Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I am "me" (tm)

The primary vector of cultural education in the 21st century is mass media. People are happy when they are able to do the things that the TV says will make them happy. They are joyed when they acquire a gadget that the ads say will make them cooler. They feel more confident when their bodies and clothes approximate the celebrities. They talk about the most prominent news on news channels. They form their life goals from what they see on the screen.

The movies and books of this age tell you to "follow your dream" (which dream is incepted in you by the mass media), "fulfill your potential" (which is to not have a manager, mostly), "not live a boring life" (which is to romance like the celebrities, and to be a tourist), "be cool and true to yourself" (which is to disregard how your words and acts affect others), "think positive" (which is to suppress feelings of guilt and depression), "pamper yourself" (which is to spend money on spas and hotels), "not take shit from anybody" (except from the malls), to "find love" (which is to find a lover, not a beloved), ...

This is the generation of people who think they are living for themselves when their brains are no longer their own.

When I talk to urbanites these days, I get the sinking feeling that I am talking to a conduit, rather than to an original thinker.

Someone who is putting in long hours to achieve unexamined goals, someone whose content of thought is media-driven, someone who spends more time on facebook and staring at his cellphone than in live interaction, someone who lives on soundbites rather than on considered knowledge, someone whose idea of relationships is formed by studying soap operas...

And if most of the literate hep are hooked on to the superficial (whether the idiot-box, or youtube or the wisdom-for-the-ADD-crowd aka TED lectures), to harp about philosophy and realpolitik and Jacques Ellul in these circumstances is to be an insufferable bore.

This is no country for old men.

11 comments:

tazmic said...

"This is the generation of people who think they are living for themselves when their brains are no longer their own."

Perhaps this has always been the case, but with the difference now being that the cultural conditioning is more transparent, and more obviously engineered, rather than a meaningfully organic evolution.

"When I talk to urbanites these days, I get the sinking feeling that I am talking to a conduit, rather than to an original thinker."

A conduit for an artificial techno-culture driven by business models and the god of efficiency... something that moves with a velocity that prevents most from arriving at a position of original thought within it? (I don't think the behaviour you describe is unusual or new, just the content.)

"wisdom-for-the-ADD-crowd aka TED lectures"

:O)

I'm still waiting for the TED talk on Jacques Ellul...

~~

"Technology is a more powerful social force than the aspiration for freedom" ~ Theodore Kaczynski (Manifesto)

Harmanjit Singh said...

@tazmic: I agree. Conformity is not new, it is it being driven through new vectors, and by commercial interests, which is new.

Also, I don't think people earlier had much of an illusion that they were very unique or had a remarkable individual destiny.

Shadow said...

that is a very good piece.

tazmic said...

"I don't think people earlier had much of an illusion that they were very unique or had a remarkable individual destiny."

But perhaps they had a unique and remarkable collective identity and destiny, which they wouldn't have swapped for being individualized consumers quick to defend 'their' culture/society and it's ability to give them Facebook ;)

Modern Man said...

Harman,

As a sports-obsessed business man might say, "you brought your A-game" with this post.

You wrote: "Also, I don't think people earlier had much of an illusion that they were very unique or had a remarkable individual destiny."

Your assumption here would be validated by numerous scholars of antiquity.

-MM

Pritpal said...

Very good post, which is another way of saying I also feel the same way.
We could blame the mass media. Rather I should say profit driven mass media, where emphasis is on entertainment, which is reduced to titillation.
Education is also more of “useful” type. Rise of MBA (useful – rather shallow-breadth at the cost of depth). An executive summary approach to”wisdom”.
But was it any better before? I am not sure.

Anonymous said...

So "you" feel very different from them urbanites, cut above them, very "original" with a brain all "your own"?

pankaj said...

the point of no country for old men was, not even the old country was for old men. i totally agree with the post, except for the undercurrent of things are worse than they were. every age has its folly, which is evident from the vehemence with which philosophers/thinkers have critiqued their ages.

nice to see you blogging again :)

vkj said...

Harmanjit,

A lot of this blind following of the trends of the day could follow from the subconscious need to be validated and accepted and have an identity. Somehow people feel dissatisfied with what they are and they want to make up for it.

Feeling dissatisfied with yourself is not necessarily a bad thing. It very well might be the foundation of self improvement. However it seems that the younger generation is not able to find a direction in response to this urge.

The urge to impress oneself should trump the urge to impress everyone else. This is does not happen, causing the superficiality that manifests itself in so many ways.

vkj

Anonymous said...

This is the actual problem here: an "agenda" leading the words towards...
http://www.jstor.org/pss/3885549

Anuraag said...

Awesome thought, harmanjit. I have recently been thinking exactly on the same lines. We are more and more shaped by the influences of the idiot box and the "global" culture. If we are not careful, the later generations might see ours as the beginning of the end of our great civilization, as nothing original or of value will be created.