Obama, VMAs, Macbeth, and Nothing

What an amazing evening… the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards, and at the same time, Barack Obama giving a speech accepting his nomination for president by the democratic party.  If those two events don’t inspire you, I can’t imagine what would.  I was not happy to hear Obama say that “climate change is not a hoax,” nor would I be happy to hear him say that the periodic table of elements is not a hoax.  I would hope that the argument is a little further along by now.

In any case, it’s all great television, and I really mean that.  I’m not being ironic or sarcastic.  However, that is not to say that such powerful political and artistic performances fail to keep Macbeth from ringing in my ears.

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Too Much: Excess

I’m very sympathetic to the critique of consumerism and market fundamentalism given by Clive Hamilton and Richard Deniss in their 2005 book Affluenza: When Too Much is Never Enough.  However, their critique throws the exorbitantly excessive baby out with the consumerist bathwater.  They’re upset about how much people desire more and more and much too much.  Environmentalists and critics of capitalism often emphasize much needed limits and regulations without paying enough attention to the need for multiple forms of transgression, expansion, extravagance. 

An ethicopolitical response to contemporary ecological and economic challenges must engage the astonishing complexity of limits, whereby limits are constitutively entangled with their transgression.  Abundance abounds, scarcity overflows.    

From Bataille’s perspective […] there is always too much rather than too little, given the existence of ecological (“natural”) and social (“cultural”) limits.  The “end” of humankind, its ultimate goal, is thus the destruction of this surplus. […] Bataille emphasizes the maintenance of limits and survival as mere preconditions for engaging in the glorious destruction of excess.  The meaning of the limit and its affirmation is inseparable from the senselessness of its transgression in expenditure (la dépense).
—Allan Stoekl, Bataille’s Peak: Energy, Religion, and Postsustainability [University of Minnesota Press, 2007), p. 45]

You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough. […] Exuberance is Beauty. […] Enough! or Too much.
—William Blake

You took too much.  You’re about to explode.  Jesus, look at your face! […] The first rush is the worst.  Just ride the bastard out.
—Dr. Gonzo

Too much is never enough.
—MTV (one of many slogans)