Not to be confused with the gigantic insect — the alienated man — of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, the small-souled bugman is very much a ‘well-adjusted’, fully integrated neuron in today’s neoliberalist techno-corporate hive mind.
A consequence of a perilously overpopulated, brutally capitalistic, shamelessly hedonistic, morally decaying society, the humble bugman has come to define an age of technological dystopia in which everyone has everything — their gadgets, their fast foods, their fashion accessories — but somehow everyone also has nothing — no community, no natural spirit, no substance of mind. He is a zombified consumer, an emasculated wage slave, a vessel emptied of meaning and refilled with plastic, pixels and silicone.
He is what a sterile corporate wasteland spews out. Millions of him, almost exact replicas who are relentlessly told they are unique by clever marketers, and who believe it. He is a personality defined by brands, a blue-checkmarked Twitter user. Bugmen are what we get when a culture is infantilized, watered down and stripped of the very intellectual, philosophical and honourable fibre that once made it great. Totally dependent on the compromised support of his nanny state and high-tech devices, the bugman has been reduced to the status of a domestic animal. A 200-pound child.
And like a child, the bugman’s shallowness keeps him malleable to the fleeting whims and fads of a degenerate, smartphone-addicted, dopamine-hooked society. He bases his identity on passing trends that to him appear profound, priding himself on being a ‘step ahead’ of his peers — an ‘early adopter’ — not realizing it’s the marketer who’s always a step ahead of him. He is the millennial test subject, the lab rat brand loyalty experts are paid $20,000 an hour to pigeonhole. First in line for the latest Apple iPhone, he actively supports the unchecked rise of AI and notions of planetary relocation.
Things didn’t always look so bleak for the bugman. He grew up in fortunate circumstances. Middle-class parents who raised him well, sent him to a good college. Oversocialization afforded him effortless acceptance into a mentally sick civilization, but sorely missing, unbeknownst to him, was the lack of any meaningful struggle; the grueling initiations that turn boys into men. His mental development had been stunted in the real sense at the expense of engineering a successful and painless assimilation into a clown world fueled by idiocy, deception and frivolity.
The bugman now occupies one of two living situations. One, the city bugman lives atop, beneath and besides his fellow bugs in what is an actual human-scale bug colony, hence the name. Two, the suburban bugman living just as unnaturally and miserably, lined up in careful symmetry among neighbours he will never know and trees that will never grow, house by house, street by street, as far as the eye can see.
The deliberate draining of purpose and passion from the bugman’s soul made it easy to assign him without complaint to a vapid, good-boy ‘job’ and a ‘career’ that does little but prop up the demented corporatist structure. He is a willing cog in the grinding bullshit machine — a marketer, an analyst, a ‘project manager’ — or has perhaps handed his life over to preserving the insanity of the state by becoming a lawyer or a bureaucrat. Worse yet, he gobbled up the STEM dream sold by grubby toy merchants, dooming himself to an existence of zeroes and ones. Zero purpose. One sad bugman.
So cowed by his masters, the bugman is fiercely loyal to faceless corporations in what appears to be a society-wide occurrence of Stockholm syndrome. Terrified of being exposed as the fraud that he is, he hands over his mind to be reshaped like putty until it fits the robotic cubicle farm mould. Before long he is sending out 150 emails a day in which he promises to “touch base” and “leverage the data”. He’ll climb the imaginary ladder, all the while nagged by a vague sense of emptiness and a dormant rage that might see him off to an early grave.
Failing to find fulfilment in his work, the bugman has become fully immersed in Content, Digital Socializing and Entertainment. Facing the monumental task of salvaging his soul, he has instead resorted to seeking escape at every turn. He upgrades his 60” 4K TV to a 75” 4K TV. He buys more video games and a virtual reality set, finds a pot dealer and gets a prescription for anti-depressants.
An avid Netflix binger, cinema goer and Spotify subscriber, he echoes pretentious magazine reviews by referring to mediocre works of popular culture as “urgent” and “life-affirming”. Blinded by his inability to consume anything beneath the surface of spoon-fed, easily-digested, created-by-committee mainstream productions, he will never come to know the transcendence of actual genius — towering authors, musical virtuosos or glorious artists — stuff that might make his soul bigger.
