On the Spectacle
In the Climb, season 3 episode 6 of Game of Thrones, Varys, and Little Finger are seen meditating very loudly on the nature of their friendship. These are noblemen who come from little or nothing. But through trickery and mastery of the ‘game’, so to speak, rose to lordship and immense influence and prominence. They are both mysteriously cunny, which doesn’t take one long to know that this is inspired by their stories of being on the fringes of society marked by an undying strive of being in the proximity of power. Like mindless kids marking territory in the mud, each is cautious of the other, hides his intentions like green snakes buried in green grass.
It is not so much what happens in the scene that makes it worth citing, it is what is said. Great scenes aren’t always about the gesture of actors, it is about how one feels as an external observer, as questions, especially about the nature of one’s being and his era captures the moment. Here, it is one of meditation on deceit, lie, betrayal, and the will to do whatever it takes to win, often wearing the mask of kindness and public service. Such deceit we always tell ourselves is for the overall good, we feel justified because even in the lies, we’ve convinced ourselves that it is the right thing.
What is honorable is cowardice in the nature of the evolution of modern society which is an assemblage of images and visual representations. Where representation is more authentic than the images they reflect, because somewhere along the line, with the financialization of the economy, the escalation of the influence of mass media, the lie has more economic value than the truth. Where the fragments of the private are assembled in the public, for both social and economic value. The idea of being true to oneself, something of enormous social value in the past is social death in ours. This is a paradox, an inversion of the image rather than emancipation from its distortions.
When we watch the scene between Varys and Little Finger, it’s masked by the resentment one of the men feels against the other. Yet he claims ‘I did what I did for the Good of the Realm’ (translated as the social good). ‘The good of the Realm Little Finger replies “is a thousand blades of Agon’s enemies, something we both agreed to keep telling ourselves over and over until we forget it is a lie.” But what do we have left, said Varys, once we abandon the lie- chaos — a gaping pit waiting to swallow us all?’ One can imagine, of course, how a matter of the truth is a matter between social death and social elevation, to be on the fence of what civil society considers objective and what is it eschews. It’s a decision between what is fashionable, as in the dominant cultural and social ideas, and what is not in modern society. After all, what are we anymore if not-hackable creatures of “desire and the market” meeting the demands of the market in a time when dominant social life is driven more by the image than the reality it purports to reflect?
In ‘The Society of the Spectacle’, Guy Debord, argues, “that in societies dominated by modern conditions of production, life is presented as an immense accumulation of spectacles. Everything that was once lived has receded into representation.” Representations that are unified through fragments into a pseudo world of its own. This has become the bedrock of modern society, through social engineering of inversions of the spectacle.
But Debord argues, “that the spectacle cannot be understood as mere visual representation produced by mass media technologies. It is a worldview that has been materialized, a view of the world that has become objective.” Objective in the sense that one can no longer see the line between the lie and the truth, as long as the dissipation of the authentic is channeled through a reward for the inauthentic.
The visual deception by mass media and its impact on most of us is more or less a reflection of Nietzsche’s Objective man, which is merely a mirror or instrument of everything it gazes into.
The objective man, if one considers the nature of modern society, is even losing everything that made him human. What he in fact reflects now is no longer in the category of the human, it is the superfluous non-human, and excess produced by the spectacle — a worldview in which the human itself is threatened in the pretense of saving it. As a result of the spectacle, what was once known as human nature, if by that one means, the recognition of reason, universal civil liberties, the right to be and breathe, is being dissolved in technological control, images, lie, through mediums such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Television, etc.
For many of us, what was once perceived as bringing us together is now the very threat to the future of humanity itself, as moral structures, and values shift more toward visual representations than the art of living it — which has become merely a thing of the past to the mediation of the financial economy, demands of the consumer market and life itself as fragmented images with no connections to reality. The spectacle is an illusion devoid of a sense of reality, whose nature we don’t understand, so we go on playing the game, pretending life’s okay, even if everyone’s ‘miserable.’