Long the voice of sanity in a sea of unreason, Gore Vidal proclaimed Americans as “The United States of Amnesia.” Though speaking of the continually disintegrating political awareness of citizens, Vidal’s turn of phrase applies to all facets of American passivity.
Hardly could this be more appropriate to the current breakdown of social relationships amongst homosexual men: those insatiable beasts with an incredible appetite for sex whose members were decimated by the hundreds of thousands merely twenty years ago. Their void replaced by disaffected Millennials whose conscious thoughts extend no further than last Tuesday.
The perversion and manipulation of image, and of self, is all consuming for these inheritors of a broken history. Their role models and mentors are few, the greats already dead long before these children were of the age to understand their past. Those whose legacy has survived are associated with the plague, a time now seen through rose-tinted glasses.
For these children, now adults, the plague is treated and prevented by a little blue pill. There are no final consequences to pleasure, merely a trip to the doctor from time to time to cure the burning sensation that inevitably comes after a weekend in Fire Island.
The legacy of those dead bodies does not matter; the past is compiled with relics and no one likes old things, especially old people, how utterly boring. Yet, these young men do not understand that they are wandering down a well-trodden path, only this time, all the directional signs are gone, with no one left to maintain them.
The past merely lives on through filtered black and white images of nights at Studio 54, The Saint, Area, Paradise Garage, and Limelight. The images of crumpled patients at St. Vincent’s (last seen in the 1992 United Colors of Benetton campaign) are pushed to the dark corners, inappropriate for Instagram.
Are we doomed to make these same mistakes again? We are, to quote Larry Kramer, “fucking ourselves to death.” It is a frightening yet interesting prospect, one that fits well with the American spirit of forgetting the mistakes and warnings of the past in return for pursuit of present pleasure.
No one wants to think of Kaposi Sarcoma when they are naked, pinned to a latex covered bed underneath a crush of sweaty bodies. All those dicks are just so appetizing; no one cares where they have been, if they have even been washed recently. A non-organic GMO-laden avocado is of far more concern than the random penis in your mouth.
On who does the burden of blame rest for the Rumsfeldian “unknown knowns” that may, or may not, come to pass? One cannot blame the dead, they have the pleasure of being dead and are unable to defend themselves. Yet the dead are the ones who should be here now to mentor, to instruct us about our history, and to educate us about our culture. Rather, we are mass-produced iterations of the internet-coming-of-age, cycles of pop-art trash, from the gloriously boring 1990s to the burning tragedy of the 2000s.
We are directionless men whose carefully curated constructs are forever seeking zeniths of likes, double-taps, followers, and retweets, all of which are forgotten from one day to the next. Sexual conquests obtain barely more than a passing, “I think I fucked him once.”
Names, interests, philosophical connections, not only does no one care, one does not even pretend. Questions of depth extend no further than “Hung?” A passive rigidity of disinterest remains always present because we cannot get too close to one another, that would require more effort than we are comfortable with, or are even able to extend.
As such, we are doomed to make the same mistakes as the ghosts of our past. Their tortured deaths, caused by the beauty and overabundance of pleasure, are little more than a timestamp of “things that don’t happen anymore.”
So onward we are driven, to continue our pointless quest of superficial perfection so that, should the great death come again, at least we will be remembered, immortalized, as smiling, perfectly coiffed and finely chiseled young men; besides, look at all the likes we got.