Binaries, as options or choices, dictate our lives: zeros and ones, good and bad, healthy and ill, and truths and lies. Binaries are easy models that attract us to them in order to simplify our lives, like roads that fork where you can go left or right. But if we ask ‘where do you want to go?’ there will be more than two choices that can be made and binary reasoning fails. We can make the model a little more complex by adding a third choice. But with each additional variable, the story becomes harder to tell. My father left to pursue his acting career. My father left because he didn’t love my mother anymore. These are clear cut reasons. Third option, my father left because he loved his career more than he loved his children. How about a fourth option? He left because he loved us.
Binaries are simpler. They offer clear options. A person is successful because they are not a failure. A person is a hero because they are not a villain. But this is not how people are. People can succeed despite the number of failures they have experienced. A person is a person because of the continuously varying factors, such as height, intelligence, and mood. The philosopher Slavoj Žižek says “humanity is ok, but 99% of people are boring idiots”. In my worst moods I can see myself agreeing with this statement, but does this mean that 1% interesting intellectuals?
We need to change our perception of who and what is right and wrong. But what is offered in the place of binary reasoning? Žižek, also suggests that it is not enough to champion change, but we must also suggest what comes next, what is the new ideology…what is the next anthem. In fact, he poses the question of whether we need to change at all. Do we stay the same, and thereby change by doing nothing?
We are obsessed with being right. In other words we are terrified about being wrong because we cannot see the gradient in-between. We are unable to just be because if we do not promote something (ourselves) we are seen as not being relevant. The phrase “you do you” comes to mind. A phrase based on the idea of being one’s self, but there is an action to it. In order to be someone you must do something. Therefore, one’s identity becomes what you do, rather than who you are. It is the pursuit of the latter that drives us to self-proclamation and to towards commodification.
For it is not enough to be private in your doings, rather in order to be right we must be public. We are a commodity of social media. Our self-worth is based on up-votes, likes, shares, and comments. This then further drives our identity being formed by the reward scale of the binary: approval/disapproval. I get more likes for selfies, than I do for sharing my ideas. My image is more important than me, for what am I if not my thoughts. My mother no longer likes my posts. Is it that she disapproves? Or is it that she is too busy sharing “amen” posts, that she does not see me? Has she ever seen me? Yes and no.