Ours is a history of well-crafted deceptions elevating mere mortals to infamy, from Adam & Eve to Ponzi Schemes, Potemkin Villages and the Panama Papers, wielding power through convictions of the mind. It would be selling them short to call them lies (the stories or the actions they describe). Even with a moral compass, most of us look for ways to get ahead of others in the survival of the fittest, each building our own mini Trojan Horse. If lying is a survival strategy, it’s inherently part of every human embedded deep in our animal instinct, which we try to rise above by working together, building communities and compromise. But down to the molecular level wars never cease and so our battles rage, morphing through the current state of affairs while retaining the eternal conundrum- me or other. The full, whole truth (if there is one) is boring simply because it lacks imagination, which is why the best stories are partial and not whole truths.
The art of storytelling is in essence a mastery of pulling some truths and fictions together, building a foundation on which a credo is sold. Where a successful story is measured by the quality of its performance, the actual truth is irrelevant. There is no better place than the internet to achieve this kind of sublime experience, because it’s premised in virtual reality. The internet is the liar’s playground, where a nouveau-riche badaud-artiste savant niche taxes the heart out and soul out of the paisan essence they take from, replacing it with an orgasmically vapid two dimensional luster conversely addictive and monotonous. The result in effect is you’re so boring, you’re interesting.
How do things become the inverse of how we interpret them, especially when a functioning societal structure requires us to control our behavior and thoughts? Flexibility and adaptability takes us beyond what a truth is or isn’t. Now more than ever, the psychology of immediacy impacts our perception of the world and how we relate to one another. We need “it” now, and whether or not we get it, FOMO (organic or derived) drives us to move on to the next. The concept store is the current solution to the insatiable desires of the consumer. The consumer spends time and money to own a piece of their identity in a community. This is the new socialism, spending one’s capital gains as if sharing your wealth builds the self. Automated shopping tools selling a predetermined aesthetic presented as “personalized” emerge on your feed; another fragile form of unlearning self in favor of an image. This often results in objects looking nicer than they are, but you’re still satisfied because you know you own the “right” thing that adds to your “identity” (which you chose, right?). The story is more important than the truth. Just as we no longer remember phone numbers and our handwriting has gone to shit, soon we won’t even “choose” anything we buy because it will be chosen for us based on an algorithm. (Side note: on the other hand, these algorithms could help restructure our work lives if they used the data to match and connect people with jobs that best suited them based on actual interests and abilities rather than archaic resume and interview processes. It remains to be seen which direction this will continue- maybe both). In any event, in order to achieve one’s socio-economic goals, the replacement of origins with fitting interpretations is the catalyst for the stories one sells.
Rather the opposite of the Constitutional Peasant emerges Pagan Nouveau, the land of the High Peasant. As Venkatesh Rao puts it, “high peasant is not actually peasant; it’s a reconstructed fiction of peasant with high resources. Think of it as a pastoral art form”. A reimagining of the originally derogatory term coined by the Christian Church where rustic polytheism has been reclaimed as abundance, the High Peasant blesses the empowerment of the individual while collectively reconstructing new inclusive identities (latinx, womxn) that ceremoniously hold reverence for and accountability to people and communities, navigating new territory as makers, builders and witnesses of newly embraced ancestries. But the delicacy of this becoming sellable material has reached new heights, beyond veganism, lactose intolerance and gluten free diets, the new restrictions lie within the inversion of the story that’s being told, between the lines. Socio-political issues are now a consumer issue, and because our society is largely driven by consumerism this melding of identities unifies as much as it alienates, creating more ambiguity. Companies are willing to fight for black lives in the context of their business models depreciating, and people suddenly care to support local farm’s produce if it increases their follower count. The high peasant is a not an individual or a group, it’s a mentality adopted by foster minds who, if you look five years back, harbored a different look of mind completely.
In this era of thinly veiled aesthetics, lily pad hopping on a return to our roots rebranded as artists, there’s a mesh of subvarieties wafting in the wave: Practical Chic (utility begets beauty begets inutility), Rococo (I blame Grimes and Chloe Wise, respectfully) and Cottage Core. But where Wise performs an ironic societal commentary, we are overcome in an erotic array of foodporn as art with home-baked breads, luscious dripping flowers, visually plopping cakes on Brooklyn ceramics carefully laden on tousled linens, androgynous muses in friend’s paintings, mismatched vests and bucket hats sporting extra long unkept hair, lush, pouty lips, dancing in nature, angled dewy chins, fetishizing Mexican sunsets atop malnourished horses, strategic shirt slashes and tye dyed cotton, all hailing the glory of the repurposed…a burgeoning contrast to the self assured beauty of a vacant, gazing body.
