Thursday, April 22, 2021

We Need Roads

Where did we come from, and where are we going?

I've had this subject burning at the back of my mind for some time now, unable to properly express what I mean for a good while. Please excuse me if this post is a full on ramble because it is more meant to flesh out thoughts than put forth any sort of coherent argument or explanation. I swear I'm going somewhere with all of this.

The reason nostalgia for pre-Cultural Ground Zero exists and isn't going away any time soon is because it was the last time we had a roadmap on where we were going. Anyone, no matter who you are, can easily see this by noticing that anyone with a mainstream view of the world has no vision of the future outside vague platitudes. It is as as if they were all politicians. Pay attention to the news and it's about how the Good Guys suffer under the bootheel of the Bad Guys, and if the other would just disappear we could finally have Utopia.

This isn't an actual vision of the future. It's scapegoating in an attempt to hoist all your problems onto. It's a refusal to except what human nature actually is.  Utopia will not suddenly arrive because you destroy the Bad Guy team and put your chosen Good Guys in charge.

But what is Utopia supposed to be? None of these people will tell you what that entails aside from using scraps of previous examples that have never led to a utopia before. You're fighting a war for future you're never going to get, because you can't define it outside of vague terms. You're never going to get a Utopia by hating your neighbor and wanting them destroyed.

So what is it supposed to be? A world where everyone is happy and where there are no wars or violence and everyone sings corporate approved pop songs around the metaphorical campfire? A place where everyone is free to indulge in whatever vice they can in the machine-run pleasure domes? An economic paradise where every man is his own island free do whatever he pleases? How does any of this lead to Utopia? A world that forces humans to survive by feeding vices is not paradise. It's in fact the very opposite.

Spend five seconds with any modern politician or "revolutionary" and you'll find they have no vision of the future beyond hackneyed phrases invented in classrooms and spread by similar acolytes in the media. Do what they tell you, freethinker, and you will have everything you want. There is no thinking involved. Just mindlessly obeying.

Destroying the past is not creating a future. You cannot create by destroying, you can only hide from reality. This is why nothing new has taken hold since Cultural Ground Zero occurred--no one has any vision of the future beyond a form of material success and pleasure. And I'm not just talking about wealth, but also creatively. They see nothing ahead except what they were told to see, which lends a false sheen of plasticity to whatever they create. This is how you can always guess a plot point or a character's entire personality and any potential character arc within the first minute of meeting them. They have nothing to say aside from what they were told to say.

The reason why the mainstream is dead is because they have no vision of the future beyond the corporate-mandated one based on rebellion and comfort that they were taught in school. The irony is palpable. Bootlickers who think they are rebels. It would be funny if it wasn't destroying a whole segment of art and entertainment.

You have been trapped in an endless feedback look of nostalgia product gutting out the moral core of the original and putting in the above banal modernity instead. This has been the case for years now. You have been trapped in it because those in charge do not understand the cause of the nostalgic movement or what connected with the original audience to begin with. All they see is a way to slip in modern emptiness that is forgotten five seconds after the movie ends. If they can bring even one of you over to the Good Guy team then it is worth it.

Unfortunately, all it does is annoy audiences who see what they are doing and rebel against it. Said audiences is then labeled the Bad Guy team and acolytes of the Good Guys are encouraged to attack them to prove their loyalty. In the midst of all this is art that is forgotten outside of being a punchline.

It is forgotten because there is nothing there aside from reheated ideas and moralizing that will never take hold. There is no attempt to connect with any audience, because these creators have nothing to say or impart on others that isn't being pushed by every single other corporation in the world. If you want to know why there are more and more Bad-Thinkers who are Evil (the shorthand view for anyone who can think beyond buzzwords and catchphrases to do the heavy lifting of their thinking for them) it is because audiences see this cynical and lazy attempt to cash-in on their youth and attempt to manipulate them into abandoning that which made them. If you actually believe all these Bad People miraculously showed up one day out of nowhere to fight the Good Guys then you really aren't paying attention, at all. It's all a bunch of puppets dancing on wires.

Because these creators hate the past and find no value in it, they will never build a future. As you can clearly tell from the last few years, no one in charge has any view of the future accept the insipid and impossible task of Making People Comfortable. Feel Safe and Happy so you can all consume corporate product endlessly. Corporation stands for Good Thing, so give us moneys now. 

As a result, these people have nothing to say and nothing to aim for. They dumb down comedy, cut away from action, and hiss at the sight of an attractive woman, all while reveling in edgy gore and barely camouflaged pornography instead. If they can't build on what came before then they can never build a future. And they can't do either.

