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My Postmodern Life- Judy Atkinson
Transcript of My Postmodern Life- Judy Atkinson
People always want the latest things to stand out amongst the billions of humans on the planet. Since I'm a teenager, I feel as though I am in the midst of all the chaos. The postmodern economy, like the modern economy is consumer-led (Burke). Companies market their products as must-haves and they target consumers with precision. I have to admit that I am a drone in the world of consumerism. As a “typical teenage girl” there are things that we simply just need. And if we are not seen with the newest thing then society will seemingly continue to grow without us. As a result, people consuming products at a rapid pace now drive society. It is no longer about the function of the product; it is about the social status that accompanies the commodity.
According to Burke: “Targeting specific groups has meant design has become a major selling point. Commodities are no longer bought for the value they have but also the lifestyle that goes with their design,” (Burke). Burke’s statement explains my life impeccably. I am a slave of marketing techniques in many ways but the most specific of which is my obsession2 with Marc Jacobs. Their marketing and clothing revolve around a very classy lifestyle. Their advertisements feature beaches, pools, nature, sunshine and most of all luxury. The people in these advertisements are living the life that I want to live. I buy these products because I feel like I am living my ideal life by doing so, and without thinking about it spend more than I should.
First, let me introduce myself...
My name is Judy Atkinson, I am 17 years old and in all forms of the word I am your typical teenage girl. I attend Sir Winston Churchill high school where I have girl friends with who I gossip and a boyfriend. I spend my time shopping and cooking with occasional Netflix breaks. I'm always seen either smiling or talking and above all I am trying to survive high school. Keeping my grades up and my university career within my grasp, are my main goals. Of course like any other grade 12 student I attend an English class...
Obviously in reality I am not going to end up on a luxurious poolside bar if I put on Marc Jacobs perfume and carry around my new purse, but their advertisements make me feel like I am going to or as if i belong to this lifestyle. My loyalty to the brand makes it clear that I am defiantly a postmodern consumer. And it is not only me, I see the same thing with Michael Kors, with Lululemon, and even with technology like Apple. As Jessup said, "Consumerism implies foolishness, superficiality, and the destruction of personal and social relationships by means of selfishness" (Jessup) Yes it is superficial to buy this expensive bag, instead of an equally nice bag from Winners and yes it marks the personal destruction of my whole paycheck, but it is just so pretty.
The pressure on success has determined the classes that I have chosen for my last year in high school. I chose my courses not out of interest, but on my university requirements. This shows that "Knowledge ceases to be an end in itself, it loses its use-value" (Lyotard). People do not acquire information for its general usefulness; they only absorb the knowledge that is necessary during certain "projects" and jobs in life. What we learn and the grades we get, do not necessarily reflect our interests or intelligence. The things we learn are only so we can continue on to university, then to a job, and to a "perfect life". After all, this is what I have been worried about my entire high school career. I think this video explains how the idea of "having knowledge" has been redefined.
Upon learning about postmodernism, with its disorder and destruction, its temporal distortion, and sometimes disturbing black humour, I never thought that I could in any way relate my life to such a thing. But as I took a better look at my life, analyzing its techniques and the articles of Burke, Lyotard, Baudrillard, Jessup, and Klages, I realized my life is Postmodern in many ways.
In this English class I was introduced to the term postmodernism. The term "postmodernism" is a product of literature movement that was first used by Jean-Francois Lyotard. In general, it is used to explain the movement of the arts and literature from the ideas established in the late-19th century to the ideas of the late-20th century. It rejects modernist views such as works that try to uphold the idea of unity, coherence, and definite meaning... art will do what other human institutions fail to do (Klages).
Postmodernism on the other hand is fragmented with ideas and beliefs, includes a blend of cultures, contains individual thought and no absolute truths. It is very much subjective and opinionated.
While reading the articles of Burke and Jessup, I found many links to my own life involving consumerism and how I have bought into this capitalism.
Pastiche means to combine or "paste" together multiple elements and as a growing individual this very much explains my life. My life is kind of like a collage. I juggle numerous activities, interests and obligations on a daily basis. I am a sports fan some days, a music fan, a science nerd, a jokester and sometimes a loner. My daily life is defined by numerous elements and most of which are not related, but that’s what makes up my fragmented personality.
My life is made up many different genres making it a form of pastiche. I use my sports interests with some crowds and my science knowledge with others. I cannot be defined as one word because my life is not a linear system. I live a complex and mixed up lifestyle that is patched together like a collage, but still one work of art. Another example would be my heritage. On my mothers side, I have Irish lineage, my grandmother being “right of the boat”, and on my fathers side, I have English custom. As for me I was born and raised with the western culture of Canada, again adding to the collage that is me.
This unit has taught me something about myself and the society I live in. I was introduced to something called "simulacra" by Baudrillard. He defines simulacra as: "A generation by models of a real without origin or reality: a hyperreal" (Baudrillard) In other words; simulacra is an image or idea which appears to be something real, but is something constructed. This applies to the society I live in because quite often we subconsciously mix up reality with simulations.
