There’s a word that gives me shivers, chills down my spine, solid nausea, in a bad sense, unfortunately I can’t help it. The word spread in public discourse at the speed of covid, and journalists happily tossed ‘oven-ready’ solutions into the ether without any distracting thinking or such, with a happy/vacant smile, and now it has become a common term to intersperse wording in laws and serious analyses.
Ah, well. We’ve unfortunately seen expressions like “culture” of consumption, but now we’re here with “culture consumption”. Which is such bullshit as love-planning, pain culture, soup-slicing, slimming jelly, etc. Culture – whatever it is, but let’s say it’s mostly a state of being, or rather a direction of it – cannot be consumed. Moreover, consumption is nowadays a word with increasingly negative connotations, which is immediately associated in the imagination with the idea of defecation, of getting rid of the substance consumed (including the associated stench).
So consumption is basically a consuming, decomposing, so to speak, a saprophytic behavior: it uses the energy of dead creatures to survive. At first sight, it’s all right to think of going to a concert as a way of recycling the intellectual products of dead beings (de-composers) for the purpose of relaxing or contemplating or for whatever purpose. But that’s not culture. Culture does not degrade, it creates. It is not dead, it is alive; in fact, it is the very medium of life in a certain social approach. And we don’t consume it, but we share it. Those who attend a concert are not passive consumers (a.k.a. fungi), but are an essential component of active creation and recreation. It participates in bringing the resurgence of music to life, sharing the experience with others, creating a community in the moment when hundreds of people are raving / weeping / mourning / listening in silence / boring / laughing together.
A classical, humanist human being sharing culture couldn’t be further from the consumer, the postmodern human caricature who shovels trash food with desperate loneliness. That’s the reason why people still go to concerts, to theatre, and I would venture, to church, and perhaps even more – because we have a need for sharing, the number one building block of community.
Because consuming is a damn lonely thing to do, and loneliness, along with emptiness, is what we humans fear the most.
Author: Máté Hámori