Never Once Reflect

The End of Empire

Hopefully we all have that little mechanism inside us that determines any given situation’s normalcy, or abnormality, and what our reactions should be. 

How upset should we get when the plane we’re already in is delayed on the runway for several hours? How surprised to get when someone acts extremely inappropriately or has a psychotic reaction in a public setting? How pleased should we be when someone goes out of their way to recognize us or treat us well? In the past, the reactions we exhibited were usually relative to any given situation’s perceived normality or abnormality. 

If time is money, and we need more money to survive, then time becomes more valuable. All the seconds we spend waiting, or dealing with people in our service, or serving others, become precious seconds. Money completely governs the minutiae of daily life, our tiny interactions with each other. And money is power, so those with money exert a special kind of power over those without it. Under capitalism, which values value above all else, including morals or ethics or intellect or integrity, these relationships turn violent and destructive rather than creative and co-operative.

Unpleasantness has taken over every sphere. Especially what once was pleasant — music, art, film, fashion, food. These things have taken a decidedly unpleasant turn. Music has to be punishingly loud. Art needs to endanger us. Films keep us in our seats, beholden to ideals we can ill afford. Fashion and food, too, entice us into sinful overconsumption and debauchery. Where is the refuge now from hypermodernity’s extrovert dominion? Is it the unpleasantness of capital, or of technology, or of Control discovering its footing? How to resist and exist outside Control? Lines of flight and escape routes, squeezing into smaller and smaller spaces, in between spaces, in between in between spaces. This is Burroughs’ lesson — there is always a space between. 

Not long ago, it was very abnormal for planes we were already sitting on to be delayed to such an extent, or for baggage to go missing for days, or forever. Now it is normal. It used to be strange when people acted strangely, storming, and raging around, yelling profanities, provoking passersby; nowadays, things are stranger, and these things don’t raise eyebrows like they used to. It was recently common custom and courtesy to serve people with a smile when employed in service jobs.

Now, this is painfully abnormal. Hence, we get incredibly upset when delayed on runways, desensitized to psychotic public outbursts, and absolutely overjoyed when someone pays conscientious attention to us. 

Still, how dead should we get while waiting hours for an ambulance?

The empire impulse still exists. But empires are crumbling. It’s not the end of any given empire; it’s the end of empire, full stop, like watching Andy Warhol’s film in reverse. Eventually the light goes off instead of flicking on, and that is all that happens.