As many of you know, five years ago I checked into rehab for my drug addiction and after that I spent a lot of time getting sober in different fellowships. Of course, at the beginning the problem seems to be just the drug (so one goest to Narcotics Anonymous) but when using is not an option anymore, food becomes the problem (so there is Over Eaters Anonymous) and when one cannot stop watching porn, there is Sex Addicts Anonymous. Although all this is awfully helpful at some point, it also creates a constant feeling that one has work to do and this feeling is shockingly similar to the feeling that political correctness creates in all of us. Of course, this has consequences for my generation at a global scale and has a direct effect on the art world. Let me be more clear.
In today’s world, one enters a Starbucks and there is poster that says that the coffee is slightly more expensive because a few cents are donated to the children of Angola then when the yoga teacher speaks she talks about eating healthily and about how lacking our lifestyle is and how much it should be improved. It is as if the system is telling us that the price for pollution or slavery is included into the price of the product. In a way, we are putting a price to absolution. This strategy of false consciousness works both ways because on one side it makes us feel guilty while, at the same time, offering an easy way out.
The Al Gore-ist message of ‘what have you done about global warming?’ is reverting the guilt onto the individual and, from that point of view, wherever we look, we seem to be doing something wrong. Of course this individualisation of guilt is a capitalistic mechanism of self perpetuation which is linked to the mystification of the ecological crisis. There are different points of view about this, nevertheless. Donald Trump’s position can be summarised as that there is no such crisis and if there is something like that, it does not deserve our attention because nature self regulates itself. This is the typically modern attitude which claims that nature is so vast and powerful that there is nothing we can do to harm it. According to this ignorami, nothing is going to happen so forget about the whole thing and carry on.
Against Trump’s position, there is a concept that has emerged in social theory and quickly took the art world by storm. In fact, high profile practitioners such as Hans Obriest Ulrich and Klaus Bisenbach have showered with privileges all artists whose work exemplifies the Anthropocene dogma which states that we are living in a new era in which us, humans, cannot any longer consider ourselves as a tiny element whose acts has no consequence for the balance of life. According to Anthropocenists, we have become such a powerful agent of change that we can singlehandedly destroy and ruin nature’s dynamics. Thus, it is our ability to be able to destroy the material conditions of our own survival. But this is a wonderful dialectical paradox because at the very moment when we become so strong (so as to alter nature’s life balance) we seem to become a threat to ourselves.
But what the theory of the Anthropocene seems to forget is that nature before humanity did not use to be an ideal balanced system which we came to disturb. The history of earth demonstrates that She is not a kind mother but, instead, a crazy mother fucking bitch. Let’s try to imagine the megacatastrophes that happened on the earth before our era to have such vast reserves of oil. Nature is much more dangerous than we imagine. It is easy to say that there is a natural balance and that when humans realise that they had been too aggressive with her, the balance would be recomposed. This is what Zizek calls the ‘ecological smallist beautiful fascist movement’ which, as we know has infested my generation with the stupid idea that being modest and organic is going to help. Well, it will help calm your nerves and feel a bit less guilty (which in a way means more pleasure) while we all keep fabricating our own guilt and carry on with this consumerism that is never put into question. Many say, however, that the solution lies in the market and its regulation. If we tax carbon emissions, for example, pollution will be curbed. This will, of course, work till it works and when it works but when we are dealing with megacatastrophes the market cannot help. It is just too late.
So everything comes to this superego-ish responsibility which says that we all have to do our part instead of demanding large social changes. By treating us as ‘personally guilty’, political correctness tights its control on all of us. This, of course, is articulated through the typical liberal infinite self examination of our own guilt (and addictions!) and at this point, it could be said that my generation finds pleasure in the constant need of self purify. According to my people, one is never fulfilled but is always lacking. If you say a woman is beautiful, you are reducing her to a sexual object. If you want to be in a relationship, you are co-dependent. If you enjoy occasional drugs, you are an addict. One thing I would say which is that we seem to perversely enjoy our own guilt. It is as if experiencing our pain has become the main source of enjoyment.
A friend of mine always finds particular pleasure finding his own politically correct flaws. The other day he said: ‘Oh my God, I realised how racist I was with her’. But political correctness is preventing us from really connecting to each other. I think that the opposite to political correctness is irony as in being able to joke about the things that differentiate in order to get closer to each other through compassion. Regarding global change, forget about recycling. The problem is the market and as far as we behave, there is no solution. We are doomed and the Anthropocene is a good way of thinking it could still be reverted. J A T