Monday, August 1, 2011

Once Upon A Time, There was Imagination

I've ranted about this before, but today marks the crossing of yet another milestone on the journey to pissedoffness.  I've about had it.  After driving around town doing errands today, and letting my brain do its usual blanking out of the mundane and the trivial, it suddenly decided to turn off the mundane-and-trivial-blocker service and let it all flood in.

It dawned on me a strange irony that is present-day American culture.  A dominance of corporatocracy and serfdom. Matching redundant duplication of replication redundancy.  Brands and logos everywhere.  Mass-produced "individualism" on sale for low downpayment and no payments for six months on approved credit.  Other terms may apply. See store for details.

The freedoms and personal latitude our forefathers and foremothers gave their lives to establish and defend are being squandered.  They fought to allow the individual to become an individual in this unique country.  No more.

The irony isn't the corporatocracy or the logos or the mass production, not even the massive bombardment of media marketing from all sides.  It's the fact that the brands and products and practices themselves were borne from the ideas of unique people trying desperately to be "different".


Remember that word?


The message in the caption above is what corporate America has driven home like a well-oiled machine.  It's wrong. Unique IS useful.  Unique is what built every landmark and monument to American ingenuity we now travel to visit and point at and gawk at and wonder how it was ever accomplished.  Every masterpiece of art.  Every masterpiece of music and poetry.

Jack Daniels wasn't trying to be like every other whiskey maker.

Bill Harley and Art Davidson weren't trying to make yet another common motorcycle.

Henry Ford wasn't trying to make the same truck everyone else was making.  Yes, you can argue he established the assembly-line concept of American manufacturing, but he wasn't following anyone else on the design of his vehicle lines.

The people the dreamed of huge skyscrapers, bridges, dams, canals, tunnels, trips to the Moon, satellites to other planets and beyond, all weren't focused on being like everyone else.

Jimi Hendrix was definitely NOT trying to copy anyone else.

Everything we defer to as being "original" was born from an original mind.  Not the mind of someone trying to be like everyone else.

After decades of gradual mental erosion, media branding and careful programming of TV, radio, movies, games and the Internet, we now have a generation successfully converted into obedient servants of corporate marketing.

Look around.  How many SUV's look alike.  Ford Mustangs.  Dodge Chargers.  Chevy Camaros.  "Rice-Rocket" motorcycles.  Cruising "Harley" style and chopper motorocycles.  How many bikers wear the same fucking retarded Nazi helmets, the same leather vests and boots, and how many people sport the EXACT same celtic pattern tattoos?  The same visor hats with the same sunglasses propped up on top.  The same shoes and flip-flops.  The same hair styles.

Individualism is dead.  Whenever I see some kid roll past looking really unique (blue/purple hair with half-shaved head, etc.) and the rest of the folks say "what's that?" and snicker, I want to say "that was the individual you should've been but will never be."  What was once the mighty marching song of an entire nation and way of life, heard around the world, is not a whimper with a catchy name stamped on the side of a fast-food marketed plastic cup.

With every Disney movie we drag our young kids to, and every stuffed movie character toy, plastic toy, drink cup, matching pajamas and Wii/XBox360/PS3 game, we deliver the same message to them: be like everyone else.

I'm as guilty as everyone else.  I dragged my kids through the Disney movies, the Chuck-E-Cheese parties, encouraged them to do the same things all the other kids were doing because that's what all the other parents at the time were doing as well.  I think it all started with smarter toys that began making their own sounds and doing their own talking.  Once children no longer felt compelled to make sounds for their toy cars, helicopters, trains, rockets, and dolls, the game began to change.  Then came cable TV and 24/7 programming.  Then came the Internet, and with each of these incredible inventions there is less time for everyone, especially kids, to just sit and let their minds wander and CREATE.  Everyone is too busy now.  Leave a kid in a room for 20 minutes now and they're anxious to find the nearest iPod, iPhone, or game controller and escape their boredom.

Even movies have slipped from building mock-ups and scaled models to computer graphics.  What effects and explosions used to impress us at the theater are now met with yawns and attention-diverted texting in the aisles.  Kids "know" it's fake, but when we were younger we at least knew that the models were built and explosions were setup and detonated and people really jumped from high places, not in front of green screens.  Kids know there's no Santa and no Easter bunny.

I have no idea where this rant is going.  Probably nowhere.  Probably making no meaningful or valuable point either.  But whatever, it's sad that the bikers I grew up with in the 1970's had built their bikes from spare parts and got their leather rags from a yard sale or a dumpster and lived on the road, while today suit-wearing attorneys step into their walk-in closet to drape themselves in the exact replica wardrobe purchased online, with the matching dew rag pirate cap, shortie helmet, and boots, then hop on their standard factor "custom" chopper to play pretend-biker for a weekend.  They sit at the traffic light next to three identical black or red Ford Mustangs or Chevy Camaros or Dodge Chargers.  Every arm has the same Celtic tattoo.  The same music blaring.

The infamous "red neck" trucks and SUVs are all the same.  Same lift kits.  Same window decals.  Same rebel flags.  Same stupid truck-nuts dangling.

Black folks are no better off than standard-issue white folks either.  Not even Asians or Hispanics are better off.  I see the same conformity in their circles too.  The same clothing styles.  The same custom tricks on their cars, bikes, scooters and skateboards.  Same tinted windows with the same chrome wheels.  Same music blaring from the open windows.

Same - same - same - same - same...

Wash. Rinse.  Repeat.

We are slowly sinking into the same blender, from multiple holes in the top, only to end up in the same chum bucket in the end.

RIP Indivuality - it was nice to have known you.


Jim Bezdan said...

You are unique, just like everyone else.

Randy said...

Conformity and consistency was drilled into me when I was in Army Aviation and I still do it in my work and home. I mean this sincerely, thank the stars that guys like you are around to cuss the "sameness" that happens all our lives. Think you could do something about our politicians? Dave for President?

skatterbrainz said...

But there's a functional reason for conformity and consistency in the military, and in an operating room, an air traffic control center, an assembly line, a SWAT operation, etc. But in our personal lives we've lost the concept of pushing the envelope of expression and creativity.