“The biggest impediment to revolution is a personal one: our own deep-seated feelings of cynicism and impotence. How can anything “I” do possibly make a difference? Most of us have trouble accepting radical change as a viable option. Entrenched in a familiar world, we cannot imagine another. It’s hard to see our current system as simply one stage of a never-ending cycle that sooner or later will fall and be succeeded – but this process of creative destruction is exactly how the world works.” –Kalle Lasn, contributing writer for Adbusters
MEDIA ROOTS– Galvanization in the world of social media is increasingly difficult, despite a level of interactive accessibility that was inconceivable two decades ago. People look to Twitter and Facebook for information, advice and input to their own queries, but you can’t ask too much of your connections. They aren’t friends, they aren’t family, but acquaintances with which we share very limited common social threads. As Malcolm Gladwell explains, “Social networks are effective at increasing participation—by lessening the level of motivation that participation requires.”
The result is a culture of noncommittal semi-passion, casual unrest and part-time activism that tokenizes the opposing view to the status quo and eliminates any genuine threat of effectiveness. It allows our conveniences to work against us, by removing all potency in the simplicity of action. How impressive is a thousand “like” clicks on your new group page, when all it takes is an uncommitted finger movement? It’s token activism, “clicktivism,” empty and largely another layer on the white noise of saturated information.
The rinse/repeat culture of sarcastic cool and cynicism rules the day, blotting out the nourishing light of compassion and the open-minded communication that’s crucial to a productively evolving society. One-uppery has replaced interactive, real-life storytelling & inspiration garnered through collectively shared experiences. Part of this can be attributed to our runaway free-market hyper-addiction, and our total complacency in the face of the fact that we are no longer citizens first, but consumers. Friends are now collections. Healthy is expensive, deadly comes in a myriad of value meals.
It’s clear that something is very wrong. Still, there is no rational, collective sense of motivated urgency as a society. No fists pounding the tables and podiums on network TV, demanding that the focus move from saving the banks and the executives to saving the homes, the jobs and the schools, rebuilding what truly makes us functional. There is a massive and deliberate blind eye being turned on the treacherously detrimental use of factory farming and genetically-engineered crops. By design, there are critically few, readily visible and widely viable alternatives to the status quo.
In the complete convenience and 24 hour full-blast entertainment access of today’s consumerist culture, the grounds for a truly meaningful uprising is at both points more fertile and more complicated than ever before. Organizing has reached hyperactive levels of interactivity, yet it’s largely done on the wings of casual, uncommitted interest. All the same, there is valid argument against Gladwell’s logic, given that awareness now takes flight over the digital realm, and his idea of a return to an authoritarian or even hierarchal activism model is precisely the opposite of what is needed for effective social revolution. What we need is to awaken the bits of humanity within all of us, that we’ve consumed our way away from.
The promise of passion’s proximity to youth is shackled by encouraged naivete, enabled in its aimlessness at a time when calculated, impassioned unrest is badly needed. A time when far more than a “like” button on a Facebook page or a retweet is necessary to make a meaningful impact, despite an encouraged and growing belief to the contrary. We need to learn how to find that passion once more, to water the seeds of effective activism and motivated focus in a climate of encouraged delusion and critical overexposure. We need to learn how to build a meaningful momentum in a climate where informed dissent is easily encapsulated and polarized, and how to feed the crucial fires of passion with a raw truth and motivation. We need to learn how to make a unified difference both within and without a digital playing field that’s overwhelmingly complex, and against an adversary that’s become inconceivably multi-faceted. We must be willing to tear down the walls of the box of commercial culture in very literal ways.
We accept the billboard horizon as reality each day, despite the unmistakable signs of full-scale class warfare being waged – and won – against us. We delightfully and collectively consume toxic ammunition, scrambling in our idiot rituals for the latest product updates, commiserating with nuanced passion over the design flaws in the latest minor tech boost. We silence our conscience whispers by bemoaning society’s mucosal sheen of vapid idiocy lathered on by the Lohans and Kardashians, all while perpetuating their undeserved spotlight with our prolonged attention and wholehearted addiction to tabloid culture. We’re a proud car crash flashbulb society, dipping toes into reflective self-loathing only for those token moments of inevitable reflection at what we’ve become. We deal poorly with these minor flashes of clarity, largely viewing them as inconvenient truths best medicated away or left for the hand-wringers and worrywarts, to be swiftly replaced by the next hype magnet.
We’re racing to rot the soul of our entire existence, because we’ve been programmed to know and do only this. To champion idiocy, retard our spirituality and wear our deference to marionette leaders like MVP jerseys at a football game. My team versus your team. The only catch – they’re both the same team, and neither are scoring points for us.
But not all of us are proud. Not all of us are content in our disposable culture, our celebration of cynicism and culturally impotent existence between the seemingly unstoppable glaciers of the Left/Right corporate body. Not all of us see the rising millions of unemployed as lazy freeloaders, or questioning the media narrative, the voracious capitalism machine & untethered funding of the industrial military complex as our nation’s foundation corrodes as anti-American.
Like you, there are those of us who understand the immense, gnawing reality of this frustration we’re feeling. We see the mechanics beneath the formidably valid fog of confusion we’ve found ourselves caught in, huddled in reluctant refuge under the umbrella shelter of the soothsayer’s broad-stroke assessments and promises as the torrents of terrifying, confusing and agonizing truth pound down all around us. Don’t get caught out in the rain – results may be horrifying.