Baudrillard says that when the line between reality and feigned images is blurred; simulations take over our relationship with the truth. An example of this would be the social media sites in my generation. We hold in our hands these smart phones, in which we can communicate with anyone in the world within seconds. This gives the impression of closeness and interaction but really it’s all simulated through electronics. Even on my Twitter feed, I follow celebrities, giving me the impression we’re close; I know what they are doing. In reality I have never met these people and will probably never meet them.
Another example of this would be my family vacation in 2008. During the winter break my family and I traveled down to Cancun Mexico, to stay at the Dreams resort and spa. This is what they depicted Mexico to be like...
This is the reality the resort offered. Beauty at its finest. In fact not a blemish in sight. We get the impression that Mexico is a dream. This is until you step outside of the resort walls and are exposed to reality. We only left the resort once; to visit the Mayan temples of Coba. We planned it ourselves and the resort did not recommend this trip. There were men with machine guns posted on corners and little fruit shacks with huge families trying to make a living of us tourists. Domestic animals roaming the streets looking starved… Nothing like the resort.
Baudrillard says the second form of a simulacrum: "Masks and perverts a basic reality" (Baudrillard). At the resort, everything was perfect. I was caught up in a man-made, constructed world where bad and different did not exist. When I exited the resort, my reality turned into an unmasked simulation. My family vacation of 2008 is a representation of a simulacra because I was surrounded by a contradictory reality. The beauty of the resort is there to conceal the fact that Mexico is in the order of the hyperreal and of simulation, to hide the poverty that the population lives in.
Klages says that a meta-narrative is “a story that is told to explain the belief systems that exist” (Klages). Francois Lyotard said the same: it being an idea of a controlled system as a totality; essentially they are constructions that we create in order to strive for a purpose or a final end result of success and happiness. And in defining postmodernism it becomes known that the postmodern society rejects these kind of general, one-sided belief systems.
A very common meta-narrative, that is currently influencing my generation, is the idea that attending university after high school is the right thing to do. After being at school for a great deal of or lives, we are expected to continue to do so for a generous price in order to live a happy life. In today’s world it’s understood that to be successful in obtaining a career or to go far in life, a university degree is required. Burke mentions this in his article when he states that our society has shifted into a "...knowledge based society that is run by university trained professionals and a technical elite" (Burke). There shouldn't be any harm in not going to school and to follow another path in life. Many successful individuals never finished a post-secondary education. Nowadays if someone decided to neglect an education, they'd be seen as a failure to many people due to the present mindset. But I have to admit, my whole life the only pathway out of high school, was university, end of discussion.
Both my parents being university educated individuals always made this my plan; growing up I never even gave college or apprenticeships the time of day. I suppose this is a modernist part of my life. Even though I agree that success can be found outside the realms of a university, here I am applying to them around Canada, in order to live a desired lifestyle; it feels safe to me. The next few years will be that truly establish who I am. After my education and degree are obtained, according to Klages, I will find employment, hopefully permanently.
It seems as though in my life I follow a fair number of meta-narratives. Because I was also raised with the belief of science. Science is the one truth and all of our progress stems from some kind of science. Where would we be without medicine, without cars, or without electricity? My mother being a doctor and my father being a Biochemistry professor, I have been raised with this truth all my life, and I have no difficulties or issues with this being my belief. In my post secondary education I hope to study the sciences even more, I do not see how people, could even think about not accepting science. This belief system again adds to the modernist side of me, because I believe science gives us progress everyday; it will give us success. Maybe i trust science so much because i reject religion just as strongly.
However I do reject the grand narrative of religion. Religion and sciences being almost polar opposites, I feel as though I cannot believe in one and preach the other. Thus arises the question of "God". Baudrillard says: "What if God himself can be simulated, that is to say, reduced to the signs which attest his existence? Then the whole system becomes weightless; it is no longer anything but a gigantic simulacrum" (Baudrillard). This basic question is one of the reasons why I do not follow the grand narrative; it is so fragile that science can collapse the idea with proof. Religion seems like a set of moral codes that people should live by, but there has never been any concrete evidence. I have never seen god, only heard what people portray God to be like and how he wants us to act. As a believer in science, I need the proof. My family does not bash religion, in fact we find the history behind it interesting, but the basis of science is what is true to us. We believe in evolution and in the progress of knowledge. Our house has a bible and we are not oblivious to the religious world, in fact in 2011 we traveled to the Vatican, one of the most religious places on earth. The stories told were amazing, but they are just that to us, stories and not facts. Our opinion makes it easy to find clips like these funny:
Even though I have a name, and a distinct voice, I am not entirely a distinct and easily readable individual. This quality even makes it hard for me to know who I really am. There is more to me that what lies on the surface. When I think about my own behavior, I realize that I am a fragmented person. Because, according to Kumar in Burke's article: "Identity is not unitary of essential, it is fluid or shifting, fed by multiple sources and taking multiple forms" (Burke). My personality definitely takes multiple forms.
