Pantomime

The basic claim of populists is that established politicians cannot be open about the conditions of their existence. And indeed, if the establishment admitted the failures of our constitutions, governments, our societies, and indeed of the historic failure of our species to stably co-exist, the entire podium which they have so painstakingly built would disintegrate beneath them. Of course, populists themselves are titillating factors of production in the public opinion industry. Their products, their bits and snippets of miscellaneous entertainment, can be consumed as a ritualised, sensationalised, and extravagantly consumable paste of things, with a pretence to civic duty in representative democracies. To convince, everybody in the public sphere must appear to rise above – and thereby obscure – the conditions of their own existence. They must produce artificially either regularity or celebrity, through a well-scripted comic performance. The pantomime seems absurd, until we finally ask, what, then, are we to make of it, this swirling mirage of signals, not empty, but patterned by second, third, fourth symbolic orders, incomprehensibly swirling into one another, impossible to fully register, which we consume unthinkingly? We suspend disbelief. If we didn’t, we’d encounter troubling questions about our own existence. Conditioned to be myopic, to be consumed by its dialectic and to reproduce its antagonisms, diligent entrepreneurs of the self must accept and re-perform its unfolding cascade of dysfunction. Because we are like this, so too our leaders. We produce them, they produce us back. In the end, though, the pretence need only be theirs. Laugh, like Sloterdijk.