GEN-Y, OCCUPY WALL STREET, AND THE COMPLEX WEB
(AN EXCERPT FROM THE NOVEL DISPOSABLE THOUGHT)
BY STEVEN T. BRAMBLE
An all-new, revised second edition of DISPOSABLE THOUGHT is hitting stores in two weeks! Help us to make this, our first official ZQ-287 release, a success. Portions of the proceeds will go to the homeless, as well toward our own, and others’, supervilliany.
It cannot be stressed enough that the Market has been tracking us from the earliest possible moment. We have been anticipated, as well as profiled. The Market was preparing our—our meaning GenY’s—psychography from the earliest moments. Psychographics, a combination of psychology and demographics, is a method of market segmentation or target marketing similar to the racial segmentation Merideth informed Cole he was part of as a member of the Half-Cat Grouping, but with psychographics it’s the overarching psychological makeup of a generation that is used for differentiation. An oft-cited piece of psychographic literature pertaining to GenY is “A Psychographic Analysis of Generation Y College Students”. This article is worth noting because of the date it was published, September 1, 2001, only ten days before the events of 9/11 that would (it goes without saying) transform the landscape of U.S. political, historical and cultural touchstones, and especially the generational experience of then-young GenY. But ten days before all that, the most significant cultural markers for GenY, according to the article, were “divorce, AIDS, Sesame Street, MTV, crack cocaine, Game Boy, and the PC.” How quaint this list now appears.
We are a society of dogma, and GenY has grown up to be indoctrinated through a strange strategy of placation and pandering. Our souls are uniquely imperiled as a result of our numbers:
Industry analysts have observed that more is at stake for advertisers and marketers when communicating with Generation Y than with Generation X. The size of the group accounts for the increased risk, for when the younger cohorts (the 6-17-year-olds) are added to the 18-24-year-olds, they are a group nearly as large as the Boomers (Yers are 60 million in size, Xers are at 17 million, and Boomers are at 72 million). Brands that thrived among Boomers but flopped when aimed at Xers hurt marketers, but the miss was tolerable. Brands that miss the mark with Generation Y may not recover.
Such is the context of our true psychology, that our minds have long been designated as a battleground, and that our knowledge of self has been refined through consumerism before we were allowed to discover it for ourselves.
So what options are we left with to regain sovereignty of thought? Occupy Wall Street was a glimpse into a broader impotent rage abiding in a young generation growing into belated social consciousness—belated due to constant intake of media nerve toxins since birth, the side effects of which were distorted worldviews and stunted reasoning, and impotent not only because the protests failed to produce any change in either the financial system or everyday consumer behavior, but also because of the hopelessly antiquated idea that public protest still can affect change.
Occupy may have mainly been about income inequality, but a considerable portion of its rhetoric and writings addressed spirituality, media, technology, indoctrination, etc., raising vital questions about how to think freely and transcend U.S. corporate-driven culture.
But if all along the underlying issues were social atomization and obedience to corporate propaganda machines (and corporations have melded with government to an alarming degree), then the real tragedy has arrived only now, after the movement, as some of Occupy’s foremost thinkers fall prey to tricky ideological hazards, attempting to co-opt the very problems we face in order to solve them.
Micah White, former editor of Adbusters, said this in an interview with Esquire.
My thinking is moving away from the protest. Instead, I’m more interested now with the power of social mobilization. The power of, basically, getting large numbers of people to change their behaviors, to depattern themselves, to actually get the facts collectively in order to tackle global challenges…I’m at the library and I’m reading all these books about revolution. Is there a pattern that always happens? And there is. De Tocqueville is who observed that revolution often just functions to strengthen state power. I think that that’s why the movement towards kind of, you know, horizontalist, Internet-enabled, populist movements is a way to not repeat that pattern.
The former editor of Adbusters and notable Occupy figurehead is describing the future of revolution to us in Esquire?—perhaps he’s never seen an issue before, wherein men are encouraged to dress like young Wall St execs, popular media is showcased, and consumer products are frantically peddled. Just a quick look at Esquire’s homepage on the day of writing reveals these headlines.
