The other day I wrote about the absolute cataract of essays and articles these days proclaiming the death of something — something, anything, everything: capitalism, liberalism, Trumpism, tradition, conservatism, the novel, poetry, movies … the list goes on and on.
Today I’m wondering how much this habit of mind arises from an economic system built around planned obsolescence and unrepairable devices. If we are deeply habituated to throwing away a bought object when it is no longer performing excellently, then why not do the same with ideas? Hey, this thing I believe in no longer commands universal assent. Let’s flush it.
And for that matter why not take the same approach to people? If you’re in Canada and having suicidal thoughts, then you just might have a counselor suggest medically-assisted suicide. You’re hardly worth repairing, are you? Let’s just ease you into death and get you off our books.
It shouldn’t take a Miracle Max to tell the difference between dead and mostly dead, which is also slightly alive. But our social order can’t even tell the difference between dead and imperfect — because the Overlords of Technopoly profit when that distinction is unavailable to us. And we should always remember that when someone declares that one object or idea is dead, they’re probably quite ready to sell us a new one.
Where there’s life, there’s hope; and where there’s hope, there’s the imperative to repair. Technopoly is a system of despair.
UPDATE: My friend Austin Kleon sends me this, a 2012 entry from the late Tom Spurgeon’s Comics Reporter: “So people are going to the movies less frequently. Really, things have been dying and changing since forever. People don’t buy Big Little Books anymore; people don’t walk on the promenade anymore; people don’t go to roller derby. Actually, they do all of those things; they just don’t do them in great numbers. One of the wonderful things about treating art as an art rather than as a public commodity is that you focus on the quality of the experience and benefiting the artists directly; you don’t worry about the size of something for the sake of worrying about the size of something.” So, so much agree.