So, apparently they’re taking Narcissistic Personality Disorder out of the DSM this year. Reason why? Perhaps because the DSM is supposed to be a catalog of psychological abnormalities and narcissism is entirely standard these days. We’re all narcissistic, because that’s the way our society is constructed. Just as fish are wet, or pigs are dirty, we are narcissistic… coated in the greases of our environment.
I’m sure the history of narcissism would make for a nicely time-consuming project. Perhaps it all started with the acknowledgement of the rights of the individual. The Magna Carta, or what have you. Perhaps native-language Bibles had something to do with it.
I don’t know. What’s plain is that Andy Warhol’s ever-so-clever idea that ‘in the future, everyone will be on television for fifteen minutes’ has become real, times infinity. Everyone is on television all the time, now. CCTV security cameras are everywhere. Except in our private homes. In our homes we are being tricked into putting ourselves on television voluntarily. Even if you don’t have a webcam running in your private quarters all day and night, you can still publish your every thought, movement and deed on the internet. You can do this manually or automatically. You can Twitter or Blog or podcast or whatever you want.
The point is that we can all put ourselves into the media-stream, even if we shouldn’t. And, even if we shouldn’t, we do. In the United States, at least, our capacity for “self expression” is apparently inexhaustible. More than ever before, there is a great infrastructure available for the individual to address the masses. And yet enough demand remains that this expressive infrastructure continues to grow. Even if Netflix was not threatening to offer streaming cinema over the internet, we would still need more bandwidth. The net is not big enough for the human ego, and it never will be.
This concept is hardly a revelation. I’m far from the first person to point out that new media technologies have exploded our human tendency toward self-absorption. My point is that I have long felt there was no reason for me to participate in any of this. Why add my voice to the collective jibber jabber? I’m as narcissistic as the next guy, but I also have this thing about wasting my time. If I’m to speak, I’d like to be heard.
At the same time, I don’t really have much of anything to say. There’s no evidence, that I can see, that the world can be made any better than it is. In fact, the evidence seems to show that trying to improve the general lot of humankind on this planet leads only to more trouble. We have the sciences of systems theory and chaos math and computer modelling. Granted, I haven’t studied these fields, but my casual reading in these subjects leads me to suspect that anomalies usually get washed out, intended consequences are often outweighed by the unintended and equilibrium always rules the day. As the occasionally cogent Rush Limbaugh has said, the environment will save itself. What he fails to mention is that the solution will involve the elimination of humanity.
And so, what point is there in speaking in the first place? To my point of view, all conversation is idle conversation. And furthermore, all expression is an expression of ignorance. To paraphrase an old Zen aphorism–those who say don’t know, and those who know are too busy to chit chat. There is nothing to say that hasn’t been said. And there is no one to hear who hasn’t already made up their mind.
Yet, though I have nothing to say, I do have objectives in this life. And I’ve come to realize that the attention of other human beings, no matter how minimal, has some value. Yes, my attempts to communicate are entirely mercantile. If I can get your attention, maybe I can sell you something.
Can it be that simple? It can be. However, there is a little more to it. I loathe cheapness. That’s not to say that I’m immune to indulging in acts of cheapness, only that I feel an oceanic dread whenever I encounter something that is cheap. I have been suckered in enough times. I have fallen for a wide array of gimmicks, frauds and hoaxes. Astrology, X-ray specs, casino gambling, recreational drugs, magic, spoonbending, multi-level marketing–all have enjoyed the benefit of my doubt at one time or another. I have been to the bottom of that well not once but many times, and at this point I’m pretty much beyond satiated. In fact I’m bloated with a thousand forms of facade these days, overfilled and nauseated with it. I can not take anymore.
All of which is to say that even when I don’t have a point, I at least try to have substance. It’s hard to find that very often these days. And for the fractional percentage of you all who appreciate that sort of thing–not to mention the incurable weirdness at the core of my being–I hope you can find a moment to take a quick look at my work every once in a while.
–Zeno Izen, somewhere in America 2010.