Life After God

By the time Life After God was released i’d had enough of Douglas Coupland. In my mind it was released after Microserfs… but thinking about it, maybe it was Shampoo Planet that disappointed me, caused me to skip Life After God, but still read Microserfs. All very complicated. The point being that it has been a long time since i’ve read any Douglas Coupland.

The premise of all these short pieces is that without god people lives lack any meaning. Not having been raised with a concept of god / religion, a void opens up in life, that cannot be filled without appealing to a higher power. Alright… if you say so.

What really struck me was how well Coupland manages to evoke the feeling of living of living on the west coast of the states. Life ‘out there’ takes place on a set that is, out of the cities, indescribably huge, majestically wild and beautiful. The cities are soulless urban sprawl, new in terms of culture, but already shabby and unloved. Society, family units, and i suppose even individuals, feels somehow atomised, blown apart by the ferocious drive to be as individual / unique / special as possible. For a lot of people their work is so abstract or virtual that it is pretty much devoid of meaning, of relation to anything concrete in life. Trading pieces of paper that represent fragments of other pieces of paper; marketplaces where no one will ever walk and no goods will ever be seen; advertising / marketing ideas that can only sell other ideas…

My feeling is that it’s not so much the lack of a higher power that drives all this angst but, people living to far away from their Dunbar number. It’s all very well striving for individuality, and redefining your social interactions in a virtual world, but the truth remains that we are still some form of social ape.

Relationship Reset?

This (fictional) piece is the best from my (limited) weekend reading:

The following fictional conversation never occurred in June 2009 between Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and a Chinese negotiator named Cheng for the sale of U.S. assets, at least not that we know of. 

 — USA Fire Sale, 2nd Meeting, June 2009: Political capital call, iTulip.

Some of the ‘human rights’ stuff cuts a little close to the bone. It’s almost as if the Americans (i presume to be) writing this with that they had an authoritarian / repressive system to live under… there is, after all, no accounting for puritanical tastes.

Entertaining and informative. Sightseeing on the road to a financial brave new world!

After thought. A lot of what i’m reading reinforces my views that the Chinese (or more broadly Asia) is well aware of what it is doing, and will manage the descent of the West into a far more “equal” set of relationships over a relatively long period of time. Just like the frenzy of doomsaying around peak oil last year, our systems are a lot more flexible that it first appears – stretching them to the point of collapse takes time. This is presumably because we are highly adaptive, on mass easily manipulated, and delusional. It isn’t very encouraging, but it does go some way towards explaining why what appears to be a completely untenable situation can be strung out for so long. The obvious exception to this would be Gaia, which doesn’t really care how it kills us off, just as long as it shakes this fever.