Throughout my quarter century of life, I have been witness to one of the most staggering transformations of my generation, as we have come closer to inheriting leadership role in the world that reared us. As we come of age as the largest generation in adulthood we are expected to take the reins of our economic system and all of the totalizing wealth that comes along with that responsibility.
There seems to be a more smooth transition of power than was expected of our much derided “narcissistic” and “selfish” generation. Just a few years ago we were the source of blame for all of societies ailments. Now it appears that millennials are fast becoming the model citizens of corporate ethos, and above all, the worship of money and wealth.
In recent years there seems to have been a concerted and targeted campaign at the millennial generation to rehabilitate them to become a productive and well-adjusted members of our corporatocracy. Nike’s 30th Anniversary “Just Do It” Campaign featuring the accidental activist Colin Kaepernick is a shining example of this.
Because, money is the measure of all things in our society. In many ways, this outlook deeply pervades all aspect of the United States. It is a top down corporate ethos which infects and spreads through the very fabric of our lives.
Social media encourages us to become our own personal brand requiring the voluntary reduction of our inherently complicated Self into a one dimensional virtual ad campaign.
The ubiquity of social media in the professional realm has essentially required us to subjugate ourselves at the altar of corporatism. Just as the abducted eventually learn to love and depend upon their captors, we have been taught to love and model ourselves after the very entities and ideas that have captured society in their iron grip and molded it in their image.
Like all generations before us we experienced a “rebellious” adolescence period of our development as we sought to understand and assimilate into a rapidly changing world that raised us.
Like the baby boomers, we were brought up in a period of unprecedented wealth and had our worlds shattered by generational defining events that instilled within us a healthy cynicism about the world.
For the Boomers, it was the Vietnam War, and the revelation of the empire our country has become. For my generation, we experienced a series of events that deeply colored our outlook, in 9/11, the subsequent launching of the legally illegitimate War on Terror, and the crashing of the economy in 2008 due to the reckless, and cynically opportunistic practices of the bankers and traders on Wall Street.
These events exposed us to the extent of government incompetence as well as its capacity to manipulate and even outright lie to the public in pursuit of its own goals. We had no illusions about the government’s intentions and expected very little from it in return. The life we were supposed to have inherited was killed as we emerged from the crib and took our first steps in the world.
Like a shapeshifter, the neoliberal corporate ethos can take the form of anything, as long as it can be co-opted and utilized for the sake of profit and power. We have seen this in the shift of corporations toward a more friendly face such as supporting social justice causes, most recently embodied in Nike’s monetization of Colin Kaepernick’s cause of bringing awareness to police brutality and the morbid mortality rate of black males in our country.
Corporations can easily take a righteous public stance on important issues if it means winning the hearts and souls of the single largest consumer demographic.
This impulse is the crux of the issue.
To no fault of Kaepernick, a company has essentially equated the purchase of their product, with a righteous and subversive act against white supremacy.
That is to say, an act of consumerism has been equated with fighting power structures. It becomes embarrassingly apparent when you realize that Nike is a company, that has long had an ethically dubious track record in its use of sweatshop labor.
The act of aligning themselves and their products with the causes of Colin Kaepernick, functions to fold support for a legitimate cause back into the corporate system, and allows Nike to profit not only on the cause itself, but also indirectly, the tragic deaths of American citizens at the hands of their own law enforcement.
The motivation for purchasing doesn’t matter to the company. As long as they are making a profit, all is right in their eyes. Money is the measure of all things.
Nike’s co opting and use of Colin Kaepernick as a motivation to purchase their products, is a microcosm of the corporate landscape we live in. As social media has taught us to become our own personal corporation, corporatism has become indistinguishable from the values that guide us through our daily lives.
Being a generation who came of age during the Bush administration and the corporate media’s deception of the country into supporting a largely profit driven war in the Iraq War (Iraq’s vast oil reserves were the prize for American oil companies to exploit), I find it remarkable how our skepticism and cynicism about the powers that be has been transformed into a naive trust in their seemingly altruistic intentions.
Millennials who once posed one of the biggest threats to the continuation of the status quo, are now being eagerly embraced and inculcated into the prevailing corporatocracy. As the gyre turns once more and the standard is passed from one generation to the next, millennials now seem poised to become model citizens of a modern American society that tells us that money is the measure of all things and most importantly, profits über alles. Long live our corporate plutocracy!