Kipling, Conrad and Robert Louis Stevenson all address the colonial experience through a hermetically sealed bubble of subjective, individual unreality. Alex Garland in The Beach, Chuck Palahniuk in Fight Club and Bret Easton Ellis in American Psycho all explore the emptiness of bourgeois ideology in modern urban man within this same bubble, frequently arriving at the most reactionary and hedonistic of places. Why are they reactionary?
Let’s take a novel as an example. Ellis’s novel The Rules of Attraction consists entirely of stream-of-consciousness rantings from a revolving door of different narrators. As might be expected, each narrator has his/her own voice and subjective take on things.
The characters themselves are all incredibly empty and tainted by what can only be called “selfishness,” and they all find solace in hedonism through drug abuse and promiscuous sex. Do I even need to say all of them are secretly depressed and feel hollow, corrupted and lost?
What does this plot mean? Either this is supposed to be a representation of the state humanity under bourgeois ideology finds itself in (which would be a progressive work), or, more likely, it is meant to be a moralistic social critique of the state of young people today with the idea that they should “correct themselves” by falling back into the places alloted for them by the dominant social order.
Fight Club fares even worse. It starts off as an idealist “liberal” critique of consumerism, which then evolves into a promotion of primitivism and secular humanism, and then of course takes its petty-bourgeois ideas to their logical conclusion at the end, where it becomes an essentially fascist and militarist work.
Most entertainment today does this sort of thing — showing a world that has no meaning with all the class interests and prejudices that entails.
Never have intellectuals and artists displayed the hubris they show here, attributing to themselves the power to arbitrate all meaning. In the postmodernist movement, their celebration of complexity and ambiguity becomes a form of boundless egoism. Richness of meaning, which sounds good to most of us, cannot take the form of no limits on meaning, which would amount to meaninglessness.
For more information, see: Samuel Beckett. (Yes, ANY of his works.)
As Marx said, the dominant ideas of any era are the ideas of its ruling class. What does this culture say about the class nature of our society and what class interests does this movement represent? It is a petty-bourgeois, or small landowner or producer, way of thinking.
Why is this? Generally speaking, the petty-bourgeoisie, when tackling a problem, thinks in a subjective and one-sided way.
He does not practice Marxist dialectics, which analyzes things concretely and rationally from every possible angle in order to get an objective and complete picture of reality, but instead starts from his own wishes, preconceived notions and subjective desires about how actual conditions should be.
People who live in imperialist countries, intellectuals or more privileged strata of society (wealthier people, whites, petty-bourgeois) who are detached from the concrete conditions of reality often think in this way, because they have only book smarts and lack practical knowledge.
What the idealists, the postmodernists and the “free speech” advocates fail to understand is that a man’s mind is not his own. Who would deny that in each society throughout history man has operated in personal relations independent of their own will?
One of the chief discoveries of the science of Marxism, and materialism in general, is: it is not consciousness that determines reality, it is reality that determines consciousness. To imagine that the mind alone, in this case the individual mind, and the will, in this case that treasured idealist concept of the “free will,” can change reality based only on its own individual wishes is the most vulgar form of bourgeois and capitalist ideology.
How is this inherently capitalist ideology? Since subjectivism and relativism (“nothing is true, it’s all just in your mind”) is the logical ideology of late industrial capitalism, where individualism has taken its toll and everything becomes dependent on what you think, rather than what exists. This sort of thinking is also beneficial to capitalism, since it fuels the “I can make the world my own” attitude of the small producer.
This is reflected especially in the idea that scientific and materialist minds are somehow “intolerant” or “imposing” by subjecting others’ beliefs to the scientific method. This view ignores the fact that it doesn’t matter at all what one thinks of reality; what matters is what is objectively true and what is not.
The argument is frequently made that if the individual believes it hard enough or passionately enough, then it must be true. Hence, “religion is objectively true for religious people.”
Putting aside the fact that this so-called “objective truth” is therefore neither objective nor truth, this whole capitalist and postmodernist way of thinking digs its own grave.
To expand on this, here are a few key points to consider, that MUST be conceded:
Reality functions and exists outside man’s own individual mind. This must be a given, since if one individual dies, reality does not cease to exist. Therefore reality is separate from the individual.
Reality is not changed by the individual mind alone. If someone is falling from a cliff, wishing it is not so does not make it stop. Similarly, no matter how hard you wish it, you cannot push your hand through a solid wood table. You can imagine it, but the fact remains that your molecules repel the molecules of the wood. Even if you got two people together, one who admitted he could not pass through walls, and one who was absolutely convinced he could, the fact could still be shown objectively that both of them were incapable of it. The man who believed he could pass through walls would not be able, materially, to cross into the next room.
If reality is separate from the individual mind, and is not affected by it, we must then admit that the two can disagree and be completely parallel.
If we admit that the two can disagree, then there must be such a thing as concrete objective truth and mere fantasy. If the desires of the mind were the same as reality, then they could never be separate.
Therefore, what is true and existing can only be measured not in wishes, but in matter.
Finally, if all of the above is true, then we must say that not everything the individual mind believes is true, and that in order to be proved true it must pass the scientific method.
From these points, we can see that there are perceptions that are correct, right and actually existing, and there are those that are incorrect and not actually existing.
Logically, if something cannot be weighed or measured, it does not exist. Otherwise the very concept of “not existing” becomes moot, since the sole definition of “not existing” hinges on not being able to prove that it DOES exist.
Why? Because it is impossible to prove a negative. It is impossible for me to prove that something can’t be done.
Likewise, it is impossible to prove that something does not exist. So the only definition that there can be for not existing is the absence of proof that it does exist.
For example, it would be impossible for me to prove that there are not pink dragons flying everywhere, except for me to point out the absence of material evidence: no sight of them, no feeling of wind from their wings.
Conclusion: the capitalist ideas of relativism and postmodernism are bankrupt. Reality exists outside the individual mind, and there are right ideas and wrong ideas, as well as true and false ideas.