Thursday, 3 July 2014


The following piece was originally published in 2013; it then disappeared ignominiously, along with many other documents, when the Christmas Day Purge took place; it is hereby snatched from oblivion, in all of its morose splendor, and brought again to your attention, by unpopular lack of demand. - A.N.


In the echoing cadences of popular music, the alienated soul finds both the temporary buzz of entrancement and the all-too-familiar drone of his own spiraling hollowness. Hungering and thirsting for a sense of connection, for the comforting if illusory sensation that he is in fact, not alone, he instead most often detects sure affirmation of his utter isolation. Yet the hope always remains as insistent as the hooks of the songs which at first inexplicably captivate and compel his jaded heart. He may just be a thoroughgoing hopeless romantic beneath it all, but that doesn’t stop him from perpetually detecting the bullshit of romance.

Such a one has heard so many “Girl, you’re so beautiful” songs that his heart has turned to stone. He has been subjected to such a plethora of “Man, you’re such a man and oooh you sure know how to love me right” tunes that he’s been afflicted with a permanent case of the dry heaves. That men and women are suckers and fools, each in his or her own way vulnerable to blatantly vacuous praise if it flatters their egos, never ceases to fill him with revulsion. Yet he is even more possessed by bouts of self-loathing when he considers his own occasional weakness for the very same lines. After all, as They Might Be Giants once observed, “A woman’s voice on the radio can convince you you’re in love.” And this is certainly true, for, to quote Buddy Holly, “It’s so easy to fall in love”... and if you think you’re in love, then you pretty much are, sucker.

But much as he may detest the endless iterations on the standard “inane love song” which in one way or another has long dominated the radio airwaves, these are not what truly makes the alienated soul grind his teeth with rage and mutter fiercely fearsome oaths to himself under his breath. Rather, what really chafes his sensibility is not the phony love song, but the phony “encouragement song.”

Let’s face it: there are a lot of sad, lonely, desperate people in our world. The alienated soul knows this well enough, for he is one such person. But being one of the lonely ought never be confused with claiming solidarity with the lonely. The alienated soul is too proud to associate himself with any group, though he isn’t too proud to own his patheticism. He knows that he is despised and forgotten, an underground man, of little significance or regard, more an amusement to others than a legitimate force with which to be reckoned, a minor threat at best. But at the same time, he’ll take no psychological handouts, thank you very much. He knows that he’s on his own, and much as he may wish it were different, he’ll stay the course for the duration, serving out his time as a dutiful, purposeful prisoner, cultivating his garden and honing his craft all the while, shunning overt bitterness. If life is disappointing, complaining about it does no good; best to cultivate a stoical outlook and resolvedly accept your meager portion.

Yet how the pop singers of the world appear to fret over his lot in life! “All the lonely people, where do they all come from…./Where do they all belong?” wondered Paul McCartney a half-century ago. McCartney may have earnestly cared about the plight of the spiritually homeless, but it is clear that he had no proper empathy for them; rather, as is clear from his lyrics, the very existence of lonely people plainly bewildered him; poor Paul just didn’t know what to do with such folk, could neither grapple with their obscure origins nor figure out where to put them. While Eleanor Rigby is a song possessed of a certain forlorn power, this is largely due to the sheer brutality of the speaker’s candid observations of despair and futility concerning the destitute Eleanor and her well-meaning but hapless would-be rehabilitator Father McKenzie: “No one comes near… What does he care?... No one was saved.”

Most singers, however, aren’t simply content to reflect on what sad cases we lonely people are. Instead, they intend to give us sorry losers a pep talk, by assuring us that we’re not really losers… we’re winners who just don’t know it yet! Their assertions would be laughable—after all, they don’t know the people for whom they’re ostensibly so concerned—were it not for the grating effrontery at the heart of their absurd gesture of effusive compassion. They don’t want to “help”; they merely want to give the appearance of wanting to help, in order to score PR points in showing what caring, down-to-earth celebrities they truly are. “Everybody hurts sometimes, but hold on,” REM instructed us. (Yeah, thanks, you whiney-voiced faux-eccentric Micheal Stipe; now please shove off, faggot.)

Don’t you ever say you don’t like the way you are/ When you learn to love yourself, you’re better off by far,” aging New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre gushed to legions of gullible retards a few years ago. (Go choke on some “right stuff,” you prancing ponce.) Then there was the Whitney Houston abomination The Greatest Love of All, aptly covered elsewhere. (No rude words will be dispensed for Whitney, as verily, she has her reward.)

Most recently came Katy Perry’s Firework, a song in which the doe-eyed Christian girl-gone-bad breathily assures the listener of his infinite worth. Feeling down? Chin up, chap: all you have to do is “ignite the light and let it shine,” and you’ll “own the night like the Fourth of July, 'cause baby, you're a firework!"

What makes it infuriating, of course, is that we find ourselves wanting to believe her. Our quest to attain self-possessed stoical resolve founders for a second, for a minute, or for even longer, just because some pretty girl with a pretty voice tells us that things can be better if we only “believe in ourselves,” and “go for it.” The effort made to achieve dignity and balance is thus disrupted by the most exceedingly banal of platitudes, packaged in such a way as to appeal to our propensity to yearn for joy. We are undone by our hopefulness, and rendered abject schmucks. Our undying, seemingly un-killable hope fuels our rage, and in turn, somewhat paradoxically, enhances our despair.

"Aww, I thought I was a firework! Bummer..."


