Hangover Archives: 2021–05
What May, Will Say
The Internet has given us unprecedented and nearly-infinite access to mechanisms which allow us to communicate to anybody on Earth in an instant, and incidentally, has given us the nearly-infinite ability to be ignored. There has long been a disconnect between the means to speak and the desire to be heard, where comment is free and yet transforming your comments into holy truth by virtue of you saying them is an arrogance which exists chief among those who have been temporarily listened to. The existence of “influencers”, who influence nothing and will be seen by future generations as an embarrassing fad akin to today’s realty television stars playacting fake lives in a dying medium, is proof of this perpetual non-influence inversely proportional to the amount of attention one receives. On a global scale, all communications can be tuned into everywhere at any time by anybody for any reason, and we have the privilege to be a part of this global conversation for as long as the Internet is up and our Wi-Fi connections don’t get knocked out by a humming microwave reheating a frozen burrito. But there is too much noise, not enough signal, and our communications might as well be incomprehensible mumblings — for on a global level, that is what they are.
It’s been said that for every person who speaks up, one hundred remains silent. Is this true? Perhaps, considering how only 22% of United States adults use Twitter, 69% use Facebook, and of those numbers there are far less percentages of individuals who actually post anything anybody gives a toss about. It’s obvious that social media penetration is not nearly as influential as we take it to be; the average frequent Twitter user is young, highly-educated, and not terribly motivated to tweet. For all the Americans hem and haw about social media’s influence in shaping world politics, it’s obvious that getting our news from Twitter, a platform which 78% of American citizens aren’t even using, is getting our news from the tiniest, non-representative slice of what their countrymen actually think and believe. Is it such that this 22% superminority are speaking on behalf of everyone else who stays silent by choice? Or, considering that 22% of the United States population is still over 72 million individuals — just shy of the 74,000,000 who believed that Donald Trump was the man most qualified for the presidential office of the United States of America — does the percentage even matter when such a swarm of people are still all so loud?
Too much noise and not enough signal might as well be the motto of the Internet, since we used up all our snark about cat videos and porn. The trouble with democratising speech is that there are too many people and not enough interesting people; the trouble with the Internet is that there’s too many voices and not enough interesting words. The second motto of the Internet might as well be to never read the comments, because we all know what happens when we give a platform to people whose contribution to world culture exists only as an anonymous comment on someone else’s web server. You don’t need a doctorate to log into Twitter and start saying stupid shit, and it takes even less effort to post an anonymous comment on a random news posts, where your ideas are of such low-quality, representing the lowest babblings of the proletariat fit only for consumption by the bored and depressed, that they become indistinguishable from automated propaganda activities from foreign governments drowning out Western media sites with derivative misinformation campaigns. The idea that everyone deserves a platform to comment — that anyone deserves to voice their opinion on your work — is misguided. Do you know what my motto is? People are morons. It’s not always right, but it’s a hell of a lot more right than any idealistic platitude about the intelligence of anonymous Internet morons.
Even so, my works have always been about encouraging you to avoid the tempting mediocrity of consuming bad media in favour of finding emotions unbound in truly great works of art. The lowest of low art exists in the rumblings of unimportant idiots commenting on works they had nothing to do with invoking spurious arguments on websites they have no hand in the design, maintenance, or continued existence of. Criticism, for all its appeal, is an art form just like any other, and where we would not write our lyrics and poetry under someone else’s instrumental song, we would not write our criticisms in little postcards under the projection screen at the movie theatre — and if we do, they are sure to be the laziest art we can be bothered to create. YouTube comments are notorious for their low quality, where even after sixteen years of tackling the issue of how to make them less omnipresently cancerous, YouTube’s moderation tools are woefully inadequate and its automated systems for detecting bad comments are proven worthless by going to any video and sorting comments by new.
The idea that user comments exist at all is absurd. DigiBronyMLP, in a video they created and is now deleted alongside all other goodness under the sun and moon, said the entire idea of Internet comments is flawed because of how it professes a so-called right to random people to express their unsolicited opinions on topics they had zero hand in the creation of. Put bluntly, DigiBronyMLP said the reason they can’t take criticism is because the vast majority of criticism they receive is bullshit — fitting enough, because another one of their quotes is “people like bullshit”. What is bullshit? Criticisms which are already addressed in the video, criticisms which have nothing to do with the video, criticisms which have been published so long after the video’s release that the uploader’s opinion has already changed by the time they read it, criticisms which are repeatedly expressed and addressed dozens of times by other commentors, and complaints which aren’t even criticisms at all and are basically bitching about random things the commentor cares about to the detriment of all other relevancy.
And yet, because of algorithmic concerns about “user retention” — which is a fancy way of saying how long you can get strangers to stare at their computer screens — YouTubers can’t disable comments on their videos because it would drastically reduce their visibility in search results and recommendations, meaning they’re forced to endure the paradox of either ignoring user comments entirely while they’re allowing a hive of scum and villainy to grow under their noses, or reading the comments and being subject to a form of discourse so lowly that it makes Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement look like Robert’s Rules of Order. As I alluded to above, if you went to a movie theatre and were privilege to randomly being exposed to the opinions of people you don’t know, don’t care about, and will never care about in your entire life, your experience with the movie would be distracted and the only interesting thing about the opinions received would be the idea that you actually give a shit about what they have to say.
