A Conversation: Henry Rollins, Gay Marriage, Legal Marijuana, and Miley Cyrus

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Now Available on Basic Cable!

A good friend of mine told me he believed punk rock is the anthem of “the system’s waning grip on the American psyche, and the prevalence of more “person[a]”-centered advertising was evidence of the fall–simple, direct injunctions to consumer are no long adequate.

I completely disagreed. I was drunk, so I wrote this.

Enjoy this Facebook-picked literature.
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Re: Failing Soclal Controls

I think the [hegemony and ideology are stronger than ever]. Sure, 1) gay people can get married in some places, 2) we can all smoke marijuana if we’re not minorities, and 3) Miley Cyrus can be naked.

Some may take the above to be the 3 horsemen of the traditional American hegemonic apocalypse.
The above can be interpreted as:

1) The injunction to marry is so strong, that even queer people–the supposed cripplers of heternormativity and agitators of the patriarchy–desire to have their relationships *recognized* and *approved* by the state. It’s not [just] that they want the right to love, be openly intimate, etc.. This is allowed. Asking for recognition by the state (the big Other) became some sort of de-radicalized demand that everyone could get on board with. “Let them get get married,” is far less threatening than, “marriage is a farce, at best, and repressive, at worst.” I’m not saying either of those are right/true. I’m just saying the latter has been pretty much disavowed in lieu of the former in the larger society.

*Clarifying Note*: I’m all for gay marriage, and marriage, and the desire to get married, etc.. I do not, however, think gay marriage is a sign of retreating power structure.

2) The normalization of a consumer good among other consumer goods. Awesome? Maybe. Fewer drug imprisonments. Now, some privileged people can smoke marijuana without fear of imprisonment, and the War on Drugs become a direct problem almost exclusively for those “poor, degenerate people, over there.” I know this because marijuana Legalization advocates start off talking about the corrupt prison system to lead into a conversation of the unjustness of marijuana prohibition. Once Arizona started card programs, I didn’t see their protests of the big issue they used to point out the power structure benefiting an unfair system. Why? Because it wasn’t really about power or social justice. So, it was about getting high, i.e. consumption? No! It was about getting the social structure to *recognize*, *approve*, and make legitimate an already widely accepted consumption behavior. Also, note: the people disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs aren’t protesting in mass. Why? Ask yourself: what’s more important to the African American voter block: Voting in Obama, or prison reform? How did you arrive at that conclusion?

*Clarifying Note*: I’m all for marijuana legalization, and high marriages, and the desire to get marijuana, etc.. I do not, however, think marijuana legalization is a sign of retreating power structure.

3) The media makes decisions about what we are, and are not, allowed to see–whether it’s Osama bin Laden’s corpse, dead bodies in warzones (you can’t show white, first world bodies, but Kenyan bodies are fair game). Large media institutions can totally omit world events and basically mute any “celebrity” they want, because their broadcasts are the primary reference point for what constitutes “world events”, and who is, or is not, a celebrity. “But Miley Cyrus is doing something radical. She’s rebelling! She’s undermining the system!”

*Clarifying Note*: I’m all for not censoring Miley Cyrus, and marriages to Miley Cyrus, and the desire to get Miley Cyrus marijuana, etc.. I do not, however, think Miley Cyrus smoking legalized marijuana with married homosexuals on TV is a sign of retreating power structure.

Who told you that? I bet the work for a brand or publication with a higher Klout.com score than you.

That system did not, and will not, lose to punk. It did the best thing it possibly could–it gave Henry Rollins a TV show.

And, I know, I’m putting words in your mouth by assuming those were examples you would use.
You may not use those examples, yourself, but there are a lot of people who would use the above as indicators of “changing times.”

In that case, my argument isn’t really a rebuttal to you, but a practice in throwing red herrings at strawmen (whom, by the way, I actually believe exist; see: Democrats).

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My friend responded:

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Do you think the strength of social controls are illustrated by the relative norms in pop culture? In other words, do you think media dialogue about Miley Cyrus, the legal status of weed, and accessibility of gay marriage are indicators or reflections of the breadth, depth, or geography of social control?

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My reply:

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Absolutely. I very much do. There are big, complicated, basically (and most importantly) leaderless social mechanisms that produce what we recognize as norms in pop (a.k.a, dominant) culture.

Even if the dominant machine were purely superficial–just broadcasted noise to fill air time that no one, not even impressionable children in America took seriously. Foreigners wouldn’t know any different. The actual reality, however sad, is that the “really” superficial pop culture messages are, in fact, consumed as if they were of actual substance (I actually think there is a such thing a real cultural substance, so I lose some PoMo points, here).

By whom?

Children and non-Americans, particularly those in 3rd and 2nd world nations.

Those children grow up to be real people who buy real things and perpetuate the system.

So, yes. I do believe pop culture is a reflection of the strength of social control, in the sense that people LITERALLY have to buy it for it to work…and they/we LITERALLY do.

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FRIEND:

 So, where do people’s minds fit in? I mean, if leaderless social mechanisms produce what we recognize as norms, what role do people have in it? Empty vessels?

TCW:

This is where I kinda have to venture into my pretty much unproveable beliefs about subjectivity…

I basically believe that, we are for the most part organic hardware with socially produced software. We run on whatever imput we happen upon. Some software sticks better than others depending on our early childhood manufacturing conditions…and that idea would set just fine with me if not the those rare moments in human experience (and maybe they’re not rare, maybe it’s a constant, I dunno) when a subject transcends its subjegation. That is to say, it fully experiences that margin of freedom, non-identity, and spontaneity of consciousness (if such a thing can be called “consciousness–maybe “sentience” is a better term) pre-subjectivization in language and power.

In my experience, these moments are often traumatic, bizarre, unexpect events.

I can remember most palpably experiencing this feeling in the ring during my amateur kickboxing career.

Christian scripture speaks also of something like what I’m describing.

Jesus proclaimed that if his disciples were to follow him, the must hate their mothers, fathers, siblings, friends, etc.. The idea, I think (or rather, Zizek says) is that true spiritual freedom involves a violent divorce from the social institutions which subject you, give you identity, a place in the system, and so on, I claim.

