In every part of our universe, there is a surface and then an underlying structure. As surface is the result of interaction with context, it is a balance of external and internal factors, and does not necessarily reveal structure.
As such, one has to go beneath the parts of any aspect of life you would put in a brochure. Do not go to the museums; go to the bars and public parks. Do not go to the government office; go to a church or office. And finally, do not pay attention to statistics; go to a parking lot.
Parking lots are where we all experience the utilitarian nature of modern society at full force. We each get an equal spot, and we pretend not to notice each other, both from the fiction that others will not harm our cars and from a sense of self-identification as separate from the others.
However, if we open our eyes and become good observers — open-minded to see all; no mental censorship — as we walk through a parking lot, we quickly see how bedecked in pretense it is.
First there are the bumper stickers, in which people shout their identity at you through some form of ideology they hold dear. They treat their entertainment and lifestyle choices as an identity, and as if they want to demonstrate its superiority, they make it into a claim.
“RUN” exclaims one bumper sticker. “Save the whales” says another. Others opine about the joy of coexistence, atheism, abortion, being a foodie, and so on. Each one is a form of massive pretense, or an assumption of value projected onto the rest of us. They are little superiority trips shouted in your face.
This kind of pretense is everywhere. In a time when individualism is king, people are struggling hard to prove their self-worth. This is because no one wants to be just equal, and yet equality is a great destructor that levels us all. To avoid that anonymous fate, we struggle to be unique.
Since our equality is based on a moral argument, all of our counterarguments — of the sense “why I am more equal than the rest of you” — must be in the form of moral arguments as well. I run; I am healthier. I recycle; I am greener. I support the People and thus I am not Soviet, I am merely nicer than you.
Our modern society has rapidly become a shouting match in which each person is trying to rise above the herd. Pretense is vast as a result. In politics, the only comparison is the moral penis size comparison: I help people who are even poorer and more oppressed than the people you help. Sneeringly.
All of this only serves to hide the fact that we are fighting out pretense only because we are in an intermission when no statement needs to be serious. We are living on the inventions and wealth of the past, and while we’re heading for oblivion, it will take some time for that oblivion to manifest itself (like a bad investment or poorly-installed roof, it’s a time-bomb set to go off in months, years or decades).
Right now we have nothing but pretense because none of our acts have any meaning. Our society is not unified so we have no goal to advance. There are no consequences for any legal act because the crowd will simply pass judgment and move on to a new pleasure, entertainment or fear.
What remains is more like the time before civilization than a developing society. We wander in bands, taking what we can from our environment, wrapping ourselves in the thin cloaks of pretense. This warms our souls more than our bodies, but even so, we feel the cold winds and the instability they bring.