An Accumlation of Random Thoughts #8

Last Edited April 30, 2023: Made some small grammar changes and clarifications.

I’ve been so busy with work that I just pass out every evening when I get home. Hopefully, I will get more free time soon. This post includes topics such as food, art, hyper-individualism, obsessive neurosis, thoughts on 2022 Balenciaga fashion campaign, and other surprises. Most of these sections are quite chunky.

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Darkness and Roses

“I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra


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Traffic Light

The other day, I was stuck at a red light behind a huge line of cars because the light wouldn’t change. Eventually, I realized it was likely the sensor that is not working and if someone pressed the cross walk button, the lights would change. I gave it a few more minutes until some dumb child started honking nonstop behind me. So I drove up to the front using the emergency lane, got out and pressed the crosswalk and got back in my car. Boom, the lights changed. The entire line of 15 something cars were probably like “Bobby is a magician”.

The end.

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Favorite Food

In general, French fries (which is actually Belgian), mashed potato, chicken wings, ice cream, pizza, pasta, Taiwanese popcorn chicken, sushi, sushimi, ramen, steak, Vietnamese noodle, ….and uhhh…chips and candy? It always feels like people are judging me when I pull out some type of candy that only a 10 year old would eat in public. Leave me alone, I’m only 5 years old LOL (I’m 32).

Speaking of food, I was given the title “French Fry King” when I was 8. When I go out for food with people and they order fries as a side, I always steal some from them. They now refer to this as “the fry tax”. 😎

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New Car

I bought a CPO (Certified Pre-Owned) 2020 Mercedes GLA250 4MATIC. Originally, I was going to trade my Venza for a new Venza. I know it’s subjective, but I don’t like how the new Venza looks like it has a really big butt (rear bumper). I also thought of getting a Tesla, but decided to wait for EV technology to mature a bit more.

My new car only has 24,000 km on it and came with a nice set of weathertech mats and an extra set of winter tires. It is black with a bunch of upgrades. It has AMG rims, black window trims, black crossbar front grill, front bumper, side skirts, and rear bumper + exhausts (it has the night, avantgarde, and premium upgrade package options). The car has park assist where it can reverse and parallel park by itself using ultrasound sensors. It also has 360 degree camera, blind spot sensors, panoramic sunroof, and LED headlights. I thought I was using high beams on my first night drive. I like how compact it is when compared to my old car.

Appearance wise, black cars are hard to maintain because it reveals dirt and paint flaws easily. But they look really good when they are clean and shiny like a mirror. Unfortunately, they show dirt within 48-72 hours of washing it (I wash it every two weeks or whenever I can’t stand the dirt). I plan on putting a ceramic coating on it in the near future to help with the cleaning and protect the paint. Learning how to take care of a car is probably a good thing for me.

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Why does Bobby not compete with others for his romantic interests? (From last post)

Because women should not be seen as a prize to be won over. They are human beings who are capable of making their own choices on who they want to be with. I am pretty low key and low on drama. I prefer things with as little BS as possible. As complex as some people may think I am, I’m actually quite simple (my friends always tells me I’m like a little kid Lol). Competing with others may lead to drama that I don’t want to deal with. But perhaps some might ask, “If she really matters, shouldn’t you compete other dudes for her?”. 

If someone wants to be with you, they will put in the effort. Just as if I like someone, I will make the effort to talk to them and make things work—unless they already rejected me lol. No one can change their mind if they truly like or love you. If someone else can take said person away, then you clearly don’t mean that much to them. The people who wants to stay in your life will always choose to stay, even if you can be difficult to deal with at times. People who truly likes or loves you won’t give up just like that. The people who sticks around regardless of hardships and differences are the people who are worth fighting for. Those who leave. Let them leave. Love is not easy. It never will be. Easy love is a projection of our desires onto the other. Love consists of the most difficult parts of all human relationships. This is a fact.

Bottom line. I don’t chase people. I am someone who values autonomy and agency. I like to give people the freedom to choose. If I like or love you, I will tell you—especially if I don’t know how you feel after talking to you for a while. I will let you to decide what you want to do with that knowledge. Certainly what you do with it will tell me a lot about who you are. If you truly love a person, part of you always will, no matter where they are or who they are with. I think there is truth to it when people say that when you love someone, you let them go. And if they come back to you, then they are yours to keep. If not, you just have to live with it.

