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The Stories We Tell Ourselves, OR, On Being A Rebel (re-dated)
November 12, 2008, 8:55 am
Filed under: Culture, Philosophy | Tags: , ,

One of the ways we make sense of our lives is by narrating them according to certain culturally meaningful stories.

There is almost always a grain of truth to these stories.  But they can become stale.

One of our great stories is the one where the heroic rebel steps out from the monolithic crowd.  He or she finally gets to ‘be themselves’.

Whenever things go bad for us in a group we belong to, we always narrate the situation as if we’re a heroic rebel and the group is a mindless, monolithic crowd.  We end up as the hero.

Sure, there is grain of truth to this story.  But it is getting stale.

In our culture, we ALL think we’re the rebel hero.  That sensibility is now deeply imbued into the mass culture. We are a herd of rebels.  The need to stand out is the engine which drives ‘the system’. 

The way we step out from the crowd to achieve authenticity is through our clothes, our music, our cars, our hobbies, etc.  All of this is consumed.  To be rebel is to be an edgy shopper.  To be a rebel is to consume on the cutting edge.  

Then everyone will want to be like you.  Then they’ll all become like you.  Then a new rebel will emerge, and the cycle continues.  

This is how consumer culture works, right?

True rebellion now requires us to fade into the crowd, right?


On the other hand, what’s so wrong with consumption?  What we consume really does shape us into the kind person we are.  I like finding quirky, interesting things to buy.  Is this so bad?  Always?

Isn’t the problem with the way sellers try to harness us by our base passions, bypassing our critical judgment?  

Again, being ‘passionate’ is always praised in our society.  Maybe the problem isn’t really with consumerism, but with ‘passion-ism’.  Who is praised for having good judgment?  

Embodied creatures must consume, right?  That’s how life works, right?  So isn’t a good and interesting life built (at least in part) by consumption?


1 Comment so far
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Very insightful post. To me the big problem with the consumerism you mention is that, the mythical hero finds strength from within. He (or she) searches and challenges himself and grows in the process. With consumerism, we look outside of ourselves for answers and latching on to temporal things. In most cases we’re not creating real solutions, just putting on a show!

Anyway, found your blog through Google blog search(a first for me!) and will have to subscribe! Good stuff!

Comment by Brenda

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