I love an intellectual scrap. No opponents required: a solitary, furious conceptual unpicking suits me (and my boyfriend) just fine. The grittier the better. And I’m in luck: because ideas today - like the problems they need to solve - are global, multimedia, transformational; and it reassures me to think that, in the technology age, it’s still the human mind, and creativity, that counts.
It was in this spirit I attended TEDx last year. The theme was ''Imagination''. It promised to blow my mind. I paid £60.
I was met with play-pen decor - untouched ball-pit as centrepiece - and invitations to share my Hopes and Dreams in erasable pen. Several attendees obliged, furnishing their H&Ds with stars. I ignored my flight impulse, and endured the most banal, insubstantial content I have ever inadvertently funded. The most magnificent low - an aerobic interlude from Denmark’s Chief Happiness Officer - crushed the last of my joy, but, at least, offered some respite from Google-platitudes and the Dalai Lama’s Instagram.
Did you know, happy people work better? Or that doing good makes you feel good? And that my book, explaining these incredible findings, is now on Amazon?
These weren't ideas worth spreading. These were scraps of ideas that had spread. Ideas about ideas. The theme: Navel Gazing. The stage: Consumer Culture, with Happiness as commodity. Something, it seemed, was definitely rotten in the state of Denmark.
But I’m a glutton for punishment. And so it was that I came to, at Wilderness Festival in August, learning How To Publish Your First Novel (answer: WRITE it), squeezed neatly between How To Love Your Imperfect Life and How To Have Better Conversations - realising that somewhere along the way, we’ve lost our appetite for difficulty in favour of the great capitalist project of Self-Improvement-Through-Consumption. The rot’s gone rampant.
Back then, we had the Intelligentsia; individuals who - amidst, sure, eugenicist sentiment - pushed forward the intellectual vanguard in a way that was, if not PC, at least exciting.
Now, when we need originality the most, we have Faux-Mo Intellectualism: easy-to-consume pseudo-philosophising rooted in our FOMO culture of constant, aesthetic, fulfilment. This is the self-help phenomena, setting up shop in our frontal lobe.
Nietzsche knew that true fulfilment is about mastering difficulty. The Will to Power wishes all his ‘disciples’ - he wore a heavy crown - a whole bunch of self-torture and misery so they could learn this; or else become ‘cabbage-heads’. Enough said, really.
And while Nietzsche was not, perhaps, the guy for a bad day, we - the world, but especially the creative bit - could do with a good, old-fashioned, Nietzschean slap.
Because our Big Problems are going to be solved by creativity, not machinery; and in urgent times, I’m afraid we’ll find ourselves out of puff: gorging, for too long, on self-interest, masquerading as intellectualism; platitudes as profundity; plagiarism as originality.
I am afeared that cabbage-heads abound - and that we, left untended, might join their ranks.
(Originally posted at The Hiive: https://app.hiive.co.uk/knowledge/blogs/on-the-perils-of-faux-mo-intellectualism/1124/)