In a bar, two women embrace, stumble, and fall down laughing. A frowning bartender removes their drinks from the table. This attitude can be found in any bar. There is a feigned air of dismay, as if bartenders don’t know what they’re serving. They don’t want to remember why their customers drink. We sneer at failed attempts to escape from unhappiness. We want to pretend we’re not like the drunk customer, whose stumbling spoils the image of happiness that resides in the first drink. There is a refracted reflex against the knowledge that we find our humanity only in our animal activities, while the freedom of second nature remains out of reach.
The sunset is bittersweet because we are not sure about the day.
Recently at a gallery, a lauded music critic was asked about operating in her newly acquired position at a media conglomerate. The questioner was specifically curious if she felt an increased difficulty in covering “more authentic bands,” given her new environment.
“Ha!,” the music critic laughed. She continued, saying something like, “As if only bands are authentic. That leaves out so many other musicians. Many male music critics are only interested in the production qualities of music. Because of that, we don’t have any working in our office.” The room applauded.
The ground of the music critic’s denunciation of a search for authenticity also betrays concurrent devotion to the concept at a different register, namely that certain people appear more authentic than others. The horizon of the music critic’s judgement, shared by most, has been narrowed to a pinpoint. The death of any viable Left reduces politics to psychological struggle and moral posturing, neither of which could overcome the crisis of society. That identity politics today is neoliberal can be seen in the way that the music critic’s department now toes the party line as it covers the presidential election campaigns.
The music critic’s victory in a small fraction of a conglomerate’s hiring demographics may have anemic merit, but her acceptance of the job is a liquidation of any “punk” laurels that might have adhered to her. The cruel truth, however, is that the music critic was never an outsider to the all-consuming industry that accounts for even the hermetic hobbyist. Her participation is a symptom of the streamlined integration demanded by mass society.