In my last dispatch, I discussed the psychological conundrum of the alienated soul vis a vis the common themes of relentlessly banal, hideously ubiquitous popular music, themes which are alienating enough to reinforce his deep-seated awareness of psychic dislocation, while at the same time somehow retaining enough allure to leave him helpless before his proclivity to succumb to the very wishful (and wistful) thinking which so often leads him to despise himself.

Such a one finds himself exhorted to feel good about himself (recall “Baby, you’re a firework!”) by his rulers, those plastic soulless phantoms who he’s quite aware couldn’t care less about him, even if they did know him from Adam, which of course they don’t. He recognizes that their pretense of compassion is absurd, an insolent slap to his face and a brazen insult to his intelligence, yet finds he cannot help but be sent at times into pangs of delusional delectation at the thought—“Wouldn’t it be nice?”—of being recognized, affirmed, and befriended by the likes of Katy Perry, et al.

"It says nothing to me about my life"
What such a one as he finds so vexing is the indomitable insistence of the inherent, ingrained human impulse towards desiring companionship, appreciation, and popularity, a propensity which runs directly counter to his need to preserve and safeguard his dignity and authenticity, in isolation if necessary. Awareness of this repugnant weakness is a particularly devastating blow to the alienated soul, who sets great store in maintaining his sense of pride, regardless of whether or not the world accepts him.

Sadly, stoicism—his favored palliative philosophical approach—isn’t in his genes, and doesn’t appear to run in his blood. No matter how hard he tries, he still finds that he wants to be respected, admired, and loved by those who now only ignore and—at best—condescend to him. He wants not only to be great, but also to be recognized for his ostensible greatness. Indeed, it is with no shortage of horror that he apprehends just how far he truly stands from his ideal self. It is sickening just how much he relies on affirmation from others to give himself a boost. Appalling indeed how a woman’s voice on the radio is all it takes to make him hope and yearn for the impossible, to the detriment of everything he holds dear.

Yes, he knows this much: he is wretched and contemptible. Yet an endlessly escalating cycle of self-loathing can’t be his final destination. Even while in the midst of riding his dolorously shame spiral, he well-enough recognizes that his self-generated anguish represents a dead end, one from which he must eventually rebound. And after all, he has always acknowledged his patheticism, even though it has been wrapped in a kind of pride. If the world sees him as a loser, he likes to think he wears his loserhood as a badge of honor. He can accept rejection; it’s little more than he’s ever known. But can he accept the fact that he still yearns for acceptance from his haughty tormentors, even while enduring the merciless slings and arrows of their scorn? Can he embrace his patheticism, even to the extent of acknowledging his own inescapable folly, in addition to the folly of the world?

Not bloody likely, I’m afraid. For where would that leave him? If he can’t fall back on his rebellion against the world, what does he have? If, beneath it all, he only yearns to be celebrated by the powers-that-be who now ignore him or hold him in contempt, then how can he face himself, much less the world?

Instead, the alienated soul finds himself yearning to “fix” himself. Maybe there is some lever or button that he can flip or push within his soul, which will turn off his desire to be liked and accepted. Perhaps he should do exercises, something like spiritual sit-ups, in order to strengthen his resolve, the better to become self-reliant and at last be freed from the futility of hope and the vanity of vanity.

If his folly is inborn, a part of his nature, he finds himself reasoning, then is it possible to change his nature? If a leopard can’t help being born with his spots, can he nevertheless find a way to peel them off, especially if they prove to be spiritually carcinomic? Our hero’s mind dashes to thoughts of a more radical cure than he’d previously entertained. Perhaps self-slaughter? Perhaps self-emasculation? Surely there is some way to target the root of the infernal problem, whether that root be lodged in the loins, the mind, the heart, or consciousness itself…Anything would be better than to continue in such a grim orbit around ephemeral vacuities, never even approaching his desired destination, stuck in miserable stasis.

The violence he has long felt towards the outside world, while in so sense mitigated in intensity, thus gets redirected inward. The alienated soul finds himself not just alienated from the modern world, but from himself. Both the interior and the exterior are in need of authoritative alteration, he concludes, but as with some interpretations of Islam, the inner-directed jihad now presents itself as the more essential one. Indeed, he senses the urgency with greater and greater bouts of ferocious delirium: Something must be launched into the very core of his being—a focused attack on that within himself which for so long has festered, working to undermine his resolution.

He thinks of Panic, the disarmingly mordant ironic 80s anthem of social upheaval and defiance by The Smiths. In that song, the disaffected speaker (Morrissey, natch) encourages open attack against the media establishment, specifically with reference to the purveyors of popular music. “Burn down the disco!” he commands us, adding that we should “Hang the blessed DJ, ’cuz the music that they constantly play…says nothing to me about my life.

All of what the great Morrissey speaks of here is true, without a doubt. His critique is perpetually relevant, no less so today than it was thirty years ago. Our rulers hold us at a distance, exploit us unmercifully before shoving us into the grave at a time of their convenience, even as they shamelessly keep us mesmerized in the interim with baubles, bread, and circuses. If we are men, we cannot—must not—tolerate such a state of affairs.

But it is not enough to burn down the (proverbial) disco or to let the (metaphorical) DJ dangle. We must also grapple with what makes us so uniquely vulnerable to such manipulation. Find it, seize upon it, slaughter it mercilessly. Hang the inner DJ, and burn down the disco in our soul.

Andy Nowicki, co-editor of Alternative Right, is the author of seven books, including Under the Nihil, The Doctor and the Heretic, Considering Suicide, and his latest, Beauty and the Least. He occasionally updates his blog when the spirit moves him to do so.

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