I've become increasingly interested of late in the concept of addiction, construed widely,where addiction is (roughly speaking) repeatedly acting in a way that only fulfils one's first-order desires rather than second- or third-order, and so results in repeatedly doing things that one doesn't really want to do (although, in one sense, one does 'want' to, of course).
So, aside from the extremely obvious (heroin, cigarettes, extreme alcohol intake), I woudl suggest that modern life bombards us with possible addictions, to the point that it confuses and disorients so many people from what they really want that it leads to mass low-level unhappiness/search for 'meaning'.
So these addictions would be connected to...the internet, 'casual' sex, facebook/email/twitter, TV, 'fun' as a catch-all, uninterrogable excuse-word for flight from life, TV, dieting, low-level 'going down the pub most nights' alcoholism, holidaying to 'escape' or 'chill out'....and, more controversially perhaps, romantic love as a panacea.
Also, who has written well on this kind of thing?
My mate worked on a Teens Hooked on Porn show for bbc - with internet it must be easy for people with no physical outlet for their desires (socially awkward teenagers) to come to relay on consuming images instead?
Naomi Wolf wrote an article for the Guardian about this recently, as I recall. It had flaws, I thought, but was spot on on many issues about how constant porn (and general sexual/'perfect body' imagery) has transformed the nature of desire.
William Burroughs made an entire career writing about just this. More on the angle of the addiction/need pyramid being analogous to virtually all systems of control. Perhaps not specifically relevant to the particular issues you are bringing up, but on a basic level of the generative and intrinsic nature of addiction, certainly.
Originally Posted by baboon2004
Last edited by Sick Boy; 21-04-2009 at 12:55 PM.
From Burroughs' Deposition: Testimony Concerning A Sickness:
I have seen the exact manner in which the junk virus operates through fifteen years of addiction. The pyramid of junk, one level eating the level below (it is no accident that junk higher-ups are always fat and the addict in the street is always thin) right up to the top or tops since there are many junk pyramids feeding on peoples of the world and all built on basic principles of monopoly:
1--Never give anything away for nothing.
2--Never give more than you have to give (always catch
the buyer hungry and always make him wait).
3--Always take everything back if you possibly can.
The Pusher always gets it all back. The addict needs more and more junk to maintain a human form . . . buy off the Monkey.
Junk is the mold of monopoly and possession. The addict stands by while his junk legs carry him straight in on the junk beam to relapse. Junk is quantitative and accurately measurable. The more junk you use the less you have and the more you have the more you use. All the hallucinogen drugs are considered sacred by those who use them -- there are Peyote Cults and Bannisteria Cults, Hashish Cults and Mushroom Cults --"the Sacred Mushrooms of Mexico enable a man to see God" -- but no one ever suggested that junk is sacred. There are no opium cults. Opium is profane and quantitative like money. I have heard that there was one a beneficent non-habit-forming junk in India. It was called soma and is pictured as a beautiful blue tide. If soma ever existed the Pusher was there to bottle it and monopolize it and sell it and it turned into plain old time JUNK.
Junk is the ideal product . . . the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary. The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy. . . . The junk merchant does not sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client. He pays his staff in junk.
Junk yields a basic formula of "evil" virus: The Algebra of Need. The face of "evil" is always the face of total need. A dope fiend is a man in total need of dope. Beyond a certain frequency need knows absolutely no limit or control. In the words of total need: "Wouldn't you?" Yes you would. You would lie, cheat, inform on your friends, steal, do anything to satisfy total need. Because you would be in a state of total sickness, total possession, and not in a position to act in any other way. Dope fiends are sick people who cannot act other than they do. A rabid dog cannot choose but bite. Assuming a self-righteous position is nothing to the purpose unless your purpose be to keep the junk virus in operation. And junk is a big industry. I recall talking to an American who worked for the Aftosa Commission in Mexico. Six hundred a month plus expense account:
"How long will the epidemic last?" I inquired.
"As long as we can keep it going. . . . And yes . . . maybe the aftosa will break out in South America," he said dreamily.