FRIEND:

Again, you know? I mean, my God.

ME:

Fundamental antagonisms, my God.

 

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On Right-Wing Socialists and the Secret Powers of J-Pop

Every day you wake up, remember, it's only because this girl had mercy on your soul.

Every day you wake up, remember, it’s only because this girl had mercy on your soul.

Americans have the good fortune to live in a country where only two questions need to be asked in response to any statement, whether uttered by the mouths of your hunting buddies, or the barista at your favorite Bohemian cafe:

  1. Do the people I hate think it’s true?
  2. Would the person I aspire to be [thought of as] think it’s true?

Once you’ve answered that question, you can take to the streets (read: Facebook) ranting and raving about how idiotic Republicans are for decrying Obama for seeking congressional approval to go to war with Syria–a country you thought was 90’s female R&B singer until Vice convinced you otherwise. I heard a lot of Obama defending/attacking on the part of just about everyone with a mouth and frontal lobe receipt (aka, a degree), but very few questions about, I don’t know, what the hell a “Syria” was.

Why, you ask?

Because neither Obama, nor the GOP came to the rescue by offering up their thoughts or plans of action according which you could position yourself in agreement or opposition, depending on what color skin the talking head was wearing.

“Are you saying that I’d agree with a politician simply because s/he was black?”

Of course not, but black congressmen are pretty much all democrats. As for the ones that aren’t Democrats, well, they’re Republicans. And either due to my biases, or actually psychological fact, these men always come off to me as being psychotic or wrestling with some internal demon, the likes of which you could I could not possibly fight off myself if I were in their shoes, even if I enlisted Bob Ross to daily fire a rail gun, belt-fed by bullets made of lithium and Prozac, point-blank into the base of my skull while I sang along to Toro y Moi’s “So Many Details.”

For my part, I quell my nagging conscience by tireless searching for the cutting-edge in Japanese commercials.

I like the way the people of the rising sun do ads. For all their insanity and this-is-what-PCP-overdoses-look-like flair, the Japanese ad tends to speak with a sort of honesty I rarely see in American ads. The Japanese is properly nihilistic–as nihilistic as raw consumerism is, itself. They don’t bullshit. In Japan, an ad is meant to choke you halfway to neon-blinky death, and let you live only if you promise to buy whatever product was being sold. It doesn’t matter what it is. You buy it out of pure gratitude. You buy it because the ad team was kind enough to stop the commercial before the average human would be driven to epilepsy and certain death.

You began feeling some of the following symptoms:

  • Odd feelings, often indescribable
  • Unusual smells, tastes, or feelings
  • Unusual experiences – ‘out-of-body’ sensations; feeling detached; body looks or feels different; situations or people look unexpectedly familiar or strange
  • Feeling spacey, ‘fuzzy’, or confused
  • Periods of forgetfulness or memory lapses
  • Daydreaming episodes
  • Jerking movements of an arm, leg, or body
  • Tingling, numbness or feelings of electricity in part of the body
  • Headaches
  • Unexplained confusion, sleepiness, weakness
  • Losing control of urine or stool unexpectedly

They stopped before shit got real.
The Japanese have a fairly homogeneous society, so when they push their ads, there’s a cap on the damages they can inflict psychological well-being of it’s own society. They can’t/don’t have to target and segment the same way marketers do in America. In America, for example, if you try to rile up a race of people to push an asinine political (read: business) agenda, you’ll probably succeed for at least a little while.

In Arizona, ProsperHQ.org, among other “grassroots” organizations, is in a war against solar power users. This is an interesting battle being fought here because it’s a political tiff between right-wingers who want all the socialism for themselves, and none for the other guy.

Reread that sentence. Do you get it?

A bit of market dominance deck shuffling is occurring in sunny Arizona–whereas pretty much everyone used to receive a bill from Arizona Public Service Co. (APS), with no money back, thing have changed a little in recent decades. For some reason the government and pretty much every scientist spared birth via incest (read: liberal hippie fraidy-cats) is convinced that global warming is a thing, and that even if it’s not a thing, using the free powerplant in the sky wouldn’t be a bad idea if it were economically feasible. Because the Arizona Corporation Commission is a bunch of eco-communists, it moved to incentivize solar panel installations among Arizona consumers.

The solar panels, once installed on Arizonans’ rooves by a number of competing solar service companies, are so efficient they generate more electricity than one house can normally use. That excess energy gets sent back to APS, and the resident receives a credit on his/her bill. It’s a win-win. People use less plant-generated energy, and the plant doesn’t have to work as hard.

Cool, right?

It is, right up until someone’s monopoly starts seeing profits taking a dive in 10 years.

ProsperHQ.org will not stand for this affront to the free market:

The more individuals who receive subsidized power, the fewer who remain to foot the bill for the grid.  An independent study conducted this year estimated that each new solar installation adds over $1,000 per year to the costs paid by non-solar users, amounting to over $20,000 over the typical life of the installation.  With several hundred new solar applications each week (and growing), this is not sustainable, is not fair to non-solar users, and is certainly not the product of a free market.

In a free market, individuals should be able to choose solar, and Prosper is strongly in support of preserving that choice.  But utilities subject to the existing net metering policy are being forced to pay their solar users more than five times the market price, and other Arizonans are left paying the bill.

ENTER this ad, as I try to drown my senses in Tokyo’s YouTube vomit:

You’re asking yourself, “what the fuck did I just watch?”

Me, too; I understand, but listen, lower-middleclass latino families use Keurigs, too. It’s not just upper-middleclass white people, anymore.

There are more pressing questions at stake here, though. For example, “Where is the father?”
Both kids and the mother looks latino and the mother speaks with an accent I’m having trouble placing, so I’m going to guess that the kids, mother, and father are Mexican(-ish).

Is that cool with you?

We’ll talk more about the family later in the article.

Let’s talk money and politics now.

That ad was produced by Prosper HQ, which is run by former Senator Jon Kyl people who work for Jon Kyl, a former republican senator. Jon Kyl and John McCain (the biggest mouth in campaign finance reform) received $91,495 and $203,640, respectively, in campaign contributions from publicly traded S&P 500 member Pinnacle West Capital Corporation. 

