I recently had the opportunity to post the following comment in response to a pointless article by the HR Puffinstuff of pseudo-Lefties (what’s her name again? The Australian? Caitlin something…?); I wrote:
“Trump this, Trump that. It’s like shaking your fist at the figurehead/ hood ornament on the 18-wheel death barge that ran over your granny. Surely you know that the clown you’re hating on is a figurehead who does the bidding of the same Plutocrats who told BHO, and The Clintons, what to declare, and when, and why, and how, while various injuriously felonious global US GOV moves were made? Trump will come and go, but it’s Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Monsanto (et al) who “want War with Iran” (or want you to want it), and those fauxhuman monsters will be with us, calling the shots, when the next puppet/ rodeo clown/ scapegoat/ Orwellian-hour-of-hate figure (I guess things are officially postmodern when “Emmanuel Goldstein” is POTUS; but that was BHO’s function, for “half the country”, too, wasn’t it?) comes and goes, too. Why are you cursing the clown when you could put the circus out of business?”
And a little more of the same. Some (the Normz) call this “trolling”. I call it propaganda-jamming. Every little bit helps, you know, because propaganda needs to present a nearly-flawlessly uniform surface before it can become irresistible and, of course, with every little “anti-trolling” stricture they roll out, and as every comment thread in the vanishingly multi-lateral Internet disappears to make way for the return of Old School Unilateral Presentation of Unmolested Propaganda, this Irresistibility shall come to pass. Books, movies, vids, pamphlets, gifs, pop songs, comic books, adverts, editorials, soc med, school, church, shampoo bottle instructions: LOCKSTEP.
I left that comment on a site… a content farm… I normally wouldn’t touch with a virtual 3-meter pole. But Caitlin (I remember now) Johnstone drops her pseudo-Lefty screeds there and I wanted to counter the latest with a speck of nuanced dissent. Commenters were cheering CJ for the bravery, I guess, of lobbing apples at the head of the village idiot (Trump), who was put there (in the stocks) for just such a harmless communal activity (it’s half of the national pastime). Snooze. Wake me up when Caitlin writes inflammatorily scathing shit about Monsanto.
Anyway, after discovering that the content-farm, Medium, is running a paywall con (one has to pay actual money for full commenting privileges: in other words, one has to pay Medium in order to provide free content, for Medium, more substantive than the filler they’re selling: ha!) I deleted my “account” and got to thinking about the corrosive effects that Murrkan Materialism is having on just about every aspect of existence.
Murrkan Materialism (embodied in a hornet’s nest of disingenuous commands and assertions ranging from “Just Do It” and “Have It Your Way” and “Trix are for Kids” to “We Bring Good Things to Life,” “Don’t be Evil,” “Think Different,” “Because You’re Worth It,” “You’re in Good Hands,” “Finger Lickin’ Good” and “Tastes Great, Less Filling,” et al) is sickening this World. Because, obviously, what is Materialism but Nihilism freighted with the accumulated sludge of complementary relics?
Sure, Materialism seems great when you’re incredibly young, naive, shiny and smooth as the brand new tat & clutter you are conditioned to long to acquire. It’s only when the wrinkles set in, after all of your judgments have been keyed to the merciless standard of flawless surfaces, that you develop a growing sense that anywhere other than the City Dump is embarrassed to be seen with you. At this point in the story of your self-consciousness… your maturity, I mean… if you’re a Materialist, you can’t help but see yourself as a filthy, broken, hideously unfashionable eight-year-old Nokia flip phone, green with the grout of compacted sweat and dandruff. That inner groan (or howl) of self-loathing is the Nihilism, within Materialism, unmasked. Materialists cannot help seeing themselves as Material. And humans are only passably “flawless” Material for a very brief interval… like every other Consumer Product supporting the inverted sinkhole of the Materialist Pyramid. Which is why Materialists are also alcoholics/ drug addicts along with their cash addiction. Does the DSM-5 have an entry for cash addiction…?
So here’s why I feel so grand, energized, potent, curious, playful, snarky and at-all-times-on-the-verge-of-busting-out-in-song at the age of going-on-61: I am not, nor have I ever been, a Materialist.
I’ve never once wanted the latest i-phone. I never once coveted Material status. Sure, like anyone, I like a few curios and/or tools well enough: my cameras are useful. My PCs are useful. I like my Beatle boots. I’m vain enough to make sure I’m presentable (optically and olfactorily) as soon as possible, after I wake up, every morning, because as much as I want to look good for strangers on the U-Bahn, it’s my Wife I want to keep fucking me. I like my little library as a collection of handsome objects, too, but what I love in the books is the Intellectual Aether and Ectoplasm these volumes store as magic repositories of Genius. These books contain 15 billion cubic-liters of crackling Life-mist. More valuable than some stupid and polluting Lexus.
I’m finishing up writing two sets of songs for a Live Show… two sets separate from the 12 songs comprising the studio “album” I finished at the end of 2019… and the obscene pleasure I experienced, yesterday, putting the finishing touches on a really well-written song, was dizzying. That song, brought into existence by a deliberate and focused effort, is not made of precious metals or fine leather or dazzling gems. You can’t even touch it! It is as incorruptible as a Patek Philippe (Daughter and I, last week, during a long walk, decided that anyone who spends much more than 100 Euros for a fucking watch needs to see a shrink) can never be, and orders of magnitude more useful, and confers practical status in a realm (Art) I take seriously. As long as my Mind works I am not vulnerable to the sucking horror of Materialism’s coiled inner-Abyss. I will not Die, therefore, before I am dead.
