The 'Like' Button Analyses, Part 1: 'Liking' and 'Unliking' Myths

by Maksymilian Kapelanski

European history was serious business as it was presented in my youth. As students we endured the almost palpable, printed facts and iron logic of historical narrative in high school and at university, and there was nothing funny or introspective about it. On the other hand, to people partaking in today’s fun, ironic, cyber-consciousness which operates in entertaining fragmentation, the intersubjective psycho-drama of the European narrative seems more like a series of disjointed, surreal caprices. We begin to wonder if the myths of the Old World were not subject to a succession of whimsical ‘likes’ and ‘unlikes’ of society, in analogy to the popular ‘friending’ and ‘unfriending’ functions, 'thumbs up' and 'thumbs down' buttons, and other similar graphic interface elements used on the Internet. Thus, political, social, and moral ideas and standards in history could be seen as having been ‘liked’ and then ‘unliked’ as if in spontaneous, ‘viral’ media fashion.

If we were to link these disjointed, bite-size 'caprices' of history, we could get the impression that the Mediaeval worldview was largely deconstructed in a world-famous series of ‘unlikes’ which unfolded over centuries and were instigated by the main social actors. Geocentricity was ‘unliked’ by Copernicus, the idea of the Monarch as God’s representative on Earth was ‘unliked’ with the rise of the bourgeoisie, the idea of Man as God’s creation 'unliked' by Darwin; furthermore, the bifurcation of morality into good and evil was ‘unliked’ by Max Stirner and Nietzsche, and Love as a divine gift ‘unliked’ by modern chemists, to name only a few examples.

If we were to follow this train of thought, we could perhaps advance the idea that the gradual disassembling and 'unliking' of tradition simultaneously assists in a building up and ‘liking’ of new myths. Can there really be a minus without a plus? One story of a societal ‘like’ filling the vacuum of a massive ‘unlike’ is story of Modernism, a great myth which has aged in poor fashion, in part because of its neglect of the human body and the starved flesh around the ideas it posited. Another vacuum-filling, collective ‘liking’ was the New Age movement, later a prime example of the principle that any 'likes' constructed in a cultural vacuum emergency are subject to rapid 'deliking'.

In the back of our minds our intelligence still tells us that history is not quite so shallow and fashion-based (although Michel Onfray accuses intellectuals themselves of opportunistic fads). At the same time, from the contemporary vantage point the analogy to ‘liking’ and ‘unliking’ points to an ever stronger impression of a whimsical type of history, an impression which closes in on us ever more tightly, securing increasing amounts of imaginative space. The described effect can be understood as the price to pay for not having been sensitized to the deep level as well as the meta-level of history in those long-lasting high school and university courses of our youth.