Thursday, August 10, 2006

Rationalised Contentment

Mark k-punk writes on the reflexive impotence that characterises the attitude of British youth. They are not merely apathetic or cynical about the state of the world, he writes, as
"they know things are bad, but more than that, they know they can't do anything about it. But that 'knowledge', that reflexivity, is not a passive observation of an already existing state of affairs. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. And guess what? They probably know that too."

I have been wondering what sort of worldview would account for the apparent apathy that exists amongst middle-class Australians. To engender any sort of passionate engagement or concern in conversation with these resigned people often feels like a battle not just lost, but taken up rudely, at the wrong time, when really, one shouldn't be so vulgar and naive as to talk about these things, when after all, it is abundantly clear - is it not? - that
  1. everyone is self-interested, caring only about interest rates and the daily grind;
  2. we can't do anything, because this is just a game played by politicians, and they are only interested in power;
  3. it has always been like this, there is no alternative.
If this is the doctrine - and I believe it is - then obviously it is - like reflexive impotence - a self-fulfilling prophecy. It needs a greater sophistication and development of analysis, however. We need to know how it interacts with outer-suburban hedonism, with Sunrise, talkback/breakfast radio, The Biggest Loser and The mX - and other key nodes of Australian culture.

And a name for this ideology? 'Rationalised contentment'. For if we were naturally happy, then we would not need to remark so much on why it is that we are content. The Australian middle-class does not merely justify being content. It seeks to justify the very assertion, that it is content. Desperately. Again and again. Because I'm in a good place right now, you know? I am happy being single / in a non-monogamous relationship / working casually / being a mother / being a working mother / being a stay-at-home mum / with a new career / playing the dating game / renting / with my body / just being me / ...

More to come...

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