The bugman’s diet is in equal parts nutritionally inadequate and inexplicably expensive. He has made eating an unnecessarily complicated act by falling for the mutually-marketed falsehoods that food can be improved with technology — see ‘health food’ snacks sold in recycled cardboard — and that preparing food properly is a waste of time and effort. Thus, everything he buys comes in packaging, produced in a lab, deviously salt or sugar-laden. Physical exercise is not part of his life, so the result is an atrophied muscular structure, formations of fatty tissue insulating his vital organs, and pale, flaky skin.
The bugman is intensely focused on making his life more ‘efficient’. If he outsources every chore and foregoes starting a family, he will have more time to consume and more time to whittle away on his pointless job and fashionable hobbies. He has his groceries delivered and asks Alexa to update him on the day’s news. Gamification via $3.99 apps has taken over virtually every aspect of his life. This, to the bugman, is progress.
When it comes to sports, bugmen can be neatly divided into two distinct groupings. Sports is either not part of his life — the nerdbug — or it is one of his defining characteristics — the jockbug. The latter, once a promising athlete, now watches on beer and betting slip-in-hand as blaring, sanitized SPORTS! is beamed into his retinas, relieving his brain of any signs of life that might have otherwise surfaced. Jockbugs have been known to spend as many as 30 hours a week consuming SPORTS!, and even more reading/talking about it.
Social media is the bugman’s public square. This is where he ‘debates’, makes jokes and flaunts his status and moral virtue to the hive. This is where he seeks respite from the alienation of modern life, but never quite seems to find it. He flicks through his Twitter feed aimlessly, chuckles along to Jimmy Kimmel clips on YouTube, and smugly describes himself as “socially liberal and fiscally conservative” in New York Times comments sections.
The bugman’s severe paucity of skepticism has led him down a mainstream media-saturated path of tech adulation, social justice fallacies and “progress”-at-all-costs morality. The dearth of historical, rational and spiritual context in his mind leaves only the possibility of suffering in the panicked bustle of the present day, antenna twitching in response to the prevailing Bad News.
The bugman cares little that the world has been irrevocably corrupted and damaged by Machiavellian technologists and shady bureaucrats. If he is not in fact one of them, he whole-buggedly buys into their UN-endorsed missions to bring about ‘world peace’, to ‘end poverty’, and other such feel-good nonsense. He is oblivious to the toxic impact of the corporations and globalist think tanks that exist purely to feed his consumerist impulses and create the economic artifice that sustains such behavior. He’s the archetypal useful idiot, keeping everything he thinks he stands against in perfect working order.
He conceals his intellectual cowardice amid ideological rhetoric and Orwellian newspeak. Cogent debate and the search for truth are challenges to his dominance of public discourse, so the bugman must become masterful at distorting arguments in a desperate attempt to portray himself as the well-reasoned and righteous party. Beware of his powerful toolkit, including but not limited to virtue signalling, cries of “hate speech”, straw man arguments, and ad hominem attacks. This all sprouts from his fear of countering the ‘correct’ views of the day. If he simply parrots mainstream commentary, he can be sure of being on the right side of history.
Despite all the inhumanity and misery of a bugman’s life laid before you, be assured it is no mean feat to come across one in person who reveals his trauma. He will present himself invariably as polite, gentle, happy and ‘nice’. He is remarkably non-confrontational, avoiding controversy at virtually any cost. PC culture has him shaken, terrified of being ostracized for wrongthink. This is the bugman’s tough outer shell, and it will never be penetrated. Underneath this shell lies his small soul, searching fruitlessly for subsistence.
While he may carry himself with an air of intellectual and moral superiority, the bugman has stopped asking the big questions. He can distantly recall the sense of awe he felt as a child, those times looking up at the stars and the moon; those times reflecting on his ancestry, where he came from, the history and traditions of mankind and the wild beauty of Earth. Now his mind is so distracted by pixelated inanity, trash culture and his ridiculous job that he cannot, for the love of god, simply sit and think. He can no longer be at peace or derive joy from nature and blissful simplicity. He feels frustration over his powerlessness to bring an end to the mysterious forces chipping away at his soul day by day, but does nothing about it. And so he remains, indefinitely and emphatically, a small-souled bugman.
by Adam Winfield