Go read The Last Psychiatrist if you haven’t already. Go ahead, this page can wait, I’ll still be here. The author is not a shy writer, whichever article you picked probably gave you a clear sense of the blog, the author’s mission (did any keywords “aspiration”, “alienation”, or “narcissism” show up?), and hopefully was an entertaining ride. Before the hiatus, the updates were never very frequent but they were always worth the wait and the community of the comment sections was strong. After reading, I’d always go away vaguely anxious and convinced that I learned more than I did and, consequently, I’d always return to try to piece together what ideas in the prose activated that resonance in me. There may not be substance below every bit of rhetoric but there were some lessons learned and I’m here to acknowledge my debt to TLP.
The media is dangerous and it is not on your side. Amply represented on the blog by the twin catchphrase “If you’re watching this, you’ve already lost/If you’re watching it, it’s for you”, this is arguably the principle message of the later series of posts. The idea is that all media is some form of advertising. Authors want to be read, talk shows want you to watch, and for all of them there is no such thing as negative name recognition. If you know their name then you are engaged and once the audience is engaged, they can be manipulated. The chief form of manipulation is the aspirational image. It’s fashionable to have a lifestyle and lifestyles change like fashion. Cigarette ads push an aesthetic but so do car commercials and so does cable news. Whatever box you’ve drawn around media, it isn’t big enough. There’s always another factor to mind because media is the tool of power. And as the tool of power nothing dangerous happens there, it is what you’ve been allowed to see. (TLP might be a bit cynical)
We’re all lazy. Acquiring the symbol of a thing is always cheaper and doesn’t require as much work as acquiring the thing itself. It’s easier to buy a sports jersey than to play professionally, it’s easier to sit in a coffee shop reading blogs on your Mac than to be a freelance writer, and it’s easier to complain in the comments section than to engage in political activism. This is why we pursue symbols of success so fervently – they provide a sense of progress while distracting from any push for real change. In fact, we have plentiful defense mechanisms against change. We don’t need more reasons not to change. If you’re not consciously aware that you’re changing (and you will because it will feel unpleasant) then you’re probably not changing in any way. Sweat is the most useful indicator that you’re doing something meaningful, both the sweat of work and that of fear. So go and sweat for your goals. The truth is that we only have limited time and there will always be more chores to do so you’re compelled to be brutal or despair. Don’t talk, do – you can’t give advice, you must live your advice.
Intellectually too. We’re bad at understanding our emotions and our impulses. Hate, for example. Despite their rhetoric, most people don’t hate Yankees, they actually hate Yankees’ fans. This serves a useful process of othering (and be extension, channeling the aspirational impulse) but is difficult to justify on socially accepted grounds. So it’s best understood as a polite lie that everyone ignores about themselves. Another example, the view that fighting is inherently bad. TLP would say that people are not frightened of the violence of a fight but by the fact of it. Violence has become so rare (so gauche) that we’d rather not deal with it at all. Considering that zero tolerance policies are not about creating justice, this means that this view implicitly furthers injustice.
Intangibles are dangerous. Some intangibles are really valuable! I personally get a great deal of mental peace out of visiting the ocean and will fight to stay close to one for the rest of my life. But you have to be able to cash out on your intangibles in some way (does that just make them tangible goods?). Usually, they’re a means to control you. Abandon hope – it’s an intangible that prices you for less. Promises of good things are not good things and you can’t treat them like they are. Beware receiving confidence, they’re playing a long game. TLP would have you trust only what you see and not wait for what you want.
Finally, I was most grateful for the idea that national news stories in the days of 24-hour media are “just local crime stories blown up nationally.” This let me classify and discard a lot of ephemera that I had been paying attention to. Companies have no incentive to present statistically representative stories to you so, if it’s truth you’re after, you have to look elsewhere.