The Death of Humility

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By Adam Gibson

I think we have witnessed the death of humility in recent years; the obliteration of a protective self-awareness that is actually good to retain. And in its place, we’ve seen the embrace of a complete shamelessness that exists without any awareness of the wisdom of actually retaining such self-limiting self-awareness.

A man who’s never ridden a surfboard in his life standing beside a famed surf break, having his photo taken, to the vicarious embarrassment of all the experienced surfers walking past; a woman who buys one drink at a supposedly hip bar and who clearly isn’t a professional model but nevertheless poses with said drink for 10 different photos in various poses of phonily serene “natural” self-reflection, while other patrons look on in embarrassment (or perhaps with kindred inspiration); three middle-aged women repeatedly doing “jumps” on a crowded beach with a concentration of effort that removes all joy and focusses the viewer’s mind on the just what purpose this action is serving if it isn’t at least fun to do in the first place, the entire beach watching.

These people themselves however don’t give a shit. And importantly, they don’t even THINK to give a shit. Such humility is dead, it’s goneski, out the window. See ya later.

Imagine calling YOURSELF an “influencer”?! Like, “Hi there, I’m an influencer.” Many people do now, regardless of how many people they influence or how little influence they have. For many of them, their whole raison d’être, their reason for being, is to supposedly “influence” other people by their actions on social media. And indeed they probably do influence other people – the 6 billion (approx.) other plonkers looking for inspiration, looking for belief, looking for an authentic version of themselves to create, indeed, looking for an influence to influence them. But the influencers influence them to do what exactly? Maybe it’s to get massive Botox duck lips and bolt-on boobs, like many of them? Maybe it’s to market their very being as a shopfront for sale, as if their blood is worth bottling, as if they have the golden ticket away from the universal plonker-dom of their audience?

The absolute shamelessness of it, the sheer fundamental wanker-dom of it…

There was a time when such phonies were eviscerated, when such pretence was vaporised by the very basic fact that most of these people were actually nothing but wannabes and fakes and desperate try-hards, the veneer so easy to see through as to render them basically easily branded as wankers or fuck-wits to be deservedly laughed at and pilloried without mercy. Especially in Australia, where they could be rendered insignificant by the simple call of “wanker”. Not any more.

The wanker is alive and flourishing with complete abandon. People actually WANT to be wankers. The wanker is celebrated. The wanker is King or Queen.

And whilst of course those with thousands of followers remain in their gilded Insta worlds getting freebies apparently all over the shop, those on the numerous rungs down from there are also emulating them in their own fashion, onward ever downward, ever more, till we get to the micro level of absolute nobodies carrying on like somebodies without any compunction whatsoever.

And now also of course if some plonker holds a surfboard at a beach and their photo is taken and that photo is posted on Instagram or wherever, they in-effect “become” a surfer; there is no need to learn how to actually surf – it’s already done. They are A Surfer for all intents and purposes in the eyes of the people who see and/or “like” that photo. And then those people who “like” that photo, if perchance they have the opportunity by a beach somewhere, will grab a board if possible and also become a “surfer” too … and onward we go.

Further, for example; you don’t even need to own or live in or even have any knowledge of an Art Deco building but by simply having a photo taken next to one and having that photo posted online, you can grab a bit of that Art Deco for yourself. That history, that resonance, that heritage and style becomes imprinted onto your spirit and it becomes a way of saying “this is me”. “This faded aqua is ME, this curvilinear line of building is a representation of my very essence.” And so it becomes so.

The same with, say, an old typewriter, something from the very dawn of known time, say around 1980, or an old car in a primary colour with chrome bumpers and “retro” lines that speak to something older and grander and more meaningful. All these and many more things can be instantly integrated into your own personal shopfront’s DNA, they can become an integral part of your very flesh and bone and brain and image. They can become you.

But the interesting thing is, all around the world, millions of other people are also shamelessly having their photos taken with the same such objects and in the same or similar spots, in front of the same or similar Deco buildings or typewriters or in chic cafes that have an anchor painted on the wall which just screams “this is the spot to take a photo”, and these people are shamelessly, with that complete absence of self-awareness – or maybe a complete POSSESSION of such self-awareness – are integrating these things into their own worlds.

This begets that then this further begets that and onward we go, in a ever-circling circle, a never-ending loop of pastels and old typewriters and hazy lit old surfboards beside beaches and a Californian twilight glow that is equal parts Lana Del Rey, Father John Misty and Polaroid lo-fi chic, where a great deal of time (and perhaps money) is spent on making something look like no time or money was spent on it.

A million people with splish-splash doodle-like tattoos on their bodies, ‘grammed eagerly to enhance their individual brand, a ship’s anchor replacing the crucifix as the ultimate symbol of the new era, no need to learn how to play guitar, just sit on some old rustic steps and hold a random guitar, et voila, a rock-Star is Born.

I live in an Art Deco building and almost every day, increasingly, I see people taking photographs of it. It’s colour and lines just seem to possess the exact quality that qualifies it as an sign of perfect pitch for the times. A friend said she saw a young girl, maybe 10 years old, taking a photo of the building and my friend breezily asked, “Why are you photographing that building?” The little girl replied, her voice dripping with a powerful and condescending knowing – “Don’t you know? That’s the most Instagrammable building in Bondi.” And thus that little girl takes a bit of our building and puts it into her personal construction of identity.

There is an alley in District 1 in Ho Chi Minh City which leads to a now-overwhelmingly hipster craft beer bar. The alley is filled with itty-bitty drawings and “graffiti” that has been meticulously made to look as if done on the run, again perfectly meeting an aesthetic pitch point that makes it irresistible to social media aficionados. Every night that you go the bar, there are people standing there having their photos taken, shamelessly posing as if they’re the first ones ever to do so. They don’t even bother making it upstairs to the bar. Having your photo taken in the entrance of a cool bar is just as important, perhaps actually more important, than even going to the bar itself. And cheaper.

I know not where this is leading. I know not an answer, or even if I am posing a question. All I guess I am getting at is, I’m out. I hereby declare I don’t want to take in any more of this shit. This is a spiel that has unfolded in a stream-of-conscious manner. And no doubt I can be accused of having a “Well IN MY DAY, things were all different, these young’uns etc etc” attitude. Maybe so. In fact, I hope so…

But stuff it, this death of humility we’re seeing everywhere is truly bloody embarrassing. There’s a real joylessness to it, too. Like no-one seems to have actual real fun anymore, it’s just more important to be seen to be having fun.

Anyway, “in my day”, we called these people WANKERS. And we should do that again.

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