We’re Too Obsessed With the ‘End’ of Everything

The death of stuff is greatly exaggerated

Illustration: Laurie Rollitt

Everything is dead now. Self-help is over. I don’t know what remote-access VPN is, but that’s done, too. The office has died. Not the show, which will stream until the sun turns into a lump of coal, but the actual physical space of an office. The bra has also died. If you read The Atlantic, you have attended impromptu funerals for men, reality, work, democracy (fair enough), and the American church. Newspapers and magazines, travel marketing (oh no!), comedy, and mayonnaise have all died. This very publication has indulged in the phrasing from time to time.

Reading about the mythical death of something can be as satisfying as writing it. These are morbid times. Death is on everyone’s mind, and if someone out there has assigned it to something you’ve always found suspect — living rooms, freeways, buddy comedies, Burger King — then it can provide a little, black shot of dopamine to your addled psyche.

The problem, of course, is that not all of us have good boundaries when it comes to overstatement. When I click on a “The Death of Underwear” story, I already know underwear isn’t dead. I get the metaphor right away and engage with the article with that understanding already firmly established.

But other people don’t always do that. Show that underwear story to our president and he will instantly believe that literally every American citizen is going commando at all waking hours of the day. In 2020 America, the line between hyperbole and outright lying has become indistinct and cost us EVERYTHING (I’m exaggerating a bit on that last word). Joints like Fox News have exploited that fuzziness to extreme ends, contradicting reality with such absolute vehemence that their viewers find reality itself to be unfathomable.

What I propose instead is that we start beating the opposite cliché into the ground. Let’s start declaring things alive.

Killing is easy. It’s a way of disengaging from things rather than looking at them soberly and finding worth in them. You’re pre-mourning something as a way of deliberately trying to make it go away. This never works. I know because I tried it with Facebook.

If we see the world as alive — warts and all — then we can make it better, rather than dancing on the graves of what has yet to truly pass.

This is not a novel idea. When I was growing up, pronouncing dead things alive was some truly hot shit. Not only were Newport cigarettes Alive With Pleasure™, but so was Elvis. He was spotted everywhere: at movie theaters, grocery stores, at Michael Jackson’s house, etc. Elvis was so alive that Living Colour had to write a song reminding the world that was very much not the case.

We can do all that again. We can resurrect things instead of killing them off. The civil rights movement? That is EXTREMELY alive right now. The telephone is back. Boredom is thriving. Millennials have killed off so many things, there’s a lot of opportunity here.

Writing handwritten notes to loved ones? That’s probably still dead, but what if it wasn’t? Wouldn’t that be a nice return?

I dunno about you, but I already feel better reanimating things. I think I’ve had enough of death for the time being. I died once already. Let’s all live again.

Columnist at GEN. Co-founder, Defector. Author of Point B.

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