A friend in need’s a friend indeed
A friend with weed is better
A friend with breasts and all the rest
A friend who’s dressed in leather
A friend in need’s a friend indeed
A friend who’ll tease is better
— “Pure Morning” Placebo
Years ago while confronting a friend who was fast descending into alcoholism, I came up with an analogy I knew would force him to see the light. Every reason he was giving me to justify his drinking, I told him, could be used to justify him weighing 600 pounds. His arguments would be the same: I like it this way, it’s just my personal preference, I don’t care what society says about how I live my life, health isn’t everything, anybody who stops associating with me because of this I wouldn’t want as a friend anyway, etc. My comparison was correct, but I had no comeback when he said, “But being fat isn’t fun. Drinking is.”
He was, and is still, right. Inebriation is a great deal more fun than morbid obesity. Importantly, nothing can change that. It did not stop being true the first time my friend wet himself in public he was so drunk, and it is still true now that he has taken to smoking crack cocaine. Though perhaps his earlier statement should be revised to: “Being fat isn’t fun. Crack is.”
I am unsure if he knew it at the time, but his retort was very insightful. Fun sits near the top of our society’s priorities, and the hunt for fun can explain quite a bit about the world around us. While atheism, the Frankfurt School, postmodernism, Marxism, feminism, and the eternally amorphous “liberalism” are all interrogated endlessly by the right to try and explain what landed our civilization in this rot—it might be more simple than all that. The trouble might just be fun.
The more I look back on my own past, rife with bad decisions and clichés, the more the unifying thread seems to be “fun.” Drunken parties are fun. Applying to colleges is not. Smoking weed is fun, cleaning your room is not. Sex is a great deal of fun, while attending church is not. On a more macro level, discrimination, hierarchies, responsibility, duty, and values are all effective ways of limiting fun—often severely.
At a house party with a keg, a hot tub, and dozens of guests between the ages of 16 and 23, what is most important is making sure everyone is having a good time. You have to make sure you have enough alcohol to last the entire evening. Drugs have to be allowed because they spice things up. The more people, the better, so only known thieves are to be excluded. Anyone who might moralize about what’s going on at this party would be excluded too, but they know better than to attend. Ideally, everyone who does come to the party will be unemployed, or with a job of so little value to them that they don’t care about showing up to it hungover. Back when I went to parties like these, I remember more than once trying to exit with the line, “Sorry guys, but I’ve got work tomorrow.” Every time it was rebuffed with, “So do I and you don’t see me leaving!” If I said that I started work at eight in the morning, someone always said they started at seven and weren’t going anywhere. No matter what, the party must go on.
Now imagine that house party as all of life, or at least its apex—the part of life that all other parts serve or build towards. A lot of people, consciously or otherwise, hold this view. Of course, this is no way to live, humans need goals and firm loyalties to keep from going mad—but a lot people do not know this, or at least refuse to believe it. Instead, millions are just looking for the next party so big and badass that the last one will seem blasé by comparison. If that’s how you’re living, there is nowhere to go but down from age 23 or so.
A guy I used to know named Kit illustrates this well. In high school, Kit was considered smart, but was a total slacker. He smoked pot constantly: before school started, during lunch, and then once he got home—so he was almost always stoned. He graduated on time by the skin of his teeth and with a miserable GPA. After graduation, he literally just lived in his mom’s basement. For money, he sometimes dealt drugs, and sometimes worked cash registers at convenience stores and gas stations. He would always get fired from the jobs for stealing, and he never dealt for too long because he always ended up just consuming all the drugs himself. When all was said and done, he was nearly always broke. A year or so after graduating, Kit’s closer friends started getting phone calls from him randomly, but always well past midnight. If you answered, he would start telling you about how he’d ruined his life by screwing around in high school and how he was never going to amount to anything and hated himself. He would always be drunk, and always be crying. The next day, he would act like nothing had happened. Eventually, everyone came to know about this phenomenon either by experiencing it directly or by word of mouth. Incredibly, this never changed anyone’s opinion of or attitude towards Kit. He was still fun to hang out with. You could get drunk with him and talk for hours about Allen Ginsberg or Kevin Smith. He was always interested in going on adventures and getting into trouble. In short: Kit was a fun guy. Why muddle the fun by forcing the topic of regret or ennui?
Kit’s story is a good example of how “fun” is a dead end. Not even his closest “friends” wanted to try and help him scrabble out of his awful situation—they all just wanted to party with him. In this way, “party ideology” objectifies humans, turning them into mere vessels for potential endorphin rushes. It was this same party ideology that led almost everyone I knew several years ago to urge me not to join the military under any circumstances. At the time, I was clearly unhappy, in debt, living with my mom, and working at a smut shop. Still, everybody in my social circle told me the absolute worst thing I could do with myself was join the military, that I would regret it for the rest of my life. What they really meant, was that my signing up would diminish the party.
Party ideology can go a long way in explaining the world around us: declining fertility, drug addiction, the man-child, rising depression, etc. It also may be more insidious than the aforementioned atheism, Frankfurt School, postmodernism, Marxism, feminism, and the eternally amorphous “liberalism.” After all, how are you supposed to convince the world not that they are intellectually wrong, but that they need to stop having fun and live a little?