21st-Century Schizoid Americans

[The video for King Crimson’s 1969 performance of “21st Century Schizoid Man” was removed on youtube, damn it all to Hades.]

Amazing song. It became a favorite almost immediately after stumbling across it on Pandora 2 or 3 years back.

Want to marvel more at the talent that goes into creating a sexy piece of music like that? See this “Premiata Forneria Marconi” cover of it:

Blows the mind. Daaammmn. What artistry, nothing like the techno-pop auto-tuned crap churned out today.

Every once in a blue moon I just like to chill with this song, run it through 2-3 times, let it sink in. This song’s peculiarity grabbed me right away. And then you look at the lyrics, and it’s sobering poetry:

Cat’s foot iron claw
Neuro-surgeons scream for more
At paranoia’s poison door.
Twenty first century schizoid man.

Blood rack barbed wire
Politicians’ funeral pyre
Innocents raped with napalm fire
Twenty first century schizoid man.

Death seed blind man’s greed
Poets’ starving children bleed
Nothing he’s got he really needs
Twenty first century schizoid man.

Right on. I get it. This is one of those songs worth us 21st-century schizoids meditating on from time to time. But maybe that would actually lead to more mindless nihilism (as opposed to conscious and principle-guided nihilism I suppose, having now listened to others’ arguments drawing a distinction).

And maybe what I typically think of when I use the word “nihilist” in an insulting fashion are people who are so deep in apathy that they no longer care what they believe in. They choose not to think that far ahead, or they reassure themselves and others that the future will simply sort itself out. Technology and scientific research are bound to pave the way to universal happiness, don’t ya know? Because they don’t really believe in anything, they turn their attention to everyday life and willingly become consumed by mindless entertainment with little to no educational value at a time when we really need to be paying closer attention to what’s going on around us all.

Because we’ve dropped the reins. Who’s running this show? Still placing faith in the invisible hand of the market? This is not a pure capitalistic economy in the U.S., not by a long shot. And our economy is fusing with our political institutions, or, more accurately, it’s buying out its seats and positions with campaign contributions and lobbyist bribes.

And who do we imagine is responsible for this? It’s not as if it came about through an act of God, if by that we mean the deliberate workings of a supernatural force or being. No, it’s the vast majority of people on earth’s fault — WE THE 99%.

Now, I was born at the beginning of the ’80s, and of course life in the U.S. has been bullshit for a long time before then. It’s been bullshit since WWI. It’s been bullshit since the Civil War. Might’ve been bullshit right out the gate, but who knows? None of us were there. The documents passed down tend to be those of famous and influential people of a given time, not opinion polls collecting data on what average folks had to say about things. Gotta keep it in perspective.

And it’s inquiries like these that are schizoid in their own right.  Ha  High abstract thinking requires a bit of unsanity, to quickly paraphrase the message discussed in a recent video by Professor Anton:

I appreciate the way he thinks, mild in manner and all.

Back to “21st-Century Schizoid Man”…

So, how did we let this happen? How did we let modern life become what it is? Well, one thing humans did is placed a tremendous amount of faith in science and technology to deliver an impressive future we’d enjoy. As noted above, we assumed the market would somehow bring this about (though much scientific research isn’t determined by public input or purchasing power, but rather through political allocations we trust elected officials and appointed persons to carry out responsibly on our behalf — and how has that worked out for us?). Humans tend to choose entertainment over seemingly abstract duties and responsibilities, and plenty are overworked and lack time to devote to taxing inquiries. We’re kept so busy with trying to figure out how to navigate in modern life, and our social lives have become infinitely complicated now that we come into contact with so many varied people on a regular basis.

Every temptation under the sun exists today and can be had for the right price. In a sense, we in the U.S. do live in a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah. That chips away from people’s orientation toward commitment, honesty, dignity, practicality, intuition, imagination, thrift, and heart. We’re a bunch of kids in a candy store, and it’s not a secret. Nothing feels truly off-limits. What does dignity even mean today when everything’s for sale, including most of our souls? Can we even grasp which way is up? What might that look like? What fundamentals continue to truly matter in this day and age?

Is this what nihilism means to some people? To be stripped of everything you thought you believed in and then try to reconstruct a narrative that may be more convenient or perhaps tailored according to principles we individually define for ourselves? Sounds nice in theory, but how many of us possess the willpower, fortitude, and well-developed conscience to properly direct our lives in an honestly productive fashion? How many want to do so beyond keeping up appearances? Today’s “sin” seems to lie in not keeping up appearances and thereby setting others at unease.

How much faith do I have in us? Aggregately? Not much. In select individuals? Plenty. In myself? I don’t know. The game has warped me. We humans are not infinitely malleable and our environments play such a major role in molding us; life in today’s concrete jungle and all that spins off from that is creating a specially challenging situation to contend with.

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