I am a proud and healthy IMMATERIALIST.
It’s not much of a movement, to be honest, and only in that sense (its paltry numbers) can it be said to be Exclusive. Materialism gets all the crowds. (I only ever cared about that part of it, by the way, owing to the high concentration of Pretty Girls/ Gorgeous Women partying mindlessly in those ugly Materialist crowds, but that’s another essay).
Will the Stupid (who, overwhelmingly, cleave to Materialism) get all this? Duh.
If you have Stupid friends (and who doesn’t? Everyone has, at least, a few stupid friends, especially if they’re stupid), it’s no use trying to impress them with how smart you are as an Immaterialist: they’re only impressed by people on Television. And you can only get on Television (in any way that counts) by being famous. And you aren’t going to be famous.
Why not? Why aren’t you going be famous?
Because you’re an outcast.
How do I know you’re an outcast?
Because you’re reading this.
If you’re still reading this, you’re either an Immaterialist or someone sexually aroused by the fantasy of hate-fucking an Immaterialist to death. Well, I’ve been with a few women like that and I have to confess: the Sex wasn’t bad…
…but they are all (except two, specifically) ruined Materialist Objects now. Every brand new car/ phone/ purse/ kitchen island/ face-hiding-visor-of-designer-sunglasses they purchase… serves only to shame them. If they’d been lovers of Music and Lit, all those years, they’d be exquisitely serene today.
Whereas… my Gawd… so many Immaterialist curios I come across, every day, re-vitalize me. So many snatches of music, lines in sketches, witty shades of metaphorical lapis, well-grown sentences…!
I was re-reading passages from Zachary Leader’s biography of Kaffir-flogging Kingsley Amis this morning….
A word about Amis: he’s not very fashionable, is he? It’s not just the general problem that the last time anyone saw him, he was Old and White and Het: he was a famously and mildly-bigoted lover of bilious put-downs and dirty jokes, smuggling 18th century notions of Chivalry which had rotted to bitterness when his dick dropped off. The Literary equiv. of J. Mengele to today’s huggy, weepy-eyed addicts of fairytale and euphemism and we happen to live in a world in which there’s far more academic anti-Ted Hughes, anti-Kingsley Amis and anti-Philip Larkin material out there than there is academic stuff condemning Bush Pere et Fils, Ronald Reagan, Dick Cheney or Margaret Thatcher combined. Though in Donald Trump perhaps we’ve found a cartoon politician whose popularity is very nearly as low as Amis’. But here’s the thing about Kingsley Amis: he could write, and sometimes (eg “The Old Devils”) he proved it. If You can write as well as KA could I’m happy to read you, whether or not I’d like to hang out with You or Amis’ corpse.
But this is what I read this morning and it gave me a nice jolt and I’ll tell you why afterwards:
“Bateson’s ambitions for English study marked him as an outsider not only in the Oxford English Faculty but in core Leavisite and New Critical circles. He was too much the critic for the scholars, too analytic for the ‘appreciators’ (as ‘engaged’ as any of the Leavisites who sniped at Cecil in Scrutiny), and too much the scholar for the ‘Scrutineers’. His pupils, though, found him both learned and approachable, qualities also attributed to Amis as a tutor. According to Alvarez, Bateson would listen to weekly tutorial essays ‘with great concentration, puffing his pipe and making little squeaking noises when provoked, then he told you the vital facts you had missed, the sources, the references, the textual variants – he had them all at his fingertips. And he would argue … he paid you the compliment of arguing with you seriously.’ That Amis seems to have shared Bateson’s interest in the role of historical and social factors in literary production, or was willing to feign such an interest for the purposes of the thesis, may seem surprising, given his later professed indifference, quoted in Chapter 2, to context, as well as his stress on the primacy of clear and forceful judgement. But Bateson was humanly acceptable, as well as clever and learned – and from an Oxford perspective modern. Though in the wider world Bateson was thought of as challenging key aspects of the Leavisite or New Critical approach, in Oxford he was thought of as challenging establishment figures such as Cecil and Nichol Smith. Bateson himself saw his approach from an Oxford perspective, as allied with new trends. When in 1951 he launched the periodical Essays in Criticism, printing an attack on Keats’s ‘self-indulgence’ by Amis in its second number, his declared aim was ‘to provide Oxford with a journal that might perform a complementary function in that university to the one performed so brilliantly by Scrutiny in Cambridge’.”
This is not careerist and obscurantist double-talk such as can be found in the dumpsters behind Hackademic cloisters of today, where sheer word-count is the only goal and fear of offending identitarian sensibilities is the only ordering Aesthetic and lazy Tenure beckons. It curls my toes, this humble passage, above. Why does it thrill my Immaterialist Soul, so? Why does it make me want to go down on my Wife right now (I would if Daughter weren’t home from school)? Why is that passage better than a brand new Smart Toilet ™ or a brand new Smart Tiara™ or a brand new Smart Coffin™?
(Hold on to your hats, I’m gearing up to do the unthinkable and praise, unironically, some DWMs…)
Because the fuckers (old and white and het as they were) cared so fanatically much for such a “pointless” Immaterialist practise. They Loved Lit-qua-Lit with little or no Material advantage returned on the effort. (Not to mention what spasms of O-joy I’d writhe on the floor with if ever I caught a coterie of Intellectuals of Color treating texts with such analytical, rather than polemic, rigor). I know the comforts of that warm obsession and I wallow in its sweet emollient as it greases the long, slick slide of my last days…
Murrkan Materialism is removing that very good stuff from this world.