These last few days I’ve been stumbling across articles and reading books that coincidently have been dealing with the sources of human emotions and passions. And the views these subjects spur are in a sense limitless. Scientists keep trying to figure it all out, why we like the things we do, how they fit alongside Darwin so he doesn’t start turning in his grave, etc. I thought this article from The Economist was going to be much more enlightening than it turned out to.
Aldous Huxley, in his Brave New World and Return to the Brave New World seems to think that we’re all not that hard to condition positively. That is, not through fear of retribution but through awards for precise, desirable actions. And that this availability of ours could be exploited on a large scale and lead to the implementation of an entirely uniform, standardized society. In Return to the Brave New World he fears that what he depicted as a nightmarish utopia is in fact not far from happening. We are all beginning to look alike, think and feel alike. Mass music induces mass sentiment. Virtual realities induce simultaneous response to identical stimuli. And in a sense, it’s all coming true: as the things that condition us become available to more and more people and diversity turns scarce, we’re all turning gray.
Sure, everyday life doesn’t help. We’re all running after the same busses, looking for the same shade of green, going to the same clubs, using twitter and facebook and quickly turning to one world language – that of the internet. In a way, the internet is the closest we’ve ever gotten to Babylon.
And what I realized is the most mystifying is that even though our choices are apparently limitless, there’s very little we get to chose. And this in a very practical way. For instance I’ve become an Apple buff because it seemed like a choice and a good one. The right to pick the lean, clean, slick, easy to use and future-oriented products and company. Yet now I hear that they’re accused of destroying the music business because record labels have no option other than to cut any deal possible, because the iPod, and in turn iTunes have kinda gotten hold of the market, with their 70% share for portable music players. What was before an alternative is now a monopoly, in just 10 years.
What was before the American consumption society is probably now the whole world. And what was their crisis is now world recession.
And yet, there is refuge in the classics. Reading Heidegger, Gadamer and Hammermeister for my BA paper I found that in the XXth century, the view that art conceals as well as offers truth was a popular one. It came from the fact that while the world is in its best hiding in our interaction with it, art resurfaces what it represents under a new highlight of being. It recreates while reenacting by adding a surplus of being that is essentially sparked from the struggle it bound within: between the obvious (what is shown) and the hidden (the being, stability, restfulness and essence of what is shown).
It is, however, very unsettling, to leave the whole of our world’s originality to the artists. Still, I cannot think of anything else we could do… for now.