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Monday, August 28, 2006

the inside is natural. the outside is plastic.

When I was in middle school, I really loved video games. Truth be told, I am still a pretty huge fan, even if I no longer have the finanical backing necessary to be what one would consider, in the strictest sense, obsessive. And I can remember spending hours and hours with friends, or at home, navigating endless corridors with an imaginary rocket launcher and chainsaw, aspiring to nothing more than to cause one of my close aqauintances to yowl in frustration as my pixilated soldier turned his into a hamburger-like substance.

This period of my life was characterized by nothing so much as a lack of certain other things. Apart from girls, I also remained naive to starvation, disease, residence in a country participating wholeheartedly in a civil war, and life under an autocratic regieme. And although my childhood was basically happy, even if there were many times that I was not, it seems to me that so many people who had even less hardship think back on their time under the dictates of their most proximal ancestors as torture of the highest degree.

An interesting phenomenon has begun to arise in the United States, and other affluent countries, over the past half-century. Without any great conflict to induce the youth to gnash their teeth, the youth have responded by reframing perfectly untraumatic years into thir own ninth circle of hell. And while judging the subjective experience of another person is a special kind of conceited, the fact remains that happenings that would have been considered routine even twenty years ago are utterly demonized in our modern society. And yet, each generation over the past fifty years has been happier and more satisfied than the generation it produces.

Despite enormous gains in medicine, entertainment, and the overall state of the world - despite, in other words, progress in every arena that a person could claim their happiness to derive from, people are getting less satisfied.

People define themselves by their strife. The tired cliche of the WWII Vet talking about nothing but Normandy, or the depression era grandparent anachronistically living as though the CCC is going to cut their stipend any day are powerfully resonant because, only through hardship can one really be forged into the type of person to weather the storms that may be yet on the horizon. And in the absence of anything external, the manufacture of existential struggle has become a cottage industry. The artist, starving and suffering for her work, has been replaced by the self-proclaimed artist, whose only suffering has been her affluent childhood and her lack of anything really profound to say.

People see the Van Goughs and the Prousts and Galileos of history and see pain and sadness, and assume that the pain and sadness is where their inspiration came from. Dostoyevsky used to gamble and drink away every penny he got from his books, because otherwise he didn't have the necessary motivation to write another. But now? Now, the lifestyle of Hemmingway has become commodified. Now, you don't even need to produce anything resembling good art to consider yourself an artist. The internet has made it possible for every hack, yours truly included, to crack open their skull and let it leak out into the world in the form of bad photography, worse poems, and prose that could choke a horse.

Yet underlying all of it is this faux-suffering. The self-involved, self-inflicted depression that is the greatest form of egoism yet created. The person that believes that, by virtue of his intelligence or her insightfulness, they'll never be understood by the world and hence are made superior to it. That their cinquain on a dead bird they saw that morning is the most moving thing that words have ever wrought, and that if only people were as deep as them, the public would laud them with praise.

Only a moron can look at a world of suffering and think that the solution or appropriate reaction is to add their own to the mix. It's like walking into a hospital burn ward and setting yourself on fire, to better empathize.

I've been told my childhood was traumatic, but I don't see it that way. I've been told that my current life should make me depressed, yet I can't bring myself to be. As trite as the platitute is, in every situation you can choose how you are going to feel about it. It's a waste of life to decide you're going to be sad and gloomy just because you want to feel deeper, and frankly, if the suffering of history could trade it in for comfort the likes of which most of the present feel, they'd probably do it in a second.

cranked out at 8:48 AM | |

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