Benjamin Barber's Consumed is a tale of capitalism: the complete distaste of the commercial culture
that it has created and its tendency to reduce people, to mere consumers. He takes an almost offense
towards privatization in his argument that it gives us what we want, but does not give us what we
"want to want", which is a democracy. He explains that capitalism "...seems quite literally to be
consuming itself, leaving democracy in peril and the fate of citizens uncertain" (Barber 89). With this,
he breaks society into two spheres: the child and adult cultures. Children are completely engulfed by
brand: “They get up in the morning, put on their Levi’s and Nikes, grab their caps, backpacks, and
Sony personal CD players, and head for school" (Barber 52). Their daily lives are so constantly
bombarded by brands that, in a way, they become the brand itself. On the other hand, adult culture,
Barber explains, has completely withdrawn from the "we", the public sphere, and focused itself
completely on the individual. Barber insists that whatever the public sector "claims" to be able to do,
the private sector can do more efficiently and appealingly. Barber revolves all of this around one idea:
the complete infantilization of our culture and society, as people are portraying children, so easily
convinced and persuaded; an "I want it now!" culture. Yes, all of Barber's arguments are completely
valid. He points out some accurate and frightening points that completely identify the problems in our
society today. But, what Barber fails to do is be direct: something almost crucial in a complex piece
like this. Throughout the book, Barber never fails to go on complete tangents, straying from his initial
argument: the infantilization of our society. The page-long tangents on Shaquille O'Neal and the
Sims completely detract from his argument, making his work extremely unfocused. Usually I finish a
book with a central idea in my mind, a simple idea that the author tried to get across. With Barber, my
mind was all over the place. I had to go back, re-read, and completely translate too many parts of this
book. Overall, Barber has some pretty compelling points: the idea of our society being completely
turned into a bunch of children running around, buying whatever they please and mesmerized by
industry. But, his unfocused structure, demonstrated too many times throughout the book, makes
Consumed one unpleasant read.
Monday, October 28, 2013
When terrorism-themed episode "Isaac and Ishmael" aired in 2001 on the popular Show The West Wing, fans of the popular show, as well as people simply looking for answers were graced with a decent amount of clarity after viewing. Usually following the democratic administration of Josiah Bartlet, Sorkin decided to shift the scene to possibly answer some of the burning questions all of America had after the devastating September 11th attacks. "Why?" "What did we do to them?" "Do they hate us?" were some of the questions answered during this extremely instructive episode. The constant strive towards rationalism is seen very clearly in this episode, from the hour-long attempt to grasp "a terrorists perspective" to the thought-provoking analogies brought on by characters. "Muslim extremists are to Islam as ____ is to Christianity" one character asks, followed by blank faces. The answer (the KKK), or lack thereof, highlights the bias that Americans put on people of Middle-Eastern descent, one that is clearly demonstrated in this episode. Through this, the apparent rationalism of The West Wing gives not only a fairly unbiased look at 9/11, but a great amount of understanding to the devastating attacks and aftermath. Fast forward to today, society is in what Rushkoff explains as a "Present Shock", an immobile state filled with doubt (in this case, regarding terrorism). This "freeze" that we are in, has caused us to jump to conclusions, to fall back on stereotypes, and push blame on ones who are undeserving. Ever since the attacks on the Twin Towers, concluded to be the doings of middle-eastern terrorist group "Al Queda", Americans have jumped to the safety in which the "Present Shock" resides in. We must understand that terrorism does not stem from just one people, but can come from any corner of the Earth. The rationality and unbiased attitudes Sorkin brought us with "Isaac and Ishmael" shed light on the still fragile topic in 2001, and still shed's light on it today, exuding a rational explanation for the attacks and how us, as Americans, should respond to the tragedy that changed our country forever. The West Wing broke the traditional idea of entertainment ("...'to hold within,' or to keep someone in a certain frame of mind" (Rushkoff 21).) and sparked thought and a new perspective, to consider all sides of the story. "Isaac and Ishmael"'s impact changed Americans thoughts on where to go next, even just for a moment, by not just standing by a group who would be condemned for all time because of an extremist group whom they share a race with, but by promoting rationalistic values for all of its viewers to see, consider, and implement in one another.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
The clear tone and style Hemingway employs often through his writing is demonstrated in his memoir, A Moveable Feast. About his years in Paris in the 1920’s as a writer, it is clear that with this underlying theme of in a way, a autobiography, that there would be a very casual feel to the writing. Hemingway’s writing style can be seen as very conversational, as he keeps his use of words and grammar to an easily-understood level. One specific element of his work that stood out to me was his inclusion of quoted conversations very often in the memoir; these conversations of quotes would sometimes continue for pages, supporting the previous idea of a very direct and conversational tone employed throughout the memoir. With this in mind, Hemingway’s direct use of language and time causes the work to flee from a strong example of form following content. One chapter in which both Hemingway’s casual and direct tone as well as his continuous quoting of conversations is demonstrated in is With Pascin at the Dôme. A casual conversation goes on with Hemingway, Pascin, and the two model sisters for pages in this chapter:
“‘You have to go?’
