Individualism, can be development of originality, independence and self-reliance, autonomy of reason, autonomy of thinking vis a vis external moral standards, exercise of one’s goal and desires without infringing others’, freedom of thinking and expression. Individualism is not contradictory to collaboration with the rest of society, to mutualisation of efforts. Collaboration is not sacrifice of self interest. Collective intelligence is our way to survive as a species, therefore as individuals. Collaboration is complementary to individualism. Individualism and collaboration do not have to be antagonist. Collaboration is the ultimate goal of individualism. Mutualisation is the recompense of individualism. We like to share what we like most. No other pleasure fulfills the individual more than sharing. Fulfillment is somewhere beyond voluntary transcendence of individualism, and active mutualisation.
Unfortunately, we seem to have lost track of mutualisation as an end to individualism. Individualism has shrunk to a minimal envelop, to an alienating and sad algorithm: amass property to increase one’s happiness. We lost track of the intense individual pleasures of collaboration for higher social causes such as best education possible of the next generation, or imagining sustainable cities of the future. The mass consumerist culture has over cooked individualism and baked cupidity. More precisely, individualism has shrunk to a flat two sided envelop, with cupidity on one side and narcissism on the other, closing the mind to anything else.
Inflation of obscenity sells, but at the expense of dignity
Individualism is about cultivation of secret gardens, to be shared or not. It is certainly not about exhibition. It is not about obscenity to attract attention. It is not about inflation of indecency to sell magazines, it is not about generalized promiscuity on TV talk-shows to boost an audience. Individualism is about privacy, and the protection of the private sphere. Decency and dignity are key to the development of the individual. They are major achievements, not old fashioned victorian corsets.
Paradoxically, we are encouraged to streap always more -literally or metaphorically- to feed the spiral of obscenity. Streaping to attract attention and increase sells is well accepted practice. For example, the video clips of the top 10 are little more than a series of soft streapteases. Teenagers, the most vulnerable fraction of our society, before they had the chance to conceptualize dignity, are exposed to indecency on most radio programs. They are targeted by pornography before they had the chance to think of eroticism. Our mass consumerist culture has no deontology and uses obscenity almost as a primary source of energy. More and more naked flesh. More and more verbal obscenity. More and more confession. More and more intimacy to sustain an audience, to sustain a market. How far more do we want to streap for the sake of the GDP ? How can we applaud to the inflation of obscenity ? Inflation of obscenity certainly increases sells, and is GDP friendly, it certainly boosts libidos secretly, but it is pure barbary, eroding the pillar of civilization, human dignity. Obscenity is an easy entertainment, but a very sad joy. It is decadence of the individual.
How do we stop obscenity to run our society and fuel our economy ?
Our singularity cannot be mass produced
Individualism tends to singularity, our intrinsic right to be unique and strange. Our right to be ourself more than to be the others. Our right to be different. But a difference that cannot be mass produced. A difference that fashion cannot mass produce for us, by definition. Our difference ought to be unique and strange. It cannot be mass produced or recuperated by any fashion industries.
Our singularity, our difference, is, by definition, inaccessible to mass production. Mass production is normative by essence. It is based on molds, standards and patterns. None of our accessories, gadgets, have been produced for individuals. But for masses.
The main job of marketing though is to make us believe the exact opposite, to make us forget the existence of industrial molds and all the conditions of manufacturing. Fashion is precisely about this trick consisting in selling mass produced industrial goods, as if they were individual, personal outfits. It is about pretending to fulfill our individualism, to emancipate our self “Discover Me. Myself”, while only selling industrial goods. It is about convincing us that mass consumerism is made for us only “celebrate originality”. Fashion slogans are about making mass consumerism bearable to individuals. “When conforming is a no go, you know brand X has your back” . Marketing is about conceptualizing the modern fable of singularity, “Just for you we’re shouting out three new arrivals you need in your life”, about creating the ambiguity of mass-produced-individual goods “And until now they’ve been rarer than the first mixtape you ever made. But we’ve pinned down 61 pairs of them for your style needs.”, about manipulating our individualism in order to harvest it.
Harvesting individualism yes, but supporting true emancipation of the individual: no.
Marketing is about exploiting the ambiguity though. This conceptual smoke screen necessary to sell mass produced gadgets to independent individuals. Without any scruples, marketing conditions our response and manipulates our right to singularity, our individualism. Marketing over activates our individualism in order to harvest it. It destabilizes all our self, in order to sell a pair of shoes. It electrifies our egos in order to sell socks. It stimulates and excites our individualism in oder to sell tooth brushes. Does marketing care of electrified egos walking out of shops ? It would be very surprising if marketing accepted any responsibility for glorifying individualism to such a scale and intensity. It would be very surprising if marketing did not deny again any side effects of mass consumerism. Marketing is all about mass producing saturday afternoon shopping hamsters craving for adrenaline shots but never admit it. Never acknowledging side effects of large scale harvesting of individualism and attempts to remote control brains and hormones without our consent.
Mass consumerism is not benign. It is not politically neutral. It is very political, in the sense that it deeply penetrates the self to condition responses, mess around our brains, experiments with our hormones without our consent, biases our relationship with the world, for the benefit of supermarkets, but never ours.
Keeping the brain artificially on a must buy mode is good for cash flow, but sad and dangerous.
Consumerism functions like pornography and like pornography it turns men into brutes. Exploiting people’s solitude, harvesting their solitude, and throwing them back to their solitude once they have payed their dividends and felt the shot of adrenaline. Consolidating solitude, fading social links, depreciating mutualisation as an alternative, leading to political disengagement, but also to maximum compulsive consumerism. What a virtual circle for cynics.
But, what is left of the individual once harvested by mass consumerism ?
The aridity of egocentrism. The unsustainable brutality and violence of cupidity.
A desert of the self.
Domestic consumption remains the current graal of panicking economists overruling the west. The only solution to every problem. Harvesting individualism is too central to western economy to envisage change. Questioning the dogma of growth is the worse of all taboos sanctioned by mental internalized inquisition. But does someone remember that behind the credit card, stand human beings ?
Or, unless it is, that man has become an external cost to the financial model ?
And that hormones controlled pavlovian hamsters can do just as well.
End of Part III