There is this delusion that having a comments section open, whether on YouTube or anywhere else, professes the right to be listened to, the right to be agreed to, and the right to believe your opinions matters on any scale at all. They don’t, but you get to believe that because man is a fickle, status-drive animal who will burn down a children’s hospital to win a argument with a stranger on the Internet about the liberals being soyboy snowflakes who are too afraid to murder children. Reality is such that the vast majority of human beings are equally interchangeable with each other and have nothing special in their lives that differentiates themselves from each other, even from other so-called special individuals. Look, here’s an article from 2017 showing the 19 types of proletariat ramblings you will find on every YouTube music video. Nothing has changed since then and YouTube comments are still shit. This is fucking ridiculous. These are living, breathing, literate human beings who genuinely think anybody gives a single fuck about how old they were when they listened to a song, what country they’re listening from, or what they have to say about anything worth a damn about anything ever created on YouTube or any other Internet platform. What’s more rediculous is that people actually spare the physical effort to move their mouse cursor half a centimetre to the like button and upvote this drivel. Who’s the worse human being — the mindless rambler, or the mindless enabler?
Hey, listen. Strangers on the Internet. I’m not your friend. I’m not part of a relationship with you at all. I have no business with you whatsoever and I have absolutely zero obligation to listen to any of the inane bullshit you feel the need to spread into the infinite cesspool of Internet comment sections. The reason people listen to each other talk about stupid bullshit in real life is because they understand enough of the person to know that their random comments are just part of a larger personality placed into a specific context which is consistent with every other opinion they will ever have across a long and healthy relationship. Even though some of their ideas might be lazy and stupid, we assume the reason you hang around your friends is because they have the capacity to be interesting once in a while — or failing that, to offer you some benefit in the future, such as comfort, companionship, and the understanding that somebody genuinely cares about you and is presenting the best version of themself they know how to be. We listen to our friends and they do the same for us because we care. And friendship, as we know from a particular children’s program which generated 140,969 pornographic images of its main character, is magic.
When you post something in a comment section on the Internet, you are broadcasting to the world that your opinion has such little value, that what you say is of such little interest, that the definitive way for you to express your ideas out there in the whole wide world is to post a random comment on somebody else’s content alongside hundreds of other random commentors who are equally uninfluential and idiotic. By expressing your opinion in these quarters, you are revealing that you have such little faith in what you have to say that you have to couch your opinions alongside prolefeed such as kekking epic dank maymay copypastas and those guys who ask about the year, month, day, time, and evolutionary epoch you are listening to the current song in. You are revealing that you are not special, you have nothing unique or intelligent to say, and your opinion exists only to be broadcast alongside an infinite sea of guttural screeches and subsequently ignored the instant it was created. All Internet comments are miscarriages, carried to term out of their parents stupidity and immediately terminated due to their carelessness. If everything you’ve ever had to say can be wiped out of existence in an instant just by installing a stylesheet, then did you have anything to say at all?
But the sad realisation about this confluence of the easy, effortless ability to write random guttural utterances into the great, and the subsequent affirmation gained through imaginary Internet points, such as your upvotes, your likes, your karma, your 4chan gold, is that this behaviour isn’t representative of any mental illness or abnormal narcissism. This behaviour, this whoring for attention one level below those Facebook posts where one like equals one prayer for starving African children? This is primal. This is just what humans do. We are the single most desperate species alive in terms of how we demand attention from other people — even people we don’t give a single shit about. There existed a vending machine in Russia where you could buy Instagram likes for the low, low price of one American dollar for 100 Internet points, and the worst thing about this enterprise is that it actually made some money. Our desires for human contact has made us resort to paying literal robots for fake engagement on whatever irrelevant garbage we produce, because human contact is so meaningless in the 21st century that fake engagement we spend real money to obtain is exactly equivalent to real validation which takes actual work to achieve.
And that’s why we read the comments. That’s why we write those comments. Because we are desperate, stupid animals, with nothing to show for our lives, and are so starved of validation and meaningful human contact that we take any victory — any perceived increase in our imaginary status among anonymous peers — as worthy of feeling good about. We read them because we want our opinions to be validated by people we have no understanding of whatsoever, and we write them because we want to know we aren’t alone in having our fleeting, unimportant ideas about arbitrary topics. We have nothing interesting to show in regards to our hobbies, our careers, our experiences, our heritage, or anything that makes up our particular human existences which differentiates us from fellow man. As a gay space rock once said, humans lead short, boring, insignificant lives, so they make up stories to feel like they’re a part of something bigger. It is pathetic. Utterly, truly, pathetic. I hope my species dies within my lifetime.
But there is hope.
Brothers. Sisters. Anonymous Internet idiots who will never achieve anything in their lives and will fall into their graves and be forgotten within the decade. We have the technology. I have another way.
We are aware that anyone who posts a comment on the Internet has absolutely nothing to say about anything meaningful in life and can be safely ignored like the scum they are. However, what if we were to take those same opinions, transplant them into a more presentable format, and offer them to a particular audience of like-minded people who are willing to read your comments in a more formal matter? What if we had a way on the Internet to, perhaps, log our thoughts on the Web in a way which allows people who want to view our opinions to do so in a single, concentrated form? And what if we were to use this technology, perhaps through some sort of “Web logger”, to create our own websites with which we can express our ideas on subject matter in a way which allows us to use the infinite capability of the Internet to write them down in as much detail as we like, to format them how we like, and to catalogue them in a way which allows these opinions to be viewed as a single entity that we are totally responsible for creating?
And perhaps, if there is such a way to upload videos to the Internet, perhaps on a personal “tube” which you could upload videos for free to, in order to use this new Web logging technology to visually represent our ideas in a medium which would more accurately express the candour and charisma we possess in real life — maybe using a sort of “video logging” format? And if merely talking into a camera seems visually uninteresting, might we instead use some video editing software in order to add visuals to the medium to express our ideas in pictoral form, adding imagery and footage to enhance the ideas we are attempting to express? Maybe we could even take inspiration from traditional medium and create our own video series on the Internet — a sort of “Web show” for our “personal brand”.