APS, the business taking a loss on the solar front, is the principal subsidiary of Pinnacle West Capital corporation.

Conspiracy? Nope. Google it. It’s public knowledge.

aps

This is a graph of where APS’s parent company sends it’s excess money.

We can stop here with this side of the story.

Now, that’s just the Red corner.
Let’s introduce, the other Red corner:

Heir Goldwater, a true-to-ideology Republican has his own series of quotes and campaigns to defend solar campaigns.

Here’s his campaign thing’s video

“APS is attacking me.”

No, dude. APS is attacking everyone as much, for as much, as possible. It’s just business. Welcome to it. When a competitor starts taking its targets, APS will hustle to save ground as much as possible.

I’m going to get the political doubletalk out of the way as quickly as possible so I can come back to talk about the ads.

What Goldwater says what APS is fighting for is a “solar tax.” Bullshit. He’s painting his opponents as socialists in order to reap the benefits of socialism.
What Goldwater really wants is the continued subsidizing of the solar industry.

Back to the ProsperHQ ad:

The writers/directors of the piece had to walk a fine line.

The ad had to 1) resonate with a growing middleclass voting population 2) without alienating white people, 3) while making sure the issue didn’t seem petty, and 3) setting up a clear “enemy” that is unlikely to speak up for itself, 4) against whom you can direct your frustrations about your high energy bill this summer (yeah, this shit is timed to piss you off).

So, they a) pick a latina female to be the spokesperson, and b) make sure she’s married and make sure her potentially intimidating latino husband isn’t there to alienate the white viewers. If the people were white, they’d appear to be complaining about first-world problems–keeping up with the Jones’s–but because Mexican = struggling worker in popular fantasy, you the right wing gets to c) use the race and class issues they normally lose on to back their plea for corporate socialism. d) To make sure you don’t get mad at something complicated and hard to hate like APS, Pinnance West Capital Corporation, or, I dunno…democracy under capitalism.

The director includes this clever shot where the camera pans quickly from the yard to the top of the house to reveal a rack of panels. It sets up an augmented reality in which your ressentiment is given a full bird’s-eye view of the object of it’s scorn–the neighbor who’s “getting ahead of you.”

If you don’t know who else to hate, there’s always your fellow commoner.

Enjoy feudalism. The service economy, re-imagined.

Miley Cyrus is On Some Deep Philosophical Sh*t

MILEY

How I yearn to be in my 20’s again.

Read this, before you continue. It’s a good read, and the writers are pretty much right, but that’s not the important part:

http://www.businessinsider.com/why-miley-cyrus-we-cant-stop-is-actually-the-saddest-song-of-the-summer-2013-8

The article’s writers get a lot of things right about what was really driving the story told by the song, most notably:

1) The deep, idiotic, melancholy void of insatiable desire at the core of the music and lyrics.

2) The creepy male voice repeating a hedonistic mantra in the background–the obscene superego injunction to enjoy.

3) The references to drug use (no shit?).

4) How expensive drug are.

The only real contention I have with the article, on it’s own, is the fact it doesn’t address how this shouldn’t be taken as a serious Ode to Consumerist Despair. It’s not. It’s a 19 year-old girl’s multi-million dollar selfie. 19 year-old girls in her demo do this all of the time. The only difference between what Miley Cyrus did, and what my daughter spends most of her time in the bathroom at 4pm doing is that my daughter doesn’t have the PR network and media buying capabilities Miley Cyrus does. “But your daughter doesn’t actually have any talent or reason for anyone to care about her.” Oh, and Miley Cyrus and the Kardashians do? Stahpit.

The goal of this perverse mirror-based autoerotica is to claim some ownership over one’s body [image]. For most girls, it’s [a little] less intense. Sure, their mothers dressed them up to go to church, and their fathers (if they were good fathers) told them what outfits they weren’t allowed to wear to the local raves, but that’s nothing compared to what Miley Cyrus probably had to deal with.

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DISCLAIMER: I’m not a Miley Cyrus biographer. This is all speculation. However, I do know she was already in movies by age 8 or 9. You think the children of celebrities fall into acting careers by chance? Nah, man. There’s some Illuminati-style grooming that goes into that process. But, again, this is all drunken baseless, unscientific, unresearched speculation. Also, Miley Cyrus’s god mother is award-winning musician Dolly Parton. Also, her blood type is either O[-/+] or AB+. My research has yielded inconclusive results.

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Her entire life had not only been molded at the hands of her celebrity family, but also the media executives at Disney, and her talent managers, and her PR agents, all of whom, in one way or another, had some connection to her father’s bank account.

Imagine that.

Seriously, imagine that life.

That was her life, and we gave her fame, and when she acts out, we all have to see it. It’s consistent. It’s expected. It’s not indicative of a super deep intellect, necessarily, but that’s vapidity is exactly of what you expected of Miley Cyrus (aka Hannah Montana), in the first place. So, what’s the problem? She’s acting out, and you’re outraged. You feel what I feel when my little girl says “You always try to control me!” It’s fine because I actually can control her, and controlling her saves me money on diapers and baby food for a child she couldn’t possibly afford in this economy. If she keeps doing well in school, I the world will pay for her education–we both have skin in the game.

I don’t actually have a daughter.

The writers are dead on in their analysis

P.S. A common critique leveled at her performance at the VMAs  is that she was a bad example for little girls. What you really mean is that she’s a bad example for white girls, and it’s not because she appeared on stage with a twerkin’-and-jiving minstrel show at her back. Get this: it’s because she willingly (awkwardly) sexually objectifies herself. “Doesn’t she realize it’s our job to sexualize her? Why’s she taking the reigns? The hell is this shit?” Look deep into yourself. That’s the problem. She short circuited the system of erotic disavowal you, if you are male, had to build up to process your lust for the underage Hannah Montana without feeling like a pedophile. She caught you red-handed.

No way this is erotic. She's only 17, weirdo!

No way this is erotic. She’s only 17, weirdo!