In front of my parents I keep cursing to the minimum, I act like I'm very focused on my school work, and of course I leave out stories of my personal life such my boyfriend and parties. I tend to fabricate to my parents that I’m the ideal child, I do not like partying, I go to bed early and never stress. Really, I stress on a daily basis and enjoy the occasional night out; there’s so much more to me than my parents see. I still feel the need to make them think of me as being a certain way. In front of my friends, I am very relaxed; I swear more because we think it is funny, we gossip and laugh about inappropriate things and I tell them things that I would never dream of telling my parents. However, even my closest friends do not know everything about me, when I am annoyed with them, or all the details of my personal life.
I have to admit that as a teenager I am not even sure about who I am, or will be, I still have a ways to go. Maybe the person that knows the least about me is myself, because I am too busy creating what Burke mentions:
"...identities that are socially constructed, and given meaning by our fragmented society" (Burke).
Because we live in a society where we are constantly looking at, judging, and interacting with other people, we forget to take a step back to look at ourselves. The person in the mirror seems to be just as hard to read as a stranger.
What do you see?
Looking at Paranoia in the most literal sense, there are many things that never fail to cause my mind to race, and get my heart pumping. I am constantly worrying and over thinking about my future. Of course my future begins with how I am doing in school, and how I am doing in school controls what university program I get into, and post-secondary education leads me to the achievement of my career goal.
I am afraid of not doing well in life, because I know that the future is not in my control and I hate not being in control. Although my life is postmodern its "...relativism with everything being rendered equivalent or anything going with anything sits uncomfortably in a world that can be quite frightening for those who hanker after an ordered world" (Burke). Life being what it is I will never be given definite reassurance that my life will turn our perfect or that i will obtain order. I could not even tell you what university I will be attending. I could not even tell you what I will have for lunch tomorrow!
It is overwhelming that I live in a world where everyone seems to be smart, and where everyone acts so collected about university. Because as Burke says, and as I have mentioned earlier, society has shifted to a "...knowledge based society that is run by university trained professionals and a technical elite" (Burke). I feel as if I have to become one of these university educated people and the stress to do this has become a very scary thing. We are concerned with achieving higher and higher averages in order to attend more school, to get a job, to earn money, and make purchases, surrounding ourselves with materialistic representations of our hard work. Instead of leading a life in which our career is something that we have a passion for, it has become merely the next step. Obviously my paranoia and the pressure to succeed has changed how i view and use knowledge.
By: Judy Atkinson
I now see that my life is full of meta narratives, whether I reject or accept them, paranoia, consumerism, simulacra, pastiche, minimalism, and a new sense of knowledge.
Analyzing my consumerist tendancies made me think that maybe there were more postmodern aspects that affect me...Maybe even my interests and background. This brought me to the postmodern element of pasiche in my life.
After applying pastiche to my life, I thought I was getting the idea of postmodernism! Or was I just fooled? While reading Baudrillard's article, I learned that coming to false conclusions is not unpopular in postmodern society. Thus I was introduced to simulacra.
This really started to open my eyes to this postmodern world. As I kept reading the articles I was also introduced to the world of grand narratives or meta-narratives. The works or Burke, Lyotard and Klages continued to define my life as postmodern. As I read I noticed I am constantly surrounded by the grand narratives of university, religion and science in my daily life.
As you can see these meta-narratives thoroughly picked apart my life, showing some modernist and some postmodernist views. But of course as I am learning, there is no exact definition of postmodernism. Because while I was reading Burke's article I found even more proof that demonstrates my life as postmodernist. And i found this proof through the concept of minimalism.
When I reflect and think about myself and my life, I tend to get anxious... But wow! There's another aspect of postmodernism, paranoia.
As you can see, even the use and premise of knowledge has been redefined in my postmodern life.
And through my analysis of the theorists Mary Klages, Barry Burke, Michal Jessup, Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard, my life is part of the postmodern world. I understand that I am a consumer, a victim to simulacra, am full of pastiche and paranoia, and my ideology with science, religion and university has been shaped by postmodernism. My life is controlled by the many techniques and parts of a postmodern society all combined to produce what you know as Judy Atkinson.
Baudrillard, Jean. "Simulacra and Simulations." Stanford University Press. 1988. Web. 15 January 2014
Burke, Barry. "Post-modernism and Pot-modernity." (2000) n.d., Web. 15 January 2014
Jessup. Michael. "Truth: The First Casuality of Postmodern Consumerism." Christian Scholar's Review. XXX. 3 (2001). 289-304. Web. 15 January 2014
Klages, Mary. "Postmodernism." n.p., 21 April 2003. Web. 15 January 2014
Lyotard, Jean-Francois. "The Postmodern Condition: A Report of Knowledge." Philosophy Archieve. Marxist. org. nd., Web. 15 January 2014