Loner Magazine - PARADOX,  THE QUESTION OF ACCEPTANCE,  AND THE COMPLEX WEB

PARADOX, THE QUESTION OF ACCEPTANCE, AND THE COMPLEX WEB

It cannot be stressed enough that the Market has been tracking us from the earliest possible age. We have been monitored, as well as anticipated and profiled. The Market was preparing our—“our” meaning Generation Y specifically in this case, but other generations as well—psychography from an extremely early date. Psychographics combines psychology and demographics, a type of market segmentation or target marketing similar to racial, income or gender segmentation.  But in the case of psychographics, it is the overarching psychological makeup of a generation that is usually being examined. An oft-cited piece of psychographic literature pertaining to GenY is “A Psychographic Analysis of Generation Y College Students”[1]. This particular article is worth noting because of the date it was published, Sept. 1, 2001. Ten days before the events of 9/11 that would, it goes without saying, transform the landscape of U.S. historical and cultural touchstones, and especially the generational experience of the then-young GenY. At that date, the most significant historical markers for GenX and GenY, according to the article, were “divorce, AIDS, Sesame Street, MTV, crack cocaine, Game Boy, and the PC.” How quaint these assumptions now appear to be.

We are a society of dogma and GenY has grown up to be indoctrinated through a strange strategy of placation and pandering. Our souls are uniquely imperiled as a result of our numbers:

Industry analysts have observed that more is at stake for advertisers and marketers when communicating with Generation Y than with Generation X. The size of the group accounts for the increased risk, for when the younger cohorts (the 6-17-year-olds) are added to the 18-24-year olds, they are a group nearly as large as the Boomers (Yers are 60 million in size, Xers are at 17 million, and Boomers are at 72 million). Brands that thrived among Boomers but flopped when aimed at Xers hurt marketers, but the miss was tolerable. Brands that miss the mark with Generation Y may not recover.

Such is the state of our true psychology: that our minds have long been designated as a battleground and our knowledge of self refined through the process of consumerism before we were allowed to discover it for ourselves organically. (It’s interesting to consider, when exposed to this kind of raw marketing tradecraft, that a major factor contributing to antagonistic generational divides might be the way companies advertise to us, the way they segment us apart from each other, and is there the possibility for it to get worse? Could there eventually be outright intergenerational hostility simply based on clashes between designated advertising identities?)

What options of recourse are we left with to regain our sovereignty of thought? The Occupy Wall Street protests were a glimpse into a broader impotent rage abiding in a young generation, growing into a belated social consciousness—belated due to constant intake of media nerve toxins since birth, the side effects of which are distorted worldviews and stunted reasoning, and impotent not just because of the protests’ ultimate ineffectiveness to produce significant change in either financial practices or everyday consumer behavior, but also because of the hopelessly antiquated idea that public protest effects change. That abiding rage was not purely righteous outcry. The earliest glimmers of Occupy were not until June 2011, three years into the Great Recession, when outrage over financial institutions was at its peak in the United States: A moment when U.S. citizens actually felt, as a general population, a milquetoast version of the injustice wrought by U.S. hegemony, just a sliver of what the rest of the world has felt in incomprehensibly stronger magnitudes since the 1950s and before. While Occupy was ostensibly about income inequality, a not inconsiderable portion of its rhetoric and essays became about spirituality, media, technology, disinformation, indoctrination, etc. Basically, a question about how to think freely, how to transcend economic and popular influence.

The underlying issue, then, was actually fragmentation and obfuscating self-referentiality, and the real tragedy is how Occupy’s foremost thinkers remain blind to the ways they trumpet the very problems that we face as also being the solutions to them. Micah White, the former editor of Adbusters, said this in an interview with Esquire[2].

My thinking is moving away from the protest. Instead, I’m more interested now with the power of social mobilization. The power of, basically, getting large numbers of people to change their behaviors, to depattern themselves, to actually get the facts collectively in order to tackle global challenges. … I’m at the library and I’m reading all these books about revolution. Is there a pattern that always happens? And there is. De Tocqueville is who observed that revolution often just functions to strengthen state power. I think that that’s why the movement towards kind of, you know, horizontalist, Internet-enabled, populist movements is a way to not repeat that pattern.

Perhaps the full understanding of self-reference and contradiction has not been fully arrived at yet. The former editor of Adbusters and notable Occupy contributor is describing the future of revolution to us in Esquire? Perhaps he’s never seen an issue before, wherein men are encouraged to dress like young high-end Wall Street execs, popular media is showcased and consumer products are frantically peddled. Just a quick look at Esquire’s homepage on a randomly selected day reveals these headlines[3].

