Quit Being Cool

We live in an advertising culture where we are constantly told that the only thing that stands between our current state and wholeness is a particular commodity. It’s the central lie of our culture, and the people who hate mainstream culture the most seem to cling to this lie the most intensely. Notice how many “alternative” people define their non-conformity by how readily they conform to an alternate standard? How they buy objects that articulate their rebellion for them? It has become so ingrained in our culture that the current crop of teenagers makes no distinction between consumption and expression. They are frustrated that consumption alienates them from their own feelings and desires, but they express that frustration by consuming more commodities. It’s a vicious circle. Let go. Quit being cool.

some guy on Craig’s List



  1. Michael Pick - February 6, 2011 @ 16:54

    A beautifully written diatribe. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and in some ways the concept extends to the ways we (or at least some people) use the “social web” (for want of a less soul-deadening phrase).

    Which is to say, with the increasing move towards the “curatorial” (read, reblogging, retweeting and regurgitating), people are increasingly defining themselves through the niche-focused, digitized artefacts they vicariously consume, in a ceaseless parade of bite-sized cultural transactions, a kind of hyper-charged, hyper-atomized variant on conspicuous consumption. Or, as I squeezed into 140 characters (and now quote myself in some feat of digital narcissism) as if to compound the irony:

    The social web at worst makes conspicuous consumption a perpetual, abstracted stream of intellectual transactions. I link, therefore I am.

    At this point, a vague, amorphous, fragmented culture is spat out in soundbites and text snippets as a means of self-definition, and of course somebody, somewhere is always commodifying the end result.

    To further compound the self-reflexivity and recursive nature of my comment, I’m reminded of this old Situationist International comic strip in which our po-faced heroine, encouraged by The Man to steal books, lets rip with:

    “Culture? Ugh! The ideal commodity, the one which helps sell all the others. No wonder you want us to go for it!”

    I’m not sure that rejecting culture in every form is my personal solution, but it’s interesting (for me at least) to consider the continuing extent towards which conspicuous consumption becomes ever more conspicuous, consumptive, and arguably, ever more all-consuming.

    • - February 7, 2011 @ 0:47

      Jerry Mander says:

      …the speed of change is accelerating logarithmically. It is apparent that developing a language and set of standards by which to assess technological impact, and to block it where necessary, is a critical survival skill of our times.

      and yet, we seem to be able to develop no more than a set of standards to embrace it…

      • Michael Pick - February 7, 2011 @ 3:13

        Very true – skills at filtering and verifying information tend to crumble into apparent irrelevance at a certain velocity

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