So this suggestion is obvious, sardonic, and patronising due to how omnipresent these technologies are in our lives. We already know how to make a blog! The trouble is nobody gives a shit about blogs! I would know! I’m writing one right now! And what’s this crap about making a YouTube channel? Oh, yeah, just let me “vee log” my ideas like some dickhead, disregarding that some of the most successful YouTube channels ever created are literally just staring into a camera and talking about their opinions on stuff. One dude has 3 million subscribers for picking locks. He points a camera at a desk, has a lock on it, talks about the lock, picks the lock, and has gotten three million subscribers for doing this shit for over one thousand videos at three minutes a piece. For picking fucking locks.
So if all of these ideas are so fucking simple, obvious, and easy-to-achieve… then why the fuck are you wasting your time and effort spending it writing comments under other people’s hard-earned content spouting simplistic ideas for hours on end, ridiculing anyone who disagrees with you, and generally fostering divisiveness, cynicism, and a lower level of public dialogue? Fuck, one of the most popular YouTube channels of 2015 was recorded using a crusty-ass cell phone and fucking MS Paint. Look, that link contains four gigantic YouTube channels anyone could made, and they’re all about dicking around and effectively doing nothing. That video could have been made in 1995, and yet nine million people watched a stick figure with a gigantic chin eulogise — in a fucking slide show — about all the excuses people make when it comes to reasons why they can’t just go out and create whatever the fuck type of content they want to see exist in the world.
I need you to understand something, and I want you to burn this into your skull so Uncle Ebert doesn’t have to haunt your grave: it’s not what a movie is about. It’s how it’s about it. If you have a genuine interest in a topic you care about, and you’re able to express that interest in a genuine and approachable fashion, then people who have the same interests as you will be willing to keep coming back and watching whatever opinions you have on that topic. What topic do you enjoy that hasn’t been covered in a legitimately entertaining way in a low-budget format? Cartoons? Anime? Albums? Video games? Book reviews? Long-form media analysis? Absurd Internet oddities? Staring at couches? Left-wing political echo chambers? Random rants about anything that crosses your mind? It’s all been done before, it’s all been done on the cheap, and the doers have been very successful in their enterprises. Don’t get me wrong, making videos requires a ton of time and effort, especially in the postproduction phases. But it doesn’t matter what something is about. It’s how it’s about it. If you genuinely have a desire to bring your opinions to light, you will find a way to convince people why they are correct. You don’t have to be Tom Scott and travel to Iceland to swim in nuclear waste. You just need an idea, some charisma, a lot of free time, and a dream.
And don’t give me that shit about how nobody will care about what you’re making. Who gives a fuck! Who gives a fuck if anybody looks at what you make as long as it makes you happy? I wrote one million words — a million fucking words! — across five different websites, and I have not received a single sponsorship deal, a single shout-out from an eCeleb, or a single taxable cent on anything I have ever created across this five-year stretch of time. I don’t write because I’m making a shit-ton of money and I can spend it on cars, bitches, and Dogecoin. I do it, and this concept may be unbelievable to you, because I like writing. For all that I’ve bitched about how fucking terrible this hobby is, I keep coming back to it. Because no matter how much work I do, no matter how much I strain myself, no matter how meaningless the effort ultimately is, I like writing. That’s why I write.
If you have just 100 people viewing your work a day, just one hundred lost souls who sought everything all across the Internet forever and decided that, among everything their eyeballs can be grepping each and every day, that your work is what deserves to be most looked at, then you are doing better than 99.99% of human beings ever will in their entire lives. Yes, 100 viewers a day sounds tiny compared to some Twitch thot who flashes her ass on camera and rakes in 100 times that, but you misunderstand me. The Internet is big. Fucking huge! You may think your local Walmart is big, but that’s peanuts compared to the Internet. Those thots represent only the top end of the total number of eyeballs you can get on your work at any time, and those random influencers who post clickbait YouTube videos and get 10 million views a video, per day, for the most cancerous and lowest-common-denominator content represent only the highest slice of an ever-fleeting demographic of fickle consumers who have no personality or coherent sense of self beyond what they are told to consume by the main media wing of a multi-billion dollar tech corporation whose business model is in manipulating what you see, hear, and experience while you’re using its platform. The YouTube trending tab is the worst invention ever devised by mankind, worse than the dude who fucked the monkey which gave us AIDS, and Fortnite Monopoly. I don’t feel bad about linking that for fear of it being out of date, because I guarantee, no matter which day, month, or year, the YouTube trending tab is always going to be cancer.
Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. There’s this random VTuber — Virtual YouTuber, if you don’t know what that is then good luck in the brave new world — who’s name is Lily Hops. Her gimmick is that she’s a variety streamer who presents as this frog-themed little girl who uses the absurd juxtaposition between her persona and her autistic ASMR-like ramblings about arbitrary subject matter that it creates a ludonarrative disconnect between her aesthetics and her vocal delivery which results in cathartic fascination. Like all VTubers, she is horrifying, and yet her devotion to the bit is so astonishing and her performance so entrancing that I respect her even more than the eldest of all VTubers, such as the Annoying Orange and Têtes à Claques. Her YouTube channel has 1,070 subscribers — pretty obscure, innit? The only reason I know anything about her is because she gets shilled on 4chan’s /s4s/ board, which is their dedicated shitpost board for memes so isolated and incestuous it’s like Australian evolution gone wrong. It is a nice board.
Some random dude named Doremifag, who is so named because he has posted screencaps of the children’s magical girl anime Ojamajo Doremi on a daily basis for over five years while also running an art account in which he draws birthday art of the characters from this anime and you can see why I don’t talk about this board, decided to take his talents, start shilling this not-a-little-girl-yet-playacting-as-a-little-girl-for-the-twitch-clout VTuber, and then got her a sizable little cult of froggy followers who are willing to watch in awe and horror as they realise what they are doing with their lives. This is one of the most fascinating blots of culture ever spilled on the Internet’s canvas, and yet this would not exist if some woman somewhere thought that being a VTuber was a terrible idea that nobody would like. If we are afraid of random Internet commenters, and their bullshit complaints, and their bullshit criticisms, and their bullshit generally, then we lose out on this culture, and we lose out on something great before it is even gone.
