Everything is being turned on its head. Most of the principles, myths, axioms and ideas that we once accepted to be either true or proper have been given new connotations, and these new suggestions have been embraced by the new, bolder generation. Even though we differ in ideology as humans from country to country, race to race, culture to culture, there are a few things that we come to accept in the world of ideas as ‘politically correct’ and ‘acceptable’. We can say we agree that world leaders should not be sexually deviant or fiscally corrupt, and that children under a certain age should not be forced into labour. We can agree that censorship is acceptable in certain forms, like protecting children from porn & TV violence or shielding our credit card information and ratings from prying eyes.
As we delve further into the 21st century it’s obvious that society’s collective mindset has taken a turn that sets us on a path in the opposite direction from previously perceived precedents of popular culture and ideology (with a depreciating moral aspect uncomfortably attached); which is itself a translation of our essence as a social species. In the same way that human beings just like us once were deadly convinced that the world was flat (or for that matter a vertical multi-levelled structure; imagine a massive building in orbit), our collective global mindset is experiencing seismic shifts. In this information age fuelled by the internet, the world seems to be becoming smaller, and it is now much easier to get a feel of what a country; or the world as a whole, thinks about a particular idea or event.
Our favourite alien ‘Superman’, which we have come to know and love almost as if he were real, was once accepted as the all powerful hero who held back from using his powers as much as possible, reigning back violence even when a villain had murdered innocent humans. He always believed in not killing his enemies, just subduing them and handing them over to the authorities and a generation loved him for it. He was objective, principled and full of restraint. The new pop culture collective seems to have tired of this ‘branding’ of superman.
In a 2011 video trailer for the new DC (comics) UNIVERSE ONLINE; a gruesome battle between super villains and superheroes is underway. Wonder woman, superman’s love interest has been hurt. The Superman that appears to save her is different from the one we used to know. His usually neat cape is ripped and tattered. His eyes are glowing red and his face is shown in an intensely angry, almost demonic grimace. On his way to save the Amazonian beauty, captain marvel tries to stop him, and this is when we see him reinforce the fact that everything is different. He breaks captain marvels hand, forces him to his knees and burns his face off with his heat vision rays until it seems there is no longer any face at all, dropping marvel’s body lifeless and moving on to the target, Lex Luthor, at whom he screams “you don’t deserve to live!”
This video can be seen here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6eFkx65ZhAE&feature=related# and has over 15 million views worldwide. A majority of the comments prove that this new generation thought the old superman to be too soft, and that this new one is a “Boss” and ‘totally badass’.
Hip Hop once served as an outlet for the disenfranchised black American youths and reflected the social, economic and political realities of their lives. For years the culture grew and African Americans prided themselves on the fact that they had created this movement, and had a kind of colour coded ownership of it. For so long there seemed to be an unwritten rule that if you weren’t black, you couldn’t have credibility in this artform. The rhythmic alpha attitude, The fascination with sneakers, fashion and male jewellery, the accent, the bouncing walk , the “black struggle’; these were the tenets that were subconsciously believed to hold hip hop culture together. Even as the audience widened and Caucasians and the rest of the world joined the African American listeners, the rules seemed to remain. The closest anyone got to bending the rules was ‘Vanilla Ice’, who gained some popularity, but faded from the scene due to a lack of consistent credibility. He just wasn’t as ‘gangsta’ as the dominant black males leading the genre.
Years later, Marshall Mathers aka ‘Eminem’ proceeded to demolish all such rules and accepted precedents, not only successfully gaining a foothold in hip hop but rising to dominate the charts whenever he makes a release. He did this through a combination of shock value, black comedy (no pun intended) and articulate, albeit violent, biting lyrics. The new generation latched on to his total fearlessness and disregard for whatever was known to be acceptable at the time. This included rhythmically insulting any public figure he simply didn’t like, sometimes dressing up as a woman in an alpha male culture while vocalizing a deep homophobia and discussing his narcotics use with the same transparency and passion as his fatherhood responsibility. He is the artist that finally broke down racial boundaries in the all-black hip hop world. He has sold around 83 million albums and broken so many records in the music business and he himself has many stories of those who advised him to quit because it couldn’t work. We all know that if words were weapons, Eminem’s would be some of the most violent we’ve ever heard.
We shift attention the world of politics. The Arab world was previously known for the amalgamation of religion and state and long periods of conformity to the authority of domineering, dictatorial leadership. However, it recently experienced an unprecedented uprising against age-old authoritarian regimes; most notably in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Such volatile scenes usually erupt when the US and its allies intervene openly in such areas around the Middle East, now the youth passionately decided they would do it themselves.
This kind of youthful revolution was previously the stuff of cinema and novels of great mobilization led by romantic, charismatic young / middle aged rebels. They rose up, seemingly all around the same time period (mainly 2011) to fight for social mobility, the freedom of information and the right to choose their leaders without the entrenched idea of entitled succession. The first part was psychological, if u like, with the use of the internet, social media sites and the global blogosphere. The rest of the revolution was very physical, in some cases very brutal.
Another series of events culminating in a kind of information rebellion of its own calls for global attention; the search for the alleged war criminal Joseph Kony. Kony 2012, whether one chooses to support it or be cynical about it, has ultimately achieved Invisible children’s initial viral and confrontational objective, which is to get large numbers of people talking about Kony and his alleged crimes, with most of them in agreement with tracking him down and making him answer for them, as well as the profits being made for the ‘N.G.O.’ itself. The idea is that the collective force of will generated will be the key to achieving this goal. The point is that there have been many leaders of this nature but none of them has been ‘hunted’ in this way. It is a sign of these more restless times, when the voice of the rebel generation seems to be reaching a fever pitch and they are willing, more than ever, to use all the media now available to broadcast socio-political convictions.
What these issues all have in common is the fact that accepted precedents were shattered and unexpected change dominated the status quo. So it seems we are no longer interested in heroes. We are now interested in courageous anti-heroes. We have lost the patience it takes to see the good guy play nice and follow due process, otherwise known as ‘procedure’. Jack Bauer, anyone? The idea of forgiveness and fair trial has become boring so it has been shelved for the idea of street retribution and immediate punishment to the guilty. We want to see the good guy roll up his sleeves and crack some heads. Are we collectively heading towards a globally unanimous vigilante mindset?
When people come up with ideas that are seemingly shocking, confrontational or even outlandish there is a tendency to immediately begin to see how it could all go wrong. This may even occur because the idea is simply different. The key then is the kind of momentum one can create for an idea which allows it to be forceful enough to break through precedent and secure a place for its self, be it a business, social, political or academic campaign. Ideas now move so fast around the world that the time it takes for an idea to grow from a simple thought in someone’s head to part of the stream of mass consciousness has been reduced to possibly minutes. In general, therefore, action is collectively taken faster, which also means that feedback will be relayed to the originator of an idea faster than ever before, ultimately informing on the popularity (or not) of the idea. This is not just a technological advantage, it is a reason to eliminate the fear of acting out our ideas. Since precedent is constantly being shattered, it proves that there is no set blueprint for the realization of ideas. They are generally created for the particular objectives they serve.
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