A problem inherent in the virtualization of thought is the loss of quality control and value hierarchies: everything fed into the internet – from Goethe’s Faust to a how-to guide on inline skating – has the same Existenzberechtigung (right to exist) in a completely decontextualised and egalitarian environment, with each word constituting a few bytes of data.
Traditionally, selection and valuation is usually based not just on the material itself but also on signals and sources external to it. The new generation of thought, however, might only exist – and have to be discovered – virtually. However, judging a work rooted solely in a virtual context is much more difficult than before, because of the very nature of a medium characterized by fragmentation, anonymity, availability and selectivity 1. Immersed in a context-averse medium (the internet), knowledge and thought is homogenized and ultimately devalued in a perversely egalitarian quagmire.
1 fragmentation = although “links” serve to connect content, the “whole” is seldom preceivable
2 anonymity = the authorship is per se “invisible”, anonymous
3 availability = the internet is accessable around the clock from around the world; everyone can create content with little effort
4 selectivity = a web page is always “virtual”, and data is usually restricted to one type of channel: text, video, pictures.
Here a new version of my essay. still not complete. It is divided into several sub-essays :



From the Impossible to the Intended

The Possible Impossible

“Nothing is impossible” proclaims the gargantuan Adidas poster hung from the ceiling of the Hauptbahnhof hall. The sheer size of the ad seems to verify the statement, its palpable, visual omnipresence providing totalitarian affirmation. On the poster is a whole paragraph of text, unusually long for a target audience taught not to cram more than 5 bullets on a PowerPoint slide. The text on the left attacks those that do not strive for the impossible. The message is that impossible is impossible. On the right a picture of Beckham, celebrating.

The banner still hangs there, after England falls out in the quarter-finals. Perverse a bit, perhaps an unintended effect; Beckham can no longer achieve the impossible. Apparently, the impossible is now possible, after all. Only, not the way the ad intended. A week later, one of the big underdogs of the championships, Greece, shoots the decisive goal in the last minute of play. Impossible is apparently possible, but unfortunately, not in the context intended, for the poster features Beckham, not Charisteas. We see that far from picturing the impossible, the poster has advocated the very possible all along. It had been designed with statistics and probabilities in mind. The TV ad to the poster had featured a grab-bag of Adidas-sponsored top teams (with no sight of the at that time uninspiring Greeks) a carefully-honed balance of the probable. Would anyone have thought possible that the idolised man on the poster would miss the free kick that could have saved his team from embarrassment?

Ironic, really, that the winning team was actually also sponsored by Adidas. Of course, a smart company never puts all its eggs into one, or even two baskets, and it would hardly be “fan” enough to let its profits be wholly dependent on who actually wins. However, this does not change the fact that Beckham would have been a sexier win. A likelier one too, one whose victory Adidas was preparing for. And this is exactly where the souble paradox of the poster is revelaed: it promises the viewer the improbable, but gambles for the likely. Finally, we sense the problem with the boldly proclaimed message: the incompatibility of the message with its intent: it demands the reader dream freedom, but wants him to buy a shoe.

From the Impossible to the Intended

Companies are doing their best to suppress the side effects of a system they had every interest in creating: the urge to achieve a certain extent of freedom, individuality and dignity in a world with a radical trend toward the domination of the possible, the medially willed, and the aesthetically sanctioned. As people realize the growing impossibility of autonomous change and individual freedom in a society entrenched in mass-culture, the desperate hope for alternatives springs up.

In a show of astounding cynicism, firms like Adidas have learnt to harness our restlessness, hijacking and deforming it to work for ends that many are trying to escape. Want the impossible? Then buy it, as a shoe. With the motto “nothing is impossible”, a clumsy bridge is erected between the product and a “tamed” escapism. Thus, as financial and social mobility decreases, societal casts become increasingly rigid and pressure to conform to systemic demands weighs upon individuals, business can kill two birds with one stone by repositioning the products of consumerism that are the very cause our insecurity into the locus of our hopes.