It's a dead end. There is no road ahead.

All that said, it wasn't always like this. Take a movie like The Last Starfighter. The Arkhaven blog covered it well enough here, but you should take special note as to why the movie hit so hard with audiences when it did.

"No generation ever had bigger promises made to it than Gen-X.

"The world we were supposed to inherit would be beyond imagining. America would be even greater and more powerful than it had ever been. The average life expectancy would be 180 years old. We would definitely be getting farther ahead than our parents had gotten in life. Our first cars would be able to fly. And a lot of us were expected to be living and working on the moon.

"No member of Generation-X has ever set foot on the moon.

"That things were going to be amazing for us in a way that had never happened before was a refrain we were being fed constantly through grade school. We were hearing it a lot less in junior high. And those promises had ended completely long before we hit our senior year.

"The Challenger’s explosion was the end of those dreams.

"Still, we found others. And they were unique to my generation.

"After two lousy decades helmed by the Boomers, we took the reins in the Eighties and made it the best decade since Elvis was thin. The music stopped sucking, we made comic books grow up, we forced the repeal of the 55 MPH speed limit, what we couldn’t do with spaceships we did with computers and we became the first video game generation."

It might be tempting to roll your eyes while reading that if you aren't a part of Gen X, but it is important to understand the context to what is being written about here to get the context of the movie's success. It was a story made to connect with people on a deeper level. As a member of Gen Y, the younger brother of Gen X, I had seen much of the above quote in my youth. I didn't quite understand any of it for that reason, but as I got older it made more and more sense.

The 1980s was the period when Gen X was beginning to creatively blossom, and we got to see just what it was they hoped and desired for. They were very eager to share with the world. And they did for around two decades.

They longed for a future better than the one that had been built out for them. They wanted something better than the upcoming Boomer world that would sterilize and corporatize art and entertainment into a gelatinous blob of product to be supported by fanatics and influencers. They wanted more than all this. Gen X, despite their cynicism, wanted to see the stars.

By now we know they never did, given that they were dumped for Gen Y who were in turn dumped by Millennials, but that is just the fate of the generation. To Gen X, life is a series of down endings. And yet, for one moment, they did feel like they could have it all.

"There is no getting past it. Arcade culture was pretty much our defining trait. When those life devouring machines first showed up, we created a national shortage of quarters, feeding our addiction. We made our offerings to the god Atari at oddly shaped alters and literally started changing how our brains were developing because our eye-hand coordination was constantly being taken to its absolute limit. We would gather around a highly skilled stranger, talk about his tactics with each other, and form friendships that wouldn’t have happened without those machines. Arcades were very social that modern gaming just can’t be.

"The Last Starfighter had an absolutely brilliant marketing campaign. It spoke to Generation-X. “Alex Rogan didn’t go looking for his dreams. His dreams came looking for him.” We were at the point where we had given up on those big dreams. Having them come roaring back to life and snatching us up and away from our lives was a pitch-perfect sell to us."

You can go back throughout the '80s and early '90s and see all sorts of portrayal and jokes built around Gen X and their cynicism. It was inescapable commentary from the Boomers. This abruptly ended around 1997 and within two years they had begun aiming instead for this weird "Millennial" generation that suddenly came into existence which they never did anything with before. It was as if a population of two groups suddenly vanished. Because to those in charge, they did. They didn't want to think about them or the implications of their existence anymore.

Even today, no one really brings up Gen X unless it is Gen X themselves, much like Gen Y who were fooled into thinking they had something in common with those raised on the internet, smartphones, and a post-Columbine and 9/11 world. Even now people argue with me that Gen Y doesn't exist because they were told it doesn't. I have never gotten a proper refutation of why they don't except that those in charge told these people that they don't. Roll that attitude into the topic of this post and you can see why they have no argument. Because they were taught not to think about it so they get upset when someone else doesn't recite the Right Thing. But let us get back to Gen X.

While it is tempting to say it was shifting demographics that caused this change in focus, the fact of the matter is that no generation had been deliberately buried before Cultural Ground Zero. It was as if those in charge had something to hide. By now, the cat is out of the bag. They did.

Why did a story about a boy who had no future before him except modernity and the rat race their Boomer parents coveted so much speak to a generation like it did? This wasn't the nihilism of the 1970s or the hedonism of the '60s. Gen X actually did want more, despite their image.

