Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Out of the Blue and into the Unreal

How much of society today has become a "simulated society"? Was society always simulated? Where has the "real"gone? (Still awake? Have a headache yet? :-> ) These questions surround us: we hear them when we listen to music; we see them when we look out the window, when we watch the television... (starting to quote a film there). Instead of that, let me quote a few others on the same questions:

"To dissimulate is to pretend not to have what ones has. To simulate is to feign to have what ones doesn't have. One implies a presences, the other an absence. But it is more complicated than that because simulating is not pretending: "Whoever fakes an illness can simply stay in bed and make everyone believe he is ill. Whoever simulates an illness produces in himself some of the symptoms" (Littre). Therefore, pretending, or dissimulating, leaves the principle of reality intact: the difference is always clear, it is simply masked, whereas simulation threatens the difference between the "true" and the "false," the "real" and the "imaginary." --(Baudrillard)

All simple monkeys with alien babies
Amphetamines for boys
Crucifixes for ladies
Sampled and soulless
Worldwide and real webbed
You sell all the living
For more safer dead

Anything to belong

Rock is deader than dead
Shock is all in your head
Your sex and your dope is all that were fed
So ****all your protests and
Put them to bed

God is in the TV

1,000 mothers are praying for it
Were so full of hope
And so full of ****
Build a new god
To medicate and to ape
Sell us ersatz
Dressed up and real fake
Anything to belong
Rock is deader than dead
Shock is all in your head
Your sex and your dope is all that were fed
So ****all your protests and
Put them to bed
(Rock is Dead - Marilyn Manson)

I confess, those quotes make for an unusual juxtaposition. But, to me, they seem to be dealing with the same topic. In the first, we have an explanation of how "the real" vanishes. In the second, we have an example of "the real" VANISHING.

Maybe simulation has become a part of Western culture, thereby encompassing society and all that falls under the culture. We tend to build simulations within simulations (games that mimic reality with ever increasing realism). Part of Baudrillard's point in his book Simulacra and Simulation is that the "real" is eventually replaced with the simulated (often claimed to be the new and improved "real"). This act destroys the original, leaving only a simulation - which is eventually accepted as the original.

So what does this have to do with anything? Ha - maybe it's too late to ask that question. I'll jump to another person who seems to be dealing with the simulated structure of life:

As soon as you're born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool
Till you're so ****ing crazy you cant follow their rules

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

When they've tortured and scared you for twenty odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you cant really function you're so full of fear

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

Keep you doped with religion and sex and tv
And you think you're so clever and classless and free
But you're still ****ing peasants as far as I can see

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

There's room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill

A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be
If you want to be a hero well just follow me
If you want to be a hero well just follow me
(Working Class Hero - John Lennon)

And while I'm quoting songs to find an angle at this point, let me through one that is still connected to the topic, and joined to the prior song (maybe we can read "dreams" as "simulation"):

My generation is zero.
I never made it as a working class hero.
21st century breakdown.
I once was lost but never was found.
I think I'm losing what's left of my mind
To the 20th century deadline.
I was made of poison and blood.
Condemnation is what I understood.
From Mexico to the Berlin wall.
Homeland security could kill us all.

My name is Samuel, the long lost son.
Born on the 4th of July.
Raising the bygones of heroes and cons.
Left me for dead or alive.
There is the war that's inside my head
That questions the results and lies.
While breaking my back til I'm damn near well dead.
When enough ain't enough to survive.
I am a nation, a worker, a pawn.
My debt to the status quo.
The scars on my hands are a means to an end.
It's all that I have to show.
I'm taking a loan on my sanity.
For the redemption of my soul.
Well I am exempt from this tragedy and the 21st century fall.

Praise, Liberty The freedom to obey
It's a song that strangles me
Well, don't cross the line
Oh dream, American dream.
I can't leave and see from rainstorms 'til dawn.
Oh bleed, America bleed.
Believe what you read from heroes and cons.
(21st Century Breakdown - Green Day)

In the end, with all of this protesting about simulation, it seems unlikely that it could remain invisible to us. That is, unless, the protests are simulated protests, devoid of their message. If so, then "rock," once a protest music, is certainly dead.


John Goodrich said...

The simulated is often easier to monetize than the real. Nobody makes money on a family going out to have a picnic on public land. But sell kids the $300 platform on which to play their $60 games, or the $80 platform that plays $20 movies, and you've got cash flow.

In addition, the simulated often removes the less attractive portions of the experience. Playing a Modern Warfare video game doesn't have the unpleasant realities or risks of death and dismemberment that being in Iraq does. And you can turn it off.

Anonymous said...

"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more!” [E.A. Poe]

I disagree that the original is “destroyed” if the simulated “replaces” the real. The original endures. It’s only in the mind’s construct that the original is “destroyed.”

The Green Day lyric, “There is the war that's inside my head” is a key. We’re talking about mental games. And with supposedly limitless imaginations, humans are limiting reality by putting up walls around themselves.

Lennon says, “As soon as you're born they make you feel small.” Who are “they”? “They,” apparently, keep you “doped with religion and sex and TV,” just as Manson asserts, “Your sex and your dope is all that were fed.” But again, these are examples of humans creating their own mental walls and yokes.

Manson’s call to “Build a new god” follows NIN’s “God is dead and no one cares” (which follows Nietzsche). Without God, humans must try to play God themselves by creating their own realities; but with Death the Great Teacher at the end of the line, human constructs rush headlong to nihilism.

Rick said...

