Back To School

Looking back on my work, I seem to have missed out one of best parts about the society of the spectacle – an idea that really intrigued me, yet is strangely not picked up on in my blogs. It’s the idea that in order to be passive, we need to be influenced from an early age. Schools influence us all from an early age, and they also influence our parents. Schools teach us the ‘western way’ – morals, ethics, and well as sciences, social acceptance and who to treat with respect. It teaches you the hierarchy of your country and where you’re going to fit into it. Or so ‘they’ may say.

I’ve already referenced the unveiling of all these truths at university as the ‘final joke of academia’, yet it is strange that left-wing politics would be taught to a school of intellectuals regarding the questionable reasoning of our own government. Governments need to keep audiences passive in order to keep control over them. The creation of the education system was, quite simply, genius. Education is a legal requirement, and why? It’s dressed to make your children look more intelligent if they go, but truth be told, more ‘socially acceptable’ would be closer to the mark.

We learn everything about our future life from school. What the school doesn’t teach us, we can learn from the environment around us – more specifically, the society we live in. Anything the school or the society doesn’t teach us, we learn from our parents. Sadly though, our parents all went to school as well – with a few minute changes, generally they were owned by the same institution, taught the same ethics, and have grown to be perfect role models for perfect children. Everyone in the society has gone through the same institution during their critical psychological periods whilst growing up.

So let’s mix things up – what about council estates? What about a really rough, deadly, toilet of a place? Nobody in an area like that is genuinely going to be law-abiding, respectful and what capitalism considers ‘socially-acceptable’ – they haven’t got the time nor the nerve for it. More over, they haven’t got the money. Socially acceptable behaviour and a lifestyle of the most essentially stereotypical nature can only be found with the rich people, which is why rich people are seen to be desirable, and the poor are not (it is the capitalist way). Extreme poverty in down trodden areas seems to have broken the spectacle though – spectacle that every person in the estate (presumably) has been influenced by, yet has been affected differently by the same media institutions.

If lack of money breaks the spectacle that capitalism tries to create, it’s funny that the recession has kick-started political activists all over the country. If everybody has money – even if only a little bit to buy clothes, watch The X Factor and go on a little holiday somewhere – everything is fine. If nobody has any money, then the society of the affected area seems to re-write moral values within their own culture, and create a new society. Schools in poorer areas are different from ‘respectable’ rich ones – the teachers will teach different things in a different way, and thus, you are less likely to follow the respectable academic path to university if you grow up in such a socially respectable area.

No Place Like Home – Is it socially undesirable to live here? Would you feel like you’d failed within capitalist society if you lived here? Are the people living here dumb and stupid? Why do we think this way… well, because that’s the way we were taught to look at such things. Every person living here has the potential to go to university and be ‘socially acceptable’, but the capitalist way makes it awfully difficult for them.

Is it really all about the money? The medium is the message – if an area is full of people without laptops, they are less susceptible to online advertising (and indeed monitoring). If televisions are used less, or the demographics of target audiences for various channels are not met, advertising through the TV works differently. If you’re not playing the latest games or watching the latest films, you fall behind on modern society. To put it simply (and not meaning to state the obvious here): the less money you have, the less money you are likely to make. The less money you have, the less able you will able to adapt to social norms. You will not be abele to afford to be influenced by the media. You will have no desire to be socially acceptable – nobody will care. You were taught to work and get money, but somewhere down the line the status quo went wrong. The government education institution told you to work to be socially acceptable, but got it wrong, so why owe them any allegiance?

When this happens, the social structure starts to break down. Everything is wrong, nobody has any money, and nobody other than the rich seem to have any power with regards to the society of the spectacle. The reason being – the spectacle has been broken, and capitalism is seen for what it really is – the rich feeding on the poor. The spectacle does not work on council estates, and people growing up in them are less influenced by the media or the education institutions – not because they’re naturally dumb, but because the society has grown and changed into something outside of social norms. Now they have no money, now they haven’t seen the latest film, played the latest game, or had the latest gadget. Now they are not socially desirable – they’re the dumb proletariat.