All the Important Developments in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’
We Talked to Nick English About Luxury
The 6 Things You Need to Know About Dressing Your Groomsmen
White’s acceptance of Esquire’s nomination as “one of the most influential people under 35 years old alive today” strikes as being exceedingly damaging from a revolutionary standpoint. Could the same interview not have been related through PBS, Pacifica, or Adbusters itself, for instance? He’s clearly at the point in his career as an activist-intellectual where he can make the choice. Or could his forthcoming book, The End of Protest (Alfred A. Knopf-Canada), not be published through a less corporate but no less potent label?
In the same interview, White claims, “the total cost of Occupy was probably under, like, $500. It’s ridiculous. It’s like a force multiplier. That is allowing history to be changed very rapidly.” However these statements contradict those made during the mobilization by Pete Dutro, a “finance group member” from Occupy, who reported the movement had collected over $700,000 from donors, and that most of the money had already been spent on kitchens, street medics, bus tickets, subway passes, printing expenses, and more, by March 2012. Admirable as it is for White to want his energy to be infectious, it’s difficult not to see this glaring omission about what it really takes to spark a movement like Occupy—hundreds of thousands of dollars and an established print magazine with wide distribution—as falling into the same category of insipidly inspirational corporate advertising itself. You can be like me, no matter what! Or can you? Shouldn’t we be able to trust our own revolutionaries to detail the difference for us, even when uncomfortable?
The same people who urge us to break out of a coded media machine are unable to do so themselves, adding to the frustrated anxiety that led protesters into the streets. Only once supposedly small details such as this are examined can we understand why Occupy, though effective in essence, passed out of existence being ineffective in practice. It begs the question—can our generation, immediately inculcated by an utopic political landscape of exacting commercial entertainments, and shielded as we are from so many of the grim realities of our vast empire, possibly find it within ourselves to enact revolutionary sacrifice? We are entering a phase of globalized economic development where class warfare may only be intelligible in an international sense, in which Third World represents the proletariat and First World, even many of its poor citizens, represents the bourgeoisie. And yet we do well to remember that revolution can come from anywhere, even from above.
If we have truly fallen into the trap of believing our “horizontalist, populist” movements are also necessarily “Internet-enabled,” then we must accept our own psychic inability to come to terms with the way things are becoming, and indeed the way things are. We maintain our self-reference and feed our personal empires even more. The answer for why nothing has changed is because we have failed to recognize that their platforms are not our own, allowing discourse itself to become product & entertainment, losing our ability to organize and communicate with each other without assistance or patronage. Slowly, we recede back into the disunity of objects and media from whence we emerged.
We are unfortunate if we misconstrue Occupy as having been a revolution, and even more unfortunate if we come to view it as our redeeming sacrifice. To view it through clearer eyes is to see it as the despairing, neurotic outburst of those of us who have long been subjected to broad commercial avarice lauded as patriotism’s religious duty to capitalism. To criticize even rougher would be to say that what resulted from the 2008 financial collapse and the Great Recession was not purely righteous outcry, but rather the economic hissy-fit of the middle-class, thrown at the prospect of not being able to attain the same unsustainable excesses of the generation who preceded them. Some have even pointed out to me that the movement was late to the party anyway in terms of income inequality, since there have long existed quite damning imbalances in wealth for minorities and women, partly making Occupy a time-and-place mouthpiece for the nation’s most privileged earners. And while that in no way annuls the movement’s more universal values, it is in many ways a legitimate criticism.
This is, admittedly, a nitpicky and unsparing evaluation, one that may even be overmuch or unfair, as some readers have undoubtedly judged for themselves by this point, but I feel I’m conducting it with good reason. I was a proponent of Occupy, and even continue to be, but these questions are far from frivolous. It would be a disservice not to reflect on our own flaws and inconsistencies. Don’t these tiny details matter, in some ways? Don’t they call to mind the “patterning” White describes? At some point we may know for certain, but until then I’m willing to hazard that they do.
The regrettable destiny for those who voiced most vociferously the highly moralistic cries against corporate plutocracy will likely be, if our current course follows, the dead irony of history. Just as we saw the Boomers’ betrayal of their own 1960s anti-empire values, we will see GenY side with corporations as they come to inherit professional power, growing increasingly addicted to electronics and intoxicated by the false belief that environmental and social change can be brought about through so-called “conscious consumerism.” Thus we march toward the unhappy fate of metamorphosing into commercial objects ourselves.
Future dwellers: You must subvert and attack what our generation holds dear. You must see through the complex web we have spun over truth.