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A Post-Budget Announcement Discussion About Postemotional Society, Post-Drinking to Excess On a Tuesday Night

Tahlia Palmer: Steady Eye

A Post-Budget Announcement Discussion About Postemotional Society, Post-Drinking to Excess On a Tuesday Night

Andrew Ryan

I am sitting in the lounge room of my old friend’s parents’ house.

He’s gone to bed now, which is best, because of how rough it was all starting to get… after much harassing, I finally acquired the Wi-Fi password: “DUDE, SERIOUSLY, I ACTUALLY HAVE TO DO SOME WORK NOW.” He knows what I do. He’s seen it in many different situations, over a few years. But he couldn’t just Give Me The Wi-Fi Password without a fucking fight. I don’t know what he was playing at.

He’s the only person I have ever been able to play music with, and tonight we broke the keyboard we were playing on for ages because of (his) drunken revelry. He broke his amazing Xbox setup on which we were playing Skyrim (a ridiculous huge screen because his parents invested in that screen for whatever it is they watch when they watch things) because of that same drunken revelry.

Then he threw all the couch-rugs out on to the driveway, in what changed from drunken revelry to straight-up distain and anger, frustration with the world, frustration with society, frustration with Perth, trying to get words out about fake compared to real… well beyond a fun-silly time; deep in to something that started to get really, really real.

He tried really, really hard not to get real, for a while there. I wished he had been real from the beginning. I don’t know if I was being real. I am being real now.

He went back inside and grabbed the ornate art-nouveau style glass lamp from the room I am now sitting in, and was about to throw it out on to the drive-way too, but I slammed the flyscreen door in his face from the outside and yelled: “NO [INSERT NAME HERE]. YOU DON’T ACTUALLY WANT TO DO THAT”.

He hung his head, put the lamp on the floor of the hallway, and came outside to smoke a cigarette with me. I don’t remember exactly what happened after that (post-intense wind-down, my mind fucking spinning), but I know we had a conversation about communism, socialism, global history and personal view points that didn’t result in anything fulfilling, we got drunkenly confused but we couldn’t stop drinking that Jameson, and then he fucked off for a while, traipsed through vacant lots and empty alleyways, only to come back with the claim that he had murdered someone.

He didn’t have any blood on his hands or clothes, so I didn’t believe him when he said that. I’ve known the guy for a long time. I don’t think he has murder in him. We poured another drink.

I know that he really did want to smash that ornate lamp all over the driveway. I know that I would have loved to see that happen. Maybe if it weren’t art-nouveau style I wouldn’t have stopped him (because sentimentalism/respect, perhaps (Aubrey Beardsley maybe only???)). I also know that he really would have thought about murdering someone, at least in concept, and maybe that someone was himself, given that he feels he doesn’t really know himself, and he’s angry about that, and wants to find that self, somewhere, where all the other people go to find those things (India, South America?), because, like, fuck man, it seems like a good place to start. Maybe, that someone he murdered was me, in his heart, because I was all up in his space stopping him from breaking the lamp… but who’s to say what’s what when you’re creatively obsessed and you can’t stop making things but you don’t know what to do with it and you live with your parents in the hills of Perth without a car and you don’t know what exactly you want to do with your life (he and I are in similar mid-late-20’s boats, with almost exactly-matching-coloured+textured oars) and you don’t really want to be here but it’s hard to get anywhere else because self-perpetuating cycle of frustration-drinkingtoexcess-frustration etc…

This is a really long introduction to a concept I’ve recently come across, one that I believe is worth using in your reading of what’s going on in Australia, and what’s going on in the hearts/minds of those who drink too much. The concept is that of a “postemotional society”, posited by the Polish sociologist Stjepan G. Mesytovic.

Viewing this entire thing we live in as a postemotional society, we see that our emotions are not really all they should be. They are muted compared to those who came before us, and are manipulated by the powers-that-be in order to feel safe in it. “A new hybrid of intellectualized, mechanical, mass-produced emotions has appeared on the world scene.” Emotions are not dead. It’s just hard to work out what is real and what is false when we encounter them. Hard to work out how much of it is what we really feel, compared to what we have been told we should feel, or taught to feel. Taught to feel victimised by historical injustices instead of the current choices made by politicians who should know better, for example…

He claims that the majority of us suffer from “compassion fatigue”; what this means is that generally, we’ve all seen way too much, and we feel that we can’t do anything to change anything that is really, really shit, so many of us can’t think about it. Any of it. To live in a state of blissful political ignorance is a desire I have seen come up time and time again amongst my creative friends, is something I used to feel myself, and it exists in the attitudes of many Australians… you see them in social media and on tv and in the supermarkets… “It just doesn’t affect me, or anyone I know, so I don’t think about it, you know?”

I’m pretty sure that is why this government came in to power. We all attempt to get back to ignorance in our own ways.

Back in the day, intellectuals with a gear to grind against a political standpoint would run over to where it was happening and fucking fight against that thing they hated. With guns. Does that happen now? Not really. Sure, attempts are made to politicise creative output, pen/paintbrush/guitar/computer is mightier than the sword styles, and I acknowledge that we are hardly dealing with a Fascist regime, but it’s that long tradition of complete rationalism that we are used to thinking is good for us and our society (I am unsure where I stand on this at the moment) that leads us to be like “Welllllll I’d rather write a song than put my mortality on the line and shoot the fuckers in their mean faces”.

I’m not saying violence is the answer. Not at all, and I’m certainly not saying that non-violence is cowardly, or anything like that. I don’t want anyone to die for politics. I’m not a violent pinko. But if people START dying because of political choices, if more people go hungry, if more people can’t afford to get to the doctor, if more people are denied access to good education or go fucking hungry while they’re attempting to better themselves through education… well, I’ve heard it said that no revolution starts until the middle classes get hit by the injustice long felt by those in the lower classes. And I reckon that miiiiiight be starting; mayyyyyybe we’ve seen the beginning with the announcement of this budget.

That being said, I fear that credit-card culture will probably keep staving off the worst of it for many in the middleclass. Just gonna keep having to open minds up to the idea of something more than a two-party political system I suppose. I came across a forum that will be held on May 20th in Perth, perhaps if your frustration with the newly announced budget is making you react anywhere between muted-flustered-sighing-at-the-computer and straight up throwing your cup of coffee across the room and kicking the fridge, you might like to check it out: “What would a People’s Budget look like?” Scott Ludlam is one of the speakers. Most accessible politician in the country. Left-wingers doin’ it for the people.

I would like to talk more about postemotionalism, but I’ve only just found and started to read Mesytovic’s book on the subject. But, two chapters in and I can feel it influencing a changed perspective, one that works for me, at least right now. Thank fuck for sociological thinkers. I hope you guys are alright. Seriously, you should think about going to that talk.