Branding Our Surroundings

In a day to day setting, we find ourselves surrounded by hundreds upon hundreds of brands. There are so many brands around us each day, that it is nearly impossible to list them all or even recognize them for that matter. Because we are surrounded so heavily with various brands every day, we begin to get a perceived idea of what we should be like.

Often times when I walked around campus, I noticed that certain “types” of people wear certain types of clothing and usually specific types of brands. Many times I see the athletic students walking around in track pants, sweatshirts, t-shirts, basketball shoes, and a hat of some sorts. The brands these types of students wear are often popular athletic such as Nike and various other brands. Other times I will see some of the Greek students, in particular the sorority girls, walking around in vibrant clothing with big bold brands emblazed on their clothing. These students have become walking billboards for the companies that’s brand is being shown on these clothing’s. It’s free advertisement for them, but also forces passerby’s to witness these advertisements.

Whenever I see brands being shown on clothes or on the items people have, I often find myself making preconceived assumption of what the person is like based on what they have. Such as if a person is using an Apple laptop and wearing designer clothes, I will often make the assumption that this person is quiet well off financially. Many times when I make these assumptions, I will also being to judge the person’s character, “are they stuck up?” “Are they judging who I am because I don’t look the way they do?” These questions are common in not only my life, but lives of other people.

Brands target specific types of people and this can sometimes come across as targeting specific races or a specific type of group of people. If a brand has an advertisement with an African American basketball player, the brand is targeting their product to people of the same race. And the same goes for brands that have campaigns with certain celebrities, if they show a well known face in their ad, then people who are a fan of that celebrity are more inclined to buy the product because they “want to be just like (insert celebrity name here)”

With these brands and the deliberate placements of their logos and advertisements, we become surrounded by the idea of consumption. If we do not buy these products we will be judged for what we do have and what we do wear. We form our individual identity based on the specific brands we surround ourselves with. We see “quality” in brands.

In our world, with the brands we see each day, we being to be so consumed with the idea that we have to be this way or look this way or have these things that we begin to become blind to what is truly important. The brands we use can occasionally be a fault because it could ultimately bring out misconceived judgments and racist beliefs because of the brands we use.

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Try As We Might, But We Will Obey

In the article, 8 Reasons Young Americans Don’t Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance, by Bruce Levine, I agree quite heavily with what they author presents. When I read through this article, I was struck by how often I find myself in the situations he explained. Everything from student loan debt to the areas of psychology and the educational system we are a part of. With the many factors Levine mentions, we as young Americans are becoming passive to the world around us.

With Levine’s discussion of the educational system, it reminded me of my time in high school. I went to a private Christian preparatory school which held very strict and numerous rules that every student had to follow. If you did not obey to the rules, then you would be punished in some form. With my school, we did not have detention like most high schools did. Instead we had something known as JUG, or “justice under God”. Whenever a student received a JUG they would have to stay after school and perform community service wherever it was needed in the school grounds. Those who disobeyed the rules set forth by the school would be forced to do as they were told or they would get a sanction and have to come back to the school on the weekend to do more time consuming work.

But not every student was deviant and disobeyed. For those who followed the rules (or didn’t get caught disobeying the rules) they would be rewarded for going through the school year without reviving a JUG. People would benefit by obeying to the rules set before them. The school taught us that if we disobeyed, we would be punished and for those who obeyed, they would be rewarded for obeying to the norm of the school. Our school taught us to be docile. They did not want us to be deviant and go against the norm; they wanted us to fit into the standard “good student” category.

In Levine’s second argument about “Psychopathologizing and Medicating Noncompliance” I was a bit skeptical about this topic. From my prior understanding, psychologists are meant to help the person seeking psychiatric help. However, after reading Levine’s argument, I was surprised to see that he made a decent argument on how people are being classified as having a mental disorder if they are vocal and act upon their dislike for authority. For myself, I found this very intriguing that there was such a disorder in the DSM-III classifying dislike for authority as a disorder. I myself am currently studying for a degree in psychology. This is why I was so skeptical towards this issue to begin with. But I can see Levine’s perspective on this issue. If a psychologist can name mental disorders such as “oppositional defiant disorder”, then who’s to say they can’t name other disorders similar to ODD. With these cases, it is possible to medicate patients into a docile state. People want to see everyone acting the same as themselves and not going against the norms our society has put up.

Overall, there are many factors on creating a docile society. Some are more prominent than others, but all together, we as human beings are trained from an early age to obey the rules and listen to what we are told and for those that don’t do as they’re told, then there will be consequences  for their actions.

The More We Have, The Less We See

According to Adorno and Horkheimer the culture industry and cultural goods are used to manipulate mass society into docility. I find this idea to be very prevalent in our society today. With the amount of goods we surround ourselves with every day, we are becoming docile. We would rather surround us with things and products that make us happy than argue and stand out against the grain of society. This is clearly shown when George W. Bush spoke about the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. In his speech he told the American public to “go shopping”. He as our current president of the time knew that shopping would calm the nerves of the American people. He knew that it was something that made us a docile society.

With the use of crisis mapping, it is using social media and online web use to show the crises happening in the world. It’s putting into perspective that there are more things going on in the world then we see in our day to day lives. Typically, we see what we want to see. We see the glitz and glam of Hollywood or the terrorist attacks in foreign countries or anything that does not concern ourselves. We surround ourselves with the belief that nothing bad can happen to us. With this mindset, we begin to become desensitized to the atrocities that happen in our world. Because we surround ourselves so heavily with products and surround ourselves in the culture industry, that we begin to become blind to all the issues that are in the world. The products we use, we think things are “proper and right” in our world; however that’s not always the case. More often than not it’s not the case. With the crisis mapping, it is taking a product we use each day and using it to bring out social justice and aid in the world. It puts the issues into the forefront of our minds whenever we come across one of these maps.

A women surrounded by all the products she has obtained through her use of coupons.

I agree with the idea that our culture is one of a cultural industry and has begun to be seen as a one dimensional society. Our society is heavily focused around the idea of consumption. As Americans, we want more and we want as much as we possibly can get. With this mindset, our society can be seen as one dimensional because we are only focused on one thing; that of consuming and obtaining cultural goods. We can see this demonstrated in television programs such as the TLC show “Extreme Couponing” were the people use coupons to buy as many products possible for a small amount. In shows like these, these people aren’t using all of the products they buy, and they buy so many of the products that it wouldn’t be possible for them to use all of it. These people are focused on the product they buy, rather than anything else; they are trapped in the cultural industry. These ideas of the culture industry and the one dimensional society ties in with the ideas brought forth by Adorno, Horkheimer and Marcuse.

Overall, our society has become desensitized to the problems in our world. We surround ourselves with things that make us happy and that make us forget about the problems in our world.