Friday, August 19, 2016

Everything Was Explained and Nothing Even Mattered

In between readings of Chicken Soup for the Soul and 80s synth and 90s baggy jeans and tape cassettes and business meetings it was easy to see that a cottage industry for self-help had become ingrained in our culture, an individualist, post-modern rejection of modernist trappings of self, people seeking a voice to identify with and create an ego but wanting the educational abstractness of a layperson. So people turned to self-help to guide them and create an identity and find a guide that spoke on a level that rejected the rigidity of textbooks and academia, the irony of course being that the authors, the successful, became the ivory tower, "gurus" turned into millionaires by simply displaying an ability to project their modernist interpretation of self into the postmodernist rejecting of self the readers promulgated.

What the 21st century did to the self-help industry is remarkable in that it made it even more superflat, more heterogeneous, and yet still shackled to the inherent limitations of "This is Me, So To it Will Be You." That has not prevented the explosion in content, the Medium posts, the listicles, the Facebook shares and the Tumblr reblogs, in direct contrast to claims of the commonality, now, of post-postmodernism. Concurrently, truly, the self can be reimagined through the lens of another completely distinct from financial attainment and educational attainment, our self-help can come from anyone or no-one, an expert, a teen, a comic, a blog, a rejection of not only establishment thought but anything that could aptly be related to it. But again, what is a rejection of an ivory tower if it becomes the ouroboros.

The industry might claim that in its current construction, it has become more deft, more accurate, more knowledgeable, but the base problems remains. If all we are is our experiences, our background, our perspective, as a postmodernist or a modern (but not modernist) practitioner of 21st century identity politics might ascribe to, then surely there is almost nothing these things can do for us, these self-help teachings, these guidelines of random passerby, these "17 ways to have fun in your 20s." It feels, distinctly, like a new bourgeois, peddling not power over establishments, but power over individuals, looking for affirmation that yes, they were right along, while the customers look for ways to accrue the same affirmation; if they only follow these simple steps. All the while, nobody is all the more learned for it.

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