Sunday, September 9, 2007

Non-Conformist or Just a Jackass?

As human beings, we must use our minds in order to survive; we don’t have instincts like animals. The use of our mind is volitional; we must choose whether to actively engage in thought, or coast through life on a perpetual acid-trip. Unfortunately, far too many people are content to suspend their rational capacity and rely on others to do their thinking for them. Non-conformists frequently ridicule uncritical conformity; however, many of these self-styled “radicals” are just as guilty of conformity as those whom they mock. These people are neither radical nor non-conformists; they are just plain old jackasses.

The field of politics is an excellent place to find potential jackasses. I will concentrate on three overlapping groups of people who, in attempting to rebel against the status-quo, manage to become dangerously conformist: socialists, environmentalists and the ubiquitous protestors. These people have one thing in common: they reject traditional values, then accept their perceived opposite without bothering to actually think about what is right, wrong, true or false.

Most people perceive capitalism to be the foundation of America’s economy. While this hasn’t been strictly true since FDR’s New Deal, it is still a common misperception; as such, young people looking for a way to be unique will often turn to socialism because it seems radical and shocking. They blindly follow anything Noam Chomsky and other leftist intellectuals spew out of their mouths, burn the American flag, declare corporations to be evil and disparage the American way of life with thousands of their “fellow travelers,” all while depending on the basic freedoms that no socialist country has ever allowed. Survey says: you are jackasses!

Environmentalists, or “greens,” are another good example of mindless rebels. Often aligned with socialists, these geniuses whine about things like global warming, overlooking the fact that their spokesmen, such as Paul Erlich, were screaming about global cooling in the 1960’s, and predicting world-wide famines in the 1970’s. These people are completely impervious to facts, logic and reality. Greens lobby for forced recycling, ignoring the fact that it takes more fossil fuels to recycle plastic than it does to create new plastic. Greens’ favorite pastime is rallying around one pet catastrophe after another. News flash for Henny-Penny environmentalists: the sky isn’t falling, you’re just jackasses.

The third example from the political realm is the protest movement. This movement started in the 1960’s with the masses of unwashed hippies who protested the Vietnam War. Unsurprisingly, many of the members of this group are also socialists and/or greens. Critical thought isn’t important for a protester. As long as you’ve got a catchy slogan, pissed-off demeanor and plenty of cardboard signs, you can be one of them. Do you enjoy protesting things like: the G8 summit, the latest war, fur coats and rich people? Do your hobbies include: breaking windows, throwing Molotov cocktails at cops and tipping SUVs? If so, congratulations! You’re a jackass.

This general jackassery bleeds over into pop culture as well, particularly the so-called “Generation X” phenomenon. You know the type: unshaven, bleary-eyed teenagers who bathe less often than a Frenchman, wear ill-fitting clothes and prefer “slacking off” to getting a job and doing something productive. These are the same people that “X-treme” marketing caters to, and can generally be described as X-treme jackasses.

A good example of the conformity-in-disguise of Gen-X is the number of so-called subcultures that are based purely on aesthetics. Specifically, I’m thinking of the “emo” kids and the punks. Emo “culture” is identified by the wearing of all black, as if to symbolize that life is dreary and pointless which, for most of these kids, is true. Self-mutilation is also essential to the emo kid. Punks also have their own style—too much gunk in their hair, spiked bracelets, worn-out clothing, tattoos and body piercings—which they enforce as strictly as any military uniform. Depending on how “hardcore” a given punk is, he or she may refuse to listen to any music that’s put out by a major record label, not because the music is bad or because the artists club baby seals in their off-time, but because anyone who is successful is automatically a sellout. Both of these groups are trying so hard to be different and unique, just like all their friends. Here’s a tip for all you emos and punks: cutting yourself and spiking your hair doesn’t make you cool. It just might, however, make you a jackass.

What, you might ask, is responsible for turning an entire generation into conformist jackasses? It all goes back to many people’s decision to let other people do their thinking for them. Why bother coming up with your own style when you can turn on MTV, the cultural Mecca of Cool, to find out exactly what you should be wearing, listening to and thinking? MTV claims to be racy, edgy and different, but in reality they’ve just taken the lowest common denominator of cultural phenomena and turned them into a new standard of conformity. Anyone who produces, stars in, or religiously watches anything on MTV is a grade-A, prime example of a jackass. Small coincidence that “Jackass” is the name of one of their more popular, and more mind-numbing, programs.

4 comments:

Jessica said...

