By Emma Holten, March 2014
Forming identity in the postmodern mess
Why does it seem that American society is in decline,… What if everything … could all be traced to a common origin that is extremely pervasive yet is all but absent from the national dialog, indeed for the dialog of the entire western world?
Opening lines of the article “The Misandry Bubble” by internet economist “The Futurist”, January 2011.
According to french philosopher Jean-Francois Lyotard “Postmodernism has changed the way in which identity is viewed by moving it away from the concept of a unified self, to one where the self is viewed as a multiple rather than the modern view of it being fixed. This allows the self to constantly construct and reconstruct as an identity”.1 A new sort of freedom, a freedom to live different lives with different values and structures. One would think that this state would lead to increased happiness: finally, we have a choice in what ways we wish to prioritize and live life.
What is going on, then? A state of constant internal and external anxiety as taken a stranglehold on the regular American! Headlines like “America: #1 In Fear, Stress, Anger, Divorce, Obesity, Anti-Depressants, Etc”.2 and “Americans ‘snapping’ by the millions”3 indicate that, indeed, something is worrying and scaring us. The word crisis comes to mind.
We all feel scared sometimes. Fear, in its essence, is a feeling fueled by suspicion or expectancy.
As described by German philosopher Martin Heidegger, things, indeed, are much scarier if we do not really know what they are: “As it comes close, this “it can, and yet it may not” becomes aggravated. We say “it is fearsome”. This implies that what is detrimental as coming-close carries with it the patent possibility that it may stay away and pass us by; but instead of lessening of extinguishing our fearing, this enhances it.”4 Thus, not really being able to concretely define what it is we fear, or when it will happen, makes us more afraid.
This puts us in a position where determining what exactly is making us scared will make us less afraid. The article “The Misandry Bubble” is such an attempt. Written anonymously by internet economist “The Futurist” in the beginning of 2010, it taps into what, according to him, is the root of social ills, insecurities and fears. Further, he gives a tool set for how to plan your life if you want to avoid falling victim to these things and decrease fear.
Employing Sara Ahmed’s theories on affective economies and structures of hate and fear5, I will analyze Futurist’s method of reasoning and tracing of causation. Seizing on specific parts of the (rather long) text, my focus will be the way he tries to fixate the slippery resource of fear, especially pertaining to the institution of marriage and relations with women.
Looking closer at his tactics for handling the issues he puts forward, I will be using E. K. Sedgwick’s thoughts on paranoid method.
Whether what The Futurist says is “true” or not, is wholly irrelevant. The texts immense popularity6 means that its logic has proved legible to thousands of people, making it a worthy topic of analysis.