Also, take a look at the VMA performance:

Look at how the black people react.
That’s right. They’re mortified. They should be.
What do you think they’re thinking?
Trust me, it’s not, “how great it is that this girl get’s to express herself and shake of the chains that have been holding her back her whole life! She’s like a Malcolm X of white girl sexuality.” I know they’re not thinking that because they’re not idiots. Drake is a god.

Rewind. Look at the white girls from 3:25-3:29.
What do you think they’re thinking?

Also, why is no one angry that most of the women on that stage were dancing the same way?
Does it have anything to do with the fact they’re black women and therefore unlikely to identified with by the precious little white girls?
It’s ok if black girls are at the end of the media gun-barrel, just please make sure McKenzie doesn’t get caught in the crossfire?

What do you think?

The big problem people who read the Business Insider won’t get is that the consumerism Miley is glorifying in her song/video is precisely the pervasive psychological disposition that keeps capitalism alive. “We can’t stop!” You’re right Miley. We can’t stop relying on oil as a fuel source. We can’t stop the credit-based economy. We can’t stop consuming resources at an alarming rate to make paper, and cars, and IKEA furniture. We can’t get off our antidepressants and ADHD meds. We can’t stop caring about the newest iPod, and you know what? It’s your patriotic duty not to stop. The article was published by the Business Insider, where 1/4 of the articles explain why you need the newest Samsung Galaxy, and the other 3/4 get you wet to buy the iPhone 5s.

These are the ads beneath the Miley Cyrus article on the Business Insider.  "The medium is the message." --Marshall "The Man" McLuhan

These are the ads beneath the Miley Cyrus article on the Business Insider.
“The medium is the message.” –Marshall “The Man” McLuhan

FLASHBACK:

  When[9/11 happened], they wanted to create an atmosphere of fear.  And one of the great goals of this nation’s war is to restore public confidence in the airline industry.  It’s to tell the traveling public:  Get on board. Do your business around the country.  Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots.  Get down to Disney World in Florida.  Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.

     And we’ve got a role, the government’s got a role.  Not only do you have a role to play, which you’re playing in such fine fashion, but the government has a role to play, as well.  We’ve got a significant responsibility to deal with this emergency in a strong and bold way.  And we are doing so.

Remember that?
I do.

Bush, etc..

Now, watch this.

Zizek on Enjoyment

Lady Gaga says you were “born this way,” so you have an out. Miley Cyrus’s contrived gyrations reveal the truth: we were all made this way.

She’s what the media made her. She’s what media interests made her. She has no agency. It’s gross because none of this is her fault.

Also, Michael Jackson. Also, Amanda Bynes.

Goodnight.

An Education in the Humanities in the 21st Century: Proper Suffering 101

"Adderall is a vitamin."

“Adderall is a vitamin.”

I’m going to get a lot of hate for this. No death threats, because that’s just not how liberal[ arts major]s are.
See how I pigeon-holed you there? I know you’re a liberal. I know that, and you don’t like that.
“No, baby. I’m an anarchist.”
You voted for Obama and own a MacBook. Choke on freegan kale.
I know you.

Please, just listen. I know why you’re here, Neo. I know

what you’ve been doing. I know why you hardly sleep, and why

night after night you sit at your computer. 

A wise [wo]man[?] once said, “If you’re reading it, it’s for you.”
I work in marketing, and those words are truer now, in the 21st century, the age of limitless customizable individuality and expression (aka, social network-based personal branding), the age of the infinite subculture, the age of you, you, you (trans: me, me, me) more than ever.

1101061225_400

TIME magazine understands Lacan’s Mirror Stage

Today, in America, you can literally pretty much do whatever you want to do, as a young person.

I can hear you boiling with rage. “That’s white privilege speaking. What about poor black and undocumented Mexican kids? What about–” Slow down, compadre. Read that again. It says “you.” Are you poor and black? Are you sweating bullets anxiously fearing the day la migra sends your mother back to Chihuahua, Chihuahua because some scumbag politician needs to convince his red state constituents he’s identified and is addressing “the true source” of their economic woes? The word is italicized for good measure in an attempt to stave off your rage. It’s cheap. It’s an attempt I knew would fail, but it had to fail to prove a point:

You have been programmed to respond to things in specific ways as part of a personal branding campaign you were tricked into initiating between the ages of 11 and 25, depending on how long it took for you to hit puberty. If you grew up in Canada, Germany, Austria, the UK, Japan, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, or Australia, then you grew up in the same country I did–America.

In America, we push branding and public image over everything. The Christians like to think this is a Christian nation or, at the very least, a country founded on monotheistic religious tradition. It was really founded on the relative value of imported slave meat vs. domestic, but that’s another conversation. The unofficial American state religion more closely resembles a kind of Greek mythological tradition than it does anything any Catholic pretends to believe–we subscribe to PC (Apollo) or Mac (Dionysus); Adidas (Aries) or Nike (Nike).

1683438-slide-s-12-unbranding-project

“For Jobbs so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in It shall still eventually perish, but have eternal apps.”

If you’re following along, you felt the rage of the gods channel its way into your heart when you read “in America, you can do whatever you want,” because it’s part of your personal brand to resist anything vaguely patriotic. It’s only coincidental that the statement is untrue to some extent. That’s a secondary issue.

“Who are you to tell me what I’m thinking?”

Obama is the same as Bush, except for the whole gay marriage thing. You critique Obama only once per week, whereas you woke up every morning hating Bush before 2008. Bush was a prick, but it’s coincidental that he was actually kind of a bad guy–the enjoyment comes from being the kind of person who hates Bush. Sit down. Breathe. Chill. I know you. Have some tea.

You’re predictable, and it’s not your fault.

You were taught to be this way by a system that’s way bigger and way smarter than any one person could possibly be. The system taught you how to think. The system even gave you cataloged binders of strawmen at which you could direct hate so you wouldn’t have to do the work of traversing the fantasy– so, the system meets you halfway:

You get to think your life has meaning within the system. You get to think there are actual ideological wars happening, and the world is just waiting for you jump in the fight as part of the dialectic of history. You get to think your vote counts. You get to buy Tom’s shoes. You get to choke on Kale. You get to major in Women’s Studies; you get to play deconstructionist and bitch about the name, and bitch about my saying “bitch.” And it feels great. Absolutely invigorating. Because you get an opportunity to suffer and fight back against [insert anything], while believing you’re beating the system.