Enjoy your writing. I have only read 'Non-conformist or just a Jackass' so I cannot really respond by judgment. Looking forward to reading more. I am in the midst of researching economics in U.S. and relationships in work area. My topic is conformity in corporations verses non-conformist. The title, I feel is pretty racey...I am secifically discussing Target - as another Wal Mart. I used to work there and the way employees are treated is a complete scam. I came across your log site in searching for more info on this subject. I feel a little over my ead as my pape is due tomorrow but I'll work it out somehow I'm sure. Peace, Jessica

Jessica said...

Google this - Constitutional political economy is a research program that directs inquiry to the working properties of rules, and institutions within which individuals interact, and the processes through which these rules and institutions are chosen or come into being. The emphasis on the choice of constraints distinguishes this research program from conventional economics, while the emphasis on cooperative rather than conflictual interaction distinguishes the program from much of conventional political science. Methodological individualism and rational choice may be identified as elements in the hard core of the research program.

Anonymous said...

Large Corporations make Inadequate Provisions for Laborers

Can massive corporations financially meet their employees’ full value? My experience as an employee at Target began when I was twenty years old. It was December 2003 in Enfield, Connecticut, right before the holidays and their seasonal flurry of consumers. I was living with my mother who at the time was single and still had small children. She informed me that I “should get a job”. Being that I was an obedient daughter who was aspiring to adulthood, I did just that.
My first day at Target, I received instructions to purchase two red collard T-shirts, kaki pants, and a pair of comfortable shoes. During an orientation meeting, I remember one young man who looked to be about 25 years old. He caught my attention because he revealed to his fellow orientation group members, and two store managers, that he recently had become engaged, over the internet, to a woman living in Asia. I found this bit of information quite unexpectedly personal and somewhat endearing. To have become an acquaintance with this handsome yet overweight man, whose intimate affairs I was now privy to, cast a note of tension across my mind that alarmed me. Fear and self doubt flared up in me. I questioned myself about whether I was acting nervous and wondered if I was simply the type of person who is nervous by nature. It became official. I began questioning my questioning and wondered: ‘What in my surroundings is antagonizing my senses so?’ I wondered if I actually heard anything anyone else said. While I do not remember many of the specific words spoken that day, I do remember that something about orientation was intended to signal the early motions of ‘time in’ and ‘time out’ and what being a Target cashier would entail. So what does being a cashier at Target entail?
“The philosophy of giving, sharing and helping is embraced at every level of our organization; it is a part of our DNA. We are committed to consistently delighting our guests, providing a workplace that is preferred by our team members and investing in the communities where we do business to improve the quality of life. This unique combination helps us create the excitement Target guests expect and the shopping experience they love.”

Target requires each employee to dress within the corporate standard dress code. The dress code consists of a red shirt, kaki pants, and comfortable dress shoes or sneakers. Also, a part of the dress code insists that you wear a smile, subdued facial expressions, and a submissive attitude. This aspect of the dress code, propagated by the upper end of the corporate hierarchy, is rarely fulfilled by the passionate non-conformist. The submission required by the corporate dress code can only be found within those who have the gal to mimic any behavior requested in order to keep their economic status as employed.
People don’t give themselves enough credit. The mind is so fabulous. In the pursuit of financial independence1 survival mentality kicks in and one assimilates to an institution which provides that which one seeks, namely, some freedom or another. Yet, intellect goes unacknowledged by and by laborers among huge corporations whom hide in their vastness.
I worked for about two months when what seemed to be a recycling period occurred. It was then end of the week and I went to check the team member schedule board. I scrolled through the alphabetized binder. Scanning the F section, under Freeman, hours for Monday through Sunday showed blank boxes. I remember thinking throughout my time at Target, behind my cashier, how nice it was to be titled ‘team member’. Titles hold power. In any event, I would soon come to know that my labor is transient and I am recyclable.
“If you're looking for fun, Target isn't it. I hated it. They tell you at orientation that most people quit after two weeks and I found that I did the same. You're on your feet extremely too long. The hours are crazy and they wanted me to stay until closing all the time. That didn’t fit into my schedule.”
One time while at work, I was upset because I had just experienced a blow from having broken up with a boy friend and my manager pointed out that he noticed something was bothering me. He called me into his office with another of his co-workers. They closed the door. I must’ve been distraught because although I felt distinctly uncomfortable at the idea of sharing my person matters with this stranger, a man ten years my senior, let alone along with another co-worker, I broke down and displayed my matters for them possibly out of feeling bullied having been put in a situation that seemed professionally compromising. I was astounded that he, the boss, either by his morale, or, by the companies’ lack of employee safety installments, was permitted to behave so inappropriately with a young woman. I was twenty at the time. This felt like a form of violation. Was it my obligation to share my personal business with my boss? Was it essential to establish a healthy working environment? These questions, I asked myself. Well certainly, my intentions were to be a cooperative employee. I explained to that man and his co-worker the details of the break up. He prodded for more information as well. I feel somehow that they took my words, my tears, and my pain and laughed at it later behind more closed doors; laughed at me, my pliability. Oh how they are similar to the relationship I told them about; the abuse, how they did not care to know me but to use me for their entertainment. I didn’t want them a part of my team after all.
Back to the team member schedule board; have I been fired? ‘What’s wrong with me’, said my inner child. Just a week before, holiday shoppers were dressed in green and red buying ornaments for their homes and Christmas trees. There was a particular jovial spirit in the atmosphere. I had decided to create a rendition of the standard kaki bottom and red top Target attire. I wore kaki colored knee high stockings, a red shirt and a kaki skirt. I felt that my choice of wear was appropriate. However, this week as I looked at my empty time sheet I wondered if my kind was not being encouraged to continue on with in the Target economic chart.
The relationship between, Target ‘guests’, and, myself, was a fulfilling experience and a good business; I enjoyed helping them. I enjoy being of assistance in general. That character trait is an asset to any business in my opinion. For example, I am more likely to give business to a company if I enjoy my time there, and that has to do with the interaction I have with an employee. In this aspect of my time at Target, I am confident in the high quality of my performance as a laborer. It appears that Target has good intentions.