All the Important Developments in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

We Talked to Nick English About Luxury Watches…

The 6 Things You Need to Know About Dressing Your Groomsmen

White’s acceptance of Esquire’s nomination as “one of the most influential people under 35 years old alive today” seems outrageously pointless from a revolutionary standpoint, especially for someone who claims to be interested in “depatterning” himself. Could the same interview not have been released through PBS, for instance? He clearly is at a point in his career where he could make that choice. Could White’s new book, The End of Protest—to be published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada—not have been released through a less corporate, but no less potent, label? In the same interview, he also claims that “the total cost of Occupy was probably under, like, $500. It’s ridiculous. It’s like a force multiplier. That is allowing history to be changed very rapidly.” This contradicts information from Wikipedia, which claims Pete Dutro, a “finance group member” from Occupy, told the New York Post that the movement had collected over $700,000 from donors, and that most of that money had already been spent on food kitchens, street medics, bus tickets, subway passes and printing expenses, amongst other things, by March 2012[4].

The same people who tirelessly urge us to break out of an encoded media network of indoctrination do not even do so themselves, only adding to the confused anxiety rallied against in the Occupy protests in the first place. Only once seemingly small instances such as this are examined can we gain an appreciation for the kind of media doublespeak this generation must constantly, unabatingly, contend with. A neurotic awareness that every moment, message, movement is, in fact, ultimately inauthentic. Here are these contradictions offered up to us in arresting paradox, because nothing is more lovely than paradox when it is taken and molded into elegant interlocking forms: the paradox of this truth-teller, diseased and inoculated; subversive and mainstream; protester and careerist. The paradox of merging the ironic with the genuine—which dimension holds sway over the other, or are these, too, an elegantly constructed paradox?

For White to categorize a so-called “horizontalist, populist” movement as also “Internet-enabled” only manages to showcase a psychological inability to come to terms with the real-world situation and feeds the self-reference even more. The answer to why nothing has changed ultimately becomes: because we allow it, because we allow discourse itself to transform into product and entertainment, because of our own pre-programmed inability to stay the course, and slowly, we recede back into the disunity of objects and media from which we were forged.

It would be difficult at this point to misconstrue Occupy as a revolution. To view it through clearer eyes would be to see it as the despairing neurotic outburst, not to mention logical conclusion, of those subjected to broad commercial warfare, long-lauded as patriotism, and the religious duty to capitalism. To criticize rougher would be to say it was the economic hissy-fit of the middle-class, thrown at the prospect of actually having to sacrifice, rather than attain the same unsustainable excess as the generations that preceded them. Some friends of mine[5] have even pointed out that the entire movement was late to the party, since there has long existed damning income inequality for racial minorities and women, making Occupy a time-and-place mouthpiece for the economy’s most enfranchised earners. In many ways, this seems at least partially fair.

Admittedly, I’m conducting a quite nitpicky and intensive evaluation here, maybe overly, as some readers have undoubtedly judged by this point, but I’m doing so consciously and with good reason. I was very attracted to the Occupy protests when they happened, and even continue to be, and the questions they raised/are raising are real ones. However, it would be a disservice not to reflect the flaws and inconsistencies. Don’t these tiny details matter, in some way? Don’t they reflect part of the pattern White describes? At some point, we may know for sure. But until then, according to the information available, I have to say that, yes, they absolutely do.

The destiny, for those who voiced most vociferously the highly moralistic cries of protest against corporate plutocracy, will likely be the dead irony of history. Just as we saw the Boomers’ betrayal of their own 1960s anti-empire values, we will see GenY side with big business as they grasp professional power, grow increasingly addicted to electronics and intoxicated with the false belief that environmental and social change can be brought about through so-called “conscious consumerism.” Thus, we march toward the unhappy fate of metamorphosing into commercial objects ourselves.

Future dwellers: You must subvert and attack what our generation holds dear. You must see through the complex web we have spun over truth.

 

[1] Pokrywczynki, James and Joyce M. Wolburg. “A Psychographic Analysis of Generation Y College Students.” Journal of Advertising Research No. 5 Vol. 41. (September/October 2001): 33-52. Print.
[2] “9 Notes on the Future of Revolution—Esquire Interviews Micah White.” Occupywallst.org. Posted 29 Dec. 2014. Web.
[3] Esquire.com. Accessed 11 Feb. 2015. Web.
[4] “Occupy Wall Street.” Wikipedia. Web.
[5] Alan Hemphill.

 

Steven T. Bramble lives in Long Beach, CA. He is the author of three novels—Affliction Included, Grid City Overload, and Disposable Thought. His work has also appeared in Whole Beast Rag. Come hang out w/ him at Gatsby Books, or at the V-Rm for a beer.

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