The kingdom of hysteria stretches as far as the eye can see. From the grey plains of printed media through to the decadent and delirious realms of social media, everything has become drenched in it. The twenty first Century unravels in increments of technological advance locked in step with social decay and deprivation of every kind. There is rampant solipsism on one side and earnest politicking on the other, there is a grey area of a very loud nothing very much in the middle. Exaggeration defines the discourse of everything from holidays to sickness, to social ills and injustice. Words such as humble, humility and mild have become redundant; there is no volume to the meek. In the kingdom of hysteria it is he who shouts loudest that gets the most likes.
This Century really began when two planes smashed into two towers and changed the world. Everything before 9/11 was just millennial hangover. In terms of global events September eleventh was without precedent. Never before had such a spectacular and devastating event been seen from so many angles by so many. The precursor, of course, is the Zapruder film which captured the Kennedy assassination and electrified a generation. One minute and twenty six seconds of low resolution camerawork heightened by its uniqueness, singular and almost mythical in its depiction of a culturally significant event. 9/11 was bigger. Multiple angles repeated from multiple media platforms, wall to wall coverage for weeks on end. This was disaster and atrocity packaged up neatly into one coherent package, the ultimate news story set against an impossibly cinematic clear blue sky. And put on repeat. Everything after is, on some level, just trying to be bigger.
Brutal wars and economies that bloat and burst and roll back leaving only scummy residue at the high water mark, causes fought and forgotten, holidays in the sun; all of it important. All of it not as important as what comes next. We’re in the pressure cooker now, on the up-ramp and everybody is shouting about how great their lives are or how shit their job is. Nobody is just doing alright, at least not that they’ll share. It’s not relevant to be alright, it’s just not as important. Nobody takes a selfie in a mediocre room unless it’s too show off how great they look or how gruesomely injured they are. Everyone has an agenda which is infinitely more important than anything anybody else could possibly have to say. The days of discretion are as jobless as VHS, an angular lump with no slot to fit. There just isn’t the machinery for that flickering kind of romance anymore.
Intellectuals and that define ours as the age of information and information saturates our everything. It’s blasted at us from all sides with increasing hostility and we adapt to it in the way that people do but the voice of reason is a quiet one and easily drowned out. So too are the voices of morality and decency. The internet, the web, the matrix, the whatever you call it, is in its adolescence and it’s loud and it can turn in an instant. This is a new frontier for humankind one that will fast become tamed by the suits and the smiles and harnessed for “the greater good” whatever that maybe and whoever that may serve. We are crying out to be manipulated in one way or the other. We’ve become a people whose compassion is momentarily piqued by tragic photos shared down a newsfeed and then cast off in favour of Candy fucking Crush. It’s all the same, it’s all just pixels. It’s about shouting the loudest and that is all it’s about.
In the kingdom of hysteria the Daily Flail is the most popular newspaper and every morning it screams something terrible about something or other. People, it seems, need this kind of energising just to get through the day. Why is that? It’s almost as if focusing everything down into a newsprint slick arrow of a headline allows that hysteria valve to wheeze open; if everybody else is buying into it… And from here the only way is bigger. More outrage, deeper sadness, higher class scandal, higher pitched support of the flavour of the month. A million dead children if it sells the rag.
Late Capitalism has revealed itself to be nothing more than a carnival barker selling tickets to the freak show concealed in the house of mirrors. We’re trapped in the kingdom of hysteria alright and we’re going down shouting as loudly as we can.