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On Hyper Individualism, Mental Health, and Consumerism

In Western culture, people are often raised and taught to become fierce individualists, self-dependent, and self-serving where everyone tries to be unique and standout. This idea is known as “hyper-individualism” which often carries a lot of negative connotations because it is usually viewed as a source for leading people into all sorts of mental illnesses. Why else do you think there is such a huge social stigma around people who asks for help?

We live in a world where individualism is normalized and sold to people as a form of commodity. Companies sells products and rewards people for becoming individuals. They reward people for becoming narcissists as they focus only on themselves so to help them reach their goals at the expense of everything else (we can think of corporate ads and social media influencers who sells you products where you can be like them). In our day and age, some people would only get together with others due to mutual personal interests over actually connecting with them at a deeper level. Everything becomes superficial, fun, and shallow with no real connection because everyone is taught to serve their desires. They are good party buddies but can’t talk about anything beyond jokes. They enjoy each other’s company because of their desire for money, social status, looks, fun, intercourse, etc. with no real deep soul connection.

No wonder why there are so many studies that reports on people suffering from loneliness. If you think of it like this, things like self love becomes a coping method in a society and culture that has been broken by consumerism. In fact, self love can be sold to you as a way to isolate you from others. Instead of focusing on loving others and truly care about those around us, we are rewarded to focus on our ourselves. Just like how people focus on their own desires. Everything is about me (I alluded to most of these issues in my other posts on psychoanalysis). Thus, self love can sometimes scream, “Love yourself and no one else! Everything is about your desires!”. I speak of this as “sometimes” because self love is also really important for individual growth and maturity when it is real and authentic. This can be seen in works by Erich Fromm, for example (a famous Freudo-Marxist), who spoke of self love as a way to connect with others. But is this still possible in our world today?

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Critical Context: 2022 Balenciaga Campaign Scandal

In late 2022, French fashion house Balenciaga published a campaign of children holding teddy bears dressed in fetish gear which caused an outrage by the general public due to its obscenity and sexual connotations (do a quick Google image search). I think it’s one of those things where context really matters. I’m not sure how many people know this, but a lot of high end fashion labels hires established art photographers to produce their ad campaigns (in this case, it is not just the photographer who took the photos, but we also have the art director, etc.). Welcome to capitalism where art gets turned into a commodity to make money; it is seen in every sector of the art industry from music to fashion. In fact, this was one of my major interests back in my undergraduate days when I studied photography.

But what if we put these images in an art gallery instead of a billboard that is trying to sell expensive clothes? Would it be different? For example, if there was an artist statement in the gallery that talks about how these photographs seeks to challenge its viewers on how contemporary fashion and media objectifies children, would we still look at these images in the same way? Here, we see how someone (or in this case, a group of people) can take pictures that gets reinterpreted in all sorts of ways after they publish it. Just as a writer can write a book and lose control to how people responds to it. Or someone can write a love letter that arrives in the hands of a stranger where its meaning gets lost in translation (I wrote about this when I introduced deconstruction here).

There is something that is transgressive about these images. The campaign reminds me of a book by Jacques Ranciere called Dissensus. In it, Ranciere argues that art, aesthetics, and politics should be about dissensus as opposed to consensus (it is about difference). Art and aesthetics should be provocative that challenges those who views it. I remember reading this book in grad school and it was quite good.

Was it wrong to publish these Balenciaga images in an advertising context? In a large sense, yes. But it is also what makes it so transgressive (i.e. it transcends beyond the contextual boundaries of an advertisement). By publishing it as an ad, not only is Balenciaga setting themselves up for controversy, they are also challenging its viewers to ask difficult questions between art, commodity, the obscenity of child exploitation, abuse and pedophilia. Certainly, I think the average person won’t see deeper meanings to these images other than seeing it as child abuse, etc. and gets mad—which they have every right to be. Yet, perhaps these images speaks of a deeper issue that is embedded in our world, where everything is up for sale: from our labour, culture, language, religion, art, knowledge, all the way to our dignity, integrity, love, and our bodies.

I think good art always breaks boundaries. They should be provocative and controversial. It makes us think and feel. There are lots of famous examples that I can give. We can think of the artist Tracy Emin displaying her bed in a gallery along with traces of her bodily fluids; Marcel Duchamp who used a urinal as a piece of sculpture; Andreas Sorrano where he dunked Jesus Christ’s crucifix cross in urine; or Andy Warhol who displayed Campbell soup advertisement as art.

