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Blind Boy Apollo
and the All-White Astronauts

New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. (Zizek)

Tuesday, October 11

survival of the con-test: normative narcissism

In Society Under Siege (p. 63), Zygmunt Bauman writes of Big Brother, Survivor and other such oxymoronic "reality TV" shows:
Each player at every moment is for herself or himself, and to progress, not to mention to reach the top, one must first cooperate in excluding the many who block the way, only to outwit in the end those with whom one cooperated. If you are not tougher and less scrupulous than all the others, you will be done by them -- swiftly and without remorse. It is the fittest (read: the least scrupulous) who survive.

After describing what Big Brother provides ("a fully equipped stage, beds and bed linen, food and cooking facilities -- even the toys and ideas of new games to keep the boredom away and the inmates entertained and happy"), Bauman continues (p. 65):

The rest, let me repeat, is up to you. That rest is a zero-sum game. You'll gain as much as the others lose, not a penny more. And those others' gains will be your losses. There is little point in joining forces and acting in concert, therefore - unless what you have in mind is an admittedly temporary alliance, a step on the ladder that you climb, no longer needed once you've gone one step up. Alliances are good as long as they help you to advance. They become instantly redundant or downright damaging once they don't. From assets they turn into liabilities, and woe to those who overlook the moment when they do.
What Bauman describes so well here is a crucial dimension of the ++ in what I've been calling NewAge++. This zero-sum "heads I win tails you lose" commitment to self-advancement at all costs is part of the cultural background radiation that colors and shapes "spiritual" lifestyles that, on the surface, look harmless, benign, even compassionate. Below that surface, however, look for base axioms such as an absolute fear and rejection of "codependency" -- a contemporary twist (and it's twisted indeed) on Emerson's old saw, Self-Reliance. On the more "positive" side, look for Ayn Randian apologias (often tacit, but no less fundamental) for The Virtue of Selfishness, and various "self-esteem" tropes propagated by Rand's Selfishness co-author, once-lover and cloying sycophant Nathaniel Brandon. Zero-sum, baby, you're on your own. Trust no one. But don't worry, at least you're Playing It By Heart.

Everybody here is, for a moment, a complete stranger to everybody else, and so it is from now on that you need to exercise all your wits to win friends and influence people (only to be shortly abandoned once the friendship and the influence have done their job). Everyone around knows as well as you do that in the end only one person... will stay on the battlefield and pocket all the spoils. And so everyone is is aware that an alliance, if struck, is only 'until further notice' and will not survive the end of gratification.

~ Society Under Siege
Zygmunt Bauman

i want to know what love is
~ foreigner

a new concept of egoism