Monday, August 30, 2010

Social Analysis of the Individual

"Individualism" is a social hallmark of post modern society. In pre modern times all individuals knew their place and felt apart of the greater whole. With modern times there has been an increasing alienation and individualization. All of the traditional groupings of society have broken down to some degree with increasing numbers of alienated individuals. Where previously family, community, work, trade, profession, religion defined a person increasingly individual identity is not glued into this social milieu but apparently more isolated and autonomous.

This is merely appearance and there is perhaps less freedom and individual autonomy as individuals struggles to fill the vacuum left by the failure of old institutions to compete with the new institutions.

Capitalism and marketing have lead to the identification with an individual with a brand. Indeed soccer players who would seriously question going to war for their country think naught about fighting for their 'team'. Just as Hitler was able to influence Germany through the media and sell the Nazi 'brand' so today as Marshall McLuhan so aptly stated the "Media is the Message". People increasingly associate with the latest consumer fad and identify through the brand labels of such things as clothing, cars or even video games.

The instability and frenzy of these associations is at extreme contrast to the medieval lifelong relationship with all the individual's institutions.

What is lost for the individual who has apparently got freedom where 'freedom is just a word for nothing left to lose' is the obligation of the institution for the individual. Consumer brands 'owe' nothing. The medieval individual could expect a place in society, and return from state, church, work and community. Today government and corporation limit all manner of 'liability' with endless pages of legalese little difference in appearance from holy writ of yesterday. Legalese is the new 'latin' of modern society. Not ironically it comes in a computer and one 'scrolls' down till they reach the 'accept' button and press 'agree' no different from the slaves or citizens of yesteryear.

In a throw away society where the "bic" lighter was the hallmark of disposability, even educational degrees increasingly have a increasingly short shelf life listed on the diplomas. The cost is greater than ever before but the 'product' comes with shortened or absent warranty and the value that the individual gets is tied to an economy that increasingly appears like a Vegas crapshoot. Where a man got 50 years of marriage for a year of courtship cost, and the familes of the bride paid the high price of the marriage, todays "Sex in the City" princess expects men to dish out the same fee for 5 year stretches of marital bliss coupled with lifelong divorce costs. Familes are expected to pay for marriages over and over again for their children who increasingly like First Nations children leave their children, those not aborted, to be raised by grandparents so the children can delay ever longer the obligations of maturity.

Family appears to have dissolved along with community. The very names of people in the past designated fathers or mothers and definitely clans and nationalities and communities. Recent paternity suit studies show that the father is not the father in a third of cases. Children don't know their parents and mothers abort their children. The survivors of these family wars rarely hold the Rockwell family portrait relationship which was indeed the norm as late as the 50's. Marriages last on average 5 years and anthropologists depict North America as a culture dominated by 'serial monogamy'.

The 'lone' individual is indeed a myth to some degree in anthropologists minds as they step back and look for the age old patterns of family and community in postmodern society. In addition to serial monogamy there are large patterns of loose knit harem networks with isolated individual women having occasional sex with ranging males who count on these women who think themselves 'free' and 'individual' for their alliances if not their maintenance. Government institutions serve as such, playing the father or mother to increasing numbers of society. In the US today 1/8 of individuals receive food stamps from the government breast. Patriarchy and matriarchies are replaced by the autocratic parentalism of government beaurocracies.

Increasingly governments coopt individuals into military like work organizations where the rewards are slim but the individuals are part of large clan like endeavor. Corporations endeavor to make the workplace 'family' like to give the disenfranchised the illusion of 'connectedness'.

Traditional social institutions rose 'organically' out of tens of thousands of years and many generations of trial and error and competition. Todays institutions are the products of decades of 'ideology' at most. The political correctness of social communism is a new fascism that replaces the "Mrs.Bucket (Boooquets) of yesteryears. The principle structures of yesteryear were government, church, community and family. Where an individual believes themselves today to be an individual it may simply mean that they don't see the often cleverly hidden new government, new church, new community or new family that really rule their lives. These "new" structures appear to have limitted 'ties' but extract full payment from the individual. Just as the soccer audience lose their lives in the after game punch up they are warriors none the less. The cause may be equally 'frivolous' as the wars of nations too but the fact remains that these are a new structures of attachment that can have as deadly consequence as the traditional structures.

Those who claim to have escaped from religion have only replaced one set of priests and bishops for the appointed secular judges of a legal theocracy who use latin, rituals and obfuscation with a greater vigor than the medieval church.

The monogamous family of yesteryear is replaced with polygamous units and actual harems. Lower status men are offered pornography and lower status women provide cleaning and day care services to the new monarchs and princes whose own lives are usually ruled by the stability of the more ancient traditions tied to power.

The average home dweller if they can afford housing lives in one place about 5 years. Neighbourhoods are no longer 'brand' items as criminals mix freely with all and communities are denied association by integrity or value but are only allowed to associate by monetary means where monetary means are decided not by traditional means but the new orders that loosely control, but indeed do control, individuals perhaps even more than the medieval past.

This new order of things for the masses in general is that they are 'free' to be utilized, moved, controlled, rearranged, and rootless, without religion, not associated with a political party, disconnected from community, neighborhood and family. They have the language of the new latin and 'political correctness' and alone reach out to new but superficial connections such as internet social networks to replace the depth of loss they experience in their name brand clothes with their name brand ideas.

Almost deserves a wake. Fascinating to consider what e tremendous changes will lead to as new forces compete. The force of muslim jihad with tight knit family units and community confront the loose association of the post modern harems, the dictatorship of religion by the archbishop judges of political correctness and the mobile work force and armies that are poised for any 'new' brand which the media gives it. It's fascinating really, like the Glass Bead Game of Hesse. The hypocricy is readily apparent and the arrogant certainly continue to strut and waddle no different than the Stalins of WWII and the saber rattlers of WWI. History allows one to see the present in light of the patterns that are if anything increasingly loud when the American Idols would have us believe that all is new but Ecclesiastes said 'nothing is new under the sun."

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