Under 30

I can't complain but sometimes I still do

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"Nonconformity is now the accepted norm of society"

Here is an interesting story about an interesting-looking book, "Hello, I'm Special" by Hal Niedzviecki, a Canadian essayist and fiction writer.

The thesis of Niedzviecki's book is something I've always believed and often written about: We all think we're special and individuals, and about 98 percent are dead wrong. What we choose to express our "individuality" -- whether it's getting a tattoo, going snowboarding, listening to "underground" music, engaging in salty (if ultimately empty) anti-corporate sloganeering -- is actually a new kind of conformity.

Today's avatar of success has abandoned the bowling leagues, country-club parties and Presbyterian church socials that supposedly occupied the organization man's leisure time. His signifiers are different: He plays Texas Hold 'Em in Vegas, BlackBerrys his broker from his whitewater kayak, hits all the best spots for mojitos in South Beach, chaperones models to the Croatian Riviera and leaps from job to job in a lonely, lustful quest for accumulation and domination. At least, he aspires to do all those things. He (or, increasingly, she) has upgraded from an old version of conformity to a new one, whose central oxymoronic commandment is: Be yourself. If "yourself" turns out to be nothing more than an amalgam of brand names and images plucked from TV shows, movies and magazine layouts, so much the better.

That's his argument in a nutshell: Those of us who grew up in the post-industrial, pop-culture-saturated West (and a whole lot of people who didn't) have been raised to believe that we are unique individuals with special destinies. When it comes to imagining that destiny, however, all we have are the mass-produced images of fame and success that everyone shares: Donald Trump in his corner office with its vulgar but expensive furniture, Howard Stern partying joylessly amid pneumatic boobs, pop stars and movie actors trying vainly to imitate the more real-seeming pop stars and movie actors of the past.

Salon's review is mixed but the book definitely sounds like an interesting read. Pick it up the next time you get a tribal armband tattoo.


Blogger mark said...

is this guy for real? and he wrote a book and got it published for writing this shit? what a joke. is this "hello i'm special" theory news to anyone? it shouldn't be.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous cheddar said...

What's wrong with pneumatic boobs?

12:28 PM  

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