It's interesting to me how closely intertwined musical lyrics are associated with this topic, as I spend so much of my life avoiding music. It's a difficult thing to do, you know? Most people can't drive more than 2 minutes without turning on the radio. How many can endure quiet for more than a moment or so?

It's no longer restricted to cars and elevators. It's a mood control element incorporated into retail merchandizing. It's in the doctors office, always in the background of parties and public events. You can't escape it. They pipe it into the space shuttle. Popular music is the new Matrix. Think about it.

No good has ever come of music or musical lyrics. I believe that they are together one of the overriding factors in social inequality, the propagation of prejudice, and the enshrinement of injustice. Even the Aryan Supremacy League has a theme song.

Keep the masses rocking and rolling and they will always be only the masses. They will never leave the social herd. Keep the music coming to keep them docile. It's hard to get true social innovation or reform when we are busy attending the Royal burial of the King of Pop or washing our Graceland t-shirts.

Charles Gramlich said...

The more info we think we have available to us, the more our awareness is being controlled. Green Day is, in my opinion, a good example of a simulated punk group.

Anonymous said...

Surely Rick didn't mean for his inflammatory statement about music and musical lyrics to be taken seriously. Otherwise, it would be a wonderful preamble to a proposal to cut funding for the arts. I would suggest that writers, painters, musicians, and all other artists ought to be supportive of each other. Why vilify other forms of art?

Rick said...

Actually, Jeff, it was only "simulated" inflammatory rhetoric. :)

Voland said...

In order to actually say anything in the first place, you have to simulate a listener - you have to have an image in your mind's eye of the person you're addressing, whether real or not. The media do this all the time; it's the chief task of politics.

But the simulated listener doesn't exist. There is no alter-locutor. There is only the imaginary friend in our heads - the image we have, even of a real person, is only a fiction which we create to more easily deal with a reality which is fragmented at source.

Even words are simulation. There is no "tree", or "red", or "you". Indeed, there is no "me" to do the simulating in the first place.

Which gets to the nub: discourse is simulatory. It's a simulation, invented by a simulated narrator, and recited to a simulated audience. As the Bard had it,

"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

William Jones said...

I figured I've already chimed in, so I'll try to keep my comments short. (ha!)

Everything here is quite insightful. And who said that there is no such thing as theme?

John - You're dead on, and your point is spooky.

Jeff - I think "they" are a state establishment in the case of the song. In other words, the "thing" we accept as authority by agreeing to follow their rule - or narrative of life. And I do think there is a bit of a nihilistic feel to the songs and topic.

Rick - The lyrics here had no music. Does that deconstruct your argument? :)

Charles - That's an interesting point. I confess I've not listened to much of their music, but it does make a great irony.

Voland - Cut that out. :) When the Great Bard is quoted, there lurks danger. I see your point, but will attempt to defend a handful of theorists who'd argue that some words are associated with concrete things, physical things, or shared concepts thereby making them signifers of something "real." However, there is no doubt that these words and others can be subverted to have new meanings - simulated meanings. A bit of Orewellian alteration:

Hard worker = respect = money = role model = good.

Working Class Hero = the best of the hard workers.

Life of Labor = Heroic Life (to do less is to be inferior)

Oh, and Ignorance is Strength, amd War is Peace (quoting Orwell)

Rick said...

It is well documented that Orwell used to say things like that while drinking.

Charles P. Zaglanis said...

I swear Rick, you'll pry my Slayer cd's from my cold undead fingers. It's so weird that you bring up music. I was just today thinking about how there's never any playing in your car, just audio books...odd.

Rick said...

There's a reason that in the late 1920's dancers were called puppets and musicians were known as "the ones pulling the strings."

This same phrasing found its way into the other Life-Matrix where it's important to keep consituent/participants from being aware of the real world so people will remain docile or artificially agitated- of course that is the world of politics. Hence, "Boss" Tweed was referred to as "the guy who pulls the strings."

The Prime Objective of most music and politics in our modern world can be best illustrated by the movie "A Night at the Roxbury," which is perhaps the most perceptive film of this generation. There is a particularly illuminating scene where the two young men the movie revolves around are bouncing their heads back and forth like Bobbleheads while driving around town and listening to Haddayway's "What is Love?"

Even more effective in both music and politics is to sing or campaign on themes proven in extensive socialogical and psychological testing to induce the Bobblehead reaction in preference to reality. This maintains the Matrix of GroupThink.

GroupThink lyrics are those such as "We're all being repressed," or "There's nothing we can do, the man has his boot on my head," "Oops I Did it Again," or "We should be dancing" (instead of striving or confronting our individual realities). Both music and politics are the easiest Matrices to construct, are built on fabrics of McTruth, and therefore will likely outlast vinyl records.

That it is unwise for the Matrix Masters to combine them too blatantly is best evoked by the fate of "Living Color's" intellectually stimulating song "The Cult of Personality," which although obviously more challenging than anything ever written by the Beatles, Robert Frost, White Snake, or even Justin Timberlake, is yet considered unfit for Michael Jackson's ghost to listen to with headphones or without.

Imagine if some day we simply turned off the iPods, refused to listen to anything political, and instead paid attention to each other? We might actually realize that the issue of potential simulated reality interchanging with actual reality (pretty lame, isn't it, when we even have to consider the possibility) exists only as long as we continue to play online games while listening to music at political rallies.

The point, of course, is that, like children, we prefer simulated realities. Hence I will continue to call Stevie Wonder for directions instead of using GPS.