‘Have to and want to.’
‘Go on then’...” (Hemingway 109).
This comfortable writing style makes the literature very easy to read and digest. Besides his large usage of quotes, Hemingway’s bias shines through often in many chapters. One moment stood out to me in Ezra Pound and His Bel Espirit when Hemingway first encounters Wyndham Lewis. Hemingway’s very strong opinions are very notable here and alter the opinion of a reader, as bias often does: “Lewis did not show evil; he just looked nasty” (Hemingway 115). Hemingway’s constant repetition of Lewis’s “nastiness” exemplifies the very prominent element of bias Hemingway uses in his memoir.
Overall, I think we read this book as a part of our AP Language study to get a peer into the daily life of one of history’s greatest writers and the environment he wrote in. It gives you a great perspective on the influences he had of other writers like Ezra Pound and Stein, and helps us further understand how they affected his writing and style. The text does not necessarily present any problems to solve as there is not a concrete plot (as it is a memoir), but readers are still required to make connections between the different authors Hemingway encounters and how his relationships affect him as a person and writer.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Postman’s The End of Education brings readers through the cons of todays educational system, pinpointing where education suffers the most due to modern day ideals. Postman explains that there are three narratives, or gods, of modern day education, that are destroying todays schools. The three modern-day narratives, known as the gods of Economic Utility, Multiculturalism and Technology all contribute to Postman’s belief in the inevitable “end of education”.
Primarily, Postman argues about the god of economic utility, and perhaps the most important narrative in my opinion. This particular god “guarantees” students an ultimatum: if you work hard in high school, you will be successful in your future monetarily. This narrative essentially is seen as detrimental to education as it guarantees students to work towards an economic goal, not to work hard for a love and passion of learning. This narrative also is unrealistic, as jobs are becoming less and less about your alma mater, and more about your physical experience in that certain skill.
Secondly, the god of multiculturalism worries Postman, as he believes it "makes cultural diversity an exclusive preoccupation" (Postman 51). In a simpler sense, through this Postman means that multiculturalism is essentially harmful to the educational system as it implies that the idea of diversity and acceptance should only be applied at school and nowhere else in your everyday life.
Lastly, Postman speaks about the god of technology. Postman believes that technology is causing students to have a more individualized learning experience, which completely contradicts “...the value and necessity of group cohesion", a necessary component of education (Postman 45). The negative connotation Postman gives to technology, as well as economic utility and multiculturalism, reflects on his opinions on not only modern education, but today’s society as a whole: a negative, condescending view, which he seldom considers changing.
Postman’s relatively outdated book, in my opinion, undoubtedly provides some relevant points that still reign true today. For example, the god of Economic Utility absolutely still applies today, as I can say that I am personally affected by it myself and am completely encompassed by it’s misguided use. Moving past this fact, I think looking at the facts is necessary to truly understand the effects of this book: being published in the 80’s, this book clearly did not have a massive impact on educational systems as technology, economic gain, and multiculturalist pushes still exist profusely in school. Taking this into consideration, it is clear that although Postman addresses some facts that are accurate and need to be changed in order to move forward in education as a society, the antiquation of this book has caused it to be “just another one”, unable to have the massive effect it should have on school today. If this book was published today, on the other hand, I think it could definitely have a larger impact and higher advantage than the one it has right now being of little to no importance to most students, teachers, and other workers in the educational field. Postman’s The End to Education surely brings some good thoughts to the table, but is unable to be acted upon as, to put it blatantly, is an unwanted series of words to a multitude of uninterested readers looking for something modern and fresh to dig into.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
22 September 2013
After the successful terrorist attack on the Empire State Building that killed a devastating 2,000 civilians in 2020, the TSA is cracking down on airport security even more than in 2001. Say goodbye to what was once thought as an “inconvenience”, and hello to three hour security procedures for every traveler consisting of: a full-body inspection, X-Ray procedures, extreme restrictions on what is allowed in-flight such as no electronics of any sort in carry-on bags, and trained eyes watching for any possible suspicious behavior at all times. Flying is no longer a pleasant experience, causing many to turn to travel by car or train. The skies have been closed down, restricting all AirCar travel until the United States’ security is ensured, causing traffic from Highway 1 in California, rolling up and down the West Coast, to Route 1 in Florida, moving north to New Brunswick, Canada. The TSA has no comment on this, except that it is a “necessary precaution to further ensure the safety of the American people”, said at a press conference days after the horrifying attack. Riots by the American people are forming, demanding their “basic rights to privacy and confidentiality as explained in The Fourth Amendment”. The eruption of this debate is causing a separation of citizens, much similar to the events leading up to the Revolutionary War. Will our country’s lack of compliance to one’s basic rights lead to a full-fledged war? Will the growing lack of privacy cause commercial air travel to go out of business? As air travel numbers dwindle, will what many believe is necessary to resort back to (and what seems as prehistoric) known as ground travel become inevitable?
