smile & enjoy

tech, culture and trends. please, enjoy.

what’s that generation called?

To be convinced that we are a culture of individualism, one need to look no further than bowling alone by Robert Putnam.  We enjoy having individual identities and hair styles, rain coats and sports cars.  However, being unique, as one little fight clubber put it, is a little crazy.  

You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.

– Tyler Durden

Considering this, how do these two concepts overlap?  How is it that while one of us can be completely autonomous, the other suggests a certain undeniable barnum statement?  And more importantly, how do these ideas converge?

Traditionally, much of identity had been based on nations and cultures being unique.  The women from France are beautiful.  The Hungarians are among the nicest in the land.  But ever since globalization reared it’s head at the concept of an American state, nationalism lost its footing.  As it turns out, people from a variety of backgrounds can work together and produce goods competitively; I can only imagine what a big shock it was to those with a heavy national identity.

As time went on people were able to segment out those parts of their life which they enjoyed and dismiss those they didn’t.  Russian immigrants didn’t bring communism with them but they brought their religion.  German immigrants apparently didn’t bring their ability to brew  beer but they brought their academics.  My point is that individuals (while often occurring collectively), were given the right to segment their culture, and with the expansion of liberties they were able to branch further from their culture; my suggestion is that liberty puts stress on identity.

Meanwhile, everyone in the world is allowed to have greater consumption and the civilized world is able to pride itself on making feeding their populations a non-issue (for proof look no further than organic food).  However, consumption is only guaranteed as production methods are improved and it no longer becomes a question of making as much as possible but curbing production to meet demand.

Capitalist: You mean to say that the more products I sell the more money I will make.

Manager: Yes.

Capitalist: Great.  Let’s make as much as we can.

Manager: But sir, we don’t want to make too much, we only want to meet demand as to not make too much.

Capitalist: I see, perhaps I should employ some individuals who can bring these products to market for me.

and the brand identity was formed.

Bringing products to markets relationships had to be built with companies who often had no connection to their customers.  Terms like ‘made in the usa’ and ‘organically grown’ were born in an attempt to build such relationships.  An opportunity to link the pragmatic of being an un-unique piece of decaying matter and that new sports car which will impress all the guys from high school is linked.  And here, an opportunity to produce integrated results.  Products now are able to distinguish themselves on their own playing field. 

(when asked about the production of a lucky strike cigarette)

Lee Garner, Sr.: Shame on you. We breed insect repellant tobacco seeds, plant them in the North Carolina sunshine, grow it, cut it, cure it, toast it… 
Don Draper: There you go. There you go. 
[Writes on chalkboard and underlines: “IT’S TOASTED.”
Lee Garner, Jr.: But everybody’s else’s tobacco is toasted. 
Don Draper: No. Everybody else’s tobacco is poisonous. Lucky Strikes’… is toasted. 

Products differentiate themselves merely on how effectively they can develop a relationship with a product (incredible).

The point of this article is to suggest that the world is a set of competing values which have transformed as opportunities have been realized and dismissed, forced and liberated.  Religion had been one of those characteristics which bound people but today people’s curiosity lies not as much with the afterlife as with the perceived and realized value of objects.  For those of you who may be doubtful, examine exibit a, an avid user of macintosh products.

Centuries ago, those who prostelatized religions to ‘non-believers’ would talk about how it would make life easier and how all of the others were far inferior.  They would have talking points to illustrate why their explanation of the afterlife was clearly more reasonable and  how those who held those altering beliefs were so bad they hardly had a right to stick around.  Take all of those ideas and apply them to advocates of macintoshes.  It’s striking, I encourage everyone to test my suggestion.

Personally, I revere G-D for all of his mastery but that isn’t to say that it is a commonly held position among my peers.  As our identities have shifted we have gone from associating ourselves with those who share our beliefs about how we came to exist to identifying with those who wear the clothes of a certain designer and use a certain computer.  I realize that this statement dismisses the real value of a good friend, but to say that materialism doesn’t impress is to say that bouncers at clubs have a unique ability (they don’t).  You can be that special snow flake and be a heap of decaying matter and it’s okay because those shoes you just picked up are quite slimming on you.  Oh, and can I buy you a drink?

It seems as though ‘the greatest generation’ loves to criticize the younger generation for being lazy and weak but they dismiss the massive amount of progress they are the product of.  Learning far more in the fields of science and technology and understanding the world in a much more diverse way (which is quite complex when you consider how easy it had been to write off whole cultures with an ethnic slur).  Who’s to say we’re worse or even better, just a little bit different.

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Written by Joe

21 December at 3 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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