In the opening pages of Samuel Beckett’s “Worstward Ho” it says, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
This phrase — detached from its original text — is currently living a second life as a shallow motivational slogan. In particular, the fresh multitudes of entrepreneurs have appropriated it enthusiastically as the motto of their scene where failure as an abstract concept is fetishised, so long as it’s likely to turn into some sort of economically relevant product. For Apple the attitude seemed so inspiring that at the end of the nineties, Beckett was chosen (almost ten years after his death) as the face of their first “Think Different” campaign. Today, the firm’s former underdog status and the financial crisis are only remembered vaguely.
In addition to Steve Jobs, there was one other
person who contributed to the brand’s success — Jonathan Ive, chief designer and Bauhaus admirer. Influenced by their concepts, he has been designing new smooth surfaces for iPhones, iPads and MacBooks for more than a decade now, helping construct flawless compositions of seamless aluminium and glass — a signature of today’s life.
Philosopher Byung-Chul Han identifies smoothness as an imperative of our time. He refers not only to the reflective surface of the smartphone, but also to the success of Brazilian waxing, shortterm relationships, and the gleaming sculptures made by Jeff Koons. For Han, the smooth surface of our mobile phones is an invulnerable skin; even if it is fractured, it can be replaced within a few days. This emphasis on invulnerability has also short-circuited love. Afraid of being hurt, people cut ties before hearts can be broken.
Instead of living in a relationship, people
distribute “likes” on Facebook. And while symbols of love are handled generously in the virtual world, the feeling of closeness is missing in everyday life. On the other hand, it is almost taboo to express sincere negativity on social networks. No matter how many petitions are signed, Facebook will never introduce the “dislike” button. Following Han, the “like” feature accelerates communication, while “dislike” — a symbol of rejection — interrupts it. Under the pressure of positivity, “discussion” is as fleeting, thoughtless and superficial as the emojis that infantilize our language.