Apr/May 2018 Reviews & Interviews

The Great Age Of Self-Expression

Commentary by Gilbert Wesley Purdy

Buy now from Amazon! The Internet has brought us the great age of self-expression it promised. The common man has exploded in a glorious burst of creative freedom. The cultural and political Elites no longer have the stage to themselves.

Millions are posting photos of the paintings and drawings they have done. Mountains of poetry are being posted each day. Photos of the results of the culinary arts of just regular folk are everywhere on social media. The common child rarely does anything that does not call for a beaming movie star smile and a photograph. The family pet is world famous. Millions of users, perhaps, are uploading YouTube videos of themselves just being their movie star and/or self-help guru selves, and a few dozen are making millions of dollars doing it. Nearly as many are uploading their music products. Music downloading sites now offer the common musician his or her chance at fame. With so much competition, only a few legacy performers who became famous before the Internet took over are paid more than a pittance for their work. Even they are paid far less than they once were.

The work these regular people create is consumed and applauded by their group of social media "friends." The product is generally given away for free but is sometimes offered for sale if the creator is sufficiently skilled in social networking to convince their friends to pay money. The more socially ambitious the creator is, the more friends they acquire, the wider their potential audience pool. If they are orders of magnitude more ambitious still, they seek to acquire vast numbers of followers and subscribers, expanding their available audience pool.

While building an audience "organically" (i.e., without buying advertising) was common not long ago, the social media and retail platforms on which it was accomplished have greatly reduced the number of people who can any longer be reached in that fashion. The Nouveau Wealth Elite that owns those platforms has designed the organic approach out of the systems. The creator now has the choice of reaching a few dozen people from among their friends lists or investing money to get their products in front of the rest of the people on their friends list and some vaguely defined wider potential audience.

Many television series are "reality shows" now. This to say that the stars are just regular people. Some compete in survival or relationship competitions. Some just live their lives with cameras looking on. Soon they and their lives are radically changed from what they were, and they begin to live their public images. Production costs for such shows are gratifyingly low. There are no actors or writers to pay salaries, no sets, set designers, etc. The Wealth Elite makes an especially nifty profit from their investments in such programming.

To date, in Indy publishing, the grand age of self-expression has resulted in nascent peripheral services industries to handle the flood of created materials. Self-identified professional copy editors offer their services, for pennies per word, to correct and format manuscripts innocent of spelling and grammar. Professional customer reviewers offer their services, for a small per-review fee, to fill the customers online product pages with 5-star reviews and a swatch of hyperbolic text. Self-identified independent publishing experts release free newsletters laden with paid advertising for a full range of services and inside information in order to succeed in the business. A premium version of their own services is always available at a modest price. Digital Indy books on how to succeed at publishing digital Indy books is one of the most common genres of book offered online.

Those who wish to avoid all such vestiges of our oppressive elitist literary past offer endless digital tomes of soft porn. Lack of spelling, grammar, or stylistic skills are of no particular concern in the genre. A titillating front cover, however, is essential even for minimal sales. Not being familiar with the nearly naked common woman modeling industry, I leave it to the reader to flesh out his or her knowledge of successful methods for polling friends and friend lists, establishing qualifications, conditions, cost, etc. Of course a group of regular people offer professional quality covers for a modest price.

On the political front, the citizens of entire nations have cast off their elitist hierarchical governing structures. It cannot be denied that many if not all of those governments involved some degree of oppression. Most of those nations have not been able to replace the governments they have thrown off. They exist in a chaos of heavily armed tribal groups or have found it necessary to replace the original governing class with another even more hierarchical and less responsive, or they have become the victims of endless civil wars. In many of these cases, other nations with hierarchical governing structures intact have taken advantage of the resulting distress in order to advance their own agendas and dominate their vulnerable neighbors.

Tourist money has fled. The international Wealth Elites have transferred their investments elsewhere. There are few jobs to be had. Cries have gone up for large increases in International Aid. Huge numbers of persons have sought to escape to safer countries that promise some quality of life for them and their future generations. This has destabilized the countries to which they have fled. Already impoverished host countries shudder under the burden. The threat of themselves collapsing into instability grows daily.

The common men of first world host countries are rising up to demand that they keep their own culture and economic resources to themselves. Those resources are the proof that their people and way of life are superior to those who are taking refuge inside their borders. Their cultural and economic resources, they protest, should be released from elite control and distributed among the endemic population, not given away to common refugees from foreign countries. The wealth and political elites deflect and redirect those protests, as effectively as circumstances will allow, with media, mega-data, and experts in manipulating the psychology of large groups, resulting in greater wealth disparity and political polarization.

In this fertile atmosphere of self-expression, identity groups are rapidly growing in number. Each now has the media tools to forward its own self-image and nascent culture, in a small way, and to fight for that culture against the other identity groups. Each has been unconscionably oppressed by one or another category of Elite for decades if not centuries, and it is well past time those elites to submit to them for a change. To fail to do so is a form of aggression. Full liberation is so long overdue that compromise itself could only be a form of injustice.

The common men of wealthier regions of developed countries begin to threaten secession. The common men of the poorer regions, they feel, are living off their dime. The central government is refusing to return their taxes to them, in full, by way of services, and the other regions are getting more than they are paying in. Furthermore, the central government is passing laws that do not entirely favor them. By their calculations, they are not getting optimal results.

Amongst the squabbling, the lack of consensus has seen the defeat of a presidential candidate, in the United States, that wasn’t onboard enough with each of the groups on the political left. Progressive turnout suffered. Her opponent, who played to nationalists and other conservative identity groups on the right, won the election. All progressive groups are oppressed again and seeking a candidate for the upcoming elections who will satisfy their groups without the injustice of requiring compromise from the long suffering.

Conservative identity groups, on the other hand, do not feel particularly liberated now that their candidate won. Time is limited, and they must make sure that progressive identity groups are as disempowered and legislated against as possible. The Wealth Elites that they are strange bedfellows with, on the other hand, are doing their best to make sure all identity groups are as disempowered and legislated against as possible. They are vigorously deflecting and redirecting the protests of each side, as effectively as circumstances will allow, with media, mega-data, and experts in manipulating the psychology of large groups, resulting in greater wealth disparity and political polarization.

As for the resident solipsist, his column for this issue is done, I think. The shadows of a beautiful sunny spring day begin to grow long outside the window beside his work station. The rewards of self-expression descend upon him.


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