I had a week off work recently. On my return I was asked, as is the almost unconscious commonality, what I did on my week off. Much to the disappointment, confusion and potential disdain of my colleagues I replied “Not very much really, read a lot.” Arguably I did a fair amount, lifted weights, practiced a martial art, wrote a little, ate some good food etc.
But these weren’t factored in, this isn’t what they meant. They meant what did I do in relation to the ‘they’, the herd, the relatable background noise of modernity. The pub-going laughs, the banal cinema visits and the oh so loathsome societal daily tumble. They wanted to hear that which they wanted to hear, and I disallowed them that wish. Such a simple act causes a caesura within the modern, it sends ripples into the heart of atomized drones causing them to splutter and halt, even if just for a moment. Their eyes flicked in disgust at the potential for something other than this.
This, this utter patheticism, an engorged self-congratulatory beast who revels in their own rot. Just a short walk throughout a supermarket can allow one to attend to a despair of seemingly unending depth. If only they would open their eyes and regrettably see the real. People who care for themselves as if they were someone they personally hated, lead willingly by the most mundane materials, symbols and signs. Short-term enjoyment, short-term commitments and short-term principles culminating in long-term misery, alienation and depersonalization.
This is easy, this is all but a repetition, we could sneer – weep perhaps – all day at the average, yet such observations come so effortlessly one wonders if indulgence in such bitterness is as far from a critique as one may be, such caustic wit is almost always nothing more than the words of an author at a loss regarding direction. Aimless anger and resentment is always gratuitous, energy dissolved over believing that which you hate so much shall disappear or change by you hating it more. It is easy to assert misanthropic contempt at the general bug-eyed, pudgy public because their existence is that which makes such contempt possible. You’ve found a comfortable loop which momentarily absolves you from mindful responsibility. This is not an essay of love over hate, not peace over anger. No. Such banal binaries are best left to hippies and conservatives (the same thing). This is an articulation of an individual form of daily revolt against the simplicity of modernity, not towards a complexity or uniqueness, nor directed at an ideology or mode of being, it isn’t really a revolt of any kind.
Revolt is already subsumed into the dynamics of modernity, as an action, as a purpose. That which modernity holds dear is utility, doing and acting, directions and outlined principles allowing themselves to be misconstrued away from being towards doing. Leftists and revolutionaries will call my reading of ‘revolt’ naive, and rightists will say I tread a fine-line even mentioning such a position. Therefore, I wish not to use the word revolt, and yet I do wish to use it, but new, correct. No revolt against modernity can happen within modernity, its claws are too diverse and subtle. If you believe otherwise go sit in your academic circle and discuss among yourselves, I’ll leave myself out. That’s the point, a strange form of non-action. I really don’t want to get too philosophical here, I care not for whether something is praxis or not, not if it is action or inaction, habit or custom etc. There is a certain nonchalance which trumps the most tight-fisted workhorse; a wild apathy, an acidic malaise, a deafening melancholy. Leaving those in its wake perturbed, a little nauseous and overall unchanged, except within their repressed understanding. “Well, uh, yeah, I guess you can just do it like that, or not like that.”
To return to the beginning. The reply as to what my week off entailed was never intended as a reaction against the tropes of the every day, nor was it intended as a tongue-in-cheek jab as how ‘free’ one can be. The truth is, amidst an almost cosmic wash of indifference it wasn’t intended at all. You wish to know how to rebel against X? Care not for X and let X know not that you don’t care for it, if you wish to rebel you must withdraw. “You mean do nothing?” Not exactly, for I would make a grave mistake if I did not articulate the form of ‘nothing’ one must flirt if they wish to ‘be’ again. Those of the supermarket abide by nothing, so how can I say that in nothing lies some answers?
My answers are vague, they have to be. Those of the supermarket abide by a complete nothingness, no spirit, no principle and no being. They are, in their entire, an assemblage of pithy desires held together by the shoestring that is their ever-dwindling attention span. I don’t know why I chose ‘nothing’ here to represent that which I wish it to. It could be anything from nonchalance to ambiguity. The reaction must at heart be one which is unconsciously inward. Not egotistical or narcissistic, nor superior or commanding. One’s reaction mustn’t do as an act directs a flow, it must be within their actions. Emanating from the most minor of silences. Moments which to the common man frustrate and disorientate him. Instead of tearing down notions he is ready and able to defend, ideology and consumer choices etc. we must begin to tear down the notion of notions.
Within the life of the common man notions have become hidden, the supermarket is a gloss of correctness atop notions of progress, acceptance and normalcy. To ditch one’s smartphone is a deep strike into the belly of the bug. Do not confuse the smartphone itself with the notion or belief it encapsulates, here it stands only as the most practical and nonchalantly effective way of enacting a reactive confusion. For the smartphone holds that one is popular, has status, is active, has money, has a life etc. The act of using a smartphone is perpetual actualization of perpetual infantile herd-acceptance attempts. If you’re plugged in, you must always be plugged in. And to say one does not have a smartphone, or even that they actively refuse to have a smartphone is a little too active(ist). But what of the eery reply?
“So what phone you got?”
“Err, this one.”
Proceeding to pull from his pocket a dumbphone for texts and calls, twisting it once or twice to allow greater vision of its entire and then swiftly sliding it back into his pocket. As if nothing had taken place, no act of transgression, no reaction, no attack, not even a display. To be in such an unquestionable manner that another’s dutifully accepted socially-pressured lifestyle choices are brought into question. Not to sense the aftermath in the manner of their reactions or comments, not to revel in some false sense of superiority, but to actually be cordial to oneself with regards to your very being. Your being deserves better than you’ve been offering it. To think that maybe their notions may dissolve ever so slightly, it’s highly likely they wont, this need not matter. The first port-of-call is not arrived at with the intention to attack, but only to swing by in a boat of peculiar origin.
There once was a time of people in towns, speaking to one another. You could witness them sauntering within their own fleeting paths of being. Many were noisy, some quiet, and a rare few silent, each towards their own. No public odes to distraction nor appeals to overt taboo and offense. They rose in their fiction and gave birth to a succession of facts. A lineage from smooth to hard. It didn’t exist for all, its lost behind some shadows and has encaptured others. A perturbation of spirit which can still lock into the non-acceptance behind nothingness and nonchalance. A chasm of indifference hums deep in all things, let it possess you.