If you wish to alter or annihilate a pyramid of numbers in a serial relation, you alter or remove the bottom number. If we wish to annihilate the junk pyramid, we must start with the bottom of the pyramid: the Addict in the Street, and stop tilting quixotically for the "higher ups" so called, all of whom are immediately replaceable. The addict in the street who must have junk to live is the one irreplaceable factor in the junk equation. When there are no more addicts to buy junk there will be no junk traffic. As long as junk need exists, someone will service it.
Thanks, that's interesting.
"2--Never give more than you have to give (always catch
the buyer hungry and always make him wait)."
Interestingly, some/many modern forms of addiction/addiction-engendering situations overload the 'buyer' with product, and feed the addiction with infinite choice (eg music, supermarket products, internet porn, casual sex), thereby disabling his/her ability to make a choice or stick with any one thing.* I suppose these feed ruthlessly on the human weakness of indecision/infidelity, while facebook and email and texting etc feed ruthlessly on another human weakness, that of insecurity.
Edit: Of course, infidelity and insecurity are intimately linked...
* and dating websites etc are extending this behaviour even into areas that many consider inviolable/semi-sacred.
Last edited by baboon2004; 21-04-2009 at 01:10 PM.
A lot of consumer culture is the illusion of choice though I find. The supermarket is a good example because while the supermarket may be the size of an airport hanger with every conceivable imagining and re-imagining of brand name food products it won't change the fact you are still in a supermarket, and still paying roughly the same amount you'd pay in any supermarket across the world.
it would be really easy surely to include things which are widely regarded as positive as well though, depending on your outlook.. music, culture, the arts blah blah..
Originally Posted by baboon2004
i suppose the extent to which you can justify their exclusion from lists like those is dependent on how able you feel you are to identify first/second/third order desires, or what it is that you really want to be doing, if such a thing is possible.
i always bear in mind the thoughts of a Hungarian ex-boyfriend of my ex(!), who'd grown up in east Hungary, and was flabbergasted by the increasing choice in Budapest (presumably even more now, 10 years on). The gist was "Why the fuck would anyone need 20 brands of toothpaste?"
Originally Posted by Sick Boy
I was more meaning the excess/misuse of such things (eg downloading music than one never gets round to listening to, watching TV shows that you know are shit and feeling unhappy with yourself afterwards, watching porn and realising you weren't really feeling that sexual anyways).
Originally Posted by UFO over easy
I am also particularly interested in the continual need to escape geographically from oneself/one's 'problems' (which may in fact be a euphemism for 'oneself'), as has been capitalised on hugely by the holiday/travel industry, and is so painfully obvious in the incessant 'why not?' nihilism of (my own) British culture.
Last edited by baboon2004; 21-04-2009 at 01:52 PM.
I thought the Naomi Wolf article was fantastic when I read it, and her point, or at least her intervention, has massive implications. Pornography is a disaster. I don't mean this in the way Andrea Dworkin means it, exactly --- in fact, I'm not even sure what I mean. I have a libertarian bent on this, or used to anyway, but I can't help but sense that something is a bit wrong here. The ease of access, the glut, the encroachment into almost all aspects of society, the subjugation of physical intimacy to explicit imagery. And the sheer volume of stuff out there! (Which, of course, spirals down to actual crime networks.) It's distorting the collective libido! You know, try being chaste these days. Or a virgin. It's practically criminalised.
And of course the normalisation of brutality, humiliation and physical violence against women... things may have been bad in Dworkin's time, but she'd shit a brick if she saw some of the stuff that goes on in 'mainstream' porn these days.
The excess of choice creates the need. I read somewhere (forgot where) that people addicted to internet porn often don't really masturbate more than casual users but spend hours and hours in search for the perfect video, downloading huge amounts but are never satisfied. So the overload is turned into a perceived scarcity.
Originally Posted by baboon2004
did you see 'hole in my heart' by lukas moodysson? unwatchable in some ways (lack of narrative made it a trying watch), but the central idea (porn as legitimised emotional rape, to cackhandedly express it) fits in here.
Originally Posted by droid
really well expressed. always the sense that there is something better out there. it's the same for music downloading, i think.
Originally Posted by Dunninger