The philosopher Baudrillard warned of a postmodern condition where humans fall into a world of pure images detached from any relationship to reality or to one another. In a time when most of us look at the world through a media owned and controlled by people who have an incentive to mislead us, and in a time what we think of as our own thoughts and experiences are actually coming from controlled media like television and corporate news, the philosopher’s vision has been eerily fulfilled.
From a “Baurillardian” perspective, Reagan and Bush became president because the people who shaped their images skillfully manipulated our images of westerns and Americana. Obama became president because his image shapers were able to stir our distorted memories of Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez. People did not vote for specific policies, but for images and feelings. Some voted for “pride.” Others voted for “hope.” So many people were not voting for specific policies, we were voting to feel a certain way.
Last year “Occupy Wall Street” became a voice outside the system. It was carefully designed to avoid being co-opted by centrist voices that would only lead back into the same marsh. This year, new groups have emerged that look like “Occupy Wall Street,” but have corporate sponsors. Corporately owned media like the New York Times praise them as the “younger siblings of Occupy Wall Street, but with a nonpartisan agenda, more centralized leadership and one specific mission: to help young people find jobs.”
From the philosopher’s viewpoint, the difference is huge. Instead of being global citizens like occupiers, these young people are seeking to be entrepreneurs, thus returning to a self centered world view that will be easy to divide and conquer . Instead of taking democracy back from corporate control like occupiers, these youth will advocate for other jobless youth. From a “Baudrillardian” point of view, instead of David slaying the giant, he will turn to Goliath for employment. And instead of leaving the labyrinth, we will strike a deal with the Minotaur to eat other people first.