Note: The Monday Taki post is up. This week I use the expression “of course” far too many times. Of course I do. There’s also new content behind the green door. I’m watching Deep Space Nine and not liking it very much.
It is easy to forget, but one of the predictions about the post-scarcity, technological age was that it would result in a great leveling of society. Class it was argued, was the result of there never being enough for everyone. Once there was plenty, there would be no need for some to horde at the expense of others. Of course, the high-tech society would abandon the silliness of class distinctions. Everyone would wear gray Lycra jumpsuits and happily perform their roles in society.
Like so much that comes from the Utopians, the class-less society assumed things about people that could never be true. Hierarchy is an essential part of the human condition, which means signaling status is a feature, not a bug. The rich guy driving the expensive car is signally his status in the same way a chieftain would signal his status with ornamental weaponry. Even in a world where everyone can rely on having plenty of the essentials, status and status signally still matter.
In fact, they probably count for more in a rich society than a poor one. A guy who is worth fifty million can do a lot of signaling. He can have a supercar, a big house in the country, expensive tastes. The billionaire can have all of those things, of course, and that is a big problem. How does the billionaire show he is a bigger fish than the guy worth fifty million? He needs to have other stuff like political access, cultural influence, and global attention. His status is measured in attention.
Attention as currency is not confined to the plutocrats. This is one distinguishing feature of the media age that arose with the American empire. Before WW2, the super-rich would build mansions and fund public projects like theaters, colleges, and museums, but this was always what the top of society did to reinforce public virtue. In the medieval period, the elite built churches, and cathedrals. In the Renaissance they supported great artists and later they supported the sciences.
The world changed after the war as material progress suddenly accelerated with the spread of American-style capitalism. Material excess first took root in America and with it the growth of the attention society. Popular culture, after all, is about getting public attention in some way. In the early phase of pop culture, people got famous through some talent for entertainment. Now people get attention by being unusually freakish, deranged, or hysterical. The crazier the better.
This is why so many people now experience the world with their mobile device held up in front of their face. They are mining their daily experience for the currency of the age, which is often a viral video or a lot of likes on the social media platform. It is also why the super-rich are fond of supporting increasingly deranged social fads. If the freak show is the cathedral of the modern age, the super-rich must show their status by building bigger and better freak shows for the people.
One result of the giant freak show is that the culture is becoming less rational as it becomes more bizarre. The governor of New York, for example, gets a pass for murdering old people through ineptitude, but he could end up in jail for upsetting a gentle lady in his employ. Of course, that gentle lady could very well have an OnlyFans account and be in favor of mutilating children, so crazy people can pretend that sex is an imaginary part of the patriarchy.
In other words, the attention seeking society is one in which you can be both a vulgar degenerate and an intolerant prude. The media is awash in messages to young women saying they can only fulfill their purpose in life by being a slut. On the other hand, if a man treats a woman like a slut, he gets chased by an angry mom of sluts. You can be certain that the women claiming Cuomo hurt their delicate feelings are mouthy advocates for every vulgar item on the feminist to do list.
Morality is the software of every human society. It is the unwritten set of rules, the habits of mind, that allow strangers to navigate their way around one another. Morality must have a point and that point is reflected in the organization of society. In a warrior society, the qualities of the warrior are the goals of society. In an aristocratic society, privilege, duty, and honor bound the moral code. The morality of this age is wrapped around the desire for public attention, usually public outrage.
Another aspect of the new morality is that it is arbitrary and random. This is true of the carny world, where stardom is usually dumb luck. The world is full of waitresses that look great and can act. Those that get their big break are those who tick the right box at the right time for some reason. This sense that life and death, success and failure are controlled by the fickle gods of fate is the carny code. It is now becoming the America creed, as we embrace the carny culture.
This is clear in the Cuomo story. The reason Andrew Cuomo is governor is he is the son of a famous mobster. He won the lucky sperm contest. The Covid panic was another big break for him. He got to carry on like a hero, despite the fact he was recklessly putting the lives of old people in jeopardy. The fates were kind to Cuomo, until another turn of the wheel brought him low. Like the tragic figures popular in the carny world, he will be ruined because he made a small mistake, not a big one.
It turns out that the post-scarcity world is like a giant carnival tent. The only thing holding people together is a desire for attention. They need the crowd in order to get the attention of the crowd. Semi-retarded basketball players become billionaires because they are the best performers in the human flea circus. Dingbat barmaids become congressmen because they are good at getting attention. Post-scarcity America is carny world, a freak show celebrating the worst humanity has to offer.
A new year brings new changes. The same is true for this site as we adjust to the reality of managerial authoritarianism. That means embracing crypto for when the inevitable happens and the traditional outlets are closed. Now more than ever it is important to support the voices that support you. Five bucks a month is not a lot to ask. If you prefer other ways of donating, look at the donate page. Thank you.
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