Practicing Etiquette, Issue II.VII
Robert Hayes Kee

Welcome back, dear readers, too much time has passed since our last seminar. I am happy to return to you and to writing on the ever-important topic of etiquette.

Today, I wish to address a matter of topical concern. We have just witnessed the passing of one of the major holidays of the calendar. The New Year is now upon us, and we are in a unique period that deserves serious consideration.

New Year’s is a crack in the façade of the social construction of our subjectivity, but this crack is pasted over with layers of guilt and false consciousness. This move is one of the most repressive that recurs in our calendar, well exceeding the simple guilt for purchase exchange of Mother’s day. It is of considerable importance to etiquette that we avoid embracing or enforcing this mechanism.

The New Year offers us one of the most decisive breaks in the mental landscape of the contemporary world. It is a capital letter Event. The immediate implication of this break is its before and after. At no other time in the secular calendar do we have such an apparent opportunity for change.

This opportunity appeals to many because of its seeming decisiveness in a sea of arbitrary and gradual developments that constitute the bulk of lived experience. The New Year thus offers seeming objectivity in a world constituted by a confused intersubjectivity. This is a crack in the complexity of contemporary power and offers to empower the individual with uncomplicated choice, with a genuine opportunity for self-mastery.

Of course, this opportunity is always present. The great lesson of the French populist is that our lives are constructed by thousands of choices, each as loaded as those resolutions of the New Year. We have ridded ourselves of the requirement for resolution in our music, but this desire continues unabated in the culture of self-realization. It is precisely this attempt to discredit our current selves, to subjugate our accumulated lives to the altar of a future perfection.

This is false renewal, and one to be frightened of, even more so because the banality of this exchange and defeat of the self has become a joke of a joke. The failed resolution is a trope of popular culture that itself has become a tiresome pastiche of allusions to empty gymnasiums and empty calories. Below is an example of one of these second-order ‘jokes’:

These jokes’ banality underscores the very serious repression of the forced reevaluation of New Year’s purging. The one holiday given in our calendar to hangover is a given on the condition of the purge of the self to follow. Self-reflection is no different than any other activity and must be a regular, and not annual, part of one’s life if one wishes for the mastery offered by ‘the new you’. Do not discard your personality at a time convenient for capitalism. Save your breakdown for Valentine’s Day.