Against All Irony/Towards An Excess Of Reality
“It’s not funny anymore…” – Husker Du
I understand your dilemma. You wish to be an artist, a creative person, a “culture worker.” Perhaps you are a painter, a writer, a guitarist, a photographer. You wish for approval, ego-gratification, status. Yet you know nothing. Not only are you incapable of understanding the society you live in you are incapable of understanding yourself. That would take discipline, struggle, analysis, and it’s much easier and cheaper to practice avoidance. Regardless of medium art is communication and you have nothing to communicate. In lieu of core beliefs you have a consumption pattern.
A lack of knowledge and a lack of core beliefs is a sure sign you should be consuming art instead of attempting to make it. But simple art consumption doesn’t make you feel special, unique and wrapped in approval. And so you do “creative things,” trying to make something out of your nothing. And you fail every time.
You know so little you don’t even know you are failing. People tell you they like what you do and of course you believe them. Like yourself your fandom knows nothing and believes nothing. You embrace each other in a futile cuddle.
You are capable of working at one default mode only – and that mode is ironic.
Irony is avoidance and irony is the oxygen the dominant culture breathes. Glib, clever, incongruous, undemanding – the dominant culture is an echo chamber of irony and you are like a sex criminal – both victim and perpetrator. You regurgitate what has been shoved down your throat and then like a dog you eat your own vomit. Apply irony to your personal life or your “community” writ large and where does it get you? Nowhere. Because you long ago accepted the dominant society and irony/avoidance is your mother’s milk. There’s no where to go from where you are. You are already at the place where irony delivers you. Your painting and your guitar solo tell me nothing about anything and how could they? You are lost in the funhouse of late capital. You should pay me five dollars at the door to hear you play and twelve-hundred dollars to take your painting home. You feel empty inside and with good reason – you are empty inside.
In the 1990s Baudrillard theorized it would take, “an excess of reality,” to shatter the simulation(s) of the western societies. September 2001 provided a test case for this theory and perhaps you remember the ‘Time’ magazine cover story or the NPR “discussions” on whether or not irony was dead. David Letterman wept during him monologue. Salutes and tearful homage’s were delivered without a single wink or nudge. But such a suspended moment of reality could not live long when such a master/slave of irony as George Bush was POTUS. In the first decade of the 21st century Jon Stewart’s program raised a lack of critical analysis to a new higher level. Here was an irony of pure simulation – almost thought provoking. A safety hatch to move liberals out of the high water of radicalism when the water began rising.
Unwanted and unseen reality approaches like a thief in the night. The Herculean efforts to forestall it’s appearance grind to nothing. Your ironic escapades evaporate into the nothingness from which they sprang. There is no shelter from this storm, it overturns. Your arsenal of avoidance is blunted. You cringe but it does not matter.
We are alike only inasmuch as we both stand on two feet. I am not ironic. I have knowledge. I have analysis. I am disciplined. I have belief. My consumption pattern would frighten you. I have nothing to offer you but blood toil tears and sweat. I have only one promise to make – given the opportunity, I will bury you.