Globalisation and consumer culture feeds our obsession with individuality. From tattoos and piercings, to cosmetic surgery or steroids; the market provides the means to express our individuality and authenticity. In doing so, it normalises the aesthetic evaluation of others relative to ourselves. This goes some way to explaining why we torture ourselves over our physical appearance.
Ours is a consumer culture, where economic and material prosperity are the markers of happiness and success. In today’s advanced societies, material advantage has a negative effect on happiness. This is because we are constantly comparing ourselves relative to others. Holmes describes these comparisons as ‘aesthetic reflexivity’; where value and trust are conferred to people, processes and things that are aesthetically pleasing to us. If something makes us happy, it is of value to us and we trust it will improve our circumstances. The pursuit of individual happiness has become obsession such that what makes others happy is of little concern. This is likely to produce isolated individuals and decrease the social capital of society. This goes some way to explaining the apparent acceptance of social inequalities present in neoliberal countries.
Hidaka (2012) describes depression as a disease of modernity. Modernised countries tend to have the highest rates of depression; populations have greater social inequality and are more sedentary, sunlight-deficient, sleep-deprived and socially-isolated. Our cultural norms promote productivity, prosperity and progress above anything else. As a result, our health and wellbeing suffers; we take panadol for a headache, antibiotics for infection and mood stabilisers for mental illness so we can keep going. And unfortunately, antidepressants are the solution in this kind of culture that prioritises wealth, prestige and materialism over both physical and mental well-being.
Collective acts such as riots or protests function to empower individuals by uniting and reinforcing a shared identity. Our increasingly insular society breeds fear of others – because we do not know or understand them. I believe that deviance derives from feelings of powerlessness, repression and anger. Deviance is about exercising power and control; it is an outlet for the angry and disillusioned.
Serving in the military, I found the concepts of emotional labour and feeling rules applied in a completely different way. Framed by this masculine culture, the primary feeling rule was apathy; I could not appear rattled by the catcalls, stereotypical judgements or boorish behaviour. This required deep acting to the extent of dispensing with what were considered feminine aspects, with the hope of becoming ‘one of the boys’; I can do the job as well as them, I’m no different and I don’t need (or want) special consideration. Should I fall out of character, rule reminders came generally in the form of chastisement; for example, complaining about something was rebuked with the phrase ‘Harden the f*** up!’ Physical settings also reinforced my performance – women were outnumbered 20 or 30 to 1, men leaving porn magazines lying around, putting posters on the walls and sharing pornographic videos or emails openly.
Giddens describes a pure relationship as one that operates independently of external criteria and exists solely for the satisfaction of those involved. This kind of relationship facilitates individualisation and contests the rationality of commitment in late modernity. The implication is that companionate love has given way to more fluid and ‘lasseiz faire’ forms of love and intimacy. The following documentary suggests that polyamory can accommodate not only the “morality of modern sexuality”, but the commitment associated with companionate love. What do you think? http://ab.co/2nQ9TDt
Sex, gender and sexuality are all socially mediated. The sex of an individual is biologically determined and manifests bodily; both internally and externally. But from birth, it is our external appearance that determines what sex we are; we emerge from our mothers with the herald ‘it’s a boy’ or ‘it’s a girl’. It is this assessment that is socially constructed, reinforced and performed.
Gender enters the equation when this external evaluation is applied to our ‘internal sex’. Social and cultural (ergo environmental) norms apply and enforce gender dictates. Anyone performing outside these roles is considered deviant and is ostracised. As Selterman argued, the degree to which we express our innate sexuality is determined by the surrounding environment. The statistics in Rogers lecture show that same-sex couples in cities are more comfortable identifying as such when compared to those living in towns; this suggests that sexual diversity is more accepted in metropolitan environments as opposed to towns.
Mauss states that emotional control is valorised in modern society. We keep ourselves ‘in check’, to avoid feelings of guilt, shame or embarrassment; the person who deviates from socially appropriate norms draws attention to themselves and finds themselves in a position of vulnerability. Symbolic interactionist theory holds that the way in which we express emotions is socially learned; through processes of making gestures, role taking, interpreting responses and adjusting based on negative feedback. This begins from an early age, is culturally specific and has morphed significantly since the rise of capitalism.
In pre-capitalist Western societies, social order was maintained via the institutions of church and family as the sources of appropriate social behaviour. With the rise of capitalism, came more complex forms of government, social stratification and the individualisation of the social; globalisation of the market has escalated technological advancement to a point where society has become a virtual panopticon – we never know when we are being watched or by whom.
Reality television shows, even current affairs and news programs, reveal the minutiae of our lifestyles; all forms of public torture, bringing to light deviant’s operating outside of ‘accepted’ social norms. Social networking sites allow us to judge and ostracise others without accepting accountability. The market gives us a plethora of consumer choice and convenience; simultaneously, it engenders narcissism, envy and the realisation of unattainable goals. Every day, we face a barrage of conflicting expectations of who we should be and how we should behave. How can we possibly measure up? Simultaneously, we feel shame for all of our own failings and criticize others for theirs; our human capacity for connection and empathy is diminishing.
What are my feelings right now? Mine fluctuate between indecision and conviction, anonymity and vulnerability. They are complex and socially shaped. Vulnerability researcher and psychologist, Brene Brown, states that ‘shame is an epidemic in our culture’. Her research has shown positive correlations between the feeling of shame and instances of addiction, depression, aggression, violence, bullying, eating disorders and suicide. This exposes shame and guilt as mechanisms of social chaos, not the means of maintaining social order.
#S327UOW17 #Tut3 #Thu1030
Barbalet analyses Weber’s notion of rationality, explaining rational action as ‘that which follows from the actor’s own deliberative considerations’. I wonder then how this theory holds true when the rational action predicated on rational thought does not work out as intended. Think of a scenario where someone ‘appears’ to need help. According to Simone Schnall, each of us will perceive this situation differently; therefore, what each of us may consider the objective reality of this situation is actually our own subjective interpretation of the situation. Maybe the elderly lady who appears to need help crossing the road had already crossed the road. She is standing at the curb, looking around and appears distressed. She has a walking stick, two bags of groceries and looks to be about 90. Using the visualisation exercise Schnall did with her audience, consider two people are observing this scenario; one has a grandmother who does yoga and rides a motorbike, the other has a family history of dementia on her mum’s side. Each person draws on their own experiences (and all of the thinking and feeling and reasoning that came with them) to assess the reality of the situation and whether or not to take action. Given all of this, I think my body IS my thoughts, feelings AND actions. And ‘logic’ no longer seems very logical!
#S327UOW17 #Tut2 #Thu1030