Aesthetics for Example

As our attention is artificially diverted to aspects of human existence with frustratigly small degrees of malleability – like aging and appearance (and also: income and celebrity) – solutions are immediately provided (in the form of anti-age lotions, beauty operations and image-enchancing products). By thus insuring the impossibility of ultimate, or even near- satisfaction, saturation is cunningly evaded. Meanwhile, the ever-growing fixation on sexuality is legitimized by branding it a source of (laboriously acquired) freedom, entrapping the subject into a realm of aesthetics with little hope for change and human development. As the quest to fulfil desires based on company scripture is embarked upon, one becomes trapped in a world of centrally-designed objectives. When advertisements in Japan feature caucasian women, the tendency toward one officially sanctioned value system, even in the field of aesthetics, are laid bare. Indeed, the problem of the world created by corporate culture is its totalitarian aspect, its inability to deal with creative diversity.

Standardized Individualism

When overstyled pictures and catchphrases that serve as messages and demands become the blueprints for our aspirations, we let a construct characterized by a worrying degree of homogeneity and inflexibility define our identity. It is exactly in this regard that multinationals labor the hardest to disguise the obvious paradox inherent in building a myth on the mantra of individualism, yet relying on mass production and the economies of homogeneity to maximize profits. “Individualism” in the mass-produced sense can only mean choosing from a palette of think-tank styled, value-optimized, and ready-made identities. Would-be individualists are thus wooed into joining “rebel” groups far easier to manipulate and cater to than individuals with wholly opaque preferences. Sporting a certain logo on a shoe, one is automatically identified with the range of images and values that the brand in question is associated with. These values, however, cannot be those of the individual, unless it chooses to adopt those of the brander. Beside the obvious drawback of having to choose an “image” from a relatively meager selection of homogenized types, this alternative does have one crucial advantage: it is easy. Like being able to choose your cocktail instead of having to mix it yourself, it’s hard to get something wrong. To commit a fauxpas. To not fit in. You don’t have to “tell” or “prove” to anyone that you’re well-to-do if you have Dolce&Gabbana jeans. All you have to accept in return (besides the hefty pricetag) is the baggage of connotations the company has concocted for you, and all other wearers, to carry along.

I wrote this poem in Szigetszentmiklos, Hungary

Eve on to Night

A spark from the sky
bounced on my floor
it wasn’t you
but your name it bore

I read this spark avid
as I often hope
it lit alight fire
where fire ne’er stoked

it lit alight fire
that died all too soon
leaving me evening
without leaving noon

what God has given
God taketh away
but this spark went black
before I could pray

now its dark shadow
grows near my heart
charring me silent
burning in dark

nothing remains
& all stays the same
all hope is gone
except the spark’s name

as eve on to night
I sense slipping off
what still remains
worth speaking of ?

I tell of you over
in my charred heart
I write you
all over
my cruelest spark
I sensed it all over
before it began
the night was all over
yet I was no man –

no man to know you
no man to dance
not one to hold you
no man to glance

knew men to kiss you
know men with a chance
I’m not among them
I just can’t dance

yet
you come from my pocket
when I’m all alone
your dark light can’t guide me
– but it is home.

I know I can’t have you
though I simply must
so it seems strange :
in your warmth I trust

I feel you nearby
while I roam this mess
I saviour your words
yet live less and less

I live less and less
with friends & at work
live less and less
with your cruel curse

please fall back upwards
to choke this black fire
that all on its own
just can’t seem to die

don’t singe me so freely
with all hope so gone
burn me to ashes
& leave me alone.

– B.M. Winter 2005

My present journal, by the way, is called the Second Black Book. It is my fifth journal:

I: ctr + alt + del

II: ctr + alt + del 2

III: the Black Book

IV: the Green Journal

V: the Second Black Book

Cheers & Good Night.

As part of selling myself off to You, my invisible readership, I will be posting a small selection of entries from my most recently completed Journal, the Green Book.