Everything is wrong and nobody cares (Part 2)

Leia esta digressão em português.



The video above tells a lot about society. And I really mean a lot. So many points that deserves a whole digression each. So many points that a book could be written. But let’s take it step by step.

What’s depicted is something that happens, to a certain degree, to our society. And that’s obvious. If you were able to laugh at it, it’s probably because you could identify something familiar being shown.

Despite the obvious reference to Apple’s iPhone, the video is obviously not directed only to iPhone owners nor to the smartphone industry in general. Society is like that. As a whole. In a lot of different areas (in different degrees, let’s be honest). So I don’t see this video as a direct attack to one specific group of society.

The description of the video writes:

“Luxury cars with powerful engines to drive through roads under severe speed restrictions, cable TV that allows us to pay to watch all kind of sports, all from our comfortable sofa, and of course, hyper expensive cell phones that do almost everything but making a decent phone call.”
(…)
“Don’t take the message too seriously. This is a promo video we’ve done to laugh at ourselves. We all have an i-diot inside, and it’s so fun!”

The message is clear to me, it’s about brainless consumerism. And that message is clear throughout the video. We want it because everybody wants. We buy it because everybody buys it. We think we need it because everybody already have it. We’re blind to how ridiculous it is because nobody even dares to point out how ridiculous it is. Those who do are ignored or don’t have a strong enough voice to overcome the stupidly strong voice of society that’s been convinced by another strong voice, marketing. And thus, firms can sell us their products with a hidden date of expiration and we won’t even care because a new one will be available by that date.

But I’m not here to talk about frenetic consumerism. I’m not here to preach about how we should start being more conscious about what we consume and all that stuff. I’m not here to try to destroy the Chinese economy (because that wouldn’t be good). I’m here to digress about another message that seems pretty clear to me in the video. Our wish (or need?) to be equal (and how that makes us completely retarded, but this part I won’t digress about. I don’t need to, really. Just look around).

We live in a society, that’s a given. Are we naturally social? I don’t know. Apparently, Aristotle thought so. Or people made him think so, since this quote is attributed to him:

“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god. ”

It’s said to be from his Politics book, but I couldn’t find it. Maybe a different translation? Anyway, according to this quote, if you’re unsocial, if you’re not part of society, you’re either a beast or a god. But there’s no instruction telling us how we can determine whether we’re one or another (if it’s a free choice, being a god seems more interesting). Regardless, you’re not a human. Pretty harsh stuff there. I mean, really? A shut-in is a beast? Or a god? Maybe a god-beast (or a beast-god)? Why so harsh? Can oxytocin really be the responsible for creating gods?

Sure there are some points that needs to be clarified in that quote. What does it mean by “naturally”? If you become disappointed with society and decide to recluse yourself and become a hermit, is that a “natural” process? Or are we only dealing with people with some so-called “mental disorders” like autistic, who “live in their own world“? (guess the quote for autism tells a lot about society’s point of view)

Again, dissecting that quote is not my aim here. The thing is, I believe we do believe in that quote. And we act accordingly. We ostracize those who are different. We isolate those with whom we don’t identify with. We call them names. We gang against them. We simply don’t accept them and treat them as non-humans. Ok, not all of us, but there are those who don’t do it because they learned not to do it for whatever reason and could have done it before that lesson. (The actual paper, if you have access to it and an interview with the researcher.)

We don’t want to be on the rejected side, we want to be on the rejecting side. We can see the pain of those rejected and we have fun with that pain or at least we don’t repudiate it enough to make us interfere. We don’t want to be the source of the fun, we want to be the recipients of the fun. So we try to mix ourselves in, so we can also enjoy the fun society enjoys. And so we start our journey to be accepted into society, because society precedes the individual.

We go to school. We learn a lot of stuffs that are taught since times immemorial. We learn to follow the rules. We learn how society (should) work. We learn what’s good. We learn what’s bad. Everything is perfectly laid out. Black on white, white on black. And we experience what we learn about society first hand right there, at school. You fail a test, you’re different, because “the normal” is not to fail. You have to repeat a school year, you’re different because you’re late in relation to the “normal people”. Walk outside the line and you’re the problem, because “normal people” walk on the line. Of course this also affects the other side. Be a prodigy and you’ll be different because it’s “not normal” to be able to do something with so much ease.

