Historically speaking the idea of extreme has been a derivative of the social consciousness of the time. Humans have the capacity to design their own extremes. In frontier days of colonization extreme was what is now a tourist destination. Kitty Hawk extreme? Wait, what about crossing the Atlantic? What about crossing the Atlantic at super sonic speed? Lets not start discussing extreme science. Lets just say our perception of extreme is relative.
But now that we have grown aware of all of history, do you think we can safely calculate or assume what extreme is. In nature extreme is biologically classified in terms of the utmost tolerable by the human body? But what about the human mind? What is the most that can tolerate and what about the human spirit?
Conceive your own boundaries and see if you can move them. Figuratively you can grow a thicker skin even if you can’t literally. Deal with it. The common outcry is a protection of recent values. Taboo with taboos?
The ultimate demise of morality. Or a lack of subtlety? A pity?
Surely we can understand our desensitization to the plethora of information and stimulation. The result of which has left us as impressionable as parmesan. I deliberately refer to the Italians here Benetton and Diesel are prime examples.
The history of marketing and promotion is testament to the fact that we can and will shout as loud and far as technology allows us. We can and will make anything acceptable or even attractive. Campaigns are getting more clever, or are we just getting more stupid. They tap into the consumer consciousness to such an extent that you only realize what you bought by the time you get home.
For us nothing is extreme enough. Seriously nothing. It is only when we contemplate the emptiness that we become susceptible to new and different. Most experience harder, louder, brighter as new but alas it leaves us more indifferent than different. Being quiet and alone is now almost impossible and probably the most expensive thing on the planet.
Our entire vocabulary has been altered to suit our need for hyperbole, littered with exra-that, super-this. It becomes difficult to express oneself with language alone. With television and the internet blaring, we now compete with too much to even try and have a decent conversation. What are teachers doing with blackboards and chalk? Education?
If ‘what the hell doesn’t work’, what the fuck! The beautiful veil of freedom of speech has given us the perfect alibi for not taking any responsibility for what we say….or even do. It also doesn’t help us to hear what others are saying either. By publishing everyone and everything, one is often confronted with the question of who the real audience is. Is our views so pliable that it only matters what website we happen to open that sets our behavior in motion for the next week. If not go to www.ineedadrink.com.
Lets just suppose that we could make up our own minds. We return to the ‘want’. What do you want? (If you are thinking peace in the middle east, or the penguins in Antarctica go to www.ineedadrink.com). Seriously, the human needs and satisfactions are borderline biological. Ironically as our common groceries and foods are becoming more pharmaceutical the other part of science is discovering that your chronic backache is not because of you slouching or the horrible shoes you were seen with at last week’s polo event, but actually it is the gene carried by your family who immigrated from few and far away. Thank God.
We all want love, happiness, sex and so on. We also want the bad guys to get it, a lawyer you can trust, fair employment practice and so on. And so we go on. Substitution-therapy, Aversion-therapy. More, more, more. We fail to see the value of knowing what we need. Reading the media there is probably not one person left who doesn’t need Chanel. How did this happen? Ask Saatchi & Saachi. Ask the slavish consumers who perpetuate the more. People refer to advertising as a lie when instead that catalogue is just a way of telling you what others are looking at and by the effect of group cohesion you now also look at and if they are buying the DeLuxe Super Snorificationizer, there’s no way in hell that I’m not getting one too. How else will I get what I want: love, happiness, sex and so on?
Then we have the argument of opposition. Anti- spells attention. Why is obvious. How long it lasts is up to how shocked you can get.
Extreme reality is entertainment. The need for fantasy has taken such turns that it almost cost Walt his Disney. Now the gap is narrowing and the more real it seems the more real it seems.
Technology has allowed us to miraculously experience events and even participate over great distance, but it leaves us virtually numb. What is next? Scratch- and- sniff tv?
Thanks to the accessibility of the net I now win both the UK and Canadian lottery daily, and then some. It’s difficult to stay surprised.
Humans remain the same even if our perceptions of humane and humanity doesn’t. We all know what we are made of and even though we try hard to forget or deny, the genie is out of the bottle.
How to deal with the desensitization? Simple. There is another extreme. Deliberate Deprivation*. Particularly media and technology deprivation. Look, feel, hear smell and taste. Otherwise stay digital, be virtual.
All beauty, resonance, integrity, exist by deprivation or logic of strange position.
John Ashbery (b. 1927), U.S. poet, critic. “Le Livre est sur la table.”