Hungry for Nothing

“infants deprived of handling over a long period will tend at length to sink into an irreversible decline and are prone to succumb to eventually intercurrent disease. In effect, this means that what he calls emotional deprivation can have a fatal outcome. These observations give rise to the idea of stimulus-hunger, and indicate that the most favoured forms of stimuli are those provided by physical intimacy, a conclusion not hard to accept on the basis of everyday experience.

An allied phenomenon is seen in grown-ups subjected to sensory deprivation. Experimentally, such deprivation may call forth a transient psychosis, or at least give rise to temporary mental disturbances. In the past, social and sensory deprivation is noted to have had similar effects in individuals condemned to long periods of solitary imprisonment.” Eric Berne, Games People Play

I’ve been getting deep into game theory lately, my general understanding of cybernetic communication, Serres and Deleuze has led me to a subjective understanding that everything has a purpose at some level, which is a strange way of admitting that I’m interested in game theory. Now, admittedly, game theory does – to a certain degree – fall into the trap of taking itself as a privileged science/mode of theorization, one which believes it can answer every question within certain parameters without reliance on other sources. Though it does draw from biology and psychology, the overarching idea of ‘games’ themselves seem to be cut off from the reality they investigate. This isn’t where I’m going with this essay, but it does beg some thought.

This little piece is primarily on the notion of deprivation, social and sensory deprivation. It seems to me that the psychological effects of social and sensory removal from the social life of an infant are very much the same effects as when one takes away an adult’s toys, it’s just a question of complexity. What we’re witnessing, in the combination of an over-socialized, stimulated and sensed society with a globally imposed quarantine is an exercise in mass psychosis. It didn’t matter what the event was which finally allowed a societally justified ‘exit’ from the accepted quarantine, it only mattered that on a hierarchal scale, notions of social justice overrode the concept of public health and safety. Or in short, the enforced quarantine pushed us to a limit wherein we allowed our societal stimulus-hunger to take charge, overthrow our personal/subjective conception of x-risk, and place virtue-signalling prior to anything else.

These current events are not outside the spectacle, they are the spectacle. People did not exit quarantine as a means to eventually return to their preferred stimulus, they exited quarantine to partake in a stimulus which allowed them to pass off their idiocy as something moral. Partaking in these events is little more than watching TV, binging Netflix or getting black-out drunk for the sake of keeping one’s senses ticking over with just enough input to disregard the reality of their empty life.

So, why would one do this? Why would one enter into something which beneath its shell is just another repetition of all other events? Because modernity is the great narcissistic parent. It gives you a constant stream of stimuli and socialization, converts this into the idea of normality, makes this idea supreme, and then one needs only to turn on their homegrown guilt to be dragged back into this whirlpool of hypocrisy.

We are beginning to understand what would happen if we introduced a UBI. It’s been made clear from countless conversations that what one does for a living and what one is are becoming – or have become – entirely inseparable. Any divergence from the wake-work-entertainment-sleep loop is an entry for the latest form of existential crisis. Ultimately, an existential crisis is entirely reliant on what one considers their existence to be, and if you’re existence is largely empty entertainment, casual sex, social media and a 9-5 job a monkey could do, then your crisis starts once these things are taken away. These crises aren’t the grand ol’ crises of Kierkegaard or Nietzsche, they’re the new crises, based on having one’s toys taken away.

And if your existence is reliant on these toys and they are swiftly taken away, then what better way of regaining stability than simply moving the essence of what those toys were onto something which overrides the lockdown of existence itself, namely, anything deemed by society to be an acceptable replacement. Which is basically whatever happens to be next and is ‘thought’ about collectively for a brief moment. You’re quickly drawn back into modernity without ever realizing you left, or could have left.

The problem with this idea of ‘stimuli-hunger’ is that people rarely question whether or not they’re actually hungry. It’s generally accepted that the reason a lot of people – largely in the West – overeat is because they are bored, and not because they are hungry. The same applies to being stimulated, people rarely question – if ever – whether or not they actually want visual, auditory or sexual stimulation, if it’s there, they’ll take it, and the effects on one’s being and psyche are negligible. Of course, they’re not. Much like how eating too much will make you overweight, sluggish and feel generally rough. Taking in too much stimuli will make you unable to focus on what’s important, unable to discern the real from the fake, and most importantly, make you unable to find your actual feelings and thoughts within a chaotic meandering of random titbits from TV shows etc.

It’s a question of deprivation. One can only be deprived if they believe the thing being disallowed to them is actually worth their time. I don’t feel deprived by not having various movie or music subscriptions, because I understand I don’t need them. In fact, it’s actually net benefit to me to not have these things. This, once again, is a question of questioning. Do I actually want this, need this, like this? Etc. etc. You guys already know this, but it begs repeating.

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