Netflix as millennial nihilism

By Alex Mazey

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Coming to terms with a suitable ambition for a person of my stature, I have come to allocate two hours a day to watching Star Trek: Voyager. Most days, this is less of a serious ambition, and more of a distant aspiration, considering it is a task seldom realised. Here, I will break down the activities and labour required to produce this goal realisation in regards to the modern perspective.

I will not cheat by watching Netflix in Curry’s PC World on an available display unit, as I have found this particular means of aspiration achievement to be neither comfortable or conducive, to a realistic model of success in my endeavour to watch approximately two hours of the one hundred and seventy-two episodes that appeared on domestic television from between 1995 to 2001.

In his eight-part video lecture series, ‘The Self Under Siege: Philosophy in the Twentieth Century (1993)’, available online, Rick Roderick’s reading of Herbert Marcuse suggests that our society is one in which people no longer have ambition. This is a reality observed in Roderick’s own students who, he has found, ‘believe nothing, want nothing, hope nothing, expect nothing, dream nothing, desire nothing.’ If you push a young person enough, he continues, they’ll say they have to get a job.

The first task towards obtaining my life ambition of watching Star Trek: Voyager is to meet this first criterion; that is, to get a job. To find a job in the modern world, it seems wholly necessary to be literate etc., so I have expelled many years through government-issued education, which has failed drastically to broaden my horizons, whereby my ambition today becomes evidence to the fact.

Through my twenty-eight years, I have learnt how the true horror of Sisyphus’s punishment can be found in how the Gods knew, in their great omnipotence and omniscience, that when condemning a man to push a rock for perpetuity, he would not merely come to hate the task, but come to enjoy the journey back towards it. Dystopia is a world where everyone is happy. Through Albert Camus’ interpretation, the powerful gather to laugh at Sisyphus’s gawking smile. Much better to imagine a human possessed with a powerful indignation, cursing the sky so furiously that the Gods might shudder to listen.

As Jean Baudrillard writes in, ‘On Nihilism’, ‘…a single ironic smile effaces a whole discourse, just as a single flash of denial in a slave effaces all the power and pleasure of the master.’ Forget Camus – let Sisyphus forever flash the sky with a face of denial.

Through my twenty-eight years, I have learnt how these philosophical asides are not tantamount to the realisation of my goal and have, therefore hindered my journey towards it. It is best to focus on the task at hand. Although, you will have to forgive me from here on out, since my focus – whatever that is – has been diminished throughout the new millennium, due to societies’ growing reliance on information technologies. Today, I have been taught to absolve myself of any responsibility for a steady, balanced supply of serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin by blaming social media companies for their reckless treatment of my limerence for a system that doesn’t love me back.

Do you know what really grinds my gears, man? I express at the dinner table, the office water cooler, the construction yard. The compartmentalisation of my resentment, the socially modulated allowance of hatred, reflected in the spectacle of mediated outrage, delivered often enough through television et al. to sustain my continual, unbridled support of the system. I have been taught to accept the passive inevitability of technological effect as part of my socialisation, a tool, as Theodore J. Kaczynski suggests, ‘to designate the process by which children are trained to think and act as society demands.’

After years of schooling, after some mandatory education, ‘It is enough to go through a training program’, Kaczynski continues, ‘to acquire some petty technical skill, [to] exert the very modest effort needed to hold a job. The only requirements are a moderate amount of intelligence and, most of all, simple Obedience.’ I am neither moderately intelligent nor adequately obedient and so will reserve the position of ‘pot washer’ for the rest of my life. See: existentially fucked.

As such, my life is not about the successful acquisition of material goods beyond comparison to my neighbours, but rather about the successful acquisition of a Netflix subscription. Watch enough Netflix, and you will reach the end of your life without the proliferation of too much misery.

‘Living in Disneyland’ by Alex Mazey will be available from Broken Sleep Books in October 2020.