It’s happening in ways that we don’t consciously realize: society is becoming more and more collectivized. I see it everywhere. People are being reduced to a mere Facebook page, which everyone can have. Celebrities and politicians sit side-by-side with the masses on Facebook, with only minor differences (such as the option to declare yourself a “public figure”) to distinguish one from the other. The “every-man” is given a chance to have what, in earlier times, was available only to those who had earned it, and the result is that accomplishment, in some ways, loses its glamour, meaning, and edge. Consequently, excellence is not as recognized or as rewarded as it once was, and without these things it struggles to survive amidst an avalanche of vulgarity and mediocrity.
I see it in the arts too. Every musician has a “soundcloud” account, however amateurish he may be. Every actor (just about) has his own website. Every author is publishing his own book. Everyone in creation seems to be uploading their own videos onto Youtube, a lot of which are poorly produced and of questionable value. On TV, the beginning credits sequences go by so quickly that I can barely read the actors’ names. In the old days, the beginning credits sequences of TV shows were an art in and of themselves, and emphasized the stars of the given show — who can forget the beginning credits sequences of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Six Million Dollar Man (one of the most creative and exciting ever), Charlie’s Angels, Happy Days, The Brady Bunch, Dallas, and Gilligan’s Island, just to name a few?
Clearly, there has been a shift of emphasis away from the individual, and towards the collective. I don’t like this. I don’t like this at all. Collectives are never as creative as individuals, never as inspired, never as dynamic or interesting. “We are living in the era of the common man,” I declared sadly, “and what we typically get from the common man is . . . well . . . commonness.”
It’s been creeping into society for a while now. In the city where I live, there is a library which I later learned had once been an individually-owned mansion where fabulous parties and charity balls were held in the 1920’s. I wrote wistfully: “I would much rather the mansion have remained a mansion than be turned into something as prosaic as a library. What is this obsession with turning everything over to the ‘common good’? Certain things are just not meant for everybody!” I realize that may sound elitist, but it’s really not. I’m hardly a member of “high society,” so I doubt I would have been invited to any of those parties at the mansion. But that’s okay. I was raised, as a Catholic (loosely), not to be covetous; so I’m truly happy to know that there was one family that lived, at the time, like royalty. To me, that’s much more exciting than a stupid library. I am, as it happens, a lover of libraries and of books — but not in this case. Not at the expense of individual liberty and majesty. I don’t like public places. They’re often noisy, loud, crowded, and filled with cold, unfriendly people whose utter ordinariness somehow seeps into the atmosphere and precludes a deeper experience. “What a strange era this is!” I roared. “We elevate the ordinary and punish and banish the extraordinary. Why? To correct the errors of past tyrannies? Are we so stupid as to ignore the fact that this is but a different kind of tyranny?”
This has also inevitably impacted “The American Dream,” which is what made America so great. Years ago, for instance, an actor could dream about having his name on the marquis of theaters and becoming well known and well-loved in his field — i.e., a movie star. But in an era in which so much competes for our attention (over 600 cable stations, the gaming industry, internet content, etc.), actors simply don’t become household names anymore. Neither do directors. Neither do singers or musicians. Not really, not universally, not to the extent that they once did. The collectivization of society has created a highly convoluted gaggle of niche markets, none of which overlap in the public consciousness. It’s possible, for instance, for a gamer to be so focused on gaming that he is barely aware of the “names” in the music industry or vice versa. I’m one of those people. I admit it. I find modern mainstream culture to be so pathetically shallow and polluting that I reject it completely. When other people speak of the latest “celebrity of the moment,” I just stare at them blankly because I have no idea who they’re talking about! It’s a startling contrast to yesteryear, when everyone knew who Elvis, for instance, was, or Marilyn Monroe. The people of this era are . . . well . . . a lesser breed. They’re not as unique or interesting, not as memorable as Elvis and Marilyn who commanded the whole world’s attention even long after they were dead! So you see, the collectivization of society has some unanticipated consequences: it creates a lot of small, insignificant people who are doomed to the curious malady of existing in a system that was designed for those of superior constitution. Many of them will spend their lives searching for something that they will never, ever find.
But this collectivization is so cleverly packaged that most people, frankly, are not discerning enough to notice it. Cultural atrocities like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars, for instance, only appear to be helping artists, but really they are packaging artists as part of a larger, collectivized unit whereby the judges determine their fate, not us. Not the quirks of their own personalities. Many artists have not processed this yet. They’re still approaching their careers as if it’s 1960, and screaming fans will one day be begging for their autographs as they enter a restaurant. But all of those screaming fans now have Facebook pages of their own, and are not quite as interested in others as they are in themselves.
Facebook, in any case, has reduced many of us to seeking “likes” for whatever it is that we may have created (the modern substitute for fame and fortune?). “Like me on Facebook,” people say, unaware, perhaps, that this often sounds like a desperate, pitiful plea for the attention of an increasingly fickle, distracted, and indifferent public whose attention has been scattered into a million different places.
The Marxists are winning.Tags: American Idol cultural Marxism Elvis Presley Facebook glamour individuality Marilyn Monroe marxism society The American Dream The Brady Bunch The Mary Tyler Moore Show The Six Million Dollar Man