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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I called Mark out in the comments and he responds with a post

That he knows is guaranteed to get me going. Liberalism. Post-modernism. Weak identities. That's all I read, Fukuyama might be brilliant but he needs to write in bigger type.

Anyway, what the argument below does is to make it seem that unless we all have a common motto we're marching towards, there is chaos and anarchy. It's exactly this kind of Republican. Homogenized. Imperialistic. thinking that I'd expect from the other side.

In any stable system, the necessary ingredients are diversity of form and diversity of function. The stability of the system is enhanced by these things not weakened by these things. Furthermore, the typical cause of systems becoming unstable and chaotic is the reduction in diversity. This is why in order for the world to keep spinning: clear cutting, drilling for oil in Alaska and other favorite pastimes of the right wing create far more damage than accepting that people are different and moving on.

p.s. Aki, don't even think of trying to tidy this one up with a Death of Advertising tag. No midnight editing on this one, thanks.


AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

Hey, how'd I get called out into this fight?

*Besides, I would have tidied this under a "User-Created" tag. But fine, I'll leave the untidy pile right where it is. Pardon the clean up man for trying to keep the room neat...

I do agree with Adrian, however, about the tendency to hit the alarm buttons on this issue of post-modern identity. Even the use of the word "crisis" is a bit telling. Global warming is a crisis. War escalation is a crisis. People forging new, expansive, hybrid identities is not the crisis of the coming age. Let's be clear who is seeing a crisis. People are not feeling any sense of identity crisis, they seem to feel just fine making their hybrid choices. Many old-school marketers who don't get it and governments unwilling to adapt to the changes and challenges are seeing crisis. But people are seeing "crisis" only with regard to unforgiving governments and marketers who just ain't getting what is clear and obvious to them - times are changed, and the change is great.

Us Gen X'ers most recently suffered this crisis alarm due to the fact that we were rejecting past identities and forging new ones, multi-hyphenated ones. Sure we were overdramatic with our moody music and humble dress, but the alarm predicted that because of our rejections of the past social trappings, we'd grow up rootless, uncentered, self-absorbed and lacking values. The world would plummet into nihilsm, dogs+cats would be sleeping together. In fact, the complete opposite happened. We redifined ourselves, we're more focused on roots, history, family and connection than any previous generation, and we're waiting for the "officials" to catch up with the program.

I think, as Adrian says, not only are stable systems enhanced by an injection of diversity, but America, specifically is founded on this mash-up formula. The Melting Pot Ideal is a hearty recipe: add a cup of diversity, mix and shake well, season to individual taste.

People are now choosing to redefine themselves beyond the constraints of just "Republican" or "Democrat", "Capitalist" or "Socialist", "Christmas" or "Diwali", "Hamburger" or "Sushi", "All" or "Nothing". We're forging identities that embrace both and then some - this is our personal remix, the mashup, a sample fusion.

The old world required charting and mapping taxonomies. A reductionist approach to fit the world on a single page or a few volumes.

And now that it is all charted, what do we do with it, what do we do with ourselves? Well, now comes the good part. Many of us are electing to adopt the best of all worlds and forge a new identity (for and by ourselves). There may be some challenges and uncertainties, sure, but no calamities will ensue. Individuals are seeing no personal crisis of identity.

Brands will have to learn to mix well with others, too. It won't be "Apple" or "Microsoft", "Ford" or "Foreign", "Christian" or "Muslim", "USA" or "The World", but both and more. The age of the single party allegience is done. No more selling to the previously defined groups (the universal qualifiers will never align again), but individuals or micro-cultures. Every car will need to fit each individual, or be open-source constructed to allow my personalized adaptation. No more TV shows will ever again attract half of the country every Thursday nites like "I Love Lucy" once did or "Cosby Show". All our brands will just have to get used to micro-markets and ultra-personalization - diversity.

And that shouldn't necessarily be a crisis to anyone who gets it already. Those who don't get it, or are rejecting the change, are probably the ones scared shitless about what to do.

Mnels said...