In an absurd world, you need to pick a backdrop against which to write and perform the script of your existence. What Camus didn’t see coming was the branding and commodification of the spirit and frame of rebellion itself.

“You’re getting a little abstract, now.” Let’s bring it back to earth.

The main thesis here is consumer capitalism has you by whatever set of genitalia you identify with, ESPECIALLY if you’re paying for a college degree geared toward educating you in ways to transcend or undermine it. Either way they’re getting your money, your dad’s money, or government money that could’ve been spent on poor black kids, or bombs to keep gasoline at a price affordable to the parents of poor black kids.

The liberal arts major is intended to help you stave off depression while plugging your body into the consumer matrix, or doing whatever you end up doing instead of inciting revolutions and defeating the bourgeoisie. Readers like concrete examples, and I like you, so here we go:

Sociology — While you’re working as a guidance counselor at a public middle school in Marshalltown, IA, you’ll find pleasure in knowing that Starbucks’s Cinnamon Dolce Latte is available even in places where stunna-shades are still “what the cool kids wear.” You’ll be able to use your understanding of the migratory patterns cultural values contemplate that as you slowly settle down with the idea of yourself settling down in a place like Marshalltown, IA.

Psychology — You’ll know what that feeling you’re going to have when you tell your kid to follow her dreams in a depressed economy is called. C) Cognitive Dissonance.

Philosophy — (I apply for a job) ⊃ (I will be rejected in favor of a bright-eyed business major who thinks Wittgenstein makes bagels). The only serious philosophical question is suicide.

Film Studies — “So, Mr. Interviewer, as you can see, I’m good at watching movies and pontification–I’m sorry, why are you handing me a mop?”

English — “I work for the university as a researcher on the modal discourse of the Frankfurt School as interpreted through a New Historicist Lens, and I have come to the conclusion that, from a Foucauldian perspective (and, hell, even from a traditional Marxist point-of-view), I’m engaging in a kind of indentured servitude. In short: I was duped into slavery. In Hegel’s Master-Slave dialectic, is there any mention of Top Ramen? What about in the original German?”

Women’s Studies —
Lord, bless your soul.

Poli. Sci — “At least the scumbag I’m slaving for promises universal medical care.”


The system educated you because it couldn’t figure out a better way to exploit you.

The Kung Fu master doesn’t teach you the secret technique that could defeat him until he’s on his deathbed. I just saw the MTV awards. The Master is alive and well, my friend.

Pai_Mei_Sword

“The Sword of Critical Theory is no match for the Sacred Commodity Fetishism technique, grasshopper!”

The Chinese are Gonna Take Over (Translation: Americans are Gonna Take Over America)

Here we have a Chinese man Bruce Lee telling us to dare to be ourselves in a Chinese commercial for an expensive American whiskey. The ad is targeting an aspirational class of Chinese who are about a generation behind Americans on the consumerist development chart.

I’m saying this because pretty much only last generation’s Americans bought celebrity endorsements.

“But it’s not really a celebrity endorsement. It’s not really Bruce Lee.” Yeah, but postmodernity and Baudrillard and shit.

Battle Royale is a True Story and You’re About to Die (Part 1)

Watch this.

I.

Battle Royale is a [true] story about young people who did what they were told in a world they had no part in creating, but for which they were nonetheless made the scapegoats.

Though I’m sure a lot of stuff in the movie is particularly Japanese, and ties directly to some socio-political phenomena particular to contemporary Japanese society, we Americans and those Japaneses share a bit of common property in the realm of the collective unconsious. If you don’t believe me, watch Seven Samurai and then watch A Bug’s Life, or look at a young Japanese girl in a short skirt. “I’m a woman.” Doesn’t matter. 3 feet of Michiko’s legs sprinkled with blinks of underbutt as she walks meekly down Shibuya is universally sexy.

Thanks to global sexy, we have a global economy to match (NB: depending on how you think through imperialism, the cause and effect scenario could be reversed). So, when you see Japanese adults blaming a “disobedient”, “directionless”, “materialistic”, “narcissistic”, “disrespectful” youth population for the unravelling state of the country, don’t worry. You’re not projecting what’s common to American discourse onto them–remember Michiko–we’re all in the same boat.

In Battle Royale, we get a glimpse of what is probably a universal experience for young people in the first world after a Clinton and three Bushes (I’m counting Obama):

A fat, disaffected, self-absorbed, unemployed, aspirational generation runs the country into the ground in the pursuit of lifestyles they couldn’t possibly achieve on their own without dragging the country down with them in a sea of debt and joblessness, antidepressants, yoga,  and autoerotic asphyxiation (also known as “yoga”).

And, of course, it’s all the fault of the children they raised. Their kids are all caught up in their Razor scooters and Razor cellphones phones their parents refinanced their house to buy them in the first place.

Fictional. Totally fictional.

The biggest indicator of cultural differences between Americans and Japanese I noted was the state of the father’s body when the protagonist found him strung up in the living room, having allegedly committed suicide out of grief over divorce and career complications. His pants are down. It’s never explained because it doesn’t need to be–he came from the generation that ruined the world.; how would you expect them to go out? Saving orphan pandas? Get the fuck outta here.

The very fact the protagonist’s father was able to forego instant choke n’ stroke gratification long enough to wrap himself in a suicide note he apparently transcribed from a fortune cookie (if you think that’s racist, you’re racist) proves Japan is a shame culture. Our heroes just accept the risk and get straight to their doom stroking. “If they find me dead, at least they’ll know the truth about me,” said David C.

Mr. Nanahara knows the truth about him is less important than the fact his son will need to believe a lie if he is going to live a semi-normal life after finding his dad lynched by his own desires. Is this a metaphor for crippling credit card debt? I think I hope so.

So, the dreams of Gen Y have had to undergo some tailoring to fit into the straight jackets the   and their kids knit with labor they shipped overseas to get knit by Pakistani kids for 10 breaths of fresh air per hour.