Despite the backlash of the Balenciaga campaign, I definitely see some interesting ideas that are being addressed. Such as the possibility of a child’s fetishization of the Balenciaga commodities that lays bare on the ground in these photographs (from a psychoanalytic perspective). In fact, the teddy bear is the object that the child fetishizes where it encapsulates their object cause of desire. Sort of like how people fetishizes certain pieces of clothing or fabric; or the clothing and accessories made by Balenciaga or any other fashion brand.

If Alain Badiou is correct that art is an event where truths are produced (just like love), can the encounter of this Balenciaga campaign function as an event, where people are provoked to produce dialogue, thought, and truth?

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The Symptoms of Obsessive Neurosis

Obsessive neurosis is most commonly diagnosed in men, and sometimes in women. Basically, an obsessive neurotic’s desire is also the Other’s desire. They ask the same fundamental question that the hysteric would: “What does the Other want?”. Their main difference lies on how their unconscious mind approaches these questions. Where the hysteric will further ask, “Am I a man or a woman?” or “What is a woman?”, an obsessive will ask, “Am I dead or alive?”. Obsessives only feels “alive” when they are consciously thinking.

The primary symptom of an obsessive neurotic consists of how they use thinking, intellectualization, logic, and reason to repress their traumatic experiences. Many obsessive neurotics will often neglect or refuse to feel and doubt their own thinking and thought patterns, even when it is their best interest to do so in order to unravel their unconscious neurotic transferences and projections (keyword: “doubt”; a person who never doubts is a major symptom of psychosis). Obsessives wants to become the law—they want to be the masters of their mind and thoughts, even when they aren’t.

This is why last time, I spoke of how obsessives often represses their unconscious mind more than a hysteric where they disallow their unconscious thoughts to surface. It is also why you may sometimes read about psychoanalysts who attempts to “hystericize” obsessive neurotic patients so to open up their unconscious mind.

An obsessive needs to be “alive” and not “dead” in order to function in their daily lives. They need to consciously think (desire) and repress their unconscious mind, so to speak. An obsessive who is “dead” might show depressive symptoms where they become unmotivated and immobile. Similar to the hysteric, the obsessive who is “alive” wants to have constant control over their thoughts, lives, society and law. They want to have control over the Other, even when they cannot escape the Other’s impositions.

An obsessive may display clusters of modern psychological symptoms such as OCD, autism, ADHD, depression, etc. It is important to note that not every person with these symptoms are obsessive neurotics. Just as not every hysteric has histrionic personality disorder. As I pointed out before, obsessive neurosis and hysteria are positions that the split subject unconsciously takes. Modern psychology diagnose people based on clusters of symptoms whereas in psychoanalysis, it is about the fundamental “clinical structure” of the person’s unconscious mind which shapes and drives their desires and symptoms that surfaces in their mind and body in reality.

A lot of modern approaches to psychology are descriptive by trying to break up symptoms into smaller sets of symptoms. It avoids trying to solve the fundamental psychical (metaphysical) aspect of the human mind that may produce these symptoms as such (this is a classic psychoanalytic critique of contemporary psychology). With this said, I certainly think that some symptoms are produced by various bodily responses. I won’t deny this.

Nevertheless, for the untrained eye, it can be hard to tell the difference between a hysteric and obsessive because they may display really similar symptoms on the surface. In general, repression is the signature symptom of neurosis. Most analysts agree that obsessive neurotics deals with repressions of the mind, and hysteria deals with repressions of the body. Then there is also perversion, which consists of perverse acts (fetishism) and perversion as a clinical structure.

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The Unconditional Task

Some time ago, I saw my dad cry while watching soap opera. I went up to him and asked what happened and he told me how the episode reminded him of something from the past that hurt him really bad. The following day, we went out for breakfast and he told me about his first love. He told me how she left him and went for someone else (I probably shouldn’t say too much). That episode he watched reminded him of all the pain that he felt back in the days. He told me she even invited him to her wedding that he never attended. Then he asked me, “Do you think I should had went?”. I told him, “I understand why you didn’t go”. He took a short pause then added, “On hindsight, I should’ve went and wished her all the happiness in the world”. I looked at him with admiration, and his eyes got watery. I smiled at him and thought to myself, “A man with a big heart and he is my father!”.

That is love.
That, my friend, is love.

The most difficult and unconditional task: to love those who despises us, those who hurts us and hurls us into the abyss.