We applaud ourselves for asking questions and posing with our domestic monetized hobbies, questioning the status quo like adolescents, but is any of this relevant to practical growth? Why aren’t we demanding government subsidies and funding for local farms and businesses to support the education and practice of making quality produce and paying people livable wages; people who are not just working for fun but for their livelihoods who should be able to create their own businesses instead of relying on another white man. Witness how fashion has the power to convert an entire generation to a set of values, and with that same power it fails to examine the ethics it capitalizes on. How can we truly work together to build communities and systems that last, creating structures and products that serve us in the longterm rather than us serving them. We’re so focused on the idea of sustainability and regenerative models while produce and products still lack substance, taste and efficacy. Does anyone eat a potato anymore, or is it all dollops, petals, gems and supper clubs paired with hand placements and afternoon sun?
As long as we live in a debt-based economy, we will prioritize monetary gain. Even with the urgency of climate change (which has found aesthetic value in this Pagan Nouveau), the only successful environmentally-conscious models will be in the interest of profit. To really have an impact and slow or reverse the damage we’ve done as a species, we need to restructure what incentivizes us on a societal level.
There are very few things that unify our country, but sugar is one of them. Sugar in the American diet seems to have made a comeback in recent years, somewhat surprising considering our strong cancel culture seething with wokeness which somehow fails to recognize that health is not the alternative, it’s the root of the matter. From chicken stock to soups, cereals to milk and meat alternatives, sugar is added to nearly everything, maybe especially the “health conscious” options, and nobody seems to raise a brow. We replace meat with impossible burgers but the carbon footprint remains the same- increases even.
Most packaging remains plastic, including those $7/bundles of locally harvested organic greens. Our agricultural industry is still so unregulated that people with time and money make researching a hobby, priding themselves in having the ability to make healthy choices by “knowing what’s out there”, when the general food industry standards should be significantly raised across the board for all, beyond organic and health food stores.
What if we defined ‘the economy’ as the way we take care of one another?
We seek to tell stories in a post modern branding culture because we miss our tribal roots. Beauty is not as beauty does; beauty looks and therefore is, and we are more beautiful than ever. It easily becomes an all consuming endeavor, stirring the inner narcissist and capitalizing on relevant values, leaving our subconscious thirst unquenchable. Are we falling for our own reflections and missing the meaning? This interplay of over-saturation and meaninglessness are at best memes and at worst mining at morality.
By oscillating between future and past, we still fail to congeal in the moment. Life is a synthesis of memories, experiences, stories and lessons passed down through generations, evolving in the moment. It isn’t about leaving what we used to be or becoming what we are not. It’s about breathing with our minds. Dolphins may remember previous generations through sand dollars, at least according to PCP user Timothy Wyllie in his interview with Hamilton Morris, but there is evidence to suggest that underwater mammal’s sonar transmissions are stored and passed through generations. Does water itself hold onto memory?
There is a growing need to find balance between autonomy and relying on the wisdom of others. Just as the biologist has specialized knowledge of how things grow on a scientific level not readily accessible to everyone but respected nonetheless, so should ancient wisdom of native peoples around the world. With the popularization of palo santo, homeopathic remedies, meditation and native yeasts, in the context of a christian mind frame, the concern seems to remain on repentance, washing away current sins to make room for new ones. It’s a cyclical, non-evolved proposition. We need to be careful we don’t appropriate these wise women’s traditions and ancient folklore without realizing the difference in context and intention. Not only is it disrespectful, it’s almost absurd to take everything literally. That’s not what those practices are about, they are about a deeper purpose and finding centeredness. These ideas are more like cues, guidelines for each person’s connection to self in an endogenous, fluid way, and no amount of therapy, meditation or holistic practice will change the inner compass if the context is still based on social or economic value.
In many cultures, sacred knowledge is not considered appropriate for all people. “In my day it was not your job to know everything,” the elder said. “You were told things that you were meant to know.” Indeed, in certain healing traditions, the very efficacy of a cure depends not just on the plants used, but on the user’s relationship to nature, their community, and the spiritual world. Read more about the Archive of Healing here.
If we “normalize” these influences in a practical way, I suspect they’ll become part of the quotidienne without the need to hype or overpromise. There will be interest, funding and understanding that’s integrated into the rest of post modern society. An example is Germany or France, first world countries that have long supported homeopathy and organics, as can be seen in the fantastic apothecaries where you’ll find mugwort or ibuprofen, Weleda or La Roche Posay alongside eachother at the user’s discretion. By presenting them in a less extreme light with educational support, one can find helpful, non invasive solutions and move on with their life.
By appropriating aspects of indigenous identities and practices out of context, we’re actually distancing ourselves from understanding them.
In the land of peptides, anti-allergen dogs, Tekashi 69, Tiktok decade revivals and hype over facts, we find a reimagined equality as the virtual and virtuous “Consumerican”. But if we use imaginary values in real world applications, does that mean our world is fake? We’re more flexible than ever, fluid supporters of whatever material is relevant, whenever it’s convenient. Preoccupied by the judgement of others, our heavily researched sophistication dulls our intuitive spontaneity, comprehensive understanding and respect of self, yet we reach further to put ourselves out for a like, a match or an NFT, props in the theatrical production of identity waging; a losing battle. We are in an evolutionary moment, pushing the curve unwittingly in one of two directions.