“Being committed to the health of communities…This commitment began in 1918 when company founder George Draper Dayton formed a corporate foundation to give to the community. Since 1946, we have given 5 percent of our income to organizations that support education, the arts and social services.” (Target.com)


The rest of the story goes like this: I asked my boss why I had no scheduled time and if he could schedule time for me. He referred me to the adviser. I talked to her and she told me to talk to the woman in scheduling. Nobody told me that I was fired but I was being given the run around, or so I thought. Target, portrayed as a spectacular typify of what it means to be an American, turns out to be an incubator of money mongering, control oriented merchants of laborers.
“Wal-Mart has been using a team of six people to scour every state for the lowest-cost networks of doctors and hospitals. In Colorado, for instance, Wal-Mart has contracted in the past two years with MMA, a Greenwood Village, Colo., managed-care provider that has a network of 7,000 doctors and 62 affiliated hospitals statewide. MMA calculates the cost of each medical procedure according to the market rates in 14 different regions in the state. Statewide rates tend to be higher.”
What are the benefits to large corporations who claim to offer us consumers more for our buck? Do these corporations thrive off of psychological use and abuse of laborers? Wal-Mart has been caught with their pants down and their dirty laundry has been exposed but Targets’ public relations tactics privy the outsider only to its charities. However, they are corporate cousins.
“Soaring health costs are ‘absolutely an acute issue in the whole retail industry’, says Blaine Bos, a principal at Mercer. ‘You've got to benchmark constantly what your competition is doing. And if you are in this industry, you certainly want to benchmark to Wal-Mart.’ Many companies are having employees pick up more of their health-care tab. Just recently, a top Wal-Mart rival, Minneapolis-based Target Corp., reduced health benefits for its part-time employees.”
How do Wal Mart and Target employees, and community members survive where these corporations stand erect; what is the quality of life in the community if their labor is rewarded with less and less money as massive corporations inadequately provide for their employees to meet their full value?
“Wal-Mart makes new hourly workers wait six months to sign up for its benefits plan and doesn't cover retirees at all. Its deductibles range as high as $1,000, triple the norm. It refuses to pay for flu shots, eye exams, child vaccinations, chiropractic services and numerous other treatments allowed by many other companies. In many cases, it won't pay for treatment of pre-existing conditions in the first year of coverage.”
Is there a new veil over what should commonly be observed and referred to as slavery or do large retail corp. such as Target and Wal Mart have an honorable goal that is fair to its employees that they aspire to? Time will tell. All the while, people won’t achieve the American Dream or claim access to certain civil liberties due to being bound to ranks that rebuke the possibility of climbing above the poverty line. These institutions should be examined under the authority of human rights. Until then, Target, Wal Mart, and corporations alike at present remain ill equipped to meet certain expectations and deserved wages of its laborers.

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