Every nation has an origin story, be it born out of blood or drawn on a map. America was born with two ideals in its genesis story, security and liberty.
The forbidden entrance into liberty, that is to say, the entrance into modernity, did not come without consequences: the acquisition of money, the anticipation of buying new things, the banality of consumerism, and the spectacle of the media, among others that plague the country.
What was the 10s’ as a decade? My pat answer: a seismic shift in American culture: what used to be nerd culture went mainstream, or more accurately, became gentrified. The Internet Lost Its Joy. Smart phones and social media fed off each other, stuck in one gigantic circle-jerking feedback loop. We are all online all the time. No such thing as AFK.
The so-called “high priest of postmodernism,” Jean Baudrillard evolved from a Marxist-inflected critical commentator of the affluent society to an ambiguous position that can be described either as a bleakly lucid perception that is resigned to the omnipresence of the society of spectacle, or as a horrified fascination with the shallowness of a postmodern society where the sign has become a simulacrum that signifies nothing.
In Waiting for Godot, two tramps, Vladimir and Estragon, kill time on an open, empty road waiting for Godot, who never comes, and who they suspect may not exist. They quarrel, make up, contemplate suicide, try to sleep, eat a carrot, and gnaw on some chicken bone. An oppressive air of desperation and panic lingers over all of their activities because nothing actually happens. The play ends where it began – it goes nowhere.
In 1979, the French thinker Jean-Francois Lyotard explained postmodernism as an “incredulity towards metanarratives,” those predominant illusions by which we make sense of the world, the myths of progress, liberty, and rationality.
According to Ernest Hemingway, we are born with a raw optimism, but as we acquire knowledge of life’s inescapable suffering and fundamental emptiness, we are irreversibly damaged. Therefore, we must avoid the pain of thinking too much or feeling too much.