusation that they had been 'wrong' throughout their careers?

On a side note, I can't believe that JB's been discussed here in such detail without The Gulf War Did Not Take Place being mentioned. Surely JB's most immediately relevant work on semiotics is even me vital now in the age of interactivity? The 2003 outcome was even more predetermined than its 1991 predecessor, and even more 'hyper-real'. Is there a Hollywood studio that wouldn't have thrown out a script about a son succeeding his father to the Presidency and eliminating a dictator with whom his father had gone to war? I can see the execs now rolling their eyes thinking 'sub-Iron Eagle garbage - old hat.' Yet here we the (hyper) reality in all its colour enhanced 'reality'

A further side note: Baudrillard; interesting yes, but as a politics geek, der Derian was the shit I was shooting... Strong on critical theory...
posted by dmt at 6:13 AM on May 24, 2003


dmt> Post 1991, realising that the argument was lost, previously absolutist Marxist academics cooked up the notion that one point of view can't be privileged over another, thus sidestepping the accusation that they had been 'wrong' throughout their careers?

Yes and no. All the major works were done well beforehand, decades, in fact. It's probably more accurate to say that the collapse of the Soviet Union showed that traditional Marxist viewpoints were severely flawed, so the Frankfurt school and its descendants became the dominant interpretation of Marxism.

hank_14> Will do. I used to have a couple of JB resources that I lost in a computer crash that I'm going to regoogle first, though.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 6:42 AM on May 24, 2003


That der Derian piece at ssrc.org is excellent, dmt. Thanks.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:17 AM on May 24, 2003


> I like critical theory on a gut level because I'm an activist. I
> worry, though, and am unable to commit to their doctrines
> because I find the status quo-radical change dilemma
> dimensionally challenged. Radical anti-anything positions
> presuppose an essential-anything correlative, which raises
> flags.

The charming thing about the left intelligentsia is that it's so self-negating. No wonder Mao and Stalin had intellectuals liquidated. The late pomo by-path increased this tendency tenfold: not only will we not commit to anything, there's actually nothing real to commit to.


> I can't believe that JB's been discussed here in such detail
> without The Gulf War Did Not Take Place being mentioned.

Case in point, this is the fellow whose methods give such comfort to Holocaust deniers. Whoops, hello Godwin.
posted by jfuller at 10:05 AM on May 24, 2003


Yes, cheers for the der Derian link, dmt - I also googled der Derian's home page at the Watson Institute for International Studies, and from there found the InfoTechWarPeace site, which looks great.
posted by carter at 10:20 AM on May 24, 2003


jfuller: I've not read "the gulf war didn't happen", but it's now on my list. I read you holocaust deniers link and wasn't impressed. The author only said Holocaust deniers have been using PoMo methods, like JB's, to further their argument. That doesn't follow that people who read PoMo are Nazi's. You probably should be more carefull where you point that Godwin, especially when you have such an understanding of why Mao and Stalin had intellectuals liquidated. 'k?
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:13 PM on May 24, 2003


It's probably more accurate to say that the collapse of the Soviet Union showed that traditional Marxist viewpoints were severely flawed, so the Frankfurt school and its descendants became the dominant interpretation of Marxism.

Although this probably happened a lot earlier than 1991. The tide against orthodox Marxism turned perhaps in the late '60s towards Althusserian (structural) Marxism, among other variants. Maybe the correct context for understanding this movement isn't so much the collapse of the Soviet Union, but the crushing of the 'Prague Spring' in 1968 -- among other things -- that made the nature of Soviet power abundantly clear to many in the European left.
posted by Sonny Jim at 8:58 PM on May 24, 2003


I see 1968 as the birth of the modern version of the movement more than its triumph. Foucault had an interview (not online so far as I know) once where he said that his entire political philosophy changed after the May '68 affair in Paris, and that was when he gave up on orthodox marxism and started his important work. Still, so long as there was a Soviet Union, orthodox Marxism could, and did, claim to be more viable than structural Marxism. When it collapsed, Trotskyism and Marxist-Leninism went with it (with the exception of Eric Hobsbawm), leaving structural Marxism to take over as the dominant school.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 6:31 AM on May 25, 2003


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