THE ZEITGEIST OF AMERICA POST 2008 (aka “Adults” of the time): You wont be successful on your own in this economy unless you’re a genius. You know you’re not a genius, so maybe you can stave off the destruction of your soul in a full-time mall or gas station job if you go to college. Major in sociology.

YOU (what you should have said): But most kids can’t afford it, and the definition of the word “most” means I probably can’t afford it.

ADULTS: 
Don’t worry! There are student loans; you can basically get a degree on credit.

YOU: 
Isn’t that kind of behavior what made it make sense for kids to go to college and avoid the labor market even if they don’t belong there? Also, you’re telling me to get a degree in social science. The ROI for that kind of thing is like -4 billion percent. Isn’t this kinda like a subprime–

ADULTS:
Please, stop playing the blame game. Anyway, the government basically subsidizes all of the upfront payments.

YOU: 
Well, motherfucker, that’s why the college can charge 30k per semester and not worry about barriers to entry.

ADULTS: 
I know! Lucky you, right?!

YOU: 
Hmm…have you heard of autoerotic asphyxia? It’s a lot like yoga.

CAM00140

This is your noble ancestor according to Battle Royale. This is real history–not GoT “history.”

The biggest difference between Japanese and English is that there are more words for shame.
Also, college is cheaper.

————

Part II Soon

Housewives, Hipsters, and Yuppies: The Holy Trinity?

Theory 1: This is a horribly offensive ad. The marketing department is shocked, and Samsung will be firing some people.

Theory 2: This is a horribly offensive ad, and Samsung knew we’d share it.

Theory 3: Theory 1 + Theory 2 + it’s target demo (old people who’d be impressed by a tiny SSD) would be impressed by the technology [jargon] and not notice/care how bad it is.

Either way, I watched it all the way through. They won…and I know about Samsung’s 840 EVO Series solid state drive, and so do you.

For Today Doesn’t Believe in Gay People

"And then he said, 'Yeah, the boys at the Nazi Party HQ are fun guys, but did you hear what Hansel said about the Jews?'"

“And then he said, ‘Yeah, the boys at the Nazi Party HQ are fun guys, but did you hear what Hansel said about the Jews?'”

-Disclaimer: I am not a Christian. I do not think there is anything more inherently “wrong” with homosexuality than any other -sexuality. I don’t care about For Today.
-Spoiler: The point of this is not about how much For Today sucks.

So, a friend let me know about some “homophobic” tweets a band called, “For Today” posted. No more than 3 hours later did my roommate ask me, as we finished watching an episode of It’s Always Sunny, “do you remember that band, For Today?”

Yes, I remember For Today, and if you’re like most of the population who has ever given the slightest damn about “heavy music”, your interest-level with respect to For Today probably falls between “Not-at-all” and “Oh, that genetically modified metalcore band designed to attract rouse teen rebellion while giving their dumbfounded white suburban parents the opportunity to turn a blind eye on account of the Christian messaged embedded in the meretricious devil growling? I saw a video 2 years ago, I think.”

Now, band was, at one point, getting as much media attention as Anne Hathaway’s haircut, and Ryan Gosling’s [alleged] appearance at some American Nightmare show.

When I first heard something along the lines of: “Dude, they said some offensive homophobic shit,” I was immediately outraged. “Fuck those guys,” I said; the whole world nodded with me in self-righteous suddenly-giving-a-fuck-ery, and the squeal of the proud American bald eagle could be heard echoing in the distance, and it was at that moment–feeling myself consumed by the warm sea of popular knee-jerk opinion–I figured I was seriously failing to think, so I figured I’d just try to put in some work, for a change.

Having taking the 5 seconds or so required to Google what these astro-counterculture morons actually said I found the guitarist wrote something WE ALREADY KNEW HE BELIEVED IF WE TOOK HIS BANDS ETHOS AT THEIR WORD (e.g. “Don’t be deceived, homosexuality is a sin. This sin with all other sins is what Jesus died for. He conquered so that we would be free.” and “No such thing as a gay Christian, the same as there is no such thing as a Christian who loves his sin.”). If I remember correctly, For Today is a Christian Band, first and foremost.

Before you lunge at my throat with the “not all Christians are homophobes, you reductionist meanie,” bit, understand that I totally get that, and believe that a great many Christians don’t have anything at all against homosexuals, or may not view homosexual as an identity category, but a sinful act among many others, or not a sin AT ALL, and how you rationalize that is not my business; let alone something I think is somehow “wrong”–in sum, I don’t care. What works to maintain your belief in a system founded on Biblical text [which (explicitly) (and repeatedly) marks down homosexuality as a (pretty big) sin] is between you and yours, I suppose. Which leads to my next point:

YOU DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH FOR TODAY, you have a problem with Christianity-unleaded OR Christians who don’t care what you think; and For Today is, by far, the least important band of Christian fundamentalists in the history of fucking forever. Worse yet, you knew what For Today “probably” felt about homosexuality (check the answer key, somewhere in Leviticus), and didn’t care, because you didn’t care about For Today in the first place, just like everybody else. And it’s all of a sudden the world is up in arms about a guitarist saying the obvious, and what is LITERALLY (in the most “duh-motherfucker” way you can use the word “literally”) true in the literal literary artifact we call the Bible, true.

But, no wait. It’s really about how he said a gay person can’t be a Christian. Well that’s a theological question, and if you have no stake in who is “really” a Christian, and who isn’t, well, you shouldn’t have much to say about it. As a good old-fashioned (Catholic guilt-harboring) atheist, I don’t care who thinks who’s a Christian. If you believe Jesus is the son of God, that puts you in the Christian box, and if it’s a little more complex for you than that, just tell me what you prefer to be called and I’ll just call you that. This guitarist is not the Pope, nor is he in Congress playing games with your future, defense funding, or dawdling on the edge of the fiscal cliff. His opinions are irrelevant.

Are you mad that For Today says homosexuality is a sin?
Or are you mad that homosexuality is a sin?