After school is over we’re given choices (a first-time experience!), we can either go to college or search for work. But this choice is not really a choice for many who have just finished high-school. Let’s be honest, what can you do with only a high-school degree, right? The usual is to have a graduate degree at least. If you decide to search for work right after finishing high-school, you’re not “normal”. You’re either someone who couldn’t get accepted into a university or you’re someone who didn’t learn the values of society and will become a burden later on. “Normal” people go to college, even if they have to struggle to be accepted, even if they have to go to a lower quality one. The “norm” is to have a college level degree. That’s what they told us at school.

And let’s face it, saying that you’ll only find a decent job if you have a college degree may be true to a certain extent, but saying that you can’t have a decent life with only a high-school degree is just some bullshit we’re taught and we insist on keep teaching so we can keep everything normal. Oh, I said decent job? No, I should have said “real” job. How else can we get a real job if not by getting a college degree first, right? And how else can we have a decent life if not by having a real job?

After college, we’re left, again, with some choices. We can continue our studies or start working. We can choose to either work for someone, work for the government or start our own company. Look how many options! The more we advance, the more options we are given and the less time we have left to choose another option if we decide that we made the wrong choice. Ironic.

Oh, right, young people don’t know how to make choices so we can’t let them make so many decisions. Not only they don’t know how, they’re also too immature to make some choices, so we choose for them. Yes, let them learn how to make choices by seeing others choosing for them instead of letting them choose themselves. Great choice!

But that’s just one facet of it. We also have the one shown in the video, where we try to fit into a group by our possessions. We want what’s hot. We want what’s “trending”. So off we go, seeking the newest trend we can get into. A new car? A new smartphone? A new book? A new brand of clothes? Just tell me what it is so I can check whether my bank will lend me money (at fair interest rates) so I can join the club. Because that’s the price to be part of society. That’s the price not to be a beast, nor a god. Being a god is not as cool as being part of society.

Important to notice that society also evaluates your behavior (in a broad meaning). If you don’t change your smartphone every year, you’re different. If you don’t change your car every two years, you’re different. If you don’t have a TV that’s at least 32′ you’re different (yes, “different” here is just a synonym to “poor”).
If you don’t like that song you’re different. If you don’t rage with that video you’re different. If you’re not member of that site you’re different (and here, “different” is a synonym to “weird” in the derogating sense).

And so we go, influenced by all these threats of “being different”, trying to become one with society. We seek homogeneity. We all want our own house, the latest car, the latest smartphone, a 9-5 job that leaves us with weekends free, when we go to the mall and see all those people who own their own houses, the latest cars, the latest smartphone and a 9-5 job that leaves the weekend free, when they go to the mall.

It’s weird how there’s this constant push to “be like everyone else”. Maybe it’s in our nature. Maybe it’s really because we admonish the different. So we try to be equals. We try to copy what the others are doing. So we can be accepted by the group. So we can be accepted by society. And we teach (or should I say, preach?) this to everyone. Kids learn that at school, adults learn that at work, families learn that watching TV.

And so we seek the latest iDiot. Because everybody is also seeking it. But then….who creates the iDiots? Who creates the trends?

Yes, those who are different. Ironic, no?

I could stop here, but that way it would sound like I’m saying those who are different are the superior ones and the others are just brainless sheep who just follows, which obviously is not true. Some can’t even do that.

Ok, jokes aside. The point here is not about being different or being equal. Following or opposing the trend. Creating or destroying it. The main point is how we want to be like others, how we follow a set of rules and give our best to fill certain requirements to be accepted in a group, where everyone that’s in, filled the same requirements and follows the same rules. And after we’re there, we’re told that we “need to think outside the box”. That “we don’t need more of the same”. That “individuality is important”. That “we’re all different”.

Bloody hell, that’s some bad news. We grow being educated with that mindset of being a good example, of being part of society, of being a good citizen and all that crap that is closely linked with following the rules, staying on the same road as everybody else, doing what everybody else does, repeating what everybody else says (which normally means going through school without failing, getting a major degree and finding a real and honest job) only to be faced with the need to be different?

Maybe things are changing in this regard. But the contradiction is still out there, maybe more in some countries than in others, but it’s still there. So, what do we want? To follow the stream or to be different? I mean, really?

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