Monday, September 13, 2010

What’s up?

I am sitting here this evening writing yet again. I have read an acquaintance of mine write up ridiculous mockeries of what he feels represents the modern patriotic spirit; an arrogant and materialistic spirit of ignorance, and modern religious revivalist fundamentalist attitudes; an irrational and intolerant voice of spite. He posted them on his facebook and aimed them at his facebook "friends," ever a captive audience (*cough*). People reacted one way or another, either understanding the joke and winking their approval of the lambastment or misunderstanding the intentions of his writing and voicing their dislike of his supposed rhetoric.


It amounts to very little, except a bit of snide pleasure at poking fun of those who don't get the joke, and is ultimately divisive and counter-productive to its purpose. But what is its purpose? To make fun of the people who genuinely hold these opinions, certainly, but what goal is that? I could just as well say that racist pseudo-patriotic bigots who wave the American flag as a justification for being completely rude and arrogant are all pigfuckers and the goal has been accomplished. It was vastly easier. Maybe not as clever. The outcome, though, is the same. So why go through the production? It's not for a particularly intense hatred. He did not suffer one of these people shooting his family or anything particularly traumatic in regards to these people; he just disagrees with them pretty thoroughly.


Why, then, why formulate such a vicious mockery? Why commit the effort? The answer is pretty simple. When there is nothing a person can do to change a situation, a popular resort is for people to complain. This form of mockery is a form of complaint, of exposing the absurdities of reality for what they are and hoping that his opinions are vindicated in the eyes of his peers and that his ideological enemies are flustered by the essentially false image he portrays of them. It's an outlet for a subtle feeling of anxiety of knowing that in the world there are people that disagree with you so thoroughly and from your perspective, so illogically and that there is nothing you can really do to change them. So you mock them. You laugh at them; you point out their foibles and minimize their successes. Welcome to the Daily Show. Welcome to the Colbert generation. In decades past, maybe the people would have demonstrated, maybe they would form communes and separated themselves from the rest of society. Perhaps they would have gone on strike; perhaps they'd start a revolution. This generation, though, cannot. It will not, really. It wasn't raised on the principle of action in the face of adversity, it was raised on the concept that the world is the way that it is and there's nothing you can do to change it.


Why? Why does this generation feel this way? The answer again is simple. They do live in a world that they can't change. They don't have anything they can do about it. We're in an age where securing employment has become both an intensely depersonalized (ever taken a personality test online? Ever been rejected from a job because you didn't score the right answers?) and completely necessary act. We live in an age of megacorporations that run stores with people who have never even seen the people they work for, who do jobs that essentially transform them into human automatons, reducing their activities and skills and their very worth in a social sense into their ability to transfer money from consumer to owner without stealing it. It's a day and age where it is compulsory to indebt yourself to a faceless bank in exchange for a largely arbitrary and useless term of education before you can find yourself working in one of these corporations. We grew up in an age of soccer moms and extracurriculars and clubs that were formed by people who were not your peers and that you might not actually want to be in but you're there anyway simply to prove that you're a social person with some sort of record of your sociability. Nothing is free and nothing is really optional. We're past the time of legitimate entrepreneurs, self-made people that made the right moves and started their own businesses with less than a high school diploma and maybe the equivalent of a few hundred dollars in their pocket. Those people made themselves, and made themselves well and founded the megacorps that exist today. Their legacies actively ensure that their legacies will be the only of their kind. What passes for today's daring entrepreneurs are smarmy rich kids like Mark Zuckerberg who grow up in suburbs and go to fancy expensive colleges and become even richer by essentially swindling people out of their money providing unnecessary internet services and convincing megacorps to give them unnecessary money for their unnecessary advertising and nothing of any real value is produced.


Never before has the disconnect between money and tangible value been so great. The dollar is already based on a floating point that is "determined by the market" and backed "By the full faith and credit of the U.S. government" which ultimately comes down to "it's worth what we say it's worth, and we'll shoot you if you say otherwise." It's a problem, and the depression we're in right now is emblematic of the problem. Money has become a head game. Wall street is a house of cards. Nothing has remotely reasonably tangible value anymore. A house that may cost forty or fifty thousand dollars to build turns around and sells for five hundred thousand dollars, a 900% markup. Then someone buys it, but not with real money, with an agreement that they'll pay a big faceless corporation for thirty to forty years. Plus interest. The home seller gets money, at least. It works out in some weird and complicated way that makes both the faceless corporation and the home seller a fat stack of cash, but screws over the buyer.


The reality is this: it has never been as expensive to own a house as now. And when I say never, I mean in all of human existence. A basic need, the need for shelter from the elements, a need shared by most every other living thing on the planet, has now become essentially a luxury for humans. All because of the idea, the concept that perhaps homes are very valuable and all of the games that people play with that assumed value. Leading straight to the problems we're having today. This largely leads to the problem this generation is facing as well. We live in a world where people we don't know and will never meet are actively causing problems in our lives and we can't do a thing about it. We are essentially taxed without representation, as corporate influence in politics continues to become more and more brazen and obvious. Those without are not counted, and those with will do everything in their power to prevent more from joining their ranks.


Life is regimented and routine and it really does seem like there's nowhere to go from the inside of the system. Fantasy movies and books are on the rise this generation. Escapism reigns supreme. Depression is also on the rise. Suicide is frighteningly common. The world has become unbearable to some people, and even worse, hopeless. This generation is collapsing in on itself with more and more kids living at home or on the benefit of their relatives for lack of employment or being underemployed, which literally means they're not earning enough to live on their own in their "entry level" jobs. Every position requires "experience" doing the same thing that the position requires, which means to say that there's no apparent way to get a position without having already gotten one. When it comes to people who take rules and limitations very seriously, this totally stymies a job search. The actual answer is to simply ignore this "requirement" and either lie your way into a job or make buddy buddy with someone at the workplace that can rep you. It's a terrible system, encouraging exclusion and dishonesty as a means of survival, but it's the system that we've got.


This is the world our generation has grown up in. A fucked up sort of machine that works through a system of obscure rules and mechanisms. It's a brilliant and comforting system for people who like and need routine and predictability in their lives in order to function, but completely terrifying and awful for the other bunch of us like my acquaintance who can't function in a place so small and predictable and stifling. It's very much like going to a movie and being able to predict the rest of the plot in the first ten minutes, so much of this method of life is boring and repetitious. Possibly the worst part is how being different, being interested in doing the wrong thing, is also wrapped up in the same system. Sure, you can express yourself, as long as it's in these predetermined methods and manners. Sure, you can even forgo these, we've got a separate system of underground artistry, just don't expect any legitimacy. There's no reasonable way to escape the system if you want to survive. So people like him and like me and like so many others I've met just complain and make the motions of supporting this culture. Our day will come, maybe. But probably not. Let me just be satisfied with my TV and celebrities and my video games and do whatever it takes to feed my habit.

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