I hope everyone had a great Christmas/holiday/new year/etc. and that everyone is well :)
We start the year off with another poorly timed national lockdown! This was very frustrating, since the week after lockdown was announced, we were supposed to begin university stuff again, but alas, it was not meant to be, online learning will have to do for my practical art & design course.
It’s kind of silly how we’re still paying full price for half of the goods/services, the major reason for going to a design school in the first place (in my opinion) is to have access to their technical resources and their industry links, but we are not able to utilise those when we aren’t allowed to leave our homes. I understand that we’re still getting a degree from a physical “prestigious/traditional” university, but I feel like having the graduate years 2020 & 2021 on my CV will end up putting me below those who graduate the year before/after this pandemic.
Doing design work at home isn’t the worst thing in the world, but I find it quite hard to concentrate and having the distinct divide that a “physical work building” provides does help that a lot. I really struggled to do any work at home home over Christmas, I ended up doing a little sketchbook work (a few pages worth), but certainly far less than I would’ve liked.
One productive thing that I did do, however was watch Adam Curtis’ documentary, HyperNormalisation, created in 2016, the wake of Brexit and Donald Trump’s election as President.
It’s about Curtis’ own “conspiracy theory”, which branches between world politics, sociology and technology to try to explain why the world keeps making weird decisions like those aforementioned. The 166 minute runtime makes the film feel very bloated, there is a solid 30 minutes worth of content that doesn’t really need to be there, likely because it’s trying to make too many points about too many different issues. I watched it in two parts, I first watched 75 minutes, just after Curtis’ first “revelation”, then I watched the next 90 minutes. I think that’s how this film should be watched (if anything I wish it were a mini-series of say 5 hour long episodes, then there would be more time in a more digestible pieces).
The film’s editing is… unique… at times I think “wow that’s genius, that really felt impactful”, but a lot of the time, the film can be overindulgent and obnoxious. You’re often sat there watching the same 4 second clips repeating over and over for minutes at a time. I get the point of those choices, but the film is already bloated and slow paced, you can dial it back a bit.
So, what’s it about then? HyperNormalisation is a term coined by Alexei Yurchak, who basically said that everyone in 70s/80s Russia knew that the Soviet union was failing, the government, the citizens, but nobody could think of a better alternative (to capitalism that is), so they just pretended everything was working fine, then the “falseness” was accepted as real, which leads us to today.
The basic gist of Curtis film is that a similar thing is happening in Western society, but by slightly different means.
Curtis’ argument and evidence is very blurry (for a lack of better words), it feels like there’s a wall in Curtis’ mind with strings linking a thousand different things, but you can’t see underneath the strings to make any sense of it. He cites the Libya’s Gadafi, American UFOs, William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Putin, New York’s gentrification, Donald Trump’s career, the Aladdin computer, Occupy Wall Street and so much more random stuff that it’s hard to believe that he’s not just cherry picking examples, and to be fair, he could be, but I feel like his ultimate point is a good enough one that I’ll let it slide.
The “falseness” argument is easily provable, especially when talking about Russia, but the similarities between Trump and Putin’s campaigns are somewhat interesting, Curtis says that Putin won because his campaign funded his opposition’s campaigns, essentially forcing conflicts of interest, fracturing their voter base and leading Putin to victory by sheer confusion and “fake narratives” that Putin controls the opposition anyway. Trump did a similar thing in 2016. They also make more points about Trump’s campaign that I don’t really remember.
Curtis also goes on a big rant about how the world is now geared towards maintaining the status-quo (because of politicians and the 1%), as opposed to making changes that improve lives, how free markets encourage that behaviour, and how technology has enabled the free market to dominate our lives further by infecting our social lives and news sources with social media/the internet/cyberspace. Alongside all of this, with the increasing speed of information, the tendency towards simplicity in ideology rises as people want their information in easy to digest chunks (like tweets) - because of this, white lies are told to simplify complex issues.
This all leads to the so-called HyperNormalisation.
And you know what, I believe it.
Right after I watched this, I watched a recent YouTube video by Michael Stevens, a.k.a. Vsauce about “Illusions of Time”. In this web-documentary he explains how the perception of time can be felt differently under different circumstances. He also talks about how culturally, the perception of time changes as our technology evolves, for example he quotes from a book, “The Birth of the Past” by Zachary S. Schiffman, “we fail to realise that people before the 18th century did not see themselves this way, instead of having a history, they regarded themselves as having an unchanging nature or essence, who’s full realisation might be impeded or impelled, but not otherwise shaped by events.”, because their recent history was not different enough from their present, whereas for us, the present (2020), is quite different to the 80s, for example. Technological advancement is faster, things change quicker.
This can kind of explain Curtis’ theory that the global powers are trying to “prioritise stability and the status quo”.
This increased velocity of time, makes our time & attention more valuable, and creates an “attention market”, not only is your attention now valuable, it’s now more profitable. So news companies resort to oversimplified headlines to keep people scrolling informed, more white lies for the sake of simplicity, those white lies add up and people can’t agree what facts are real any more, more social media bubbles form as people disagree more, content farms discover that anger drives more engagement, news sites follow along just to be able to compete, people become angrier. We are angry and we can’t agree which reality is real.
That’s likely why we’re seeing such random extreme changes, that nobody can predict.
That’s why the Remainer’s don’t understand how Brexit happened. That’s why liberal Americans can’t believe that Trump won. That’s why people genuinely believe that COVID isn’t real, or that masks impede their rights. That’s why people are backtracking on transgender rights because they now think it impedes women’s rights.
We truly are living in a post-truth world.
It’s actually pretty hard to write everything I’m thinking about this right now, so I hope this makes sense to the one person who will probably read this.
The last thing I’m gonna say is don’t be an extremist and you’ll probably be alright. Read new scientific studies on the issues you care about (some older studies can be untrustworthy) and yeah just be good people there’s never a good reason to be mean.