Showing posts with label De Toqueville. Show all posts
Showing posts with label De Toqueville. Show all posts

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The American State of Mindless Consumption

By: T.R. Slyder,

The State of the Blog: First 100 Posts

I realized that I had already published 100 posts and wondered if I had ahcieved anything. That being said I'll get to the point. I hope that my next 100 post bring more original ideas and less commentary on existing ideas. While I optimistically think sometimes people are amused by my commentary on sports, entertainment and culture, I realize there's already a glut of that kinda thing on the web.

When I see mouth-breathing, knuckle-draggers on the street and I think disparaging thoughts about them, what always comes to mind is "What a mindless drone of a consumer that person is." Everyone judges the people around them, it's evoluntionarily beneficial to do so (i.e. will this person attempt to harm me, can this person be of service to me? etc.) and you can't help but do it and I think everyone has their own style. The psychology major in me tells me that it's probably a form of projecting- if you're a very attractive person, you're probably quick to find imperfections in others appearance. Bodybuilders probably look at people and notice how out of shape they look, fashionistas note how the woman across the aisle on the train is wearing shoes from last season, etc. My particular brand of judging deals mostly with originality.

I'll see a guy wearing sunglasses that look ridiculous on jim and I'll think "The only reason he is wearing those is because Kanye West wears similar glasses. Objectively, he has to know those are ridiculous looking, but because he feels he has Kanye's chic blocking for him, he thinks he's cool." Or I'll see someone listening to an iPod and think that based upon their appearance, 1) I bet they have an iPod just so they can be seen with an iPod, and 2) I bet they're listening to something horrific like Nickelback, or Avril Lavigne, or Ja Rule because MTV lead that sucker to believe that those musicians were socially important. They probably didn't think about how commericalized that music is, or how it's unoriginal, or how poorly the musician attemped to recreate the music that inspired them to make music. The other day I saw one of those kinds of people on the train listening to rap on his iPod and I thought if that rapper knew that this dolt were listening to his music, he would feel less cool about his own music. Sure that moron most likely paid for that music, and that's all the musician can ask for, but he still just struck me as a marketers wet dream. Like he was a victim of a cult, only he didn't buy into a fraudulant religious idealogy, he literally bought into what he mistakenly thought was coolness.

That ethos is very American and dates back to de Toqueville's assessment of America in 1835's Democracy in America. The long and the short of that work being that Americans, even back then, identified coolness as not what they were, but what they consumed. Now people feel that if they have Li'l Wayne playing on their iPod, and text on their iPhone as they wear their Yankees hat the same way Jay-Z does, that they are cool as a result. Whether they are cool as individuals or have their own ideas is immaterial, they consume cool things, ergo they're cool; How can a billboard of cool be uncool? Stewie Griffin summed it up well on the Family Guy when he was hitting on a high school chick and told her that he expresses his individuality by listing on his MySpace page his favorite creative films and music that someone else has done.

I think a similar revolution has taken place intellectually in the information age. People no longer form their ideas based upon witnessing events firsthand then forming their own ideas about what they just saw. They just quote their favorite pundits or publications. You didn't watch the Democratic National Convention or the Republican National Convention? Who cares? Jon Stewart, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Maher, Keith Olberman and Glenn Beck will tell you what you missed. If you're in a political argument, just quote them and you've done your part. Those talking heads are not a legitimate medium of information- they are info-tainment. After you've researched a few mouthpieces- you find your favorite one and you quote them, making your brain a vehicle of their originality. The information age is more about commerce than actual dissemination of knowledge. The viewers are not really becoming that much smarter, and they're certainly not becoming better critical thinkers, they're just becoming brand-loyal to their favorite pundits and publications. We the public really aren't thinkers, we're consumers of pre-packaged thought. Your opinion of the election is probably exactly like Jon Stewart's, and your opinion of Britney Spears is probably 100% like Perez Hilton's.

Bringing that concept full circle, it is much easier to write a blog entry that glibly offers up my opinion of someone else's creativity than to actually provide my own creativity. Commenting is so much easier than producing, and leaves far less to critique. So with my blog, I'll try to do better job about forming ideas and not just regurgitating someone else's original ideas that I just read. But please don't consume those ideas midlessly.