There is an ideology which has spread steadily across the industrially developed world. It is nothing so clearly defined as the ideas which we have been trained to damn; there are no religions, minorities, taxes or juveniles for us to brand and fear. Indeed this ideology and its willingness to tend towards subterfuge makes it all the more sinister.
At the heart of it lies our willingness to believe that we live in the most significant of times; in turn this promotes the notion that we have an importance that outstrips anything which has come before our current generation. There are many cultural developments who offer a pretence to the throne; There is the ‘it’ girl culture the ‘you’ tube culture the ‘my’ space culture… but none so apt as the rise of the ‘I’ phenomenon. Personified by our addiction to the consumption of ‘I’ labelled products; I-pods, I-phones and I-Macs have become the must have consumer accessories. They have become an identifier of style; they represent our blind willingness to pursue immediate cultural gratification – the immediacy outshining the importance of such outmoded concepts such as, quality, longevity, or dare I say it reality. ‘I’ has become the single most important word in modern society.
But I have a problem; I am a consumer and quite frankly I do not feel as though my demands are being met. We have created a market which systematically cannibalises itself. Its goals mean that we are subject to an immediacy of consumption which not only reduces product quality but our demand and respect for the product itself. Does it matter that the sound quality reduces with each phase of development? Does is matter that the user interface is poor? Does is matter that the battery lasts as long as a decent conversation? Or is it important that it’s slim and available in stunning ice white?
Manufacturer’s release their latest must have products only for them to be continually and relentlessly upgraded. There is an increasing spectrum of gadgetry; all offering us new colours, sizes, accessories and alternative names convincing us that we have an improved product. Hollywood blockbusters emerge into our consciousness amidst a flurry of advertisements only to be released onto DVD two months later… and subsequently the experience of film is diminished. Is our society still capable of producing epic films? We convince ourselves that Primark is desirable because they sell cheap clothes; but if we wanted cheap good quality clothes we would go to charity shops and second hand stores. We do not shop in Primark because it’s cheap – we go there because it’s new, the clothes are new, the experience is new and it’s a brand to which we can affiliate ourselves.
This move towards the cheap and ephemeral would be acceptable if this persistent dumbing down wasn’t represented as rising up. For years now we have been under the miss-assumption that there is a general trend towards improvement and yes it is true that we make technological advances all the time, but do we allow them to become social and cultural advances? Or do we just send ourselves down a never ending spiral of keeping up with the technology, allowing ourselves to be dragged aimlessly towards the next big thing.
It is fair to say that there is an inherent selfishness that goes along with this mode of thinking. It may find its outlet in the consumer market but its origins are in our ever more insular existence… the enemy is always out there… on the streets, in the unregulated public realm. We spend so much time fattening the ego of the individual and a decreasing amount of time feeding the soul. There is a reason why we live in the most depressed industrially developed country, on the planet…
It’s because with the importance of I comes at the loss of us.
This article was written in 2010 and as such is written in the context of the social and political conditions of the time