And of course the irony is that they are just as able to work as the next man – the best-paid jobs wont take them because they haven’t gone to university (they don’t fit the social norms). They are just as able to learn as the next man, but the best schools charge for older people to get an education (even when it’s a given that the free education they had wasn’t all that). I grew up on such an estate, but managed to make it to university – but as I say, my upbringing wasn’t exactly that of the ‘social norm’ anyway, so I felt if the opportunity presented itself, I had just as much ability to go as much as the middle to upper classes next to me.

The proletariat in the most run-down parts of town are – in some ways – half way there. The government has no direct influence over them, yet they do not realise the significance of this, as they have never learned of the significance of this. With the internet nowadays, every person can get a free university education of sorts, it just takes time and access to a decent internet connection. But they wont – and why? Because that’s not ‘the norm’ – the society of the spectacle tells them that they’re nothing (and tells us that they’re undesirable and dangerous), and  even though they’re not, they’ll believe that. School was really the only spectacle they ever really interacted with, so why fight it?

You Know What This Is – And chances are (unless you’re boring) you’ve tried it anyway – rich OR poor. It’s a symbol of what is socially undesirable, but it’s also funny to note that when a society first starts to break down, how much of this is available in the area is one of the first signifiers that the spectacle of capitalism is vaporizing. 

Thus, to conclude, we seem to have masses of proletariat already prone to rebel against the government. They’ll go down to London to protest and riot, then go back to bed and sleep like babies. There is no spectacle to break for them – their society is already broken. Only through socialism would an estate such as the ones I’m referring to ever recover (i.e. through the will of the citizens themselves, governed by other political heads who belong to the society as a whole). So if all we need to do is remove capital to break the illusions of capitalism… how important is the current global financial crisis? This could well be a signifier – the riots are just the first wave of society deconstructing itself. Nobody has any money, so we can’t cater to any psychological egos, nor can we dress ourselves up to be socially acceptable in any way. From a school’s perspective, we’re all poor people who have failed at life. And the cherry on top – we all know darn well it was bankers who got us into this mess. They’ve got loads of money, yet we all feel like second-rate citizens when it wasn’t even our own fault!

You can pair this fact with the facts that we now effectively own social discourse via the internet, and that the freedom of information act has made it hard for the government to keep secret operations from their societies anymore. Indeed, the poor are very poor and the rich are very rich. Everybody on both sides of the fence knows this. It is no wonder that the government has come down hard on rioters, and brings small armies to protest marches in London nowadays. When you look at the evidence, this is perhaps the closest England has ever come to full-blown revolution. If it hasn’t, it soon sure will be. Next week on November 30th, a mass strike is planned across the entire country. If I’m talking complete rubbish, it will not affect the country in any way… but I think it will. The question is, how devastating will the effect be?

I asked in an earlier post – what would it take to break the society of the spectacle? I think this is the answer – take away money, and you take away the illusion. Every government institution – schools and media corporations alike – are based upon a society built on money. No money, no society. No society, no spectacle. No money, no illusion. No money, no control. Trying times for everyone indeed.

I can’t finish this blog post without ending with a link to one of my all-time favourite films (though much like The Matrix, I doubt it will look the same after this module!) Educating Rita is a film about a working class woman who sacrifices everything she knows in search of a better life – of money and respect. Her tough journey of self-discovery is counter-acted by her bored and boozy academic university lecturer, who with all his knowledge has fully understood Guy Debord’s book and the society of the spectacle. In contrast, she wants him to teach her and give her a choice in life, whereas he only sees that he’s teaching her how to conform to social norms and be like everyone else, and in doing so losing everything that makes her a wonderful person. Intelligent and intriguing stuff, that given my background doesn’t really to be explained as to why it became an all-time favourite of mine. Here’s a clip:


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