My guess is (a) you realized For Today sucked 45 seconds into the first song you heard by them, and (b) you just want a way to bash on “those crazy Christian fundamentalists” without having to address “those people”, directly.
Why do all this work then? Because you’re afraid of actually challenging silly beliefs in real life.

I understand. A wise man compiled your thoughts into a novel almost two centuries before your Tumblr activity database did. His name was Dostoevsky, and the book was called “Notes from the Underground.”

On Urban Gardens in Detroit and the Zombie Apocalypse

 

You're the salad. Your future employer is hungry.

You’re the salad. Your future employer is hungry.

Rule 1: Read the footnotes.

Rule 2: If you have a “Rule 1”, you need a “Rule 2.”

If you don’t get the joke in the caption, this article is for you.

I’ll have you know this article is for me, too.

I say this because when I first noticed why the egregious branding of the chicken pasta salad was funny, I thought it was just because some writer in the “Naming-Stuff Department” of some corporate mega-store 1 thought “unapologetically gratuitous/meaningless” could maximize sales. He seriously thought that by tacking on a bunch of semantically empty modifiers to what was just chicken, pasta, veggies, and flavored mayonnaise he could change the consumptive behaviors of his customers. 2   

The joke is NOT that some vulgar marketing sleazeball actually thought calling anything you eat with a plastic fork “signature” was okay. Nor is the joke that anything bought in a supermarket, “Cafe”, or even that, for all the flashiness embedded in the name, is $5.99 per pound.

No. 

The joke is I started laughing….after I bought it. “That’s not comedy. That’s tragedy. Don’t you know anything?” But, it’s worse than that, and I’ll get to why, later. I know what you’re thinking, “Yeah, but you bought it after the fact and despite the stupid marketing gimmick.” You think you’re protecting me; you’re protecting yourself. You probably have, or are pursuing, or have pursued a college degree. If not, who the hell taught you how to read? Send me an email explaining your condition, please.

I’m serious. Here’s my email:

ADyingRamone@gmail.com 3

II.

I’m halfway through a documentary called Detropia4 and a discounted case of out-of-season beer and I can’t tell which is making my stomach hurt. 

If the title didn’t give it away, Detropia is a documentary film about the socioeconomic toxic waste quarantine zone we call, “Detroit”.  The film opens with a woman who likes wandering around Detroit’s abandoned buildings and documenting the sights on her handheld video camera. This is a great hobby for anyone in Detroit because being a video blogger for squalor in Detroit, I hear, is a lot like being a portrait artist who specializes in male-pattern baldness in Miami.

Earlier in the film, decent working-class people reminisce about the good ol’ days when America was an actual country-type looking thing. Fast forward a little, you’ll see the man who will later be a major subject of the film explaining to his fellow autoworkers that corporate will be slashing wages and that everyone in the plant that isn’t in management (read: everyone in the plant who isn’t black) is lucky corporate was merciful enough not to slash their throats with rusty old power tools collected from the scrapheap that used to be factory down the road.

Fast forward 20 minutes and you’re in a boardroom in which a largely black (and unexpectedly feminine) board of urban planners discuss “consolidation.”

Consolidation, as the documentary explains, is the act of forcibly moving a population from the totally destroyed, neglected, post-apocalyptic peripheral edge of Detroit to the Stalingrad ca. 1946-esque center of the city. What do government officials propose will happen to the space left vacated after consolidation?

Urban gardens.

No. I’m not kidding.

Seriously. Watch the documentary. 

Needless to say the peasants threatened revolt and thought it was about racism. I’m not saying it isn’t about racism. I’m saying racism is the least of their worries, at this point. Also, never mind that everyone in the boardroom was black. 5

Fast forward; “it’s all the Chinamens’ fault.”

True, but that doesn’t mean it’s not everyone else’s fault, too, and that’s not even the point.

The point is: to me, all of this sounds an awful lot like impending feudalism.

III.

The higher-education bubble popped, apparently. I don’t really know what that means, but I do know last time a bubble burst, my dad took me aside in the middle of the night to explain to me how we probably weren’t going to lose our house. My dad is a tough guy, and despite his steel-plated nerves I could still sense a bit of dread and foreboding in his voice.

I didn’t get it back then. I still don’t really “get it” now. I worry our entire generation might be getting it soon.

The last “getting it” can be read many ways here.

At any rate, I’m scared shitless. I’m scared because I have a liberal arts degree and so does everybody else, and not only is that a symptom of the bubble, it’s exactly why I may very well lose out in the collapsing pyramid scheme every college grad with a non-math-y degree bought into. Thanks to grade inflation, near-universal access to college education, and Viagra-like rises in tuition fees, nearly everyone my age has a college degree, and it often turns out to be a document that indicates a person has a lot of debt to motivate them, and/or is good at doing what they’re told to do within the boundaries of a loosely defined rubric against which a Chinese teacher’s assistant will judge their rushed, Adderall-inspired, schoolwork

Thanks to the above, the college degree is now (especially, now) an empty brand signifier.

Gen Y Hipster Graduate: I have a Justice Studies degree with a focus in Medieval Political Discursive Theology.

Employer: Can you generate and implement a social media calendar for a $10.00 hourly wage.

GYHG: Don’t you want to know what school I went to?

Employer: No. Also, the offer is now $8.75 per hour.

GYHG: I’m going to work at Cartel, you vulgar marketing pleb.

[Next day, same Employer walks into Cartel]

GYHG: Hello, sir. What can I get for you?

Employer: Dirty Chai Latte.

GYHG: I’ll have that right up for you! That’ll be $5.14.

[Transaction occurs. Employer tips $4.86. GYGH does the math, considers suicide, but goes on welfare instead.]

SPOILER ALERT: The movie ends with stupid unambitious hipsters excited to live in Detroit because “we can experiment here–if we fail, we haven’t really fallen anywhere.” This man is an 18 year-old high school nerd in an MFA’s gangly body, and somehow this is Detroit’s only hope. The funny thing is, this guy is basically America’s only hope, unless we start bringing well-paid industrial labor back to the states.

We all have our fantasies.

