Stop caring so much (about caring)
“So then how have irony, irreverence, and rebellion come to be not liberating but enfeebling in the culture today’s avant-garde tries to write about? One clue’s to be found in the fact that irony is still around, bigger than ever after thirty long years as the dominant mode of hip expression. It’s not a mode that wears especially well. As Hyde puts it, ‘Irony has only emergency use. Carried over time, it is the voice of the trapped who have come to enjoy their cage.’ This is because irony, entertaining as it is, serves an exclusively negative function. It’s critical and destructive, a ground-clearing. Surely this is the way our postmodern fathers saw it. But irony’s singularly unuseful when it comes to constructing anything to replace the hypocrisies it debunks. This is why Hyde seems right about persistent irony being tiresome. It is unmeaty. Even gifted ironists work best in sound bites. I find them sort of wickedly fun to listen to at parties, but I always walk away feeling like I’ve had several radical surgical procedures. And as for actually driving cross-country with a gifted ironist, or sitting through a 300-page novel full of nothing but trendy sardonic exhaustion, one ends up feeling not only empty but somehow … oppressed.”
I have a friend who used an annoying rhetorical device any time one of his more boisterous claims or insults failed to produce the desired effect. When his hyperbolic statement was met with chortled mockery, he replied with a then-ubiquitous:
“Are we trying to have a serious conversation?”
The disclaimor represented a fall-back position under the guise of humor. The thinking goes, ‘I’m just fucking around, so lighten up and try to laugh.’ This is an important polemical device to remember, but the technological age makes this feigned irony/sarcasm/just joshing yuh, bro more absurd than it would first appear. You simply can’t give a fuck about things without getting spurned by a segment of the Internet that loves to lolz at any hint of the fervid.
Because you can tweet, blog, post to facebook any and everything to start a discussion whether you really want to talk about it, or not, you can lambaste a friend or criticize a stranger for something they wrote, all from the relative anonymity of an avatar or glog. You can lampoon any and all earnestness/sincerity/just plain giving a fuck into some naiveté on the speaker/writer/bloggers part. But where do you draw the line?
Some things have to be taken seriously at some point, or else there is nothing, and that void of nothingness isn’t laudatory like an ascetic monk seeking enlightenment under layers of austerity; it’s lazy and unthinking; it’s an aphorism or epigram for a world that’s a nuanced google10 page novel; it’s laughing at the ignorance of caring, like the caring aren’t smart enough to be in on the joke of meaninglessness.
At this point, on some places of the Internet, we’re all just Meursault absorbing the sea behind the barred prison window. Not sure if we’re consigned to death by the absurdity of it all, but while I get a few years on this planet, I’m gonna care about some things: family, friends, dogs, books—to name just a few.
Just by writing this someone will probably shoot me dead on the sandy beach with Raymond’s pistol. I’m crouched near the rocks trying to figure out why some people believe other people are to be shunned, critiqued and exploited for a chuckle because they cared about something, anything.
Caring shouldn’t feel so obtrusive, but a long—seemingly inexorable—journey with a gifted ironist is simply what some segments of the Internet have become. Unfortunately, I don’t see an off-ramp.