Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Bullshit Artistry

In the great brown land of Down Under, they have the curious habit of dubbing anybody suspected of momentary disingenuousness a "bullshit artist". In the land of English-speaking internet and pop culture, and therefore presumably in the United States of wacky Republicans, there is a tongue-in-cheek tendency to inform people that they have "failed at life". It is my intention here to try and weave both these threads of contemporary philosophy together, so as to shed further light on the childish dichotomy from my previous post, which I am totally sticking by.

"Succeeding" in life is succeeding in bullshit. Were I to be reasonable about this, I'd define it not as a steaming pile of bovine manure, but as survival skills; a faculty for successful cooperation with human beings within the various projects - economic, social, spiritual - they undertake together. It is, however, a steaming pile of bovine manure.

I suspect this is why when I have trouble doing one I inevitably end up having trouble doing the other. When the mere thought of dealing with people's bullshit exhausts me, so does going to work, buying groceries, even cooking. Everything feels polluted by idiotically fucking arbitrary expectations and conventions, in a feeling that probably isn't justified but that I'm pretty sure wouldn't arise were I a farmer growing his own food and not needing to play games even for the simple stuff.

"Survival"  in our close-knit society always has an edge of competition to it - of hostility. This is where all this love and individualism business inescapably leads to a political attitude. As I once irritated a friend professing total political apathy by insisting - your desire to be left alone and not have any service to a grand ideology demanded of you, is a leftist sentiment. Social well-being can be sought after either through victory in the Darwinian conflict - reverberating through my brain at any rate as the "better bullshitting the other bullshitters" option - or through not treading on people, and demanding not to be trod on.

For the life of me I cannot begin to understand why anything else is ever considered necessary. I cannot believe that any inconveniences enabled by a looser leash on people would come anywhere near the suffering and blatant waste of life caused by the current asphyxiating bullshit-regime. Expectations and demands are okay. But it seems like common sense to stop before voicing them to make sure they're not completely fucking stupid.

But that's not how the system works. It needs the act of judging almost more than it needs its supposed protection. It gives people something to do. It makes them feel that their life isn't meaningless, that their emotions aren't confused. Rather than try and keep two contradictory thoughts in their brain for more than 3 seconds, they'll throw a cockfight, and give their religious devotion to the side they think will win, and denounce the other as more or less impure. Or ridiculous. Or "wrong".

Doing this (and avoiding it) well is demonstrating bullshit artistry. But, to paraphrase an important insight more generally, the trouble with the bullshit contest is, even if you win, you're still covered in shit.

Sometimes something or somebody is just different. That really shouldn't have to be a big deal.

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