Also, the bailout saves the day at the end of the movie. Also, a radio personality speaks in the background of an on-the-road montage of daytime scenes in Detroit:

“…there’s much more [presumably global] competition and the burden rests on our education system. We need more education and we need better education if we want to prepare people for the 21st century.”

Cut to a scene of a teenage kid vandalizing the rubble of an abandoned building. (Hope. Change. Amirite?)

“Vandalizing? That’s not a crime. That’s the official sport of Detroit for boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 35!”

Sorry. I jumped to conclusions. I figured Mr. Yuppie Hipster-McWesanderson from earlier was just scrounging for artifacts to use in his newest ready-made artpiece he’s calling, “A Post-Phallic Critique of Industrial Imperatives”. It’s just a working title, for now.

IV.

*I’m not saying feudalism is a bad thing, or that urban gardens represent some sort malicious attempt at re-enslaving the poor.

All I’m suggesting is that if you’re living in Detroit 20 years from now, this picture might be helpful when you’re asking yourself, “what’s my place in the world?”.

Hint: if you're in the urban garden, your kid probably won't grow up to be the Duke of Flint.

Hint: if you’re in the urban garden, your kid probably won’t grow up to be the Duke of Flint, MI.

6

Listen, I don’t think this is a conspiracy and that everything is going according to plan. I think this kind of thing is being considered precisely because nothing went according to plan for American capitalism. Whoops.

V.

Does anyone else notice a strange fascination with zombie apocalypses?

Did anyone else notice America’s fascination with airborne things fucking up national architectural icons just before 9/11?

I’m being paranoid. People’s thoughts and fantasies never translate into actual behaviors, right?

I’m not a psychology major.

Also, I know a lot of people who know a lot about finance.

They’re stocking up on bullets and guns.

“I don’t get it. I don’t buy this idea that the liberal arts majors will turn their dashed hopes of attaining the American dream through education into violent outburst.” People with college degrees are of the upper crust. They’re not like the violent idiotic masses.”

ASU has a 99.99993% acceptance rate.

What’s worse than a zombie with a degree in sociology?

A zombie with a degree in sociology, an assault rifle, and no food in a crumbling economy in a city in which the urban garden hasn’t generated the expected crop yields.7

That guy’s a threat to the system. Not the sociopaths; not the terrorists–they provide the basis for government safeguards against unpredictable explosions of violence, the possibility of which scare the hell out of most people more than college debt does. That’s the point, by the way.

Consider the way you think about the zombie apocalypse and then imagine the way people in Paradise Valley, Phoenix think about it. When you’re done, ask yourself which is more likely.

In your fantasy about the zombie apocalypse, you’re not a zombie, but a lucky holdout–a lone wolf survivor in a motley crew of others like you, whose lives were spared, in an against-all-odds kind of way, by the gods whose will determine the fates of all those living in the zombie-verse.

Even within your own fantasy the odds are against you. Seriously consider that. That’s the kind of thinking that led you to believe that degree in Philosophy would earn you a spot at The New School brushing shoulders with Zizek. Stupid.

When people in gated communities think about the zombie apocalypse, they’re not actually thinking about the zombie apocalypses. They’re thinking about scoping you out and taking you down from the steel-reinforced window of their three story prefab-house-turned-paramilitary-compound. You’re not a zombie. You’re just hungry and looking for food because the financial sector collapsed under the weight 60 years of perverse political and economic conditions.

How do I know that’s what they’re really talking about?

Because I always ask.

VI.

This is getting long, so I’ll tie this together in one shot:

Over-branded pasta is like someone with a liberal arts degree. The consequence is that consumers (and employers) have little incentive for considering the branding when making hiring decisions the same way the word “Signature” isn’t really informing my purchase as far as I can tell.

Everything in the store is over-branded, and everyone has a fluffy degree in nothing.

So, I just pick based on whether or not it looks good and doesn’t have pork in it.

Employers will just pick based on who has qualifications and isn’t a minority or a woman, or worse, the descendant of a serf.

The day it becomes shameless once again to simply pass your estate and rank on to your offspring, we will be in full-scale zombie apocalypse and/or feudalism mode.8

Here’s the upside:

When this happens, you won’t notice.

Also, it’s easy to take feudalism and package it as something less evil like “communism” or something fun like “social democracy.” All you have to do is convince the slaves there is no master, and that shouldn’t be hard to do.9

I know this because I was alive in 2006 and most liberals I knew had a bone to pick with President Bush over Guantanamo and corporatism. Things are more-or-less the same, and the liberals claimed a victory in 2012.

At least Kony didn’t win.

I bought a pound of Signature Cafe Parmesan Chicken Pasta Salad.

Hopefully my noble overlords will be kind enough to consume a pound of my flesh on salary.

Oh yeah, the fact I laughed after I bought it is tragic.

The fact I can find humor in this kind of thing largely because of an overvalued hyper-brand liberal arts education is the funny part.
Enjoy feudalism. The service economy, re-imagined.

———————————————————————————————————-

Footnotes

1. I could tell you the name of the store, but it doesn’t really matter, and that’s super fucking important.

2. The proper name of “Signature Cafe Parmesan Chicken Pasta Salad” is “Chicken Pasta Salad”

3. I’m not serious. Don’t e-mail me. That is my real email though.

4. Watch it. It’s on Netflix. Subscribe to Netflix. Also, Netflix, sponsor me.

5. I understand the “black folks in the urban boardroom” scene was probably a staged dramatization, but the invisible machine of white oppression is not what you fight when someone is about to destroy your house. You fight your district representative.

6. No joke, a major advocate of urban garden initiative is called, “The Council on Agriculture, Science and Technology”, or CAST. Lawl. Get it? CAST(e)? Get it? Okay. I’m not funny.

7. At least when a clerk with a GED is put in a fiscal/existential corner, he will either 1) convince himself he deserves his poverty for making  “wrong decisions in life”, 2) collect SSDI and fade away, or 3) learn a new skill that makes him valuable in any market that pays no matter how unbecoming it would be if he had a sociology degree.

8. I heard Game of Thrones is gaining popularity these days….

9. Don’t worry, Chad. It’s not welfare; it’s “Artisan’s Relief Income.”</span