Time for Your Brain Flattening!
Seemingly every day, this country produces another horror that highlights its antipathy toward learning, literature, art, and anything that could possibly let people imagine a world better than our current one.
The most glaring example is what’s happening in Florida where teachers are removing all books from classrooms and being instructed to cover up any that aren’t pre-approved by the state’s far-right overlords under their “Stop WOKE act” (lol).
This obvious and enraging attempt to stop kids from learning is rightfully receiving a lot of attention, but I think it must be contextualized in the larger anti-intellectualism in the United States today.
The Information Age, which has become the Algorithm Age, has forced a flattening of all discourse into its lowest common denominator form so that it may be viewed and related-to by the largest number of people. This is not because it is natural for us to relate to each other in this way, but because it is profitable for a few companies and individuals.
To be blunt, this ruins art. This ruins literature. It makes sense that people seem to have very low media literacy right now—both in the sense that they cannot tell fact from fiction and in the sense that anything that does not fit into their worldview becomes worthy of criticism or cancellation. It makes sense people thought Lydia Tár was a real person. It makes sense not because there is a Republican war on information, or art, or reading (though there obviously is), but because the current economy of capitalism requires technologies that deprioritize deep thinking, introspection, nuance and empathy.
As with most fascistic policy, the Republican war on desire and difference is just the sharpest edge of a much larger weapon, in this case a Brain Flattening weapon. That weapon includes not only the batshit politicians, but algorithms that generate substandard art and discourse and literature, that flatten all taste so that it may be relatable to the most people, and produced for the lowest possible cost.
The Republican war on basically everything good only makes sense in the context of a culture that is profoundly ambivalent toward deep art and literature, that is ambivalent toward the entire concept of interiority and nuance.
It is in this context that we must think about mental health.