Is the lesson to be learned here to have some random autistic dude on a Korean mail-order physiotherapy telemarketing forum shill your work just because he has some clout among other random autists? No. The lesson is this: no matter how stupid your work, no matter how absurd your gimmick, no matter who you are as a human being, somebody, somewhere, is going to think it’s the best thing they have ever seen in their entire life. Now, if your name is Jake Paul, that person will be the wrongest human being in the universe, on par with that guy who thought that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic would never generate 140,969 pornographic images of its main character. If you create something you think is great, and you know it’s great, and deep in your heart you know you did the best you could do with the skill and resources available to you, then you are morally righteous in sharing that work with other people and helping them understand what they enjoy seeing and why they like being alive at all. Because somebody, somewhere, is going to care.
And if you can find friendship through that, and one day even find fans, then all that effort, all those years of work, all those million words you put onto a random blog on Neocities without any expectation of ever getting anything out of it? That will be worth it, and you can die knowing your life has not been wasted.
May The Sixth Piss Shit You
Happy Star Wars day! Or Star Wars Two Days After The Epic Quote From The Star Wars Franchise Which Named This Day Two Days After The Day This Day Currently Is, titled “May The Fourth Be With You Day”, where “the fourth” sounds like “the Force”, which is Star Wars shorthand for homegrown asspulls and plot devices so convenient it upgrades our plot armour to Captain America’s Shield. That’s another epic corporate culture reference, with the epic Marvel movies owned by the epic Disney corporation who also owns Star Wars because the free market is a fucking sham, and why not round off this celebration of multi-billion dollar media companies by bringing attention to the prior MAR10 day. You know, March 10, which looks like “Mario”. From Super Mario. The Nintendo joint. Super Mario Run? Anyone remember Super Mario Run? I sure do enjoy playing my bing-bing wahoos on my Nintendo Switch, to the point where I have developed paranoid schizophrenia and am unable to relate to any calendar date without relating it to a corporate mascot of some kind. Instead of May the fourth, how about May the sixth, as in you may freely shit your diaper, you infantile corporate slaves. I guess that’s unfair, since a company would never stoop to using child labour in order to shill cheap crap to idiots in countries that aren’t so poor that child labour becomes a more economical prospect than not using child labour which steals jobs away from the same lower-classes who have no purpose in life beyond working to die and the purchasing of meaningless crap to ascribe meaning to their impoverished lives which have none at all. The capitalist would never stoop so low. Otherwise that would mean our current economic system is flawed. And, you know. It isn’t. It just isn’t, okay?
Ever since I first became woke as a young child due to my parents rejecting my desires to purchase whatever ephemeral paraphernalia I so wished for them to buy, whether they be doo-dads, knick-knacks, trinkets, or other arbitrary pieces of worthless crap that should have never been manufactured, I have rejected capitalist notions of purchasing out of carnal desire, and have spent my time instead complaining about people who spend their money on novelty items indistinguishable from constructions of plastic garbage in all aspects except for price. Where money is a representation of our time and labour spent earning it, to the point where the CEO of the multinational conglomerate you spend endless hours slaving towards earns 300 times more your wage by working no more and no less than 300 times harder than you, we transfer that money into material goods which represents our needs, wants, and random impulses, acting as a manifestation of ourselves and creating shibboleths of our personality surrounding our homes, sometimes worn on our person, and which we look upon and consider worthy investments. Even when they aren’t. Which they aren’t.
There’s this meme that’s been going around the past few years: consoomerism. That’s not a typo. In the same vein as “oomer” type memes, such as the coomers and the boomers, the “consoomer” represents the archetypal ideal of a brainless individual who has too much disposable income and is unable to stop spending their money on liabilites, building a variety of shrines to corporate cultures and capitalist interests by purchasing large amounts of vinyl figures and marketable plushies from billion-dollar franchises, recorded media printed on dead trees and silicon now obsolete with the advent of hard disks and The Pirate Bay, and pieces of mass-manufactured art prints which declares them as special individuals alongside all the thousands of other people who purchased the same pieces of art made in a factory in China whose workers are obviously working 300 times less as hard as the average White man, because otherwise they wouldn’t be slave labourers, right? Funko Pops, anime figurines, physical game disks, posters of popular media, and other false idols suggesting a higher purpose to consumerism all infest the neckbeard nests of the unfortunate consoomers who are too addicted to hedonistic purchases to realise the folly of possessing them at all, to the point where our existing furniture is not enough to hold our possessions and so we purchase display cases and shelving specifically to hold all this excess… financial illiteracy takes many forms, and yet the saddest is the hedonism of the consoomer, for they know nothing about contentment and yet find a false peace in consumerism, being played for suckers by knowing capitalists, contributing nothing to world, spending away their lives.
What do I mean by “liabilities”? Consider its opposite: assets. An asset is anything which gives you benefit in the future, whether that benefit is financial, emotional, practical, or otherwise. A liability is anything which causes you current detriment and will continue to disadvantage you until you get rid of it, whether this be a physical object you can’t get rid of such as a metaphorical white elephant, a cost you must continue to incur in order to possess the liability such as the insurance and upkeep costs of an automobile, or debt you possess which continues to accrue negative interest and will cost you more money the more it goes unpaid. Assets can come with liabilities so long as possessing the asset gives you equal or greater value than the liabilities of holding it; for instance, a bicycle has very low upkeep costs and lets you transport yourself across short distances, but an automobile has several advantages, such as significantly increased storage space and far greater speeds. Even though a car is a liability because it costs you money even when it’s sitting in your garage gathering dust, costing you even more money when you use it because you have to fill it with gasoline or electricity, the benefits the automobile gives you compared to its liabilities may mean it’s worth incurring these costs despite them.
