Admit it, dear reader, you always wanted to know what caused our glorious edifice of iron, concrete, plastic, and silicone, that unsinkable Titan borne out of the sheer Faustian audacity of our ancestors, to suddenly shudder, grind to a halt, and start sinking.
Well, we can probably agree that the name of the iceberg doesn’t really matter at this stage. It did hit our glorious edifice, and we are indeed going down.
Even the two main tribes on deck, Pepsi and Coca, sorry, the progressors and the conservers, seem to agree that something is wrong. However, their main differences revolve around the music the orchestra should be playing to accompany the sinking of our Titan, so there is no point in thinking about them further.
You must have also noticed the conspicuous absence of anger at this turn of events among our fellow passengers. After all, depression and acceptance are supposed to be preceded by denial, anger, and bargaining. So how did we jump straight to acceptance?
Enter the therapeutic state. Shallow, tepid vulgarity in pastels.
The word therapeutic originates from the ancient Greek therapeutein, “to take care of, provide for,” and is related to another old Greek word – therapon, “attendant.”
We will return to these terms below, but first, a brief excursus into the forgotten past.
The premodern, or traditional, state punished transgressions. Preferably in a public spectacle for the amusement of its people. It viewed itself as the protector of a divine order in which some toiled, some prayed, and some fought and maintained the divine order. Bodies, and their proprietors, were viewed as sovereign entities inhabiting a sacred world.
The modern, or industrial, state had a radically different conception of its role. The modern state severed its ties to the divine, declared victory over it, and imagined itself an all-encompassing Leviathan. The Leviathan had no need to punish transgressors since it was the source of all order, and those transgressors were always to be part of it. Instead, it aimed to discipline all bodies, of which it was now the sole proprietor. To do that, it invented disciplinary institutions – schools, universities, offices, hospitals, and prisons.
The therapeutic state doesn’t punish or discipline. It doesn’t care about order or the proprietorship of bodies. It inherited the disciplinary institutions of the modern state, but now they are simply vestigial appendages parasitizing on whatever residual energy they can find while tepidly caring. “Sir, I want you to know that we listen and care!” The therapeutic state seems to have only one role – it somatizes by alternate excitement and sedation. Its function is to smoothly transition the masses into acceptance by diverting their anger and medicating their depression.
The purpose of the therapeutic state is not to maintain a divine order or push forward into the unknown. It is to cope. Inclusively.
Think of the bureaucrat. A vestigial organ of the now defunct industrial state, found across all its residual disciplinary institutions.
Leviathan needed the bureaucrat to organize and maintain its disciplinary apparatus. Left to its own devices, it could always be relied on to create Kafkaesque labyrinths into which it could lure its unwitting prey.
However, the bureaucrat has always been cowardly and would never dare to be the Minotaur in its own mazes. Instead, it would parasitically drain the vital energy of its victims while excreting the busy work necessary to maintain the labyrinth.
Who knows, future historians might even decide that it was the bureaucrat, having developed class consciousness as the managerial class in the West and the nomenklatura in the lands of socialism, that brought the industrial society to collapse through its sheer parasitic chutzpah.
In the therapeutic state, the role of the bureaucrat is played by the therapon. Like the strapon, the therapon is an ersatz appendage symbolizing an absence.
The absence of order, meaning, or direction. Unless you call sinking a move in the right direction.
The therapon is an attendant. It copes, but shallowly. The therapon listens and cares, inclusively. The therapon seethes when prodded, but timidly.
The managerial class could at least be counted on for dizzying displays of kitsch vulgarity masquerading as high modern art, the prerogative of the untouchable parasite.
The therapon aesthetic is a tepid vulgarity in pastels. A beige you must accept.