Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Mass Production of Individuality

We live in a wonderful age (well, those of us in the 5% of the global population who have plenty of everything – the rest of the world might not see it in a such a rosy way, but then they probably don’t have an internet connection, so I’m guess I’m not talking to them). One of the wonders of our age is that we can indulge our passion for consumption while at the same time indulging our passion for ourselves. Indeed, consumption can become the means by which we proclaim to the world just how very interesting, unique, creative, and worth getting to know we are. You can buy shoes lovingly hand-crafted according to your most particular specifications (right down to the bons mots stitched by a cobbler who chuckles as he admires your clever witticism). You can have a cover for your i-Whatever that fairly shouts to the world, ‘This is me!’ And you can even have your own column with which to dazzle readers, not only with your verbal dexterity, but with the carefully-chosen surrounds which similarly proclaim to all who come hither the creative fire which rages inside you like an end-of-days conflagration. Or something like that.

And this is pure genius. It taps into that deep psychic tension which grips us all – the desperate need to belong and be part of it all, on the one hand, and the equally desperate need to be an individual, to stand out from the madding crowd, to be seen as gloriously different, unique, special. We want it all, and luckily for us, the purveyors of all quality goods have stepped up to the challenge. Now we can be unique. But like everyone else. When mass consumption goes bad, people feel as if they are losing their souls. Too much sameness and we all just become faceless consumers with nothing but a dollar sign stamped on our foreheads. To give us back our souls, we need to be made to feel that we’re not partaking in a ceaseless and futile process of mindless consumption, but that we are instead engaging in a creative endeavour by which we will announce ourselves to the world.  And this is what the mass production of individuality offers. Genius.

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