New Give me five! Jessa Crispin is the author of Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto and the host of the podcast Public Intellectual. “Recommendations to burn all our belongings and make our way unburdened through the world”, in her own words.
Probably the thing I've been thinking about the most lately is materiality. We have so much anxiety about stuff. Stuck inside without much to do except flip around my various streaming services, I see so much about how to have less, how to rid ourselves of stuff, how to release our attachments to things. I see documentaries showing how every food item, item of clothing, knick knack, and kitchen appliance is born from a source of exploitation and violence. And in between all of that, of course, advertisements beckon me to shove more things in the empty void at the center of my existence.
The most stirring thing I've come across on this subject is the book The Enchantments of Mammon: How Capitalism Became the Religion of ModernityEugene McCarraher. Since finishing it, I've returned to it and referenced it again and again. It has helped me to think through how I, as a writer, as a producer of things, might avoid turning myself into a thing -- a brand, a commodity -- as a result. I'm not sure, though, if it is useful or demoralizing to know that people have been struggling with these things for such a very long time.
Christine Hou also seems to have been feeling the anxiety of things, as the titles of her most recent collages suggest. Her work is so beautiful, and I long to have one on my wall. (Will turning myself into a commodity help me afford to buy art? Who can tell). A lifetime's accumulation, Acquisition and display and The spiritual side of decluttering.
And I still love competition shows where people make things, although I wish they'd take the competition part out of it and just show people making things because they enjoy making things. Why the constant threat of elimination? The Great Pottery Throw Down is my latest obsession, I've taken the image of the master potter making a beautiful pot and then immediately squishing it back into a lumpy mass, over and over, and used it in the novel I'm writing.
For the most part I have stopped buying brand new clothing, preferring vintage looks and fabrics over the usually shoddily made modern fashions. But I am still on the hunt for a good pair of pink and white striped stockings, so let me know if anyone knows where I can get a pair!
I guess one solution to this anxiety would be to give up, set all of our possessions on fire and work into the world unburdened, but I don't know that I actually want to live in a world without nicely made books, or Victorian silk, or the opera (an opera performance takes a lot of stuff to set up). The song I keep getting stuck in my head is The Hand that Feeds by Nine Inch Nails, and it asks, over and over, "Will you bite the hand that feeds you?" If it tries to feed us junk, yes, absolutely.
Jessa Crispin is the author of Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto and the host of the podcast Public Intellectual. She can be found at jessacrispin.com.