This weekend, a friend and I will be making the trek out to Las Vegas, NV. In thinking about it, there’s really no city more existentially mind-blowing than Vegas.
Nature said, “No, out in this terrain, humans will wither and die without extensive resources.” America said, “Game on, baby.”
And so we planted the symbol of American Excess in the middle of the goddamn desert.
There’s a concept in post-modernist thought known as narcissistic love — we don’t love another human being because we truly love them, we love them because of what they allow us to be. The same goes for cities. People who fall in love with LV aren’t head over heels with the glamor and the hotels and the indefatigable Nevada sun — they’re in love with a city that allows them to become anything they want for a weekend.
This is a pretty basic conception and oft-repeated sentiment about Vegas though. It just barely scratches the surface.
But that’s the point, isn’t it? Vegas is a city without pretensions. The surface is the center, and vice versa. Vegas fully understands what it is and makes no efforts to disguise the sin and decadence. It’s completely honest with itself and puts its underside unapologetically on display for everyone to see. “Take me or leave me,” says Vegas. And with such brutal honesty being thrown in your face, it’s hard not to side with the former offer.
We all know that what we get in Vegas is unreal. Vegas knows that too, knows that you know, is very fucking aware that you are aware of its artificiality, and nonetheless goes ahead and overcharges you for everything. The audacity is astounding. And like supplicant fools, we willingly give ourselves over.
The city’s outspoken honesty, trussed up in colors and lights, is so unprecedented, so refreshing, that people are more than happy to temporarily put their humanity on pause. The power that such radical honesty can have is both incredible and disturbing. Vegas is the one city where hardcore feminists voluntarily compartmentalize and begrudgingly party with the rules of the patriarchy, where liberals turn a blind eye to the blatant cultural appropriation happening on every corner, where extreme moralists are unable to muster the breath to decry human degeneracy.
No one disagrees that the city is problematic and all sorts of messed up, and yet, progressives around the world, myself included, choose to celebrate it.
Las Vegas, NV: it’s not about being able to leave behind the real world. It’s about being able to embrace the world, with all its bullshit and decrepitude, for what it is.