Part II: Commentary on “Adam Carolla explains the OWS Generation”

My motivation for this post arose out of the hoopla I perceived concerning the wisdom attributed to Adam Corolla’s unreflective rant regarding the OWS movement. For the sake of open discussion, I’m going to disagree with some of his premise. I’ll summarize and reply to the two primary premises underlying his arguments in two separate posts.

You can view his rant here.

Argument 2:
The OWS movement typifies a society that is self-entitled and narcissistic which has caused envy and shame when they compare themselves to the 1%. Corolla believes this self-entitlement is a result of a society that glorifies being average and treats every individual as special despite their work-ethic and achievements.

Response to Argument 2:
Disregarding the economic reality of potential inequalities, I believe that the denigrating qualities typifying society which Corolla has attributed to the OWS movement are the natural corollary of what happens when the 1% dominates and possesses so much of the power as incarnated in accumulated capital and influence.  In this light the 1% is directly responsible for the values– attitudes and expectations– directing and justifying their behaviors.

Rational for Argument 2:
Individuals are shaped and molded by their society, by the confluence of interactions with the immediate geography and societal opinion at large, extending from more intimate local geographic and community influences, to broad trends and mainstream influences characterizing pop-culture located at the national level. A few examples of influences that enculturate and nurture the development of an individual’s values include family, friends, teachers, religion, media exposures, and an endless plethora of subcultures that any given person identifies with or is surrounded by. For a variety of reasons, and to varying degrees, I maintain there are deep flaws contained in the values that current societal influences possess and perpetuate.

What are values? Values are assumptions that serve as the basis for ethical or right action maintained by individuals. They form a hierarchy of priorities that guide and justify actions. A principle value is a foundation upon which other values and measures of integrity are based. Values are normative and relative, rooted in culture and convention, as well as empirical and absolute, existing on behalf of sheer physical and physiological necessity. I would like to speculate that the principle value of contemporary culture is materialism, and a form of externalism that accompanies it, but I’ll talk more on that at the end.

To reiterate: the key concept that determines how people act are their values.  Additionally, I ask: where do people derive their values? From the aforementioned influences comprising an individual’s world, namely society.

Now, given my position that people possess flawed values, you may ask why I think I deserve to dictate what is of value or not of value? To that my response would be that I am: (1)  examining the proposed context given by those who view the current political and economic situation as problematic, which in this specific case Adam Corolla provides, and (2) furnish a solution that utilizes universally recognized facts constituting that context. I possess a subjective perspective, so I cannot entirely transcend bias, but I can appeal to “universally recognized” facts and figures whenever possible. (By “universally recognized” I mean authoritative data that has been deemed accurate by conventional practice)

That said, given a set of problems, I believe it is possible to identify what is responsible for the incongruent values that exist between what is expected and what is given— and more importantly, where the responsibility for those values belongs.

The proposed context or problem denoted by Corolla is that the discontents expressed by the OWS movement (the 99%) regarding the economic inequalities they perceive are the result of an intrinsically self-entitled, narcissistic group of lazy, ungrateful people. In this case, what is expected, as posited by Corolla, is that the OWS movement (the 99%) should be more grateful, work harder, and think less of their own needs. And what is given: the OWS movement (the 99%) are acting according to legitimate values that serve the basis of their discontents.

The incongruency lies in how Corolla expects this group of people to act and whether they are acting exactly as they should. That is, whether or not the OWS dissenters are justified in the discontents that undergird their actions.

From here, it is feasible to diagnose the origins of these incongruencies by identifying first causes (principal values) and looking at the influences affecting those involved, and then make provisional recommendations that can remedy the problem with reasonable justification. Of course, there are countless solutions for any given problem, but I’ll do my best to pragmatically appeal to factors that I perceive to be the most universally recognized.

