”Written by Indio Friedmann
In this way, the freedom of consciousness allows us to create our individual realities. But ironically, our freedom is limited by choice.
To give or not to give? Hamlet’s age-old dawdling has continued to haunt us through the centuries, floating its way into the inner workings of our consciousness.
You wake up. You unplug your electric apple for a wholesome breakfast. And seconds later, your sensory system is overwhelmed with gigabytes of information interpreted from bodily sensations, past memories and future anxieties. But that’s just the internal. Our direction of will towards the external happenings of life really just rests on whether we give or actually don’t give a fuck. Arguably, we surround ourselves with what we care about most. Living in the age of information means the constant breaking down of objective reality in pursuance of a suitable subjective one. With endless information to process, our brain has evolved to become a filter for censoring and centering data considered meaningful to us. Think neural algorithms of consciousness. We are subjectively programmed to pick apart the material of reality to surround ourselves, well, with really just more of ourselves. So what does your explore page look like?
Let’s take Trump. Conservative? Liberal? Couldn’t give a fuck? He could be your knight in red armor. Or an orange enemy ill-fitted for the political arena. Or he could merely be the “you’re fired” guy. The point is, we naturally identify with the familiar but our understanding of the familiar is shaped by our innate interests. We can’t help but identify with Trump’s familiarity as his stardom, tactful toupee and profound twitter poetry are seemingly inescapable. He greets us when we open our social media, watch news or television programmes. He has even reincarnated himself into g-dless dollar temples, a.k.a. Trump towers. However, our interests translate our understanding of what and how much he means to us. In other words, the degree of his impact in your life depends on what you care about. Into politics, economics or human rights in general? Then you may take more notice of him than those who couldn’t care less for (does not give a fuck about) the art and science of government administration. In this way, the freedom of consciousness allows us to create our individual realities. But ironically, our freedom is limited by choice. This is because we create our sense of self through these chosen realities. The self is threatened by any choices in the alternative. And in response we suddenly develop an acute case of willful blindness. In a world of injustice and clashing ideologies, perhaps a tunnel vision care-a-thon may not be the right direction towards expanding our consciousness of care.
However, the care seems to be fleeting, in the mainstream and generally governed by whatever pops up on our feeds.
Alas, Hamlet’s woes of indecision have led us to believe that compassion is a choice or just merely a temporary state of being. Today’s cause for a cause culture has meant that we must choose what to care about. However, the care seems to be fleeting, in the mainstream and generally governed by whatever pops up on our feeds (which of course, is uniquely designed to feed our egos, I mean interests). Remember #feesmustfall? BLM? GBV? Bonus points if you remember Kony 2012! Don’t worry, this is not to say we are responsible for caring about every injustice in the world at every given moment. But perhaps we should hold ourselves accountable to at least maintain the momentum of their meaning. This seems impossible when an injustice is almost instantaneously replaced with another. Police brutality morphed into refugee crisis that evolved into racial injustice which hopped onto the back of global warming that warped into Shell is hell. Simply put, it seems our compassion is an out of sight, out of mind problem. So how do we maintain our compassion when we are endlessly collecting new causes? The answer is we can’t. Instead, we should be channeling our compassion into creativity. With the human brain limited to consciously holding around three things at one time, modes of creativity provide a forever home. The endless forms of art enable us to breathe life into fading causes. And that’s what we want: to keep the cause alive in meaning and in conversation. When the black square went out of fashion (probably for lacking in feed aesthetics), its meaning and power for collective change went with it. Yet, nothing can make centuries of institutionalised racism and bigotry disappear with a few taps. And that’s just it. A cause is food for the feed, a temporary free-for-all affair like something out of The Last Supper. As the consumption of our care increases, its marginal utility to us decreases to the point where we are no longer satisfied with the very cause we have been consuming and thus we move to the next.
But, art is constant. Forever in meaning and forever in reminding. It is a visual aid of the successes and failures of humanity that exist beyond us, even after we move onto the next craze of compassion. And we need to move on, we need to continue to collect, to criticise, to call out, to change, to scream for our generation’s future to be our own. But whilst we do move on, we need to still leave our crumbs of compassion along the way to remember the rage, fervor and sorrow that made us scream in the first place.
Listening to Blues music, I can feel the elemental sounds of sorrow and I am reminded of the heaviness that this feeling carries. For Black Americans (colloquially African Americans) in the South, blues became an escape in expression, to be free of institutionalised slavery and to revolutionize rhythm forever. Drum magazine (formerly African Drum), founded in apartheid South Africa during the 1950s, was a powerful platform for the rise of the black consciousness, allowing writers and photographers to create the narrative true to activist Steve Biko’s Black is Beautiful. It was not only a driver of resistance but a curator of urban South African culture – an artwork of Africa, for Africa.
The endless forms of art enable us to breathe life into fading causes. And that’s what we want: to keep the cause alive in meaning and in conversation.
The archives of art remain constant. Forever in meaning that much has been done before us and forever in reminding that there is still much to be done ahead of us. There was no need for Hamlet to self-impose an ultimatum of ‘to or not to,’ as it’s not a question of whether we should or shouldn’t give a fuck, of course we should. Instead, the question rather lies in how we, as a collective of creatives, can become better students, teachers and masters in the very art of giving a fuck.