The Age of Facelessness

Abstract: Edwin Thor describes in this article that he likes to speak out about things he feels strongly about, but that most people seem to prefer to hide behind the anonymity of what Edwin calls facelessness. Today's capitalist society does not seem to offer people anything more exciting than staged entertainment. Edwin refers to DonParagon's Vision of the Future to explain how we have ended up in this Age of Facelessness and to give some idea of what he looks forward to in future.



A. The Information Age

As traditional values break down, many people wonder what is happening to society. Newspaper reports speak of rising crime, while 'cornerstones of society', such as the family, religion, school, monarchy and cultural institutions such as philharmonic orchestras, are losing their relevance.

This is called the Information Age, in which people surf the WEB from their suburban home, in between the email sent to and from colleagues. Who still listens to the preacher in church or the teacher at school? Instead people obtain most of their information, knowledge, role models and moral standards from the electronic media.

More and more people are now also manipulating information at work using equipment such as computers, faxes and copymachines. Information is what seems to make an increasingly competitive society tick.

Many claim that all such technology and development make society impersonal, i.e. people passively withdraw inside their houses to watch TV, instead of meeting other people or otherwise engage in social activities. I acknowledge the decreasing relevance of traditional values and institutions, the focus on knowledge and information, and the commercialisation of activities that increasingly become exposed to global competition. But I don't want to go back, as the quality of most social engagements in the past was rather low anyway.

Today's society is an 'Age of Facelessness', better than the past, but without offering people anything exciting; I look forward to future times in which I feel that I make a difference.

B. The Age of Facelessness

It seems to me that fewer and fewer people dare to speak out about what they stand for. It seems to me that the majority of people hardly have an opinion on anything but the most trivial daily issues. Of course, there are topics that everybody seems to agree on, such as: What a wonderful performance of our team at the sportfield yesterday! or Did you see that fire on TV? How horrific!

These are of course examples of the purely conversational content that is presented on TV to give people something to talk about the next day when they meet colleagues or friends. TV is great at sensationalising any 'spectacular' events, that are in fact rather meaningless in the grander scheme of things.

C. DonParagon's Vision

DonParagon once gave a marvellous description of the way people go about in today's society in a state of mental paralysis (see Appendix). Nowadays, Don argues, property, contract, competition, tax, litigation and other law make it hard to take up any activity without ending up having to pay for this, rather than making profits. As a re sult, people who are active in some way, hide behind a corporate facade or blend in with consumer anonymity. Few take a stand, stand up and speak out; if they do, they haven't got much to say anyway. People avoid getting personally involved. It is so easy to become a nobody, a robot waiting for instructions. It seems far more attractive to join in with the daily routine on the treadmill of a faceless life.

In Don's Vision, success has shifted from the traditional use of force towards the practice of trade in a broad sense that has culminated in a full-blown capitalistic society. This is a good development as it has shown that peaceful methods are more efficient (apart from morally preferable) than the use of force.

But this development has also made that most activities people undertake, are now measured in financial terms. The competitive nature of business furthermore means that people are forced all the time to consider what is financially the best choice to make. For every action one undertakes, one can ask: Why do I do this? and the typical answer is: To be better off financially! And every time one does something, one must also ask: Is there soyneone else who can do the same thing better and cheaper? If this is the case, then it makes sense the let that other person do it. In this way almost everything becomes a trade, aimed at somehow gaining money. Today's capitalist society does not seem to offer people anything more exciting than staged entertainment. When everything is for sale, nothing seems to matter; people become passive consumers; indifference rules!

Don's Vision not only pictures how this all has come about, but also what we can look forward to in future times. Don believes that this very pressure to compete in the face of global exposure will mean that people will have to worry less about fraud, deceit and similar trickery in the future. The fruit of progress is a future with more safety, security and an enhanced standard of living that for most will be very easy to achieve.

Concepts such as improvisation and creativity and the expression of what one does like, will become more and more important in future; but not so much to make a profit, but for the sake of self-fulfilment, personal development, etc.

DonParagon has the following message on the topic of education: There is a world out there, waiting for all of us to participate. It will continue to go on, even without those who do not stand up. Most people are like sheep, they conform to the herd, guided by paralysis and ignorance. They are easy prey for the Government's educational rhetoric. Let us all arise, let's forget about the horrors of school and start living our lives! Let's no longer delude ourselves, but take control of our lives, decide what we want to do, where we want to live, follow our own aspirations, rather than to continue the path set out by education down this dead-end-road. Make contacts with people that are mutually beneficial, share your dreams, rather than to live in the Government's nightmare. (from: De-education - the Key to Society's awakening.)

I like to add the following: Throw off the faceless mask the Government has moulded over your face to hide any personality, talent and feeling! To speak out about what you stand for makes sense if you believe in optionality.


Appendix

Awakening from the mental Paralysis of today's Society

To a large extent, our society is asleep. We all have developed a certain apathy against crime, misery and bureaucracy, as if we personally have nothing to do with it. People can be attacked in the street without any bystander taking action. We see pictures on TV of people being starved and mutilated. In most cases, people comment that it is up to the Government to change the situation. We have put ourselves to sleep and any expectation that the Government will change the situation is, at best, a dream, but more likely a nightmare.

So, we all live in a suburban house, we mow the grass to make sure that our house does not stand out from the rest, we dress in a way that nobody takes offence, our clothes and appearance are casual; we do not look people ir the eye when walking down the aisle in the shopping centre. We try hard to become depressed, anonymous no-ones. The zero is the mark of today's culture, it is better to be nobody than to accept any talents, individuality or personality.

People who stick out their neck to check what is wrong get in trouble. They have to appear as a witness, they are reminded of their responsibilities. They are called troublemakers. Those who want to perform well are jumped on by the media. They may even enjoy their moments of celebrity, until they realise that they have become targets for beggars, freaks and criminals. And they will face heavy litigation whatever they do. But the media will love them even more.

The media focus on victims, disasters and accidents. For the media, bad news is good news. The media make heroes out of pathetic sport fanatics, foolish politicians and silly quiz-masters. The media create TV personalities that are presented as the solution to all problems. Today's society consumes talent, but it does not use it, it spits it out. In today's society, he celebrities are the victims, not those who show their creativity or talents.

(The paragraphs in this appendix are extracted from: De-education - the Key to Society's awakening)






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