I will start by positing a premise which will serve as the foundation of further justification. The premise can be stated and formulated a variety of ways to mean more or less the same thing. Most fundamentally, the premise is this: “We are what we think”. Another formulation is: “How we spend our time defines who we are”. Other formulations include: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought” and “What we think we become” and “We become what we think about”.  Essentially the message is this: a mind, as defined by the thoughts that it embodies, derives its character and constitution from whatever it most often thinks about or dwells on. Since the aim is to determine what influences an individual’s values, and for the sake of clarity and discussion, the premise I will utilize is “how we spend our time defines who we are”.

Let’s begin by looking at how most people spend their time most generally.

Time use on an average work day for employed persons ages 25 to 54 with children

 

We can see that “Work and related activities” accounts for the largest portion of time use, followed by leisure and sports. This makes sense. For students, you’d expect that educational activities might take the place of work but, surprisingly, “leisure and sports activities” is greater than education or work (3.6 hours). But then again, perhaps that is not surprising for most people.

While this is informative, it provides little insight regarding exactly what types of activities occupy their time. Because work and related activities are so variegated from one person to another due to the variation in location and skills, it’s difficult to quantify what influential impact this has on their thinking.

Assuming that leisure or free time is a permissible indication of what a person chooses to think about when they don’t need to, let’s break down the next largest use of time and examine leisure activities.

Leisure Activity and Free Time

Leisure time on an average day

According to this data, for all persons age 15 and older, over half of free time is spent watching TV.  This seems intuitively accurate and aligns with my observations. Admittedly, however, I was a bit surprised, and skeptical, that “Playing games; using the computer for leisure” accounted for only 25 minutes. Indeed, media research group comScore indicates in their US Digital Year in Review 2010 that the average american spends about 32 hours a month online– or more specifically, over an hour a day.

Despite this discrepancy, it is evident that the majority of a person’s free time is spent watching TV (2.7 hours) or surfing the web (25-60 minutes).

Maintaining the premise “How we spend our time defines who we are”, what conclusions can we draw from this data regarding ?

The next question is “Who decides what people are watching?” or better yet, “Who owns the media?” (See article)

Media Consolidation Chart
Source: http://www.corporations.org/media/

The media is corporate-biased, of course. These are for-profit corporations beholden to the shareholders and the price of their stock. A “no-brainer”. Here is more information regarding the Big Six Owners of Media and a Media Map of Major Media Ownership and Governance. Below is a chart delineates the various ventures of some of the largest media owners:

Media Literacy, University of Montana

The above graphs show a trend of media consolidation. We can expect all television programming to come from a handful of big conglomerates.The impact of this is tremendous. Television programming is not the only influence to our values and worldview, it also commercial advertising done by other major business conglomerations. Roughly 30% of television is devoted to advertising. Television the where the majority of advertising spending occurs.

On an unrelated note, I want to point out that television and advertising is also responsible for contributing to the obesity epidemic with the vast majority of advertising focusing on unhealthy foods.

 

Consumer advertising and marketing appeals to our animal instincts, our impulsive desires, which train us to live by emotional reaction. Media bombards us with information, inundating people into unreflective thought and to live on impulse. Additionally, we idolize the wealthy and successful and are encouraged to emulate them and their lifestyles extravagant lifestyles. We perceive their excess and material comfort as a quality of value so we strive to consume and surround ourselves with material goods. We are encouraged to live beyond our means, to buy on debt despite our inability to pay. The accumulation of this debt acts as a form of slavery as we literally have negative wealth.

I would like to posit that our education system is flawed, that it creates passive thinkers who regurgitate information rather than assert their individual creative will, but I need to refer to evidence. For that I’ll leave for another post.

To conclude, I’ll bluntly state that people work as slaves with free labor contracts, able to choose which occupation best suits our skills and interests, at least until those jobs become unavailable. Well educated people, steeped in school debt, the most inescapable and viscous kind, cannot find jobs because of a society that, no longer investing in the value-added production that leads to market expansion, stagnates as the wealthy compete with each other, leading to speculative investment that further decimates the investments of the non-wealthy.

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