Monday, December 24, 2007

Mass mobilisation in northern Europe

I apologise in advance for this relapse into good old whining anarchism, but the times are a bit compelling…

When, in the upper teen ages, substiantial possibilities offered themselves of establishing a more serious sense of independence from the parents and their mode of life, the first things I abandoned was TV-watching and christmas-celebrating. I had theoretical justifications for it at the time, though not based on Marx and Debord, but rather on bottomline humanist individualism. The concrete experience was unambiguous, that regardless of how much you had managed to develop your interests, your means of expressions, your personal choice of perspectives, curiosities, preferences and opinions, when leaning back in the family TV sofa in the end of the day, all of this was in a sense reduced to zero, all souls were synchronised to standard settings, all thoughts, desires and knowledge were rectified with the conventional. And if this wasn’t enough there was also the annual brainwash where strict repetition of strange rituals combined with an overflowing conventional warmth convinced everybody that all personal development, all self-chosen lifestyles are just illusions and we all ultimately belong inside the bourgois core family and its caring conventions.

Now, some people claim they developed their own, creative, ways of watching TV. Perhaps.

Others have developed their own christmas traditions and pull off ordinary parties or other self-chosen rituals on the same day. In a sense we are free to choose what to celebrate, but only in a sense; and it must be noted that all these “alternative” christmas traditions are merely defensive, trying hard to make up something pleasant to survive in the midst of the huge void created by the unique mass mobilisation of the entire society in celebrating christmas.

And let us do away with these old illusions of what is being celebrated. Many people still believe christmas is primarily about christianity (well there is a clear increase in christian symbols and christian platitudes, but seemingly not a corresponding one in proselytising by christian sects or advances by christian ideology; and most of the celebrators here remain confessing atheists) or primarily about capitalism (well many parts of economy profits sweetly on this huge boost of consumer goods sales of course, but capitalism is a fairground all the year round and nothing is really dependent on this particular festival, and most of the celebrators are explicit that this commerce is just a minor part of the meaning). Well quite obviously christmas is primarily about family values. This is the only time of the year when society quits functioning, almost every single public function, including infrastructure, management, even commerce itself on the actual holidays, and more importantly almost all of urban sociality (in short: interacting with strangers) is just turned off. There is only the family. There is only the confined selfsufficient world of endless but narrowminded caring, of warm and unescapable maternal love, of absolute loyalty, of an immutable orderliness, of the perpetual repetition of the golden age scene of always being a child again never wanting anything else but the love and gifts of the parents. Of course christmas is one of the huge holidays of repetitive domestic conflicts despair (in Sweden invoked with the chamber plays by ex-surrealist writer Lars Norén) and domestic violence, of people eating and drinking themselves to death and of lonely people dying of loneliness, but that is just the other side of the coin of course. None of this, none of the frustration with being reduced to an infantile stage - a universalised under age, never any citizens rights, never adult responsability - leads to anything but refreshing the hope that next year it will all be good after all. Some may say in a structuralist sense that the volontary lack of freedom this day gives contrast and meaning to the relative freedom of the rest of the year; maybe so, and like typical structuralist models this means static, no hope of real change.

The celebration of the family is performed with equal fervor of those who are happily confined within a family, those who live alone but wish nothing higher than to be granted entry into this paradisical existence, those who don’t even try to reach it for themselves but still pay deep respects to it “for the sake of the children”, conservatives, liberals and socialists, homo- and heterosexuals, atheists, christians and nowadays even muslims (when they are finally realising that it isn’t about religion).

I still claim that TV and christmas are perhaps the two single most important vehicles of reproducing conformism, of creating a sense of unity of the citizens in the defense ot the current order, of creating a more or less bearable lifestyle without openended communication efforts, without adressing real problems, without facing uncertainty and possible change. But I know that this makes me a boring old moralist, straggling to escape the seductions of the conventional, seductions of that old death wish; and idealistically ascribing evil intents to social forms. Suggestions to any constructive views on this whatsoever could be appreciated.


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