The Mezunian

Die Positivität ist das Opium des Volkes, aber der Spott ist das Opium der Verrückten

Über die Entstehung des Wahnsinns

To celebrate The Mezunian’s move to a better, spicier website, I’ve decided I’m finally going to ’splain the origins o’ my tagline, “Die Positivität ist das Opium des Volkes, aber der Spott ist das Opium der Verrückten,” which, from the pinnacle o’ my memory, means something ’long the edges o’, “Positivity is the opium o’ the people, but mockery is the opium o’ the insane”—a tagline that seemed to spring up out o’ nowhere, e’en though it does, if I may say so myself, fit this blog quite well.

The inspiration actually came from ’nother article I planned on writing, but gave up on, just like hundreds o’ others. In this case, I remember ’twas ’cause I felt kinda like an asshole, given the subject matter—e’en though the person who wrote the article I was mocking was rather callous himself. & considering the kind o’ articles I’ve wrote, that probably says a lot.

¿Anyone remember #18 from “48 List Articles that Make You Want to Cut Your Wrists in Misery @ the Sheer Inane Horror that is the Dumpster o’ the Internet ”? That was the Smashing Magazine article wherein someone slanderously accused me o’ not being a machine through text, despite the physical impossibility o’ such.

A summary o’ that article: the writer describes some time he felt depressed from o’erwork & spews out a useless moral ’bout how you shouldn’t let the world control you, man. One should always be wary o’ advice that is ’long the lines o’ “don’t let them [blank],” ’specially when that blank is something as vague as “step on you.” The very idea o’ “letting someone else control you” is self-contradictory: if you’re “controlled,” then by the very definition o’ that word, one lacks the control to stop it. Otherwise the concept o’ being “controlled” would become meaningless.

Now, remember that this writer titled this article “You Are Not A Machine” &, indeed, continues that metaphor for being o’erworked for the latter half o’ the article. ’Course, for anyone as familiar with left-wing politics as I am, the obvious connection pops out: 1 o’ Marx’s few ideas that quite a lot o’ mainstream people are familiar with is his famous description o’ the average worker as “die Ausdehnung der Maschinerie,” or “the appendage of the machine.” ’Course, Marx didn’t call for workers to, like, stop being controlled, man, since he was a’least smart ’nough not to bother with such redundant nonsense, & since he was also a’least smart ’nough to understand that the whole idea o’ being enslaved to a machine is that you’re enslaved & that to break out o’ such takes mo’ than telling oneself happy words.

& ’twas from this that I realized why I had such a problem with the cult o’ positivity, o’ self-help (well, other than that it has reactionary implications & is usually used as a form o’ victim-blaming): it’s an opium for the masses, a way to distract from substantial solutions—substantial in that they actually change things, both bad & good, & that they actually take effort to undertake & come with actual risks & losses.

The closest he comes is when he says, “there is not something wrong with you, there is something wrong with the industry” (& does go ’way from the typical self-help goal o’ distracting attention—that is to say, blame—from social structures, which might lead to dangerous dissidence, & toward oneself); but then he contradicts that by focusing the rest o’ the article on talking ’bout how individual workers should act individually in regards to themselves. If it’s the industry, ¿then shouldn’t the industry change? & if that’s the case, ¿shouldn’t one act in a way that changes the industry?

But then, this shouldn’t come as any surprise. If one is truly going to talk ’bout competition & how this affects one’s ability to get free time, one has to talk ’bout the economic system in which this happens, &, in doing so, talk ’bout the political policies that make it that way; & in doing so with a certain goal in mind, one will have to call for certain policies to be changed or kept the same, & in what way. To talk ’bout this subject in any intelligent way would require one to be politically biased, which is obviously not something a web design magazine would be comfortable with—well, so long as it’s not something both widely popular & abstract to the point o’ meaninglessness, such as supporting “diversity,” without any talk o’ specific ways to support that (certainly not talk o’ affirmative action).

This is the problem I have with this article: it’s trying to say something deep & meaningful without taking the risks necessary to truly do so. This writer wants it both ways. But what he doesn’t realize is that in order for something to be meaningful in a social way, it has to be controversial. After all, the very definition o’ “controversial” implies that it must be both something people care ’bout & that it’s something in which people don’t always agree. If everyone already does agree, then there’s no point in saying something, since the whole point o’ persuasive writing is to change people’s minds.

This is fine for web design writing. Sure, there are idiots who may whine ’cause a web design site says one should avoid using cascading in CSS1; but most would understand that a web design blog is guaranteed to make biased opinions on what some should or should not do in web design. ¿But politics? That’s a different story; & yet ’twas a story this writer pushed himself into by writing ’bout a subject that wasn’t web design @ all—which makes one wonder why he bothered talking ’bout it @ all. I’m sure he’d defend himself by saying that it’s something that affects his fellow web design workers a lot. Indeed, that’s ’cause the political economy affects his fellow web design workers a lot.

Which brings us to the central conclusion: & that’s the news you choose.

Wait, that’s not the conclusion. Damn it, Lord Crocomire, shut up.

Ah, here we go: if you’re going to talk ’bout subjects enmeshed in the ugly bogmire o’ economics, be prepared to jump into that bogmire. Trying to write ’bout that subject without actually talking ’bout any real aspects—just telling people the equivalent o’ “Just don’t have problems anymo’” is like giving someone a water bottle full o’ air. & the fact that the writer emphasizes how needy his intended audience are for actual water makes this article e’en meaner. ¿How could an o’erworked, stressed worker respond to this empty advice but sheer annoyance?

’Course, the comments don’t respond that way; but then, ¿who writes lowly comments that will likely not be read for the sake o’ actually giving info & not to gather either positive or negative attention (in this article, mainly positive, since you have to be a’least 18 to be a professional web designer)?

Advice: stick to writing ’bout how to make better web buttons, & leave the economic analyses to the, ahem, experts here.

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Posted in Politics, Web Design, Yuppy Tripe