Tuesday, October 14, 2008

:) OR :(

I was reading about "commodification" and I was thinking how smiling face has become a commodity in our culture, which would probably explain the baffling indifference I feel when I see a smiling face. I exaggerate a little here, but you get the idea. Of course one can't deny the existence of a real smiling face but how is one to make sure it is authentic and not one of the smiling faces of advertisements, media, hospitality & PR people which surround us and assault our senses from every side?

In The Man Without Qualities, Musil says that (I paraphrase) in our modern world experiences have made themselves independent of people. They have gone on stages, in books, into reports of research institutes and explorers..and even when they are not objectified in this way, they are always up in the air; who can say today that the anger one feels is really his or her anger? Musil calls this "a world of qualities without a man". So the smile doesn't belong to the person who is doing the smiling. It is just a borrowed smile, plucked from the air.

The first step is the thingification of thoughts and feelings which the capitalist culture then transforms into mass produced commodities and cliches. From human experience to hallmark cards, that is the trajectory of so-called "late capitalism"! I suspect Pain would be hard to commoditise and sell, so there is probably one refuge if one wants to own one's experience. As the female character in the Japanese film "Audition" says, "Words create lies, only pain can be trusted." Though I think if you see too many art-house movies these days you will realize that even pain is being marketed and sold to cater to the discreet masochism of the bourgeoisie (exactly the sentiments about pain I expressed above). All this is exaggeration of course, but only slightly.

Not entirely gratuitous picture above is of Sandrine Bonnaire in A Nos Amours. She occasionally smiles too.

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