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Social Spectacularism

Walking down the street in my hometown, I find a man passed out on the bench lying beside the library. How do I react? Easing around the man, I look away ignoring his existence. How many of us have had this reaction? I’d contend that most of us have made this same choice multiple times in our lives. It is our apathetic attitude that has perpetuated this kind of scenario to replay over and again.

I propose that the most prevalent issues within society spring from a distracted society—social apathy. One may dissent with my theory, because they too are apathetic and do not realize it. Apathy has become normalized. Why should I care that suicide hotlines were overloaded with calls after Trump’s election and at least eight people committed suicide? Basic human decency should make you care, but aside from that, whether or not you think Trump is a terrible human being, society has taken his rise to president-elect as a signal to feed the tendrils of disdain that reach every corner of not only our ignoble nation, but the world.

Let us take, for example, the issue of rape. Remember, your president-elect has been accused of this crime. That fact alone will feed rape-culture and we will lose much of our already limited ability to convict. One may say that rape is a crime of power—that it is about power and aggression. What power is gained from the rape of another human being? Certainly, it does not have anything to do with social standing. One is labeled for a lifetime after the act so where does power fit into the mix? Power in such an act can only be derived from theft of a commodified—to be made a product of—human body, the degradation of character, and alienation of the individual. Once a rapist, always a rapist. So here it is, we have a president-elect that was accused of rape and the shame we place on other rapists is not thrown on an elected official.

Remember when we were outraged by a Stanford swimmer who got away with only six months in prison—and let out in three? The media backlash was everywhere, but where are we when Donald Trump is elected as the potential president of the nation? The likely executive leader of our country gets away with it and no question is raised—and if we do, we are demonized by the majority vote. So where does this come from? Why are we not yelling it from the rooftops, or making a stand? It is because we have become so complacent, lethargic and apathetic that our leaders get to do anything with our livelihoods.

How have we landed ourselves in this careless predicament? I will move away from the politics involved and return to societal apathy. In Guy Debord’s La société du spectacle, or The Society of Spectacle, he claims “The whole life of those societies in which modern conditions of production prevail presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. All that once was directly lived has become mere representation” (5). What Debord is declaring is that in spectacular accumulation man has lost himself to production becoming a representation of self, rather than actualizing in his/her individuality, or a sort of enlightenment. What this has to do with societal apathy is when an individual lives her/his entire life as a representation of self rather than a self that is completely their own (or at least something that they have come to stand for without the need for spectacle) they are subject to ignore certain issues, or sufferings based on the sole fact that stopping to interact with that suffering human being, or assist in adjusting the issue can alter or, more accurately, harm the image of them in a social sphere. The concern that once existed for the fellow man on the street no longer exists.

We tell our kids not to talk to strangers, because we do not trust them. Why shouldn’t we talk to strangers? Unknown people on the street are seen as threats, and I get it some can be, but we project our fear of fellow human beings on everybody we run into. The fear is perpetuated by the fact that we live in a convenient realm of selfishness giving us complacency to society at large, which in other works that I have submitted in the creative, academic sphere “[leads] to complacency, which, in turn, [leads] to apathy” (4).

It has been suggested that the interactions and conversations that we have with strangers are the most legitimate form of communication that an individual can have, because there are no preconceived expectations in the interaction, but in our society it has dwindled to stock questions with stock responses. Quite frankly, nobody cares and if we are to define apathy as the lack of interest, or concern and more accurately an obtuse selfish nature, we can then jump to the realization that our apathetic culture has perpetuated the rise of such leaders as Donald Trump, the bigot, and Mike Pence, the guy who thinks he can electrocute homosexuals until they are heterosexual. We have no excuse, we become so involved in our own little lives that we cling to one statement. We grasp like a newborn child and refuse to let go until the metaphorical fat lady sings.

What evidence do I have to provide you with? Admittedly it’s mostly anecdotal, but even if we were to believe that Trump is not a bigot, which is a far cry from the truth; assuming we all watched the debates, at least subliminally, we know. His V.P. according to Time Magazine claims that “gay couples signaled ‘societal collapse’” (Debald). If anything, gay couples are more involved in societal reconstruction, because they have to be. When an ostracized group of people seek recognition and equality they have to paint themselves as societally constructive—in order to do so they must be active in the community, be aware of others, be institutionally involved. Essentially, the existing stigma must be replaced by action amongst the community across the nation, which is something someone with hetero-normative white privilege does not have to worry about. by working for equality these groups of different race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and/or religion must be amongst the least apathetic in the stratosphere of society.

