Lorna Doom of The Germs
The whole breadth of the river was filled with boats, waiting for a lock-gate to be opened. In all the boats were gay young people in light, bright-coloured clothing; they were almost reclining there, freely abandoned to the warm air and the coolness of the water. They had so much in common that their convivial spirit was not confined to the separate boats; joking and laughter was passed on from boat to boat.
He now imagined that in a meadow on the bank… he himself was standing. He was contemplating the festival, which was not really a festival at all, but one could call it that. He naturally had a great desire to join in, indeed he longed to do so, but he was forced to admit to himself that he was excluded from it, it was impossible for him to fit in there; to do so would have required such great preparation that in the course of it not only this Saturday, but many years, and he himself would have passed away; and even if time here could have come to a standstill, it would still have been impossible to achieve any other result; his whole origin, upbringing, physical development would have had to be different.
So far removed, then, was he from these holidaymakers, and yet for all that he was very close to them too, and that was the more difficult thing to understand. They were, after all, human beings like himself, nothing human could be utterly alien to them, and so if one were to probe into them, one would surely find that the feeling which dominated him and excluded him from the river party was alive in them too, but of course with the difference that it was very far from dominating them and merely haunted some darker corners of their being.
This extension results not only in a quantitative increase in alienation but in a qualitatively different kind of alienation.
Not content with mere spectators, the spectacle now seeks to engage the proletariat as an active participant in its reified world. The present expansion of alienation is a demand for its reciprocity, resulting in a reciprocal alienation in which the distinction between spectator and show, between signified and signifier, becomes blurred. In place of mere passive reception emerges a reified subjectivity in which the individual is able to choose among a number of possible responses - he is given the illusory freedom of a greater role in the construction of the world of his own alienation.
The advance of such an active alienation has had a direct relationship with developments within the sphere of capitalism’s star commodity, culture. ‘Avante gardist’ experiments in ‘participatory’ theatre are now being applied to mass-media as a whole. As usual, capitalism has proved to be one step ahead of its professional critics: McLuhan’s voyeuristic fantasies of “participation” via the media, for instance, are being realised on a far more complex level than the vicarious tribal rites which he imagined for the ‘global village’ of the commodity. The strictly unilateral communication which McLuhan celebrated gives way before a kind of bilateral monologue in which the spectator’s response serves as a stimulus for further transmission… With the development of Cable TV, which allows for greater specialisation and cultural diversification, and two-way receiver-transmitters, media has advanced beyond a simple reproduction of images for a passive audience - the entire sphere of consumption has acquired an added dimension.
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He feels imprisoned on this earth, he feels confined; the melancholy, the impotence, the sickness, the wild delusions of the captive break out in him; no consolation can console him, for the very reason that it is mere consolation, gentle, head-splitting consolation in the face of the brutal fact of imprisonment. But if he is asked what he actually wants he cannot reply, for - this is one of his strongest arguments - he has no conception of freedom.
All the current changes in the spectacular organization of appearances, however, are only part of a change in the appearance of organization. The contemporary reconstruction of bourgeois society involves not only its form but its content. The reform of the environment is simultaneously a reform of power which exhibits itself on many levels. Structurally. the hierarchical matrix of power which was physically embodied in the traditional city now reproduces itself on an infinite and local level. The advanced spectacle has dispensed with a physical centre of command in favour of a poly-centered system of authority… As the locus of power shifts from rigidly defined structures to a multi-faceted nexus of relationships, new organisational forms are emerging which will bind the individual more closely to his social environment. The decentralisation of authority is not to be confused with its destruction, it merely represents its further extension.
You know, some people say life is short and that you could get hit by a bus at any moment and that you have to live each day like it’s your last. Bullshit. Life is long. You’re probably not gonna get hit by a bus. And you’re gonna have to live with the choices you make for the next fifty years.
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I wish they’d conduct a national poll to find out who feels out of place and who doesn’t. Just to get the numbers, you know? To get a feel for how many of us there are. Sometimes at work I get the feeling that it’s got to be right up against 100%. I’ll head out to the register to help out during the lunch rush and the new cashier will look so confused and lost, and then I’ll look at the customers she’s supposed to be helping, and they’ll look lost too, and then when I sneak a glance toward the tables there’ll be all these people staring at their food or at each other with blank looks in their eyes. And I’ll think: is this just me? Is everybody else actually fine, and I’m just trying to imagine they’re like me? But I don’t think so. I’ve thought about this a lot, and I’m pretty sure that some ridiculous percentage of the population is walking around feeling like aliens.
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And yet I knew that what I saw wasn’t as simple and good as it appeared. There was a price to be paid for it all, a general falsity, that could be easily believed, and could be the first step down a dead-end street. The band began to play again and the boys and girls began to dance again and the lights revolved overhead throwing shades of gold, then red, then blue, then green, then gold again on the couples. As I watched them I said to myself, someday my dance will begin. When that day comes I will have something that they don’t have.
But then it got to be too much for me. I hated them. I hated their beauty, their untroubled youth, and as I watched them dance through the magic colored pools of light, holding each other, feeling so good, little unscathed children, temporarily in luck, I hated them because they had something I had not yet had, and I said to myself, I said to myself again, someday I will be as happy as any of you, you will see.
They kept dancing, and I repeated it to them.
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