I think you guys missed the point I was hoping to inject. I wasn't trying to defend a political ideology or condemn the value of diversity. Plus, it would be hard to label either myself or Fukayama a "Republican".

My point, and I think Fukayama's, is that we have entered a period of intensifying individualism and self-reliance (personal autonomy). That's not a value judgement, that's what I would consider a pretty supportable observation. I would argue that this seems the natural progression of classic liberal economies. We become wealthier, and we want more personal control over every aspect of our lives. The results are an almost infinite banquet of choices. That's the good part. The part that I worry about (the part that you both seem to think is no big deal), is the part that binds us together.

Humans have always looked for social structures with which to identify with. Are you saying mankind has evolved beyond this primal need? Or that our "networked" identities (arguably a collection of identities) are enough?

I injected the role of brands not just to fit the blog theme. I seriously wonder of brands can be made to be standard bearers for shared values (if they don't already). Younger consumers are fairly disconnected from traditional institutions. I don't think it's a coincidence that those same younger consumers are looking for companies that not only make great products, but have a strong and genuine identity.

AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

Hey, somebody just let me know when I may tidy up the blog tags! : )

It actually does keep me up at nite...

Adrian said...

I think that Mark now (and we) knows he's wrong and I'm fine with leaving it at that.

Charles said...

Aki systems 2600:

People are now choosing to redefine themselves beyond the constraints of just "Republican" or "Democrat", "Capitalist" or "Socialist", "Christmas" or "Diwali", "Hamburger" or "Sushi", "All" or "Nothing". We're forging identities that embrace both and then some - this is our personal remix, the mashup, a sample fusion.

Thanks for articulating something I am speechless so many just don't get. Binary political identity? No thankyou. Well done.

MRes said...

Perhaps Fukuyama's commentary would make more sense to some of you guys if you were living in Europe - where there are problems with identity and integration, amongst both 'native' populations and immigrants, particularly Muslim immigrants.

Now I know we all need to be careful about reading too much into media hype or statistics - BUT a recent poll suggesting that 37% of young British Muslims would rather be living under the rule of Sharia law (in Britain) makes worrying news. Sharia law is about anything other than multiple, hyphenated personalities. It is about the strict imposition of an external order. Evidentially not everyone shares some of the views expressed here on the desirability of DIY, mashup identities.

This identity crisis (and the word does seem appropriate: a state of confusion in an institution or organization or individual regarding its nature or direction) is not confined to Muslims living in Britain, although the consequences of some of their reactions to the crisis seem particularly sinister to me. Just spend a couple of hours trawling through some of the comment boards on CiF for some evidence of the perceived lack of an English national identity here. Or the most telling anecdote on the subject I've heard - a young English boy in a central London school made up mostly of immigrants, believing he came from "no-where" in contrast to the strong place-bound identities of his classmates.

Some people evidently feel like they've been sold out - that their country has sacrificed its own culture in place of a relativist multiculturalism. This is a different situation to America where people do, by and large, happily march to the beat of the same liberal-capitalist drum. I mean who needs binary oppositions - Republican vs. Democrats - when they propose such similar underlying policies anyway!

I couldn't agree more that we are facing crises that need immediate attention: global warming and energy dependence and the war in the Middle East. But on the latter, issues of identity can hardly be disaggregated.

Adrian, you may see your own identity as fragmentary, disassociated from place or national identity but you still sound very American to me. Granted - America is a diverse place and a remarkably stable system considering it's size. But to imagine that you're not all (or very nearly all) marching to at least a very similar beat is naive. Especially (and I know it's cheeky of me to add but I feel strongly) from somebody working in advertising - the very definition of an industry helping to maintain and prop up dominant system (no matter how much talking about the bottom-up, democratic nature of the new media revolution may help to salve consciences).

To illustrate the point - America collectively marching towards Sharia law would look a very different place to the America today which collectively marches to the beat of the liberal-capitalist drum. It is perhaps that belief which works as such an effective glue. Whilst Europe (particularly Britain) is entrenched in a similar system to the US - it's sense of national identity around this system is far weaker. For some immigrants to this system, even less so.