Make changes to the content, summarize the main points from the two stories “Commodify Your Dissent and “Most Young People Don’t Vote” from the Signs of Life in the USA by Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon. Use quotes from the two stories and relate them to your arguments and summaries. Argue whether you agree or disagree with the points made in each of the two essays.
Two ideas creating utter chaos in our current state of living are: the amount of consumption in mass, and the “countercultural ideas” against the fact that Americans are living one basic lifestyle. Thomas Frank, author of “Commodify Your Dissent,” believes rebellion in the 1950s caused a wave that is still prevalent today of consumerism no longer being a conformity but more so a way of being different from the rest of society. Americans wanted to break away from conformity and create a new look, per say, about themselves that they can claim as their own. This ties into “The Treadmill of Consumption,” by James Roberts idea that of the meaning of consumption and the overall effect that it has on our current global system. Corporate America began using terms like: individualism, different, unique, etc. to extend the fact that people wanted to be different, yet businesses just found an excuse to produce more items and make more money. Together, these essays look deeper into the meaning of individualism while it promoted the spark of marketing self imagery and becoming your own self through different brands and products, eventually leading to everyone being the same amount of different.
In “Commodify of Dissent” the changes in capitalism over time are looked at as an encouragement to homogeneity throughout the workplace. Frank believes its own capitalist uses the postures of rebellion. He uses analogies through television productions showing “unending drama of consumer unbound and in search of an ever-heightened good time” through an adversarial aesthetic of consumer culture. Consumerism used to be about conformity but has now immersed into difference, or self fulfillment. Movies, similar to television marketers, wanted their viewers to feel empowered by such things as individualism. But is this true today?
In a sense, the commoditify of dissent makes perfect sense with how people act in the world today; stating how businessmen are cooped up in offices all day but are dangerous thrill seekers just doesn’t seem possible. I believe it to be brainwashing people into thinking that they are making their own individual choices, yet, they are really just conforming to what society wants them to be. No businessman is going to go out and skydive when he is at work but they still claim to be despising “rules and reason.” There isn’t a single diversity that separates one’s opinions from another. Because one person brought up the idea that individuals should be free to voice their opinion, it has now become a conformity in our society to voice your opinion. Homogeneity is continuing to thrive in capitalism and little has changed if you look deeper into the organs of the beast.
According to Robert’s the world has been on a certain trend for many years now called, “the treadmill of consumption.” In other words, its “the process of moving ahead materially without any real gain in satisfaction,” causing an adaptation. Having good things becomes normal when in reality they should be a luxury. So many things can easily be taken for granted in our daily lives. Loading up on piles and piles of material possessions brings a sense of happiness, or so we think. The piling up of material possessions doesn’t take us any closer to happiness, in fact it takes even further from it because of the craving inside our minds calling us for more, leading to greed over self interest and true happiness.
This idea of “the treadmill of consumption” can easily be observed in the daily lives of many. People consume for status more than they consume for the necessity of living. They buy products to satisfy social needs such as the latest phone, laptop, car, clothing item, etc. It’s more about status than about the need to consume to live. People strive to improve their social status by showing off their materialistic gains. This started off as an upper class problem but slowly spread to all classes trying to push to get the latest and greatest item out on the market. A “buy, buy, buy” approach will eventually lead to less happiness because of the realization that said person doesn’t have the funds to consume all these extra goods. By doing this we spread jealousy throughout the internet where we, humans, are posting items showing off our latest consumption tricking our senses into thinking we are happy when in reality we are hurting ourselves by consuming items unessential to our survival and overall well being.
Though the two essays have very different premises, they bring up intriguing ideas and choices to think about and reflect in my life. It becomes easier and easier every minute to conform with societies choices. Purchasing a new iphone or getting the latest and greatest car out on the market seems fun but you could put that money toward something more beneficial in the long run like a savings account. “Over the past century the practice [of flaunting wealth] has trickled down to the lower rungs of the economic ladder” (Roberts). People continue to buy products thinking they are being different when they are actually just consuming items everyone else is and thinking the same thing.