Societal collapse, Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Bo Burnham's Inside – A Philosopher Reacts
While most of us have spent the past year or so learning how to make bread or developing adult onset agoraphobia bo burnham was writing filming, editing and performing in a comedy special that makes his stand up. Sketches and songs show off and while we found plenty to overanalyze in burnham’s past work, we were surprised by how explicitly philosophical he gets in this special. There are so many songs in the past about about working class jobs, but not a lot about the labor exploitation of the modern world. So that was the idea here, so we figured it warranted. Another edition of a philosopher reacts now. Beau covers a lot of ground in the special, but i want to focus on two interrelated themes: self examination and a little thing called capitalism, oh and also jeffrey. You did it so let’s check it out in this episode of a philosopher, reacts to inside let’s start with his educational children, song after bose sings about how the world is a magical place where all of nature works together in perfect harmony. His friend slash prisoner, sako, chimes in with a um different perspective. The simple narrative taught in every history class is demonstrably false and pedagogically classist, okay, um so sako might be a marxist he’s, calling history curriculums, pedagogically classist, with pedagogy being the theory and practice of teaching in doing so, he’s pointing out the influence that class has on The way we produce and reproduce knowledge now, we’ve all heard the misattributed churchill line.
History is written by the victors, but philosopher walter. Benjamin has a more insightful version which translates to empathy with the victors, thus comes to benefit the current rulers every time. So history is both written and taught by the class, with the most wealth power and textbook factories. This is what paulo frerry describes in pedagogy of the oppressed in which he argues that education is never neutral. It either perpetuates oppressive systems or probably less often leads to radical change through a practice of freedom. So let’s see where sako the maybe marxist goes. Next. The global network of capital essentially functions to separate the worker from the means of production. So i know this stuff. Uh that’s some good old fashioned karl marx, for you now here our commie hand, puppet is referencing marx’s argument that industrial capitalism separates the worker from the tools and methods i.e the means to actually make a product, for example, in the pre industrial era, actually give me Your shoe thanks in the pre industrial era, a cobbler would make shoes, sell the shoes, receive the money for them and presumably hit the pub afterwards here. The cobbler has access to the labor of making the shoes, the customers and, most importantly, the profits, but as we shift into the era of factory produced goods and especially assembly lines, all of this changes instead of using craftsmanship to build shoes from scratch, you’re say poking Lace, holes in the shoes one after another all day long and once the shoes leave your spot on the line, you’re, never seeing them again.
Most importantly, the shoes you helped make are the property of the factory owner and they’re the ones profiting from their sale. You are completely separated and alienated from the process of making and selling the shoes, not to mention the whole system puts you at odds with your fellow workers in a doggy dog culture of survival, while most of us don’t work in factories, we’re all still separated from Our respective means of production so like, if you performed beautiful, emotive content on youtube, but your boss owned the cameras and the youtube channel. It was posted on and and then took all the profits and gave only a little bit back to you. Oh god, okay, the the point is that in marx’s view, all of this is endemic to how capitalism and the world works, and the fbi killed. Martin luther king, okay, um this one might be a conspiracy theory, but the fbi absolutely killed fred. Hampton private properties, inherently theft and neoliberal fascists are destroying the left. Okay, so you might have heard the phrase property is theft thrown around before or seen it spray painted on one of those new like ugly condo buildings, with a name like new space, but the roots of this go way back to at least philosopher and political theorist. Jean jacques rousseau, in his book, the social contract was so differed from his peers, like thomas hobbs and john locke, that he imagined a state of nature that was inherently pretty peaceful.
That is until somebody said that they were the landlord of the earth here’s. What he wrote the first person who, having enclosed a plot of land, took it into his head to say this is mine and found people simple enough to believe. Him was the true founder of civil society and the effects of this one dude who wanted to like own some dirt, just a whole host of wars, murders, genocides and other atrocities that have shaped civilization for thousands of years. It’S, like the worst possible episode of house, hunters and rousseau, wonders why we’ve all accepted this as normal, when we know that no human has special property rights over the earth except dolly parton and dollywood that’s. All hers also. She invented the kova 19 vaccine right a century later. Marx and engels would pick up the same argument in their edgy zine. The communist manifesto for the simon and garfunkel of political philosophy, it’s important to remember that private property is already done away with for nine tenths of the population, because a few rich dudes own all of it and then they rent it to the rest of us. So it’s a system that doesn’t even benefit people unless your parents bought you a house in which case i guess you did it and can i stay there for free let’s get back to the song, and every politician every cop on the street protects the interests of The pedophilic corporate elite well saco, clearly read those q posts that his aunt shelly has been sending him on facebook.
Okay, there’s a lot more in this segment, but i want to jump ahead and see what beau has to say about self examination and how it can help us well shut. The up let’s check it out. Is it necessary that every single person on this planet um expresses every single opinion that they have on every single thing that occurs all at the same time? Is that is that necessary, um, or to ask in a slightly different way um can? Can anyone shut the up? Okay? No. This actually makes me think of one of plato’s little stories called krydo in it. Saugerty’S friend crito tries to break socrates out of prison before he gets executed. Instead of going all shawshank redemption, though socrates is like nah bro let’s talk about the meaning of truth. Kratos worried that if socrates doesn’t bust out, everyone in athens will then cry on his buddies and punks for letting socrates die and their opinions. Have him stressed? Socrates response is basically that if you care about all the opinions, everyone is expressing out in the streets you’re going to lose sight of truth and wisdom, now jump to 19th century denmark and philosophy’s favorite, sad boy, soren kierkegaard, who now that i think of it as Major burnham vibes used a similar perspective to criticize the media of his day. He thought that the advent of publishing made it possible for people to eat up all the that angry journalists and slick advertisers published while never having to really think for themselves now, while a good lutheran boy like sauron would never use such crass language, he was also, Basically, begging people to shut the up and it’s telling that bo says this in one of the few segments of inside where he seems to be performing, stand up as it’s clear that he is aware of the irony of a stand up comedian using their ability to Express whatever opinions they want telling others to stop expressing all of their opinions on the internet.