We are led by our entertainment and quest for immediate comfort. The government and media’s relentless focus on bank bailouts and Wall Street rather than urgently finding immediate solutions for the suffering citizens is a giant, vague, monolithic nightmare to the average American, who knows something is very wrong but feels entirely powerless to stop it. Especially with all these wonderful distractions…
We’re no longer communities of individuals seeking connection, but hyper-connected consumer groups, subjects in the latest advertising onslaught, promotional campaign, marketing blast. The chaos of the 24-hour news cycle- the parade of pundits with their myriad of bullshit nutshell assessments- is enough to bring about a collective migraine and personal inner turmoil unlike anything we’ve ever known. It chips at our resolve and our ability to find and hold truth. It gives us an unease that every fiber of our beings tells us needs remedying.
And so the latest line of designer medications arise, for those less-chipper moods, for nicotine or caffeine or shopping addiction, for the latest adolescent energy-suppressant. The problem doesn’t have to go away – where’s the profit in that? It just has to not seem so scary. We have to know that every cloud has a silver lining, every problem can be compartmentalized and treated with a flurry of life-crushingly expensive name-brand medications. As a result, more than half of all insured Americans are now taking prescription medicines regularly for chronic health problems, due in no small part to the explosion of pharmaceutical advertising.
The feeling of this dark momentum weighs on you like a hundred pounds of fat. Are you alone in your disgust & disassociation from the current political landscape of corporate America? The empty echo chamber dialogue that only truly furthers and enables one side of the argument? Are you alone in your horror at the arrogant, shameless profiteering and cultivated confusion all around us? You’re most certainly not. There are millions who empathize with your discontent. Your sense of isolated disconnect in the white noise of conflicting information and punditry is an understandable and natural reaction to this manufactured mirage of immediacy-overload, aimed at preventing organization, galvanization and true change in the interest of the general welfare.
So where do we make a stand? How do we make a difference? Devoted activism carries the guaranteed weight of polarization these days, the promise of external definition and damnation by a system with everything to lose. Every risk taken becomes high-risk when the opposition provides nearly every aspect of your daily reality. A modern social architecture has risen, one that’s led to a greater disconnect between the true spirit of humanity and our realization of its value than ever before. This is a vital reason why making educated, calculated movements is so crucial, why going to yet another rally or holding yet another sign will not make a lasting difference. It’s not enough. We must participate, of course, but we must also be smarter in doing so – and turn up the subversion. We must organize more efficiently and act out more symbolically, so the impact of our actions resonates far more clearly than simply another cupful of water in the ocean of discontent. FUCK YES
By all means, wear your heart on your sleeve. Be proud and vocal of your beliefs, and think outside the box of what’s now considered “acceptable activism”. Live your word. But most of all, be informed. And when it’s time to make a real move, when an opportunity arises to be heard far and wide, do it from a platform of educated discontent with words and actions of impact, not armchair cynicism. Step outside the current pattern of activism and ask yourself, what’s the next step in the evolution of this process? How do I personally affect change? How can I shock the system without fearmongering? And most importantly, how do I get others to actively participate?
Conversation. It’s the most basic way for an idea to spread and myths to either thrive or be shattered. Communication is key, be it as direct as a conversation with a neighbor or as abstract as the breaking of instilled patterns and routines in the public eye. Don’t rely on a prompt from the outside. Start your own ball rolling. Begin the process of new activity that rejects vulture commercialism but thrives with passion, with revolutionary joy, and you may soon find yourself amidst a groundswell of not just onlookers, but supporters and enthusiastic companions.
What will it take to shake us awake? What will finally bring about the motivated focus so desperately needed to cauterize the festering wound eating a gangrened hole through the fabric of our nation? The solution is a sweeping social revolution, not defined by a funding contributor but by a collective of minds willing to take risks for an egalitarian movement diametrically opposed to the consumerist stockpile culture of haves, have-nots and an extinct middle class.
We forget the power of an uprising. An uprising based on free-thinking independence and impassioned rejection of pop culture pollution. To channel this passion, this explosive unrest, progressively, in a series of strategic maneuvers, can be to create an avalanche of awareness & motivation. A tidal shift in consciousness, a momentary lapse in our consumer catatonia that allows a breath of true life to pass through us. A reminder of what was, for those who remember, and a glimpse of what can be for the generations who are inheriting this infinitely complex, badly rotting system.
Perhaps this can serve as an entry point for those who feel the sense of wrongness within and without, but wonder what kind of impact one person can have. For people who feel a rising, precipitous guilt over our collective casual complicity, while living in the shadow of the shimmering mountain of distraction and discouragement from true involvement, and true living-community evolution. We can join in non-linear activism that will represent more than another grain of sand among the identical billions in the vast deserts of vague discontent. Perhaps, for those desperate for a sign of true change, for those willing to lend a hand but hesitant to be another lost voice in the white noise, this can offer some confidence and reaffirmation.
There are many voices shouting their certainties of what will happen next. The new model for galvanization, the next version of the movement. They’ll want you to sign their petitions, wave their flags, scream your affiliations. Don’t participate in anything you haven’t analyzed enough to put your heart behind. Contemplate your steps. Be willing to make waves, black out the ads, deconstruct the mirage. Be the alternative you’re looking for.
Chris Blaszczyk is actively helping to build new horizons of personal activism and sociopolitical progress in Los Angeles, where he runs Antiquiet.com and is a senior writer/editor at CraveOnline.
Photo by flickr user Andreas Helke