Consider the case of this charming individual, and his excellently-kept room of things that aren’t total crap:
Okay, fine, it’s fucking LEGO. But do you really want me to show you the horrors of the real world when we’re already so familiar with it? If you want to see real neckbeard nests, take a look at this subreddit: /r/neckbeardnests. Don’t browse it while eating. There’s piss bottles. Piss bottles that aren’t made of LEGO.
When analysing this particular minifigure’s aberration against God, we can take a look at his financial decisions which have gotten them into this rat’s nest in the first place. While the neckbeard is enjoying a smart financial decision by parasiting off the goodwill of his parents and living in their basement like the Dwarf lives in mine, he immediately betrays this prudence by wasting the money saved on ephemeralities. His asset of a bitchin’ PC is wasted through its primary usage of consumption of hentai rather than creating economic value, and his folded-10,000 times forged-in-the-fires-of-mount-fuji wielded-by-samurai-over-one-hundred-generations authentic Japanese katana ($12.99 on eBay) is not currently being used to rob homeless people of their hard-earned neoshekels, meaning it’s effectively decoration with no functional purpose. His large collection of sexy anime figurines and occasionally-damp bootleg Fluttershy plush are unable to be easily liquidated to fungible currency, and continuing to purchase these liabilities without return-on-investment is a fool’s errand. Furthermore, the large amounts of money wasted on soda, fast food, and candy also damages his health and physical appearance, meaning he is spending money to damage his health — going beyond mere wastefulness and in fact causing you harm that extends both physically and mentally. The neckbeard’s current conception of existence is flawed on a level which goes beyond mere mortality; it is immoral on a holistic level, a failure to self-actuate their means of operating within reality, and not even bootleg Fluttershy could break him out of this empty shell of his own creation.
What’s further curious is how the existence of this LEGO abomination is an example of the subtle differences between assets and liabilities. While the unenlightened normie will consider LEGO to be mere toys with no appreciative value, there are intrinsic elements to its existence that makes it an attractive asset for various reasons. The toy is less about play functions than it is merely a medium to express yourself, as evidenced by the existence of this horrific cube, and thus has more utility than mere decoration. The timelessness, competence, and extreme success of the brand means it enjoys a 70-year heritage which alleviates it of any faddishness, and there is a thriving second-hand market even for used sets. The pieces themselves last longer than the Soviet Union did and their engineering tolerances are greater than any Nazi tank was ever manufactured to. Second-hand LEGO are sold so often for such low prices that the Federal Reserve should abolish the gold standard and invest in 50-year-old LEGO parts, pegging the United States Dollar to the cost of 100 units of Part 3003 Brick 2 × 2 (Red). Even though they’re ultimately just toys, the strength of the brand surrounding the toys and the usefulness of the product itself means your enjoyment of the hobby is much more wholesome than mindless consumerism, and you can even liquidate your plastic assets if you need more cash. Hell, even the LEGO stock market makes more sense than anything backed by real governments. Set is old? Set looks cool? Set has rare parts unearthed out of the Ark of the Covenant buried under the Dead Sea Scrolls and a flash drive containing that one porn video you came to when you were thirteen and will never find again? That’s money. You can just look at a set and know it’s going to sell. It really makes you feel like LEGO.
LEGO is also curious in how it lives a dual life, fulfilling both the purpose of being a creative toy which you can use to infinite effect and thus become part of a large community of builders who are interested in sets insofar as they can be scavenged for parts, and the purpose of being a consoomer product designed to create plastic waste through creating blocky representations of marketable franchises you all know and love, such as the venerable LEGO Star Wars products and the mediocre LEGO Mario products — a combination so soy that it makes your average Redditor look like Brock Samson. Proletariat parents purchase licensed sets that appease their undeveloped children, and through the profits made, LEGO is able to divest some of those funds into more mature products such as the 18+ sets (sadly not pornographic) which invoke classy design sensibilities and particularly advanced building techniques albeit with the prerequisite licensed tat, the Classic products which are gigantic boxes of bulk crap you can give to your child-or-manchild and avoid the feeling you’re contributing to the decline of Western civilisation, or the horrifying innovation that is “LEGO Serious Play”, which got hundreds of thousands of white-collar workers to knock off for the day and play with LEGO. One article describes it as “being gaslighted, immersed in the kind of shared psychosis and group delusion found in cults”. In all fairness he couldn’t even build a duck. It was six bricks, bro. Just build the fucking duck!
This dual life further showcases how consooming isn’t merely the act of spending money, because you can spend the same money on the same plastic bricks and interact with them in totally different ways. Rather, consooming is a mindset — one which sacrifices self-sufficiency and emotional maturity in favour of expressing yourself through your possessions, having a personality insofar as it can be defined through corporate media, and refining your purchasing habits out of primitive desires rather than mathematically-sound evaluations of costs and benefits. It’s far more insidious than merely being bad with money. Rather, money is the medium used to enable their vacuuous worldview, and a fool with too much of it soon finds themselves broke. Even worse, with the easy availability of consumer debt you may use to leverage yourself into impossible positions, the consoomer might find themselves in a position where their net worth is less than the total value of every piece of moulded plastic they every bought. Compound interest is a cruel mistress, and when money is invested in sound financial instruments such as mutual funds, she will use her power to bring you untold wealth over the whole of your lifespan. But when she finds herself attached to your credit card debt, with additional usurious loans such as car loans, payday loans, and student loans, she will run over every aspect of your financial life, ruining your peace of mind and passing your insolvent ass around different debt collectors like the prison bitch.
