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.