Everything is reduced to an experience controlled enough to be able to feel the sense of euphoria that novelty produces without the responsibility that the unknown entails
When I was teenager, I visited the other hemisphere for the first time. As I already commented on at other opportunities, my relatives were spreading across an extensive geography, and Argentine economic policy made it easy for us to take a relative recognition trip to the United States.
Winding up the exciting tour, we made one last stop in Florida. There, we visited Epcot Center, where, apart from enjoying the “futuristic” attractions, I was left slack-jawed by the reproductions of emblematic buildings from different latitudes. In one short hour, I saw the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramid of Chichen Itza, Chinese and Japanese temples, and Moroccan and Italian landscapes.
Back in Buenos Aires, I had fun for a while fooling the unsuspecting, showing them the photos and making them think I had gone around the world. Then I showed an image taken from the lake the different scenes are located around, showing that they were next to each other.
Around the same time, I started to discover what tourism means for an important portion of the [globally] periferal middle class: sleeping in better beds than the ones at home, having better-decorated rooms, eating in fancier places than back home in the neighborhood, driving better cars. That’s what vacations were, a trip to comfort.
Luckily, on one side of my family, learning to travel in any condition is practically in our DNA. Since I was a girl, they explained to me that to spend money on travel was to invest to learning how to get to know different places and people. The difference is between wanting get to know different experiences with hungry eyes, nose and ears, and looking for a controlled experience.
The demand for transparency and the option for slavery
Last month Juan talked to us about the feeling produced in him by a presentation given without stuttering, smoothly, without nuances, and he made reference to Byung-Chul Han and his definition of the transparency society as a hell of sameness.
Han, also, refering to the dialectic of the master and slave, says that “today’s slave is the one who has opted for submission” in exchange for a way of life that is barely interesting — “a mere life, as opposed to a good life”:
In exchange for that, mankind cedes its sovereignty and freedom.
This way, the discourse of transparency brings with it not only the lack of surprises about others, but also about our own intimate experiences, resulting in an apathetic life experience.
We are a generation of happy slaves… we are lazy, empty, decomposed, irresponsible, disrespectful. We don’t know how to suffer, we don’t know what it means to sweat and earn things, we don’t want to grow up and assume responsibility… the cause of this is that we went brought up in a zoo. We were taught in a happy prison, a bubble that has protected us from real life, pain, fatigue, commitment, need, uncertainty, ambiguity…
In other words, Viviani describes to us the tour, from the first indication that we should not put our hand on the stove through university and work, through which we learn the key to make everything happen without the slightest stress, until we reach that happy ending called “retirement.”
Additionally, in the article, Viviani picks up on a concept of Nassim Taleb: Touristification.
It’s about the systematic elimination of uncertainty and the randomness of things, trying to make everything very predictable down to the smallest detail. All for the good of comfort, convenience and efficiency.
Tourists, contrasted with Benjamin’s traveler, who enjoys that immense and tangled space that is life, look for a safe and predictable trip: transparent.
Tourists only have to follow the common and efficient path, and their purpose is to take a selfie in the most popular places, to show the world where where they were.
They don’t live the journey, they only think about how they’ll show it to their friends when they get back.
We all tend to reduce spaces of uncertainty — it’s normal, we do it so as to not go crazy. But there was a moment when this survival instinct was amplified, effectively denying the possibility of any authentic experience.
We cannot grow and mature in a controlled way, without uncertainty. Life experience without choices and the possibility of loss is a life in which desire does not intervene. It’s not possible learn predictably, because there exists no passion without unknowns, because there lies the spirit of adventure.
Being afraid of fear or of making choices, one opts for non-freedom, and tourism is confused with experience. So, a two-week internship becomes job experience, a study trip becomes the adventure of being educated transnationally, showing up to a massive, homogeneous party in Plaza Sol/Vodafone becomes participation in a revolution…
So, everything is reduced to…
So everything is reduced to an experience controlled enough to be able to feel the sense of euphoria that novelty produces without the responsibility that the unknown entails. The possibility of building the story of oneself without dedicated work it takes to build a biography.
Epidermal learning. All false empowerment allows is opting out of being free.