Kevin O’Leary, who was a host on Dragon’s Den — currently hosting Shark Tank for the American television producers who think that fat fishy dumbasses are scarier than fucking dragons — and styles himself as “Mr. Wonderful” with a public persona as a hard-headed billionaire who only cares about the cash, wrote a few books on personal finance which showcases both a pragmatic mindset to managing it and empathy for individuals who never learned how powerful money is when properly respected. One of his concepts is “Money Karma”, which is the idea that if you disrespect money in the present, it will come back to haunt you in the future, with the most insidious wastefulness being “Ghost Money”. When you show proper respect for your money by investing it, it rewards you with its presence, giving you more money down the line and giving you all the mental health benefits of possessing it. When you disrespect it by turning it into Ghost Money, spending on all those little purchases you make over time which don’t matter to you a week after you buy them, it haunts you by hovering over your bank statements and credit card balances, a grim reminder of all the money you could have possessed, if only you had not let it slip from your hands. Each purchase you make is a message to the afterlife, where your money is either spent righteously or wastefully, and all those meaningless purchases you used to send those poor dollar bills straight to Money Hell? They remember. They’re coming for you.
In this sense, the consoomer’s existence is like the Hollows from Dark Souls, consisting of a total ignorance for all money everywhere by using it to buy worthless garbage to fill the black hole of what was once their soul, and they have lost their humanity through being so disrespectful to the natural forces of Money Karma that it has enacted holy retribution by turning the consoomer into Ghost Money. They walk the Earth as a spiritual warning of the dangers of being wasteful and failing to regulate our primal desires for toys and baubles, and we must not look at them with pity, but with paranoia that we may one day become them… for they have chosen their fate, and they have already been damned by Karma.
There is a difference between an expensive purchase which provides genuine utility to you, and a purchase which you buy out of impulse because you feel you are not emotionally satisfied until you have it. Even if that expensive purchase is made for entertainment, such as a large television set or a thousand-dollar personal computer, you’re not in the wrong for purchasing something which brings you joy over a long period of time; entertainment is as essential to human health as food and water, and boredom as damaging as any mental illness. And if you spend a lot of money on items which significantly improve your quality-of-life, such as purchasing a new mattress for better sleep or high-quality running shoes for better excursions to meatspace, then how can you complain about exchanging money for contentment? It’s when the finances are too onerous and the purchases too spurious that you suffer the opportunity cost of purchasing things which might actually matter to you in favour of buying what simply alleviates your temporary desires, which always, always come back in the end. A large purchase made once is much better than small purchases made dozens of times. The former is carefully-considered and leaves no lasting damage to your psychology or finances. The latter leads to an unexamined financial life, and the unexamined life, as we know, is not worth living.
The money I most regret spending in the past three years was a small amount, but enough to scar me nonetheless. Magic: The Gathering Arena is a trading card game without the trading cards and yet you can still purchase them virtually. The net effect is that you’re subject to the same format changes and set rotations which make your cards useless after two years time, but you get the privilege of having never owned them at all! In 2018 I made the decision to purchase $300 worth of virtual trading cards from Wizards of the Coast. That’s $300 of real value on a video game I no longer play and which I will never, ever get back, and that money will haunt me to my grave like the ghost of John Maynard Keynes asking why I didn’t invest that money in sustainable low-income real estate trusts at income-dependent marginal tax rates. This was so out-of-character for me that I look back on this period of life like an alcoholic, much like I look back on that period of life when I was actually an alcoholic. I understand I sent those hundred-dollar bills to Money Hell, and I understand my increasingly-large collection of sex toys might qualify for Money Purgatory, or perhaps a Money Florida where they get a house on the beach but they have to shoot the occasional Money Crackhead. But we can repent for our sins, promise not to make those same mistakes in the future, and live knowing a dollar spent for a good purpose is a dollar sent to Money Heaven. Or the Money Atheist Equivalent.
Even with other bad purchases I made, such as spending $800 on alcohol over last year before I quit drinking, I still got life experiences out of them I wouldn’t otherwise have. I don’t even regret spending $700 on personal training for some upscale gym in my neighbourhood; I got advice and technique over three months that I otherwise might have stumbled through, and though the price may not have been worth the knowledge and labour involved, it was still not a waste of money like spending $300 on digital trading cards objectively is, and I got more out of the deal than I ever did sitting alone at my computer playing commercial card games with strangers on the Internet. Also, the gym had, like, two squat racks. Seriously, that’s all anyone gives a shit about. Squat racks and barbells. Every gym in North America has a critically-low mass of squat racks, and this conspiracy has been running for the past three decades. How about getting rid of those shitty exercise bikes? You know what you could buy instead? A real bicycle! By the way a $2,000 bicycle is not a waste of money. No I’m not defensive, shut up carcuck.
There is also a difference between interacting with corporate art, such as your American animus and Chinese toons, and becoming obsessed with it to the point where you cannot imagine your life absent of constant reminders of your devotion to media created for the purpose of being sold. We are not scum when we enjoy everything life has to offer, even if we enjoy stupid things such as Hollywood blockbusters and cartoon pornography. All art is corporate; if it’s not sold for money it’s whored out for attention, where art cannot exist for anybody without it being seen. Artists have always had a direct relationship with people who had the means to purchase art into existence, and business is just the natural state of an artist’s career, assuming they make art for money. The outpouring of commercial art made by studios for mass consumption is merely the natural evolution of the Renaissance workshops of old, and prior to that, the patrons who demanded great sculptors and mosaicists enshrine nobles and emperors in material form. Some of the greatest pieces of artwork ever created in human history were made in the past century, under systems of capitalist influence broadcast through mass media, and we can’t decry all corporate art merely because it was made by corporations. Some people say the medium is the message, such that it’s impossible to separate the art of movies from the systems that allow them be seen. I have a more pragmatic opinion. The medium is the medium. The message is the message. If great messages can exist through bad mediums, how we can condemn the medium for carrying them?
