by Alex Romeo
Anarchist and Performance Artist
This is my contemporary spin on the ideas of one of my favorite philosophical schools from antiquity—the Cynics. They were the bad asses of the ancient world and we still have so much to learn from them.
As the philosopher Harry Frankfort writes: “One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted.” (“On Bullshit”)
American society is pervaded by bullshit. It affects just about every seemingly important aspect of our lives—politics, religion, family life, education, the arts…you name it. And bullshit in American society is so omnipresent that there seems to be no escaping it.
From the moment that we are born to the moment that we die, we have purveyors of bullshit telling us how we should live our lives, what kind of education we should have, who we should associate with, who we should love, how we should raise the children that they automatically assume everyone should produce, even how we should die.
These masters of bullshit have determined the exact formula for “happiness” in life:
- Always do what you’re told by “legitimate” authority (parents, teachers, preachers).
- Obey the rules of society even when the rules seem petty, capricious or even unjust.
- Go to school simply to get a job simply to make money.
- Get married to a respectable partner (attractive, professional, and of the opposite sex), and spawn 2.5 children who have the same potential for upward mobility that you do.
- After the kids are born, try to pretend at least to believe that there is some kind of higher power that rules over the universe (preferable the good old Judeo Christian God) and go through the motions of pretending to worship that higher power…if only for the sake of the kids!
- Make enough money to (1) get a house with at least four bedrooms and two baths in the “nice” part of town, (2) have at least one SUV park conspicuously in your driveway, and (3) go on regular vacations with the kids to Disneyworld or some other equally vapid amusement spot.
- By the age of 40, your main focus in life should be to assure that you always have more than your neighbors. This is the sacred rule of American society.
- Never admit that your life feels empty and pointless, because then you’ll have to do something constructive about changing it.
- Die without being too much of a burden to anyone else (i.e., in a hospital, cared for by professionals)
If you do all this, the masters of bullshit assure us that you can’t help but be happy…and, if you’re not, it’s your own damned fault.
What utter and complete nonsense. Following these sorts of rules is certainly possible, but only at the cost of your soul. You’ll become fat, lazy shallow, stupid, and self-absorbed just like the vast majority of Americans who are too blind to see through the bullshit around them.
So what’s the solution?
Scorn and rebellion.
Make it a point in your life to ridicule and reject everything that the purveyors of bullshit tell you is so very important in life. Scorn is your weapon: use it like a warrior entering battle against the forces of evil. Mock those who dare to tell you how you should live your lives and spit on their disgusting bourgeois platitudes. Once you’ve convinced yourself that all social rules, norms, and values are mere bullshit, you are half-way on the road to liberation: your mind is now free of the chains dragging it down.
But something more is still required.
You have to start thinking—perhaps for the first time in your whole goddamn life—about how YOU want to live, about what will truly bring YOU happiness and meaning in life. This is where you become really dangerous. This is where you become the ultimate societal rebel and outlaw. For a society like ours—so corrupt, so unjust, so vicious—can’t survive unless all of its citizens buy into the bullshit it spews and live their lives in sterile conformist fashion.
Once you start to say, “No fucking way” and you begin to live life the way you really want to, you become the enemy of all the purveyors of bullshit. Your mommy will ask why you’re not already married at the age of 30, your friends will make fun of you because you don’t have a high-paying job like they do, the high priest at the temple will point his finger at you and call you “heretic”.
So what! You can handle it. And once you become liberated from all the bullshit of our society, then you will truly be a force to be reckoned with. You’ll stand tall, armed with the knowledge that YOU are living YOUR life in a way that is totally natural and harmonious to YOU. At that moment you become like a god among men—someone truly worthy of being admired for taking total responsibility for his or her own life.
But you won’t do this will you, because you’re so terribly afraid. You’re afraid to reject the bullshit that is swallowing you up and become a true rebel. And so you will live your life like all the other bloated, silly, bores around you and die never knowing what might have brought you true happiness.
How terribly sad.