Life In The Generic World

Nick Williams
5 min readMar 27, 2023
wallpapertip.com

The Generic World runs on assigned meaning (as opposed to meaning that is innate, intrinsic, or inherent). We are — in other words — told what things mean in the Generic World. The meaning of our existence is imported from ‘the outside’, we might say. When we are told ‘what things mean’ then, in this process, we are very effectively made into prisoners — there is no better way of making people into prisoners than this. As actual individuals, we have been quite nullified.

There is no better way of making people into prisoners than by telling them what things mean and this is what we do all the time. We take a pride in telling recently arrived human beings what things ‘mean’, what reality consists of, what ‘life is all about’, and so in this way we pass on our lack of originality to the next generation. We pass on the prison to them, and we call it ‘culture’! This however only culture in the sense that it is the ‘culture of the prison’. Generic culture is always the culture of the prison…

When we are prisoners of the Generic World that nothing matters more to us than making sure that our offspring are prisoners of it too — ‘Well, my upbringing never did me any harm’, we say. We validate the state of being imprisoned and we want it for everyone. There is something frankly scandalous about the thought of someone not wanting to subscribe to the generic view of things, to the view of things that we all agree with. It’s as if we’re saying ‘Well — if I have to live in the Generic World then so do you!’ Only this isn’t a conscious attitude but an unconscious (or implicit) one — our conscious attitude is to validate the adapted modality of being, to say that it’s a good thing.

In terms of ‘group morality’ subscribing to the Generic World is the worthy and responsible thing to do — we get a pat on the back for this, we obtain the legitimacy that comes with being a member of the club. We have proved ourselves in this way, we have demonstrated our reliability and so we can be trusted. The converse is also true, of course — if we don’t sign up, or if, for whatever reason, we aren’t able to say the sort of things that we have to say in order to show as we are part of the group, then we’re left out in the cold. Not being a member of the group is immoral as far as the group is concerned…

The details or particulars of the Generic World have nothing to do with the truth, however — ‘generic’ (or ‘agreed-upon’) values and ‘the truth’ have nothing to do with each other! It’s all just a matter of spotting what everyone else takes for granted, and then taking it for granted too, in the very same way that they do. It’s all a matter of ‘working out what the game rules are and then following them as if you had been doing so all your life, following them as if you had always known them to be true…’ This is social adaptation in a nutshell — we have to forget that we were ever ‘un-adapted’, we have to obscure the fact as to the best of our ability. Nothing else is real but the game.

This is ‘an act of conformity’ rather than a ‘creative’ one; adapting to the template is what it needed rather than any actual originality. We create the Generic World via an act of mass conformity and then we ‘flip everything over’ so that conforming to the script that has been handed to us is ‘the great virtue’, and having our own individual take on things is ‘sheer wrongheadedness’. If we want to be truly accepted into the club then we have to fool ourselves along with everyone else; it is necessary for us to resolutely ‘turn our backs on the truth’. This act of ‘reality-denial’ is the price of admittance to the club.

We can’t ever let on that we’re conforming however, that wouldn’t do it all. On the contrary (as everyone knows), we are obliged to put on the show that this is what we really think all by ourselves, and that it isn’t the case that we are simply being coldly calculating in this regard (because we know what side our bread is buttered on). If we don’t sound properly sincere in our strenuous proclamation of loyalty to the generic values then this is the same as not conforming — we’re only pretending to conform in this case and so we’re going to be caught out. We’re not pretending sincerely enough…

So the situation is that — although we aren’t being true to ourselves — we have to pretend that we are. We have to pretend not just to others but to ourselves too — there must be no hint, on any level, that the show actually is ‘only a show’. We are copying from the template rather than being creative, and yet it is necessary that this act of mimicry present itself as being somehow ‘original to us’. We are reading from the script but we have to pretend that we’re being spontaneous; we are acting in a calculated way, looking for a very specific advantage, and yet we have to convince ourselves that we’re not. This is the tightrope we have to walk.

The Generic World is a very superficial kind of place, therefore. Everything has to exist on the one single level of meaning — if there were any other possible levels of meaning, or ‘levels of description’, then this would spoil the game. If there was ‘anything else’ then this would seriously distract from the effect. The generic world is a very bland one in other words, it’s a world that is entirely without nuance, entirely without individuality. It’s a literal world. Or — as we could also say — the Generic World is the Image World, the world that is made up of two-dimensional meanings.

In the two-dimensional world of mass-produced literal truths — which is the world that thought creates — there can only be the one meaning for things, the meaning that has been written down, the meaning that has been set down in law, the meaning that all right-thinking people subscribe to, and the consequence of this is that all other meanings are heresies that have to be dismissed, dangerous lies that have to be fought against. Everything is very obvious, very unambiguous in the Image World, and so the message is that we ‘just have to get on with it’. What we’re supposed to be ‘getting on with’ is entirely banal however — everything is always banal in the two-dimensional image world but we — for the most part — are too consumed by the game to ever notice this. The utter absurdity of ‘life in the Generic World’ is quite lost on us…

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