As Stoicism teaches, we are not morally heinous for feeling pleasure, but we are morally righteous for our ability to limit what pleasures we feel, where virtue is the greatest goodness and the euphoria resulting from virtuous thought is greater than any hedonic conception of life. Whatever virtue means to you is your own personal definition, and the restrictions on pleasure you assert on yourself depends on finding the right balance between living freely and living Stoically. We avoid feeling good mindlessly so we can instead be mindful of what we truly appreciate, and through that, we will feel better than any ignorant hedonist ever will. We become scum when we fail to reign in what we enjoy and thus become overtaken by it, being unable to live without pleasure and thus shy away from doing hard things as a result of our self-softening of our own bodies, hearts, and minds.
The trouble with anti-consumerism, despite how virtuous it is in teaching us to regain control of our physical desires, is that it has been co-opted by a strange and reactionary undercurrent of unsavoury individuals who use this value to condemn people for being fans of what they don’t like without regard to the nuances of how they relate to what consumerism, and consoomerism, actually is. We’re all consumers to some extent. The old wisdom is that there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism, and when the clothes on our back are made with Bangladeshi child labour, how are we supposed to believe we’re truly anti-consumption? What we should instead be is against mindless consumption, such as the type consoomers display on a constant basis, and we should take this moral interest and further use it to speak in favour of topics which lead to good financial sensibilities, such as self-sufficiency, childlessness, and support of sex workers who are entrepreneurs of their own bodies.
And yet, when we look at a popular anti-consumerism subreddit such as r/consoom, what do we see? A strange hodgepodge of right-wing ideas combined with a nihilism towards any enjoyment of corporate product at all and more Wojaks than the schizoposters on /qa/. While the sub is a nice circlejerk of making fun of stereotypical soyboys who feel excited for spending their disposable income on childish things while also condemning the corporations they patronise, the subreddit also takes the piss out of any variety of topics which are related to modern capitalism, such as hobbies which are only possible with the support of brands (LEGO?), fandoms which only exist because of mass production of art under corporate regimes (LEGO anybody?), video games and other mediums in industries which require billions of dollars to produce and support (LEGO Nintendo Entertainment System at $229.99?), and expressing yourself within a capitalist system because of the difficulty of doing so without directly contributing to the creation of furhter corporate culture (LEGO Super Mario Odyssey For LEGO Nintendo Switch With LEGO Soylent Drink?). Obviously, due to the nuance of the ideas expressed, it’s difficult for anyone to do much about our state of society without resorting to posting funny memes and making fun of manchildren. Also, this is Reddit we’re talking about. They aren’t exactly, you know, literate.
Particular strains of right-wing crankery permeate the anti-consoomer subculture, such as repeating old canards about pornography being bad for you (it isn’t), complaints about filthy whores selling their bodies for cash when they have little other economic alternative, saying that childfree individuals are immature for not wanting to waste 20 years of their life and $300,000 on raising a skin baby whose only contribution to the world is in destroying it through overpopulation and the climate effects of existing at all, and making fun of people who smoke a lot of marijuna, because… alright, I’ll give it to them that weed culture is annoying (DUDE, WEED, LMAO). Now, the whole point of this article is that mindless enjoyment is a waste of your life and should be avoided at all costs, and that mindful enjoyment in accordance with a well-lived life should be your ideal means of living. But we can’t take our own personal biases and throw them in other people’s faces, especially when those biases are pseudoscientific in nature or are couched in our own illogical ideas. I believe it has to do with the delusion that just because you personally don’t like something, nobody else should be able to enjoy it. But, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what other people do with their lives. You can live Stoically, create a minimalist living space, be wealthy, healthy, and wise, and preach the good word to other people as to why they should follow your objectively-superior lifestyle… but they have to want it for themselves. And for your average consoomer, who knows nothing of superior lifestyles, this is a task akin to convincing a Christian to deconvert. It is impossible. It’s just human nature to hate yourself.
The flip side of understanding that other people aren’t our problem is in understanding that we still have the opportunity to offer people a version of the life they’re currently living absent of the negative parts they willingly experience because they know no other options. Yet this generosity only works when we have a full enough understanding of other people’s lives to know whether or not something is truly good for them. Alright, spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on Funko Pops is objectively a horrible decision and you should be shamed for doing that. But what if I’m wrong? What if there’s some alternative explanation for why someone has purchased so many of these charming figurines, revealing something strangely mature and — hahaha, I’m just fucking with you Funko Pops are garbage. But my point is this: when we don’t understand enough of someone else, can we really impress our own philosophies onto them and expect them to care about what we’re saying? Maybe other people are wrong. As I like to say, people are scum who don’t know shit about anything. But we could be wrong. And if we aren’t wrong… why can’t we just let other people, who aren’t us, be wrong?
As I prior stated, all product is corporate product, and it is impossible to be anti-consumption in our current economic system. Furthermore, to have an economic system where we are only given the bare necessities of life and are unable to purchase anything for our own personal enjoyment would, quite frankly, be boring, puritanical, and would lead to more mass suicides than the modern era already suffers; it’s hard to imagine there ever being government-manufactured fleshlights. We are not slaves for experiencing pleasure. Stoicism is not Cynicism, and if you want to see the excesses of Cynicism you can look no further than Diogenes. We are slaves when we allow pleasure to enslave us, and the consumption of corporate product without regards to its quality, usefulness to our lives, or what we get out of it as human beings is a consumption which is an alluring infantilisation of our soul which promises freedom at the same time it locks us into the chains we slipped ourselves into. Corporate slavery is only physical when you’re working for the corporation. When you’re buying the products of the corporation, failing to consider alternative uses for your money? Those chains aren’t locking up your legs on the outside; they’re locking you up on the inside.
