A lot has been written about the crisis of a certain kind of social relationship, the notion of a “crisis of investiture” is one I find quite useful. Its not particularly new either. In Eric Satner’s brilliant book on the Schreber case, My Own Private Germany, he shows how the political cosmology of a Germany in crisis can be read in microcosm in the dreams of one Judge suffering a break down just before he is actually invested with the symbolic power of his role. This kind of symbolic castration anxiety is something that affects people in all sorts of ways, but when it comes to the point where people are unable to grapple with really fundamental categories of everyday life (man, woman, etc) its clear that the age of social anxiety that we seem to be living through is erupting into crisis. A while back, I was trying to play with this notion of the “crisis of representation” as an artistic rather than socio-political category. There is still a lot of thinking to be done about this, my last project My Brother’s Country raised more questions than at answered (to coin the cliche), but I suspect the thinking that groups like Plan C have done around anxiety as the great mental state of contemporary capitalism is probably important to thinking this through. As a psychoanalytic theory, to make the obvious point, it sits at the intersection between the subjective and the social world. Having said all this, we can sort of cut to the chase with this blog post. Below is a link to an article that when not saddening to read is genuinely terrifying in its implication. It charts a decadence and a degradation of ambition and desire, matched in scale only by the narcissism it preaches.
After some reasonable notes on why a thoughtful or progressive man might struggle to articulate his own desire within the competitive and increasingly neo-liberalised way that heterosexual relationships are ordered, we are basically met with a manifesto for those who, having rejected something, have neither the imagination, self discipline or clarity of vision to actually try and build something different. That this kind of glorified collapse of love and sex into literal onanism can be held up as some sort of wisdom or personal aspiration, I think says something quite profound about the social crisis we are living through. There is, in a weird way, something Chekhovian about this figure, the constant self improver, looking to fill the gap where a real social or human relation should be with endless personal goals and classes.
The article goes onto list some of the other array of narcissistic tit bits that the discerning gent can use to fill the hole left by, you know, the attempt to work through sexual difference and love someone. My favourite is this; “I pursue my writing, and I plan to start stand-up classes. In my downtime, I enjoy a craft beer while watching my latest interest on Netflix.”
Craft Beer. Netflix. Fuck. Me.
I think this is one of those occasions where someone else has genuinely said it much, much better. Nietzsche has Zarathustra say: “Behold, I show you the last man. ‘What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?’ thus asks the last man, and blinks. The earth has become small, and on it hops the last man, who makes everything small. His race is as ineradicable as the flea; the last man lives longest. ‘We have invented happiness’, say the last men, and they blink. They have left the regions where it was hard to live, for one needs warmth.”