He seemed like someone you would meet in a movie, whose life was falling apart and who was attempting to begin something new. Only, this ‘something new’ had its origins in sameness, and the driving force behind it, mediocrity. His wife and dog, unbeknownst to him, had planned to leave him for some time now: his presence, his insistence upon ‘white space’, bore all the markings of an insufferably inanity. Living in an obscure corner of an increasingly insignificant part of the world, dealing with diminishing clientele (both in calibre, number, and conspicuousity), it didn’t much matter what he said next. No-one was listening.
But, you see, they were. At least fifty of them, hanging on his every indifferent word. Such is the metooism of the Internet, deserving of its proper-noun-capitalisation as one would capitalise the title of any film of the ‘my-life-is-falling-apart-and-oh-I-hope-something-interesting-would-happen-to-substantiate-sales’ variety. These days, however, not even all such films declare themselves worthy of said capitalised status. The deliciously ambivalent “definitely, maybe” sports no such accoutrements common to film, and, you know, things with names – but its name provides for fascinating displays of nothingness in all kinds of contexts, so it can perhaps be forgiven. I sat across from a workstation preparing the launch of this and other films in this country on Monday, and listened, enthralled, as the male lead declared he was thrilled to hear “definitely, maybe is releasing in Australia”. Well, that is a non-announcement, now, isn’t it? (Launching on V-day… vacuous?)
Still, when even our most influential and award-winning actors and directors lament the dearth (or, perhaps simply the death) of cinema’s golden age, we must pause to consider what is being achieved by the broad spectrum of media before us. All the trends of Internet media cannot save us from its dubious creative potential in the face of browser limitations (I have recently been working myself into a lather over the indefinite lag between multi-touch reaching the Internet compared to the rest of consumer technology — let it be noted, mobile client-side is the future?). All the films in the world cannot save us from the mediocrity of their scriptwriters, as all the blogs in the world cannot save us from trends of buzzwords and analysis and not a single real client or solved problem in sight. Neither can google (that not requiring proper-noun-capitalisation as it is used synonymously with ‘search’) save us, investing its vast resources into online platform advances. Platforms are not content. Content drives growth. Enough of that. Clooney says we should all watch TV, because that’s where the innovation is going on these days. I struggle to come to terms with that, somewhat. Part of me would (honestly) be quite content to sit and watch endless episodes of whichever series is available on DVD. DVD, because, as much as I occasionally enjoy advertising, I have absolutely no desire to see the same commercial over again fifteen times over the course of a single episode — get your bloody ads on YouTube and if they make consumers care enough, they’ll find you… nothing wrong with democratising TV advertising values, except, ironically, the potentially diminishing production values of such ads in light of the decreased expenditure on production — yeah, that’s what I thought.
The other part of me finds it’s all much the same. We all know The Simpsons is brilliant, because it pushes boundaries and made certain people in the 1990s acutely uncomfortable. Family Guy fills the void, now, only without the coherency. Its near-absurdist “we-don’t-actually-expect-you-to-get-this” irreverent take on pretty much anything is funny, but not for reasons we can comprehend. And it’s hardly going to stand the test of time. An animated analogue to The Chaser’s War on Everything, only less coherent. But let’s look at The Chaser for a moment — it is the news. Oh, wait, The Colbert Report used that line first. At any rate, The Chaser made international media before Stephen Colbert, for the audacity of — wait for it — actions beyond mere commentary.
And there we find it. The matter in which the public’s interest is held is not the simpering-yet-somehow-hostile satire, but in the violation of the sole sanctified role of government, the defence of its citizens. The noteworthiness of this act came not in the violation of this responsibility for security, but the triviality by which this breach took place. Such is the Leviathan in whom we are collectively engaged by social contract: without defence against the status hominum naturalis, bellum omnium contra omnes as Hobbes rightly presumes it, if we consider ‘nature’ after the fall.
The implication, of course, is that our government is powerless — or, at the very least, powerless to enact that which it is its duty to. C.S. Lewis expresses it thus:
“As a result, classical political theory, with its Stoical, Christian and juristic key-conceptions (natural law, the value of the individual, the rights of man), has died. The modern State exists not to protect our rights but to do us good or make us good — anyway, to do something to us or to make us something. Hence the new name ‘leaders’ for those who were once ‘rulers’. We are less their subjects than their wards, pupils, or domestic animals. There is nothing left of which we can say to them, ‘Mind your own business.’ Our whole lives are their business.” (C.S. Lewis, “Willing Slaves of the Welfare State”, in ESSAY COLLECTION: Literature, Philosophy and Short Stories)
One might argue this is merely the impact of democratisation of governance. That, as the Leviathan power is somewhat more dynamic in its headship in this present society, it will necessarily reflect ‘leadership’ over lives in ways unprecedented in history, as the will of the individual is closer to that of the state. What pluralist absurdity: the existence of democracy itself demarks the necessity of compromise, the inability of man to, independent of the state, agree. Democracy is responsive to and guarantees the persistent disparity of the will of the individual and the State.
The role of the state, therefore, should be constrained to that of arbiter and defender alone. Anything beyond that is an unnecessary infringement of the rights of the individual. Yet our political clime is such that we assume this necessary, and, historically, this is true. We accept the mediocrity of humanity, celebrate it even. There is nothing new under the sun.
And we still trust in our ‘leaders’ for potential change. Hello, Kevin, hello, Obama. You are mere men. Your revolutions will fade. Hello, those leaders who have come before them. Your names are not remembered.
Make poverty history, cry the same people who decry government-sanctioned discrimination against the poor, the indigenous, the homosexual. Their voices are not alone. Make poverty history, cry the same people who decry government-sanctioned secularisation and interest-rate-driven threats to their comfortably prosperous ‘but-not-too-much’ upper-middle class ‘christian’ existence. Their agenda is not that of the Christ.
“A hungry man thinks about food, not freedom”, Lewis continues in that same essay. What then, do we consider? We are hungry, though not for food. We are hungry for meaning that is not forthcoming. Hungry for the righting of wrongs in our eyes; wrongs that are plain to all, but persistent because of… well, how would you finish that sentence?
Let me find your grace in the valley
Let me find your life in my death
Let me find your joy in my sorrow
Your wealth in my need
That you’re near with every breath
In the valley
There is only one meaning, one absolute reality, one Lord, one faith, and one God worth trusting because he is over all and sustains all. Without him, the meaninglessness of this earth’s seemingly-perpetual ability to decay should have us surrender to that entirely. Instead, we are to surrender to Him, or embrace that ambivalent indifference so ultimately characteristic of the endeavours of humankind.