Capitalism is a golden cage because it offers us the false choice of certain death outside its walls or to experience life within it in modern-day decadence. It is impossible to say we have any freedom when we suffer such blatant gaslighting within this economic system; our choices are restricted merely to different products, different expressions of ourselves which we create labour for the privilege of purchasing, and when the choices are only offered by a market which is content in keeping us unaware of potential alternatives for this hegemony of our souls, how can any of us be free at all? Of course, freedom is an abstract concept, but failing to pay rent is a very concrete one. The threat of homelessness is a much more potent motivator than the promise of utopia. Is it any wonder why the bread and circuses of prolefeed and mass consumption have led us to embrace this system?
The reality of capitalism is that it provides hedonistic bliss for a majority of human beings on the condition they devote gigantic portions of their lives to working for a future that won’t exist within a century, and also aren’t a visible minority. For people whose conception of life is selfish and ignorant, this is enough — and this describes almost every human being alive. The few who struggle within this system, such as the mentally-ill, the disabled, or the arbitrarily-designated-not-human by the governments running the system, are just seen as refuse. Human suffering is a byproduct of false pleasures, and because we have never experienced any true pleasure, we think that’s enough. And maybe, if we have the privilege to be ignorant, it is.
Anti-consumption is then not against all consumption everywhere. When we understand we have been born into a rigged system where exiting it will lead to death at our own hands, we work within what we have. And for what it’s worth, what we have, with all our video games and superhero movies and ability to exist as a stereotypical soyboy without being devoured by predators, is pretty fucking good. We condemn these excesses of civilised society, not because we wish for them to have never existed, but because we understand the dangers of being distracted by these surface-level pleasantries when we have so much more to be grateful for while living inside the capitalist system. Good medicine, decent education, an acceptable standard of living even for the lower-class. A political system that isn’t dictatorship, a government that isn’t autocracy, members of parliament that were elected by your idiot countrymen instead of idiot monarchs. Corporations that have enough power to decide what you think and what you’re shown on mass media, but with not enough power that they can usurp world governments beyond simple bribery. Media companies which produce 99% prolefeed, but with that rare 1% of genuine heartfelt art that makes the prolefeed worth manufacturing. All of these are worthy of being grateful for, and though you have to pay a dime to stay alive, the life we live, on the whole, is better than in any third-world shithole.
The reason capitalism works isn’t that it’s all evil, all the time. It’s that the individuals who are unaware of its evils, the individuals who each support it by continuing to purchase worthless garbage, are inadvertently creating genuinely great things for human beings through wilful ignorance of its evils while those who are aware of its evil gets to appreciate the coincidental benefits that capitalism, on occasion, legitimately does create. While we must continue our social-democratic political action to demand the government create a minimum standard of care for all human beings regardless of their ability to contribute labour, we also understand that for the majority of the middle-class, these excesses are privileges which could not exist under any other economic system. Planned economies lead to dying countries, government-mandated culture leads to ingenuine propaganda, and the absence of consumer choice leads to a society in which all individuals are only individual as the government wills them to be. When we spread power over our countries in the hands of tens of thousands of companies all vying for our individual attention, we all get to pick and choose what masters rule over us, and we get to choose what we deem to be the lesser of all evils. If the government has supreme authority over our decisions, then we do not have even the limited choices offered to us within capitalism’s gilded cage, and complaints about consoomerism is moot, because there would be nothing to consoom whatsoever.
It seems, at least for the time being, capitalism is the natural state of the world and will be for the centuries to come. And though there are alternative economic systems, it is possible they will simply revert us to more primitive states of existence, where our master is the government to the detriment of the interests of the free market, all power concentrated into one incompetent body rather than the bodies of millions of minimally-competent businessmen all competing with each other. It is possible to do good within capitalism. The Nordic model shows us this; the lazy Canadian implementation of socialism is at least some orders of magnitude better than the kleptocratic hellhole that is the United States. But we must demand it, we must only consoom the bread and circuses while we possess power over how and when we do so, and we must not allow ourselves to get too comfortable in a system we were born into when it has caused so much harm to so many untold millions who have been cast aside as economically worthless on the basis of their characteristics and not the content of their character.
We can laugh at idiots on the Internet with their $14,000 Funko Pop collections and their Reddit shelves in a kid’s apartment. We can feel pity for those whose conception of the goodness of life exists only in physical product cynically sold for profit. And we can become horrified at people who have such poor financial acumen that they exist as hollow shells of the type of human beings they could have been. But when we’re presented with such decadence, when we’re presented with a society where we are conditioned since birth to be advertised to, to be sold product, to be forced to work against our wills to buy necessities, to feel the need to purchase hedonistic ephemeralities because we have not been educated as to any higher conception of life… is it any wonder, then, why consoomerism has overtaken the hearts and souls of so many human beings all across the world? The game was rigged from the start, and we can’t blame individual failings when the system makes it clear this is how it wants you to act. This is merely what capitalism does: infantilises its believers and leads those who are against it to die. Late stage capitalism will not be upon us with the destruction of countries and thus the whole of our world. It will be the destruction of our personalities to the benefit of corporations, and the theft of our labour in service of product outside of what is already stolen from us by capitalists. And this late stage, as evidenced, has already taken over human beings just like you. What happens when they take your material and you’ve already sold your soul?
Don’t be a soyboy. Be good to your money. Enjoy what you want, but don’t let your hobbies overtake your wallet and mind. Because money is more intimate than sex, and emotional drama of your own creation has no business in deciding how you should spend it. And if you’re a fan of corporate culture, appropriate it for your own purposes, and don’t operate within the limited realm of existence the media companies want you to live in. Be your own human being. Because we live in a world where everybody in power, whether they be the government or the invisible hand of the free market, wants you to be whatever they think will make you part with your money. And when you’ve sold what little individuality you possess in favour of turning yourself into a stereotype, can you really describe yourself as human at all?
Good luck in the free market. Because if you part with your dosh? Then luck is all you got.