TTM 11 – Aesthetic Fetishism

“You can have any color you like – so long as it’s black.”

Henry Ford

It’s very easy to be an aesthetic fetishist, because most ‘choices’ we are able to make within capitalist relations are all aesthetic choices. Identify with the aesthetic choices you make, and bam –

you’re an aesthetic fetishist. 

Against aesthetic fetishism, we can say this: you are not the aesthetic choices you make.

They’re just habits!

You don’t have to identify with aesthetic preferences at all.

Why would you stop? Well – because it frees up a massive amount of mental space. Dis-identifying with aesthetic choices gives your identification procedures the room for more interesting uses and pursuits. You also become immune to marketing that assumes you’re an aesthetic fetishist, and to attempts to manipulate your aesthetic vanity. You gain a ton of concrete free time by renouncing aesthetic preferences.

How much time do you spend each day adjusting your makeup? Doing your hair? Choosing which clothes to wear? Deciding what food to eat? Shopping?

I spend almost no time doing any of this. I wear the same clothes every day. I can reach onto my shelf and grab a new set with my eyes closed. I eat the same food all the time. I get the same haircut, and I get it short so I don’t have to do anything to maintain it. When I shop, I shop for utility and need. (And yes, I am very aware that the extent to which I can do this and still be considered a sexual being is a function of my male privilege – but the point still stands).

I do these things because I deliberately stopped identifying with aesthetic choices at all. They’re totally meaningless to me now. I find them kind of aggravating and boring. They’re a waste of my time and energy. Faced with an aesthetic choice, I’ll flip a coin, or pick the first thing, or let someone else do it. I just don’t give a fuck about them – and it’s awesome!

Here’s the thing about aesthetic preferences – they’re entirely contingent and relative. Every sensory experience you have can only be compared with the experiences you’ve already had. Thus – pursuing all the best aesthetic experiences is just chasing a high.

If you only eat only the tastiest, rarest foods – you’ll be unable to eat anything else, because your palette will have adjusted around that normal. If you only fuck the hottest people, you won’t be attracted to a majority of the population. If you only drink the best alcohol, the cheap stuff will taste even worse. If you only do the primo drugs, most drugs won’t even work. If you only consume the best art, most art will be foreign to you.

Aesthetics are a drug – and like all drugs, they are a snake eating its own tail. They go nowhere! Identifying with such facile pursuits not only locks you into a prison of your own hedonism, it makes you shallow and stupid to boot. Aesthetic fetishizers are all junkies, in the end, no matter how socially acceptable their aesthetic drugs are.

And junkies suck.

So, it’s much better to establish a cheap baseline of sensory experience for everything, and only depart from that occasionally. The wider the gap between your baseline and the occasional indulgences, the more intense and memorable the aesthetic experience will be. It’s all about contrast. The more you disidentify with aesthetic choices, the easier this will get, and the more obvious it will become that fetishizing aesthetic experiences is a trap.

It’s really hard to get outside of aesthetic fetishism entirely, because we’re bombarded with aesthetic choices all the time. We’re conditioned into believing that our aesthetic preferences are an essential part of our identity so that we’ll continue to be easy targets for advertising.

Capitalism aestheticizes everything – even dedicated anti-aesthetic movements like the Dadaists and the Punks got re-aestheticized eventually. The commodity form gets redoubled in on itself as aesthetic-value and sign-value, creating entire markets almost devoid of any use-value. The higher up the class ladder you are, the more you are expected to be an aesthetic fetishist, and judged for your aesthetic choices. I still sometimes have to make aesthetic choices even though I don’t want to, just because they’re absolutely everywhere. If I’m not careful, it’s easy to re-identify with the choices, and that’s how the system gets you. 

So it’s kind of an endless process, this one. Continuing to practice disidentification with aesthetic choices is a necessary part of getting through ideology, because capital always assumes you’re an aesthetic fetishist by default, and mostly gives us primarily aesthetic choices by which to define ourselves. By refusing to play this pointless, insipid game, you give yourself a bit of cloaking, and you can start to understand and define yourself in ways that are no longer aesthetic at all. 

And again, the mental space and concrete time bonus is tremendous.

Your mind has better things to do than endless aesthetic busy work. 

Against aesthetic fetishism, we say: why?

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