EVERYTHING FOR QUALITY
August 29, 2010
It is the fate of those living today to inhabit the culture of quality: quality time, quality assurance (indeed, total quality assurance, or TQA to those in the inner rings), quality of life and quality experiences of every kind, promised and proclaimed as the genuine grace of living drains away in echoing slogans, digitalized voices and recorded prompts: “press 1 for this, press 2 for that, press three to make a payment, press 4 to hang up, press five to hang yourself and, of course, press six to repeat these options, and so on.
One could say it a culture of denial which is in part of culture of terror: few wish to admit or even admit to consciousness how cold, inhumane and uncaring the simplest dealings with basic services have become; how saturated with routine and institutional cruelty post-modern systems are. Some great authors scent these trends coming decades or centuries in advance. Of modern positivism and science Poe wrote sardonically, “we are a wonderful people, and we live in a wonderful age.” His image for this acidic comment was a prosthetic man, a virtually human hero imagined in 1840. Melville created a similar character.
It is well known that this also is the age of prescribed tolerance, for some things and people and zero tolerance for others whose perceived incongruities with the dominant tendency must be precision - machined out of existence. The promised perfection is more fizz than drink and the relentless promises of total compliance emit the fascistic resonance of much modern ‘discourse.’ People are expected, nay, required to comply: As it is written: “in the future, whatever is not forbidden will be mandatory.” Some notice that the future has arrived.
To live in a world where recorded voices are the shifting wall between you and your basic, reasonable questions as you struggle to do the work of the people who sold you shoddy goods is to live surrounded by echoes, masks and shadows. The substance of reality becomes unreal, intangible; imagery possesses and displaces life; idealization, triumphant in the image world becomes a tyrannical distraction machine magnified by the mass media. No wonder the first man is a hologram, “a paper-mache Mephistopheles” with “nothing inside him but a little loose dust.” Look around: it’s not difficult to discern the bad dream of the heart of darkness where truth becomes impossible and the darkness of a new predatory primitivism dominates the stream of life. With the reign of lies, life, already displaced by images, becomes ever more shadowy, insubstantial and productive of anxiety.
What has been and is being done to the economy is part of this shadow game in the shadow times of the shadow lands; the culture of the image is a culture of Terror; nothing is real and nothing is solid, in public life and much of private life that draws its tenor from the public façade and slogans.
There is a threefold dynamic in the culture of idealization where the imperfect, hybrid self is represented as an image (these days there is little that is not sucked into the vortex of the magic web of image weaving): the idyllic phase when the ideal self is imagined and presented; the apocalyptic phase when the image-creator senses it is being possessed, dominated and displaced by its image; and the elegiac phase when the death of the cultural or individual ‘body’ is grieved as the image petrifies in sterile triumph over the wasteland it rules. One may consider whether our government, media, sports and culture generally fit this model.
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The phone experience is a model for the whole: after you press the first pair of numeric choices on your ‘keypad” and given your SS # you generally hear a ‘voice’ saying “this call may be monitored for quality purposes.” Sure, of course it is, for the good of the consumer, to be sure. Consider the phrase in its reductive component elements and one finds a lullaby, elegy and epitaph for our culture, thus: “this call may be monitored for quality assurance”; this call may be monitored; this call may be monitored, may be monitored, be monitored, be monitored, be monitored; monitored, be monitored, monitored, monitored, monitored... The echoes are admonitory and at the end there is nothing to grasp, only echoes, masks and shadows, real terror in the name of security and quality.
Eugene Narrett is the author of Culture of Terror: the Collapse of America
Edgar Allen Poe, “The Man Who Was All Used Up”; Herman
Melville, The Confidence Man, His Masquerade (1857)
2. Eugene Narrett, Culture of Terror (Authorhouse 2009)
© 2010 Eugene Narrett - All Rights Reserved