The Violence Behind Likes and Opinions
I recently removed myself from Facebook. I joined reluctantly and have regretted it since the beginning. Was pushed along by expectation and crowd-mentality.
I’ve long felt that Zuckerberg is the worst kind of nerd entrepreneur. Caught-up in fantasies of egotistical superiority requiring that he WIN at all costs and prove to the world that it’s better to be profoundly damaged and powerful than to find a way to integrate with the world and work on developing our strengths together. The foundation of FB, based on the model of a harsh and inferiority-fed adolescent collegiate-smash-book, could not have led to anything better. Add in the drive, both personal and corporate, to maximize profit and control while mining content from a user-base they have despised and treated as the most lumpen resource, we get what we see there now. That’s before you add in the Security State….
All of this so far is pretty obvious, a standard anti-corporatist critique. What has me writing this today is that the focus brought on by deciding to quit FB has brought an underlying structure to mind.
There is a strong and definite connection between life lived on the level of opinions and shared Likes and the violence and incoherence we are mired in.
Reading Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile I’ve been struck by many things. For the moment I just want to touch on a fairly minor-seeming aspect of the book. Taleb uses a few fictional characters to help carry his points. One of these is Fat Tony – no relation – a Mafiosi-like character. He’s a stand-in for what has been called “a serious man.” A term familiar to anyone who’s followed mob fiction. A serious man sizes up a situation quickly and knows how to act when necessary without wasting effort on “over t’inking it.”
This is a trait also referred to in an anecdote about Freud. When asked why he was willing to take time out of his day to discuss a matter with a young colleague while suffering from terminal throat cancer, he replied, “This is serious. The cancer may be fatal, but it’s not serious.”
This usage stands as a rebuff to the supposed “seriousness” of a haute bourgeois, a bureaucrat, a politician.
What does this have to do with Facebook?
The whole world view supported by Facebook pushes us to live in opinions and to desire and seek approval. To seek the most superficial agreement from those in lock-step with our opinions while we seek out the chance to exercise our hatred on anyone who does not share our assumptions, our prejudices. We are encouraged to act like the seething herds in Orwell’s 1984.
As with most of the methods of subjugation we suffer under today, this one is nicer than its fictional model. As should be no surprise to anyone with a passing familiarity with Jung’s work Nice is the ultimate pathway into The Shadow, sentiment and brutality and all that. Much nicer for everyone to be dressed in agreement with their opinions on taste while repeating the same futile and stultifying routines. Cheaper than having to pay storm-troopers to keep them in line. At least for now. They are still fairly well employed elsewhere. Too soon to deploy them all back here at home. Too soon?
To put it simply, Serious People – men or women – don’t have opinions. They respond. They don’t much care for the opinions of others, understanding they are hollow. The last thing they worry about is being Liked.
What I’ve found over the last few years studying Krishnamurti and Bohm’s work is that neither of them dealt in opinions or strove after approval or agreement.
Funny to find an affinity between tough guys and these two gentle souls….
Actually no one I care to pay attention to falls into the category of opinionators or approval junkies.
The collision of these various threads coincidental with my resolution to quit FB all point to why this is so.
We are flooded by a culture awash in opinions and one that values few things, and nothing higher, than approval. Of course, this approval needs to be as shallow and meaningless as possible to be worth anything as a commodity that can be monetized.
There’s a connection between the pseudo-choice of opinions and the pseudo-value of knowledge. Just as the latter is a toxic simulacra of intelligence. The former is just a way to keep us from finding any way to gain traction and find decisive action. Decisive, responsive action is something more. It is very different from the stereotypical reactive action we are expected to flail about in.
The worst thing about this late-stage in the progression of this disease is that its false assumptions and garbled incoherence are most likely to afflict those who seek power in this disastrous state of affairs. Zuckerberg and his backers and rivals and fellow self-appointed masters-of-the-universe believe this crap themselves. How else can they be so confident as they push ever harder on the accelerator as we careen towards the wall?
This insistence that the world is bound within the Realm of Negotiation backed-up by mechanisms – like FB – that flood our attention while they rob us of any chance to find any other, more creative approach to life, will kill us.
What should – yes, should. There is a place for ethics beyond finding excuses to be self-serving. What should a serious person do?
Remember Dissensus. Negotiation, and all that it brings us, insists that consensus is of the highest importance. Its reasons vary, from the idealistic to the most prosaically mercantile, but they all agree – are in consensus – that this is where and how we interact. That it is the only way to be. That we must banter and cajole, dominate and terrorize others and our selves so that some consensus can be arrived at. Think of MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction. The epitomic example of the lunacy of chasing consensus!
If we open ourselves to Dissensus, we need agree on only one thing. The Whole Truth is unknowable. No one can judge what, or who, will ultimately be useful or helpful in an evolutionary time-frame. We agree that the worst possible way to make a tentative judgment leading to a responsive action that might engage with reality and not just flatter our prejudices is to base our actions on opinions. Least of all the opinions of some leader, some popularizer, some self-aggrandizing merchandiser of souls.
A serious person knows just a few things. Mostly they have to do with keeping to those activities and habits of thought and action that hold the greatest chance of our being able to maintain traction with reality, with events. A serious person knows that whatever steals our attention, putting us in a position as an object to be manipulated by anyone else, is to be avoided.
Avoided. Not Fought. Not resisted. Not to allow our selves to be subsumed in the pursuit of championing an opposition, seeking to find consensus by deposing the charlatan.
Walk away. Leave the stacked-deck and the rigged-game alone.
No one convinces anyone of anything. Not really. Not in any way that sticks, or that will long matter to that person. My own experience is that those who have influenced me do so because of a recognition of an affinity. From this beginning something much more valuable than consensus may arise. We can enter Dialogue. Find people with whom we can share a life that is more than going through the motions.
Are there people on FB who might fit this criteria?
Will I, or any of them, find ways to actually connect across such a platform?
I doubt it.
This is neither an explanation nor a call to arms. I do not care to convince anyone. It is merely a description of where my thinking finds itself. This has been the purpose of this blog since its beginnings five years ago. By quiting FB I take a small step, but one that Fat Tony might recognize. When we believe something we do something about it. Otherwise, “It’s all just talk.”
There may be those who find something they recognize here. That would be great. But these things develop at their own time-scales. They can’t be rushed.
Facebook has been easy. Ease, one of the siren-calls of our age.
This points to a simple heuristic:
Whatever claims ease as its rationale is best avoided. It is a trap. It will only make you its pawn. Its “Bitch,” in the current vernacular.
There are better ways for us to connect and interact. Let’s focus on them.