Because this story spoke to their hopes and dreams. It gave them a glimpse into a future where they could have more the vapid world being built around them. There was more to existence than hedonism. Even today there isn't a single person that would argue Alex Rogan's choice at the end of The Last Starfighter wasn't the correct one, especially because they knew what was awaiting him should he choose differently.

As a member of Gen Y, the generation who lived off local rental shops and thereby saw all the Gen X favorites in our youths, even I was taken aback and inspired by such a story. It spoke to a position we held. Aiming for more than the present, to be taken higher, is the sort of hope that doesn't actually exist anymore. The future was endless.

It's much different today. In contrast, you get Ernest Cline's "Remake" of a book which is basically the same story but with more references to other things. There is no vision or hope for the future beyond standard tropes because the writer of the work can't think of anything beyond them. So what you are left with is a hollow husk copy of the original. There is no vision, no hope, just regurgitated product. It's empty.

And this is where we are now. All mainstream entertainment is this.

So all you are left with is faded copies of things you liked when you were younger, made by those with no moral or hopeful vision of the future beyond what the media tells them to hope for. All you get portrayed is a future of endless consuming with nothing to show for it except reminders of your better days as a child.

That's a fairly pathetic existence, and the complete opposite of where we started from. That someone could know all this and still never aim for more than consuming nostalgia product is even more pathetic. This attitude is why we are trapped where we are. It's time to move on beyond failed modern ideas and vapid nostalgia.

It's time for an actual future.

It's not just the West which has this problem. We can even look at the growing overseas presence of the anime and manga industry, where it is quite near where it was in popularity back in the 1990s. What was it that caused it to fall so far throughout the '00s? Why did it take until the '10s for it to regain that lost ground?

Well, I spoke about it before, but the short answer is because Japan also gave up on its future. It devolved into the meaningless minutiae of everyday lives of attractive girls because they didn't find anything appealing about the future before them. They didn't want to hope for anything anymore. But instead of a sort of The Last Starfighter version of the future where it could come to them, they just rejected it entirely. This is why so much anime is endless school life--because that's literally all these audiences want to think about.

Obviously, such an attitude negatively affected their arts and entertainment. As a consequence, the western branch of the industry imploded throughout the '00s, because they no longer were being given product audiences wanted to buy.

To take it back a bit, I have been going over some of the works of mangaka Ken Ishikawa recently, and the difference between now and then is quite striking. He was essentially a pulp writer, but in the best sense of the term.

You might have heard of the series Getter Robo, since it is one of the classic original giant robot mecha franchises. He co-created it with Mazinger Z creator Go Nagai, though its was Ishikawa who wrote the series. It is the first combining robot where three different pilots combine to form a giant mecha. If that was all he was responsible for then it would be a neat footnote. What you probably don't know is how much work Ishikawa put in this franchise over the time he was still alive.

What started as a story of three rambunctious teenage youths piloting a giant robot to stop the Dinosaur Empire from coming up out of the center of the Earth, eventually became a cosmic horror story about the endpoint of evolutionary theory and where survival of the fittest will eventually lead. He did this despite never once abandoning his original concept or forgetting to entertain the audience with action and wonder. Getter Robo contains a quite horrible version of the future, but one where heroism, the human spirit, and comradery, can still save the day.

There have been different adaptions of this franchise over the years from anime series to OVAs to video games, but it has remained popular because Ken Ishikawa's ambition has always been higher than "Remember the original series you grew up with? Here it is again in new packaging!" and led him striving to create more and bigger ideas.

Heck, he created an entire anthology series about a Buddhist Galactic Empire dealing with ultimate evil which spans thousands of years from the past into the distant future. Can you imagine anyone writing anything close to like that in the West where we still think sex and skin color are revolutionary topics for stories? Why think about the future when you could obsess about the present instead? But even in Japan that kind of ambition died off a lot in the 1990s. By the time we got to digipaint series in the early '00s, much of these sorts of hopes were gone from the industry.

Nonetheless, if you want to know more about Ken Ishikawa's very intriguing career, I suggest watching the video below. It is very long, but you can put it on 1.5x speed and you won't miss anything. For those who want to see the rise of a successful and influential talent it is worth seeing. Special thanks to author Bradford C. Walker for the tip.

But not everything has to aim big: it just has to aim.

The reason series such as My Hero Academia and Demon Slayer are popular is not because they aim to be deep, but because they touch on eternal themes such as the natures of Heroism and Revenge and tie in how they affect humanity. They tell action stories about bigger things than obsessing over the status quo and the vapid present. It connects with people and their hopes and dreams. There is more here than just accepting the way things are and lapping up the same tired modern themes.

