The Dawn of an Unmeritocracy: A Lost, Post-Information Age Society
I had never experienced the full effect of a Kendrick Lamar music video until tonight. I had seen Humble and DNA, both of which were deliberately and masterfully made, but not this. I would encourage you to watch it first before reading this article. I believe it sets the mood for the type of article I wish this to be.
World War 2 happened. The rise of TV in the 1950's paralleled the rise of suburbia, and sitcoms depicted America as it wanted to see itself. Then in the 1960's grew the Civil Rights Movement and large anti-war sentiment. Americans could see—however blurred the image—the violence both at home, white cops viciously beating a black man near-death or spraying down peaceful protestors with cold water fast enough to shred the skin off, and afar, the bombs being dropped on honest Vietnamese citizens in hopes of killing the enemy. The Pentagon Papers, the Watergate Scandal, the War On Drugs, now the War On Terror.
The National Health Service in the United Kingdom was one of the affected organizations of the recent WannaCry ransomware attack. The consequence of this: Many, many people being turned down from getting healthcare, as hospitals don't have access to their data. Still, to many, it seems as though every "hacking attack" is just some computer glitch in the system that will be patched and fixed with a smile.
Despite being awarded accolades and knowing a bunch of shit about prose writing, Samuel Beckett failed many, many times. What made him succeed later in his career? My guess is that it was his choice to hop aboard the avant-garde post-WW2 train of writing 1st person instead of 3rd person. There lies a strong argument to be made that the story of success is to master the form, change one's own perception, and then create art based upon their altered perception with the deliberation of those who came before. I believe that before any of that, work on the individual must be made: how to study, learn, focus. Is that what makes work timeless, the firm understanding of a concept and then development upon that? I believe that's not enough. I believe that one must have the ability to articulate a relevant subject in a bold and striking way.
"We don't live in a meritocracy." I remember Bo Burnham saying that somewhat sincerely before getting back into the comedy of his work. There's this clash of agency of a society asking itself: "What type of dystopia are we going to create?" My English teacher, in a not particularly meaningful discussion, proposed that "the nature of utopia is that it's always a dystopia for someone else." I realized that she most likely had had a meaningful discussion on this subject, and recited the conclusion of that discussion aloud, me catching onto it quickly.
My main topics recently have revolved around my 7 (at least) page essay on the growth of TV in Post-WW2 American society up until 1970, and a recent fascination with avant-garde dark-folk music. Here's what that sounds like:
The ethereal ambiance let's the listener float into self-introspection. Elliott explores this further in his most recent album The Broken Man which, quoting from the description, "is the most delicate of Elliott's albums to date . . . making way for more fragile melodies and a more subtle approach to intensity to immerse the listener. Ideally listened to in total darkness to discover the hope hidden deep within the guitars, voice, choirs, bells, ethereal trumpets, the howl of the dog beneath the skin, in the sincerity of the music. Inspired by the ghosts of European folk music, the voice often resigned but always expressive."
There's an odd and cramped sense surrounding this music. The avant-garde in this direction, while appealing and melodious, strikes me more as cynical and depressing instead of the engaging and productive nature that Kendrick Lamar brings. My problem with Lamar's new album isn't his new album, but with me. It's my problem, I cannot comprehend nor put into words or even feelings what he expresses. DAMN. has reached a level above me, and I'm not sure whether to discuss it's religious motifs or social critiques or nature of sincerity.
I was looking at this dissertation that expounded upon the original concept of New Sincerity, and—you know originally here I was going to find something interesting and summarize what they believed about sincerity but I got to this passage—here's something from it.
I do not understand this paradigm. It is too, unfamiliar. Kendrick Lamar does understand this. It cuts deep, deep deep deep into the frame of the humorless, abstract sense of humor that American culture has graciously embraced. A part of me actually believes that Kendrick was actually floating above the sidewalk, godlike. It's the externalization of his inner state, his sincerity, that makes the real indistinguishable from the fiction. Even when Kendrick raps about his lusts and desires—often with hyperbolized and raunchy descriptions of sex—it is done with sincerity; the culture around sex, the social expectations and burdens laid upon him, his impulses and regrets. I suppose this is why most of his listeners prize him over most (if not all) contemporary rap artists. He exposes the treachery of the music industry instead of exploiting it. He doesn't bullshit.
I'd love to believe that this was the future of the world's technological problems. Ransomware. It's not, it's really not the future of the world's problems pertaining to internet security. It's not the present either.
There's a more sinister reality behind this, though. Vault 7, Russian Interference with the Election, the Edward Snowden CIA information leak, have people forgotten? Maybe we don't care that our every keystroke could be logged, that the data collected can predict what we're going to do or type before we even know ourselves. My brother, if you can imagine for a minute, is the Chris Barclay of internet security (except he actually knows his shit.) He tells me of this large, somewhat-underground world of hackers and programmers and everything in-between. And while it may be his job to learn about the creation of little bits of code with powerful implications, I hope it never morally becomes my job as a writer to convince people not to fuck around with it.
Advertisers appeal to our desires of being unique, cool, and happy by showing us videos of unique, cool, and happy people consuming/using their product. Imagine if an advertiser were able to know exactly what you think was cool, exactly what you would think would make you unique or happy. We may live in the "Information Age," but this information does not belong to us. The world of information belongs to three people: the advertisers, the government, and the hackers.
It's funny because—day in and day out—us young minds drive to schools, sit in classes, and absorb information like bots. We come home and play video games to relieve the boredom, or maybe we have an after-school sport or theatre, or maybe we go on a run. Then we sleep. The entire goal of our early development is the accumulation of information, before using that information in real-life as electrical engineers or programmers or authors or artists or chemists or retailers. What if you could control what a person learns, how a person thinks, what a person likes, what a person fears? Could you get them to do your homework for you, to believe that they're doing this out of their own choice? There's one question left.
What comes after this Information Age?