We have been working lately for a Ticker LED Display Signs business, which offers various topical News Feeds, as content for the LED Display Sign hardware it markets.
It struck me that this business setup is a useful analogue to place in an article like this to say something about how human societies work and gel as units, in so far as they continue to gel as units in a world as we, the Developed Nations, know it today.
The Display Signs in this world are newspapers and journals, TV and cinema and The Web, plus the talk which we hear and pass around – as gossip or as discussion – and so forth. The Feeds are the content of these Display Signs – shows, movies, news, comedy, drama, study, gossip, discussion, debate and so on.
There is, in the Ticker company’s business model a resource called Custom Messaging; which is where a person with a Display Sign is able to create her own Feeds of content on her own topics in her own words – like people do these days on The Web at Twitter, Facebook and blogs and forums and so on.
This analogue of Ticker LEDs is, then, OK to use for saying something about the methodology of how societies communicate and exchange ideas and thoughts and feelings.
Another analogue worth adding to the Ticker LED one is taken from the world of the New York, London and Paris Fashion Houses. The idea about using this came to me today when I was looking in a Bridal wear shop window (the shop also sells second-hand books, which was why I was looking in). There were female mannequins in the window which had been dressed up by shop assistants into some quite suave Bridesmaid dresses. The dresses were something very much out of the ordinary, compared with everyday dress, and in this way they were like The London Week and other high fashion shows wherein models wearing spring and summer collections parade catwalks doing the crazy walks they do.
The Fashion Designers in the Fashion Houses are the ultimate Feeds and their designs are the definitive Content of their Feeds – regarding women’s dress for the new season. The Fashion Houses, their buildings, catwalks, models are the Sign Displays whereon the content of the Feeds are displayed. The audiences, whether fashion writers and critics or rich people interested in a new look, are subsidiary Feeds (authors) of the definitive Content (their reviews) on their various sub Display Signs like magazines and society talk.
The first analogue concerning Ticker LEDs emphasises the complexity and diversity of social communications and the bewildering amount that goes on, much of it like clockwork, and all around us. (The custom message content is of course not like clockwork, and, if anywhere, this it the place where ‘spanners in the works’ are most likely to be deliberately dropped in.)
The Fashion House analogue on the other hand emphasises very well the almost exclusive Top Down nature and direction of societal Display Signs and of their Feeds and Feed Contents. Only The Web is a powerful source whereon even Joe Soap and his wife might have a say or else rip someone up. The Web is then a Custom Message source. It is available to most of us ‘also-rans’ in today’s rich societies, and importantly, it is available also for the same purposes to many ‘also-rans’ in less affluent and more repressive parts of the globe.
Let’s now look at the dynamics of Feeds and Content, using Fashion Houses as our model. The Fashion Designers set the pace. (They are more often than not men.) Theirs is a High Calling. They are The Dukes, The Duchesses. What they say goes.
(How a person gets to such an eminence and to such a level of almost absolutist autocracy is hard to fathom in an age, allegedly, of democracy? Where does such aggregation and arrogation of authority come from indeed?)
They are, they would say, judged on their performance and by the fashion critics and other mediators in their audiences, Lady so and so and Dame this and that, who have the power to make or break them. But the fashion critics and the Ladies and dames would need to work in relative unison were they to want to bring down a Fashion Designer for any reason
The word ‘performance’ is a descriptor of note. The fashion show, it is called a show, is performed as a stylised ritual of catwalks, clapping, sequences, collections, silly walks and swishes aiming to be a female equivalent of courtship display. The names of the Fashion Houses, of the models who model for them, and their images, the set times of year for shows, and their seasonal frequency; all take the form of hallowed and revered ceremony; as if something else, situated elsewhere, than ‘in the real world’ were going on.
This is the hype; the nine-tenths hype which these things are in essence. (I am not denigrating female life; I could have easily have chosen The NLA or The Premier League, or Grand Opera Houses, as equally powerful analogues).
The audiences of titled Ladies and Fashion Critics have it wholly in their interest to ‘take home with them’ the requisite high praise and the ‘shock and awe’ glamour of hype necessary for a good sales promotion of new clothes in the exclusive Knightsbridge shops over the following months. They all muck-in together to help set the trend and establish the standard. In this way, and by these means, a complete wardrobe which would have had at best a certain artistic value only, and which is hardly ever very practical or greatly commercial in itself, is raised via hype to iconic heights which are necessary as a prerequisite and perquisite for launching with a splash the new fashions into the high-end retail sectors.
Glossy clothes magazines in large variety gradated variously in the marketplace to suit any social standing are published monthly. These carry pitches, in registers at various levels, and in a very clearly demarcated pecking order, so that they are fanning downwards through the social classes to the bottom. At the bottom is the type of the girl who would have worked on a till at a