It’S like he’s, telling others to shut the up, while also telling himself to well yeah, also maybe shut the up. Well, let’s jump ahead to another segment where bo is lying. On the floor, you know maybe um allowing giant digital media corporations to exploit the neurochemical drama of our children for profit. You know, maybe that was uh a bad call by us, okay, um, so his floor. Ramblings here bring us back to the theme of alienation under capitalism. Now, here, he’s pushing things past what 19th century thinkers like marx could have considered and and talking about how media and tech companies have figured out how to use our literal brain chemistry to turn us into a bunch of little addicts who hunch over our devices all Day while they use our attention to extract data and profit and apparently we’re fine with letting children’s brains get mind for clicks and content, even if it makes them depressed anxious and pretty obnoxious, in other words, less talented bo burnham’s, maybe the the flattening of the entire Subjective human experience into a lifeless exchange of value that benefits nobody, except for um. You know a handful of bug, eyed salamanders in silicon valley, maybe that as a as a way of life forever, maybe that’s um, not good, okay, um well, here beau is starting to touch on what marx called commodity fetishism, which is when we treat objects and goods Like they have some type of magical value, disconnected from the labor that creates them now we begin to see things valued, not for their practical use, but for their market value.
So a pokemon card becomes detached from how much joy it can bring or how strategic it is and instead becomes an investment asset that can be cashed in to pay for college or you know like buy one astronomy textbook, but it doesn’t just stop the pokemon cards Because it never just stops at pokemon cards, eventually, this shapes our brains, so that things like wisdom and self examination get subsumed by cultural and commercial values sold to us by corporations, many of whom happen to be run by bug eyed salamanders. What feels like meaningful cultural experience is largely just us playing along with the game that creates value for others, but you’re, probably thinking sure michael, this all makes sense. But what does it have to do with what really matters to me, namely, sending and receiving nudes? Well, you’re: in luck, because beau has a song about this and we’re going to talk about it. Next, Music it’s, like actually a good song, though it’s like a joke, but it’s like a good song, it’s kind of confusing okay um. So in this song, we’re seeing how sex and romance get packaged up and become a digital product, that’s tied into the tangled web of clicks and content, burnham’s already focused on the way in which both content attention and even the loss of a loved one become commodities. In the age of digital capitalism, here by pointing out the way in which sexting is the next best thing to actual physical contact, he’s, showing how even our sex lives can be used to keep us glued to our devices.
Creating more data and ad revenue for jeffrey and the boys – and we all know it’s only a matter of time before there is a new cryptocurrency called coin that’s mined by having tons of digital sex, which i mean looks like it’s like kind of hot. I guess, but this is how french philosopher alain baju describes the digital version of love. We get on dating apps like tinder and bumble. Now he calls it love comprehensively insured against all risks. You will have love but will have assessed. The prospective relationship so thoroughly will have selected your partner so carefully by searching online by obtaining, of course, a photo details of his or her taste date of birth, horoscope, sign, etc and putting it all in the mix you can tell yourself. This is a risk free option now, basically, rather than love being a passionate adventure that could end up with my homecoming date, christine ditching me to hang out with older guys, which is a thing that happened: it’s just another product being sold to us by the bug. Eyed salamanders in silicon valley, okay, let’s jump ahead a bit and we’re going to see what bo has to say about you becoming one with the internet that the outside world the non digital world is merely a theatrical space in which one stages and records content. For the much more real, much more vital digital space, i also just realized he doesn’t have a shirt on at that part, but that’s cool.
Now this goes with the sexting stuff we just talked about, because when digital space is where data can be mined like a natural resource and attention can create profit, then the digital world becomes the real world because what’s more real than profit and consequently non digital space Starts to only exist to serve this digital space it’s like the museum of ice cream. It sounds awesome. I mean a museum of ice cream, but it ends up just being this massive excuse for instagram moments: it’s not there to celebrate the delicious wonder of frozen milk, eggs and sugar it’s just another place that facilitates content that will exist in a digital space and ideally Create engagement and help sell advertising. I note the irony of this so let’s close with one of the last songs in the special where bo does his best yeezus era, kanye, impression, Laughter, okay, so to end on a pretty ominous note, it seems like burnham is clarifying one of the themes of the Show, namely, that the world isn’t ending it’s already over he’s, not looking for signs of hope within the current system. As it’s this very system, that’s created the problems he’s been exploring throughout the special he’s, basically saying that our best case scenario is moving around the deck chairs on the titanic before the iceberg finishes us off, which yeah it’s pretty dark, but because it’s better for our Advertisers, if you walk away feeling happy i’ll, give the last word to german philosopher walter, benjamin someone whose spirit seems to be haunting burnham’s guesthouse.
He wrote it is only for the sake of those without hope that hope is given to us. So, who knows, maybe we’re not totally screwed, but what do you guys think as a year stuck inside added a new layer of philosophical depth to burnham’s comedy, or am i just too easily swayed by the musings of marxist sock puppets? Let us know you think in the comments and definitely let us know what else you’d like to see me wax philosophical about big thanks to our awesome, patrons for all your support.