18 February 2008|
A Place for Naive and Narcissistic Children of Western Capitalism
Christopher R. Lenz
So what is this ironic example of our greatness, you ask? Well, look no farther than the cultural phenomenon known as MySpace.
I’m not going to bother explaining to you what MySpace is, other than that MySpace is a place for friends, stalkers, and bands that will generally never amount to anything. It is also a Mecca for teenage angst, and a tool for youth to express their not-quite-so-unique individuality. So how did I come to acquire such a comprehensive knowledge of so many teenage web pages on the Internet? No, I’m not a child molester. But I do use MySpace as a promotional tool, and for that reason I have become well acquainted with the inner workings of the teenage mind. In the span of 15 seconds of visiting a profile of a new friend, I’ll have found out your name, browsed the headlines of your blog, and have generally acquired an idea of what you’re all about, before I send you a message pretending that I actually care about your life. And this is all so I can get you to visit my page, so that I may then benefit from your insecurity and vanity.
Now if you somehow had the omniscient power to read the teenage mind (or just had more time to spend on MySpace than myself), you would know what I know. You would know that nearly all American teenagers think that they are the center of the world, that their problems should somehow significantly impact the rest of us, and basically that they really matter. I have witnessed countless tales of traumatic break-ups more exaggerated than the latest issue of the National Enquirer, parental conflicts more monumental than the Crusades, and other such cardinal sins against God, like the killing off Marissa Cooper from The O.C. I know that your son smokes pot with his friends on a daily basis. I know the age at which your daughter lost her virginity. I know that they both listen to Taking Back Sunday and think about how awesome it would be to slit their wrists and commit suicide, even though neither of them would ever really consider doing it. They just think it would be ‘epic’ in an exalted sense of self-importance, because thinking stuff sucks is cool. I know this because Tyler knows this.
This is what matters to teenagers, who spend countless hours building these little networks of friends. They compensate for their lack of real social validation by enticing people to comment their pages and pictures so that they can feel special and important.
What possible parallel could I draw between this and American economic dominance? Well I’ll tell you, but first I’d like to take a look at the typical teenager from somewhere other than a developed country. I’ve never personally been to such a place, but I’ve been to Tijuana, so I feel that I can draw some reasonable assumptions. Let’s call this person Joe. (This wouldn’t be accurate, for obvious reasons, but were I to call him anything else, I’d have people shouting witch…er, I mean racist, faster than the blink of an eye)
Joe lives well below the poverty line. His family is dirt poor, and he spends most of his day thinking about whether or not he’ll be able to provide food to his family. But with no opportunity, that’s exactly what Joe does, he thinks about it while his family starves. Last week his dad stepped on the remnant of some long-forgotten war between two warlords and lost both his legs in an explosion that shouldn’t have killed him outright, but with no immediate medical care available that’s exactly what happened. Joe’s dad dies. Joe is the oldest member of the family, and all the responsibility now falls to him to feed and look after the family, or what’s left of it, anyway, after starvation and disease wiped half of them out. Joe is hardened by this, and grows up with the mentality that if he has a large family that his chances of surviving when he is older are far greater - if any of his children manage to survive to take care of him, that is. Life sucks for Joe, and Joe 2.0 doesn’t fare much better.
(Editor’s note: Subsidized by foreign aid from MySpace-reading countries, the vicious cycle of grim reality continues ad infinitum for the real have-nots)
The irony of it all is that Joe probably doesn’t even acknowledge the bad hand that he’s been dealt, as this is all he has ever known. Hope is an empty word void of any meaning. He doesn’t have theluxury of worrying about whether or not Jill who sits next to him in chemistry class likes him. Dad being maimed and killed by a landmine is a fact of life. And as for television? You might as well try and explain the physics of an M-16 assault rifle to a 15th century British longbowman.
Meanwhile back in the States, our comparatively-aged tyke is using his laptop to hate on everything that he takes for granted, with a little help from an internet site called MySpace. If only Joe could be so lucky.
Don’t believe me? Well, log on to MySpace, locate a random teenager in your area (this is amazingly easy to do with MySpace, by the way), and take a gander at his profile. His life probably sucks. At least he thinks it does. Little does he contemplate the electricity that is being generated at the nuclear power plant that supplies energy to the fully modernized condominium that contains the Dell computer he is using to wirelessly access the internet and log on to the webpage that recently sold for $580 million, or the capitalist parent(s) who give it all to him.
Ignorance truly is bliss, for those of us who have the luxury of having it. Long live American capitalism.