Does that mean that all marginalized groups lack apathy; No, it does not.  It means that, for the most part, those marginalized groups will attempt to be seen and heard; they will attempt to paint themselves as an image that promotes forward motion for society. Outside of spectacular distraction, which includes fear-mongering in white Anglo-Saxon America and media’s sitcom-esque news stations, we have other reasons to be societally apathetic: the largest of which is the time we commodify and perpetually claim that we do not have. Guy Debord has this to say about the commodification of time “[t]he social appropriation of time and the production of man by means of human labor were developments that awaited the advent of a society divided into classes” (40). I claim, in explanation, that those who have time have been appropriated with wealth, or power; however, those without time to spare lack power, lack education, lack wealth and the means by which to be more involved with the concerns of society, while those who possess the time to spare are ignorant of the very same concerns, or are unaffected by them.

We marginalize suffering by saying things like “they put themselves in that position,” “they chose that life,” or by telling our kids “don’t talk to that man he’s dirty, a drunk, or a drug addict.” What those people need are people that have a sincerity that will lend a hand of assistance, rather than a dealt hand of judgment. But in our environment we are too concerned with what others might think if we were to be caught conversing with the scum of the area, or the gutters of America. Until we can through off the iron cloak of spectacularism, we will never be free from the grip of apathy. As we form meaningless relationships with our spectacularly awful social media sites, television, and representations—rather than actualizations—we can never move forward, but will continue to move backwards.

Debord predicted a distracted society and he hit the nail on the head. We are so invested in the spectacular that we forget the relevant, if not obligatory, mediocrity that pushes a society forward. Speak with strangers on the street; have real conversations with them; notice and assist the suffering in your neighborhood; continue to be in the exact moment and time that will allow you to have deep and meaningful relationships with members of your community. These are things that a developing society need. Distractions are just that and they serve to function as a grounds by which our leaders make moves behind our backs and limit our ability to become enraged by the infringement. It is all relevant. Nothing can be done in a world of societal awareness that does not accept the status quo.

 

 

Works Cited

Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. Trans. Donald Smith. N.p.: Zone, 1994. Print. Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. Trans. Donald Smith. N.p.: Zone, 1994. Print.

Drabold, Will. “Here’s What Mike Pence Said on LGBT Issues Over the Years.” Time. Time, June-July 2016. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

Sandy, Michael. Doc. Martinsburg: n.p., n.d.

Written by Giovanni Albanese Jr. | Published on August 14, 2015. “Violent Video Games Create Aggression, but Do They Cause Kids to Commit Crimes?” Healthlines RSS News. N.p., 14 Aug. 2015. Web. 14 Nov. 2016.

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Posted by on February 9, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Why Education Should Be Essential To Everyone

Social Stratification is a system of social relationships that determines how a person is valued in society—or undervalued respectively; it is the term that we use to explain traits of society that are not purely individual differences, but apparent in society. Stratification can be seen in the classification of groups through shared socio-economic conditions. Stratification is compounded by differentiation, and inequality.

When we take the idea of stratification and amplify it with differentiation through social role, occupation, or even ascribed traits that are apparent at birth, then throw inequality into the mix, we get an entrenched and disheveled system. What I claim is that with inequality, differentiation, and stratification we arrive at a ladder without rungs; yes, an individual can still pole vault up and fall down, but the climb is close to impossible. Those ideas can all be compounded by such things as class, race, and sex or gender; through such ascribed traits individuals are given a starting point on the socio-economic ladder. All of these aforementioned ideas have been institutionalized and learned over course of each individual’s life creating a socialization of inequality—internalized to the point where members of society must unlearn it.

Stratification works to place and motivate members of society in social structure using competition to give the individual a desire to perform of fulfill the position given. To give an example: imagine a group interview with twenty people—the interviewers are only hiring two. Now, each of those twenty people has to out-perform nineteen people. Pesky differentiation and inequality compound that so you can look around the room and know your real competition is—it’s plausible that maybe after looking around the room that number goes down some—maybe to 15.

That inference makes up a micro unit of analysis, but here’s the wrench. The four people he immediately felt better than knew their social position and out-performed the member of the interview in question, using the rules and regulations to their advantage. Where those individuals over-sold themselves because they had to, the first interviewee never felt the need. The problem here is that the first member of the interview still got the job, but one of those four over-achievers did as well.

That happened, because just as the first individual discounted those four members of the interview, so did the interviewers. The reward comes as a part of the social order. Up to this point There has been no race, class, or gender mentioned, but I don’t have to for the readers to infer for themselves what they are, who they are, and probably even what they look like—and each readers idea of that will be different. That’s what stratification is and how it functions in society.

Social mobility is the idea that an individual or group can move within the given class system whether it be economic, vertical, or horizontal. Economic mobility is the lowering or raising in income. Vertical implies a rise or fall in socio-economic status. Horizontal mobility is a movement from one social position to another maintaining the same status. Mobility here implies that movement can happen through merit. Where an individual begins on the economic ladder may inhibit or improve that ability to move on the economic ladder.

Those twenty people involved in the earlier anecdote where all attempting to be socially mobile. The group interview was meant to grant them work in a manufacturing plant as a machine operator. Let us just assume that twelve out of twenty were coming from other manufacturing jobs; those twelve were looking to move horizontally, but also economically: horizontally, because the social position is the same; economically, because the pay was an extra five dollars on the hour.

