Mass culture creates surface culture by insisting on equality, which means that those who are qualitatively different from others are punished for being perceived to be exclusionary. That leaves only surface culture: attire, tattoos, accessories, clothing and piercings. But the most tattooed and pierced generation is finding that surface culture is not real:
“One of the things we teach is wear a very conservative suit. And I get push-back on that. ‘Do you want us all to look the same? You told us to differentiate ourselves.’ It sounds contradictory, but I want a dark suit and a light shirt or blouse so that people are looking at your face and listening to what you say. The tattoo doesn’t help. It is incredibly distracting.”
Individualism is the enemy of individuality. Individuality is lived through the decisions we make, how we spend our time, and what we believe. Individualism, because it requires the group to be supported because otherwise it is thrown out for being anti-realistic, is expressed through gestures, tokens and symbols because it never goes deeper than the surface.
What we might call “inner culture” provides a contrast. This exists in both the individual and the group, and consists of intuition as nurtured by a sense of values that fit the biological traits of that population, including inclinations toward a certain type of social order and personal lifestyle.
Someone within a culture comes from a long line of people with traits consistent with that culture, so their intuitive view of the world is consistent with culture, making it inner and therefore, it does not need to be enforced. Surface culture is enforced through media, social pressure and government, but inner culture springs up out of the individual, organically becoming prevalent.
Surface culture works because it requires nothing of those who are involved and, by providing constant distraction, gives them small rewards in the short-term instead of the more meaningful rewards that come with long-term action. It cultivates witless people who are highly socialized, and therefore cannot imagine a life where gesturing through social symbols is not important.
The squirts of dopamine that people receive for altruistic or social activity are addictive, which requires two things. First, the act must feel good, and second, it must leave the individual wanting more, usually by not actually fulfilling them. In this way, surface culture resembles the addictive nature of digital screens:
In a series of clinical experiments, a video game called “Snow World” served as an effective pain killer for burned military combat victims, who would normally be given large doses of morphine during their painful daily wound care. While the burn patient played the seemingly innocuous virtual reality game “Snow World” — where the player attempts to throw snowballs at cartoon penguins as they bounce around to Paul Simon music — they felt no pain.
I interviewed Lt. Sam Brown, one of the pilot participants in this research who had been injured by an IED in Afghanistan and who had sustained life-threatening third-degree burns over 30 percent of his body. When I asked him about his experience using a video game for pain management, he said: “I was a little bit skeptical. But honestly, I was willing to try anything.” When asked what it felt like compared to his morphine treatments, he said, “I was for sure feeling less pain than I was with the morphine.”
Sure enough, brain imaging research confirmed that burn patients who played “Snow World” experienced less pain in the parts of their brain associated with processing pain than those treated with actual morphine.
Instantaneous feedback creates an addiction. The surface culture devotees in our society constantly crave this stimulus because without it, they must face an empty void. Thus they are manic for Facebook and ten hour workdays, shopping and sports video, cell phone calls of ten thousand words and zero concepts, food, wine and sex.
Evil always provides a scapegoat in this way, and Leftism — a variant of Crowdism — is just one form of this evil. Surface culture promises a solution to all of life’s dark questions with simple distraction, and by staying in the constant feedback loop of the herd, people are able to forget about the need for meaning and death. While they do so, like addicts, they neglect their surroundings until it is too late.