Thursday, March 17, 2005

Petty disobediance

Some of us around the Esquire magazine offices were dubious of the newsworthiness of this article from the New York Times a few days ago, which details such titanic blows against the system like addressing mail to "England" instead of "United Kingdom" or ordering "small" coffees at Starbucks, petty acts of disobediance, refusals to participate in annoying marketing-engineered games of language destruction and waste, which I, by the way, wholeheartedly endorse. De Certeau celebrates this sort of thing in The Practice of Everyday Life as "tactics," a kind of quotidian creativity, a David vs. Goliath blow in the face of totalizing institutions. (He's one of the theorists whose work is unfortunately repurposed into the kind of indiscriminate celebratory cultural studies I referred to in the previous post, who view, say, Star Trek fan fiction as a subversive strike against the status quo).

It seems strange that it's the most popular story on the site, until you consider that it suits to a T the level of rebelliousness and subversion most people are capable of. Nobody likes "the system." Even the Man hates the Man. This is why most of our ads hinge on mininarratives of foiling the Man, expressing your uniqueness in the face of the System that wants to grind you down and make you into a comformatron. We love opotunities to be disobediant without offending any specific people, and the article lists ways we can "fight back" without having to have open confrontations, which would immediately end our subversion and stifle our timid dissent. We all tend to balk at the idea of actual confrontation with actual people who have been enlisted to serve and implement the System -- we ourselves are these people, after all, and we don't necessarily like to think of ourselves that way, but it's so. When we do these petty acts of rebellion that the Times details, we buy a little forgetting of who we really are.

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