The two individuals who were hired achieved social mobility; the first, the one who discounted four of the interviewees, was moving vertically. The individual moved vertically, because the interviewee was coming from a fast-food background and a machine operator lives considerably better than a service worker. While the second was able to out-perform the first in the interview, because of a background in manufacturing—the interviewee had a knowledge of machine, equipment, and safety procedure.

Status can be described as both to mark a position in social structure and to place an individual or group in the hierarchy. The two terms in league with status are achieved and ascribed. Using the same scenario, the one successful candidate who discounted four of the interviewees did so because of their ascribed status and obtained success, whereas the other candidate was successful because of his achieved status. The achieved status says that the individual’s background and knowledge accomplished the perception needed to the employer, whereas the ascribed status in the other candidate showed that the individual’s network, being an uncle already employed in the company, and that privilege landed the job for the interviewee—there was nothing about the candidate that stood out to speak of.

Meritocracy represents the ideology that power should vested in the individuals or groups who display merit. With that out of the way the process of meritocracy should judge and reward people who achieve the feat worthy of the reward. What meritocracy really looks like is the perception of achievement. Merit throughout an individual’s life is measured through competency, ability and achievement. It begins with the incentive; the reward is dangled over the people motivating them to perform, and impacting their decisions. Going back to the former situation there was motivation to perform better than the other nineteen people in the group interview. The reward was employment and a higher pay rate. The incentive comes after proving action propriety. Action propriety says that an individual is to be rewarded for the quality of actions that they perform which is judged by the acceptability of the action.

Meritocracy through those processes then must have an impact on the possibility of social mobility. If we are to believe the myth of meritocracy, then through every achievement an individual has they would be able to create social mobility. The ideology assumes that only the highest achievement can gain the highest position. Merit is obtained through compliance, acceptable behavior, and accomplishment. Those who do not have access to the resources to achieve are prohibited from certain forms of social mobility like economic mobility, while those who do have access to those resources may only be able to move horizontally. Meritocracy can both inhibit mobility and promote it based on an individual’s ascribed status.

What then, does stratification and meritocracy have in common? Meritocracy is incidentally a vehicle for stratification. The logical fallacy of meritocracy is that the people who perform within the system have internalized biases and see not only the accomplished potential employee, but the ascribed characteristics of the individual in the interview. Action propriety only goes as far as to say that the action is acceptable. In fact, some may be seen as having more merit based on ascribed attributes rather than real achievement. The ascribed, being readily distinguishable characteristics, makes merit an inequality to which merit can be perceived more readily on the lesser achievement within the meritocracy and at times it could even come to be that objectives inherently own bias favoring the more fortunate.

I have gone through the trouble of detailing what all of those things mean and how they work, because of a portion of my life that I was thrust into what I call contemporary slave labor. I was one of the two people hired in that group interview peppered throughout the beginning of this narrative. I will refrain from mentioning more on that instance.

Here’s where I will move into the why of post high school education. When I began working in the manufacturing plant, it was great I was making 13 dollars on the hour and 40 hours a week with benefits. The tasks were physically exhausting, but I was bringing home $600, give or take, a week. They were 8 hour shifts with required stay-late or come-in-early days twice a week both late and early were 4 hours late or early making those days 12 hour shifts. To be fair, those 12 hour shifts would only exist as needed and when I worked those shifts my weekly earning went from $600 to 700 or $800.

A few months into the job after I had shown a valuable work ethic and competence for mindless physical labor they gave me a position at $18 hourly and that position was guaranteed overtime every week which is when I also began to make use of the sixteen hour work day, which was allowed by state law twice a week but not back-to-back.

This all sounded wonderful and probably makes you want to know who the employer is, but that information I will not discuss, because here is where the irreparable damage to the human body comes in. Let me put this in perspective, I am a 135 pound man on a good day and soaking wet, the exhausting physical labor required me to lift film that weighed half of that several times a day. Now, we can tack on the 12 or 16 hour shifts and the regular shift begins at 11 PM.

Here’s how a sixteen hour shift will work, remember that’s two 8 hour shifts: If I were to come in for the shift before, then I show up at 3 PM. Each shift has an unpaid lunch shift that lasts for a half an hour so now I am at work for 17 hours—not 16. Now that we know that we don’t get paid for the lunch break, we can make the leap to realize the actual work day does not end until 7:30 AM for that night shift. As with any job, people tend to show up late to the manufacturing floor. There were many days wherein I would work my position, be on site for a total of 17 hours—remember this is twice a week—and my relief would be an hour late moseying out to take my place, now we have arrived at an 18 hour work day, getting paid for 17.

The $1000 or so a week is not worth it. There are only 24 hours in a day and all of this is legal in any “right to work state” like Virginia.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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