Salutary failure

November 11, 2018

There is an old Chinese proverb saying: “A tree that is unbending is easily broken”. This philosophy is often expanded by contrast with the reed – light and superficially weak, but flexible enough to survive the storm. Thinking of today’s marketing, the complex network of personalized commercials, it reappears immediately as selling systems of light capitalism adjusted perfectly to conditions of our epoch – they are liquid, easily changeable, probably impossible to be harmed.

Failure though can be also seen differently, especially in terms of infrastructure. As Graziano and Trogal put it:

In urban geography, Graham and Thrift (2007) similarly emphasized that the breakdown of urban infrastructures, is the moment when the systems supporting our existence become exposed, and that this exposure offers the opportunity to revisit them. (Graziano V., Trogal K., The Politics of Collective Repair: Examining object relations in a postwork society)

It is almost funny to think about it with exposure as a feature of failure. Exposure is the main objective here – advertisements of all kinds simply have to be noticed, acknowledged and paid attention to, otherwise they become useless. Fortunately for entrepreneurs there is no real threat to commercial world, stable and solid. Advertisements are impossible to avoid. It is a great success of most developed countries across the world to have restricted it and pushed into virtual reality, where they announced their kingdom. Let’s add that in many other countries – like my native Poland – the omnipresent banners keep hanging also in a physical world, destroying the continuity of both land- and cityscape.

Envisioning this network to fail – even as an imagination exercise – could give one a temporary, daydreaming-like experience of relief. Freedom from knowledge on too many offers, too many products, too many dreams awaiting there yet to be fulfilled (and paid for) seems almost like paradise. Rest from non-stop commandments on what my body, my cat, my home, my car, my relationship, my friends need – so liberating! Not knowing about brand new pair of shoes, egg-pealing machine, lawnmower, insurance, trip to Cuba, or learning apps that are indeed so “Clear✔ Effective Mistake-free” – how wonderful!

Awakening though from this semi-utopia I go back to the first point to be brutally reminded of the reed and how it will not break, but will keep floating gently no matter the atmospheric conditions.

06 / Kinga Zemła


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