Airports have completely re-envisioned the idea of efficiency through travel, getting one across the country in less than 5 hours. But many people, including government-appointed, believe that one particular and hated procedure all airport customers go through, known as the security checkpoint, is unnecessary and a breach on ones basic rights to privacy: ‘"Every inch of our person has become fair game for government thugs posing as 'security' as we travel around the country," says the online petition supporting Sen. Paul's bill to eliminate the agency.’ (Kenny). As each year comes and goes, it feels as if airport security gets increasingly intrusive. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine a time when airport security wasn’t intrusive. It’s easy to believe that in 2020, airport security will be almost impossible to handle. And, as much as Americans would like to believe the contrary, another terrorist attack similar to the devastating attacks on September 11 is inevitable.
Some, patriotic suck-ups, disagree with the fact that TSA is violating one’s personal rights, believing that the fourth amendment doesn’t relate to anything the TSA does. "[T]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” (Kenny).
It seems that our only real solution is to completely eliminate the TSA entirely, and let competing commercial airlines deal with security individually. This way, people can decide the amount of protection they want in the air. Even taking this idea into consideration, it is clear that the government will never make this a reality, putting our personal privacy at stake. The harsh truth is that, the government would never lower the amount of security the TSA brings, as the scare of terrorism increases each and every day. Even after $56 billion federal investment over ten years, flying is still not as safe as it was before the September 11 attacks. As new weaponry is invented, and sneakier methods of violence become available, the risk cannot be taken lightly. But even with that in mind, is there no trust in the American people?
The truth in all of this is that, even in the advanced year of 2013, America is still not used to the physical privacy that is violated through TSA. In a world with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it is so simple to find everything out about a person in a matter of minutes. The idea of “privacy” no longer exists in that social way in which it used to. The idea of privacy socially and technologically is not a “confidential” issue today, but rather physical privacy has become a fragile topic that today’s Americans have trouble coping with. The idea of going through a machine that, essentially, takes a picture of your naked body, shakes America.
The unchangeable truth lies with Americans. Although we ask ourselves, as if we have a choice, “will we continue to let airports violate us?” when our opinions really don’t matter. Our fighting, protesting, and demands won’t change the fact that privacy must be violated for the “safety” of “our country” . So we must hold on to the privacy we still have today, because, as the years go by, our privacy will dwindle. America, say goodbye to privacy, because it’s not coming back.
Kenny, Jack. "Ten Years of TSA: Ten Years after TSA's Inception, a Congressional Report Found That It's Wasteful, Inefficient, and Doesn't Stop Terrorist Threats, Though It Has a Vast Bankroll and Intrusive Powers." The New American 28.12 (2012). Questia School. Web. 20 Sept. 2013.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
“Is language devolving?” is an extremely vague, yet pressing question that we must ask ourselves in this modern day of television, iPhones, and continuous entertainment whether in the political or social sphere. Simply, yes, language is devolving, at an extremely fast rate due to our continuous strive for efficiency, either socially or through persuasion by politicians. There are many examples of this in many parts of literature such as George Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language”. In this article, he explains how it’s became so much easier to simply be vague and not concrete when using language to persuade. Much of this is used in politics where it is understood that it is easier to use words of high diction and value to persuade and, quite frankly, confuse than to be simple and speak in laymen's terms; today a much more difficult process. An example of this lack of concreteness is seen in Orwell’s article, where he analyzes a very “fluffed up” political quote and then further explains: “...no one capable of using phrases like ‘objective considerations of contemporary phenomena --- would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness” (Orwell 8). Imagining a spectrum of language and it’s uses socially, politically, economically, etc. is a helpful visual to explain the various types of language and is fall. There are many different ways that each context language is used in is moving towards efficiency, a key factor in the devolving of our language.
Moving away from Orwell’s article, another way language is devolving is in a social sense. In the modern social world, just like in the political world, everything is expected to be done as fast as possible. For example, in schools we are expected to write in shorthand to take down notes in the most productive and speedy way possible, affecting the way we talk, whether we accept it or not. Another way is through technology. Texting is a massive factor is the degradation of our language, with terms such as “LOL!!!!!!!” and “OMG BROOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” becoming prevalent in even conversations today. Although mostly teens use this type of language in face-to-face conversation, these habits will carry on to adulthood and be passed down throughout generations; a vicious cycle of the continuous downfall of our once formal yet understandable language. Television and news is expected to be as simple and straight-forward as possible, written as short and sweet as physically possible so the modern day watcher/reader can move on to their next article with ease. Overall, language is devolving and rapidly and is most prevalent in politics and our daily social lives. But, a few questions remain. Can we control this destructive pattern? Of course. Will we? Most likely not.
- Jake Nusynowitz N U S Y N O W I T Z!!!!