Being a creator of any sort means you are coming up with ideas to form into one cohesive whole. Because it is being filtered through who you are it will determine just how it reaches other people. Art is product made to a standard, a standard you share with your audience. How you see the future, if you even see it at all, will come across in what you do.

This is what people want, but it is what the mainstream can no longer give them. They have forgotten how to not only maintain roads, but how to build them.

Those who write stories filled with modern tropes propped up by shallow and vapid one-track cult-like interpretations have a limited shelf life. These ideas are meant to beat down the audience and will only appeal to other people trapped in the same cult-like thinking. This is why modern corporate entertainment no longer appeals to people anymore. This is why there will never be a nostalgia movement centered around this era. They have nothing to say and nothing original to express outside of what they were told to say by people who have built no future worth preserving. It's a dead end, and every knows it deep down.

This is why there is such a split in the arts right now. You have one side who want to entertain, to connect with the audience and share in the adventure. The other group wants to regurgitate agitprop they heard in the classroom and in the news in order to spread their unpopular ideas among an uninterested populace. Normal people can connect with the former, but no one except fellow cult members can connect to the latter.

Normal people have hopes and dreams, even when, like now, they are being told to not have them and to focus on things that they can't change or have nothing to do with. Once we put the Good Guys in charge you will have your Eden of carnal lust and gluttonous appetites where everyone will be Nice and Good to each other because they were taught to be Nice and Good. Throw out what human nature is at its core: we can fix it. Anyone with a brain knows this isn't a future, it's a sick fantasy built by those with no actual vision of the future or humanity.

"Put the Good People in charge and remove the Bad People and then we will have Peace" is legit dumber than any of the old hippie boomer stances. It isn't reality, it's wishful thinking by those who have no vision of a future beyond corporate slogans from government funded "grassroots" movements and over-socialized urbanites. This is a scam. It's not a future--it's an advertising campaign to fatten their already obese wallets.

There is no future without roads.

We need actual roads. Paved streets. Railroad tracks. Sea lanes. Dirt paths. A compass. Anything. We need to find our bearings and seek out a real path from where we are right now. Because we've reached the end of wishful thinking spurned on from dated modern philosophies. They just lead to plunging cliffs that drop down into a bottomless shaft.

There is no way to know what is coming, but you can prepare for it by planning at least a little bit. You've been taught not to plan, not to think, and not to hope. Everything will work out if you trust people who don't even care one iota about you aside from your wallet. You're just going to sit there and wait for the Good Guys to fix the world for you.

But the world will never be fixed. Human nature will always be broken. All you can do is make roadmaps that take it into consideration. We can still touch the stars even if we have cracks in us--we can still hope for better. We just need a plan.

Where we came from is a corporate dystopia based on humanist falsities and sloth, but where we can go next? The stars aren't even the limit. Who knows what is?

We'll figure it out. As long as we have roads to get there.


  1. I don't have a lot of time to play videogames these days, so Destiny 2 has become my guilty pleasure. And it's interesting, because it's a microcosm of everything you talk about here. The original Destiny was made by the creators of Halo, and there was distinct Christian influence in the writing. Good vs. evil. A vision for a better future. Becoming your best self. Etc. But as the original creators slowly left and new folks rotated in for Destiny 2, those Christian themes are being subverted, one by one. And these new people don't have a better vision. They have nothing to replace it with. There is no future, once they have turned Good into Evil. And it's putting cracks into the storytelling that don't bode well for the future of the game, both in lore and for the playerbase. More and more, the game depends upon PVP, which isn't that great, anyway. World of Warcraft rotted from the inside, too, but slower, because the original creators hung around longer. It makes me sad, because Destiny really did have the seeds of greatness. But when you remove the Christian worldview, you have nothing.

    1. Yes, it appears to be happening everywhere these days. It's gotten to the point where one can't trust a single corporate product won't turn around and deliberately spit in your face.

      It's one of the main reasons NewPub and things like it have popped up. They simply offer more and work to earn the audience's trust.

  2. Another excellent post! Corpo guys have nothing to say, and yet feel entitled to shape culture, refusing to shut up and listen to those who do.

    Keep building roads. People are starting to look at the stars and don't know how to reach them.

    1. Thanks!

      It's heartening to see so many out there both building and looking for new roads. It bodes well for the future.

    2. At a certain point everyone starts to notice that the old ones are in ruin, and has to find new ways to get places.
      I know it well because where I live most of non-metaphorical roads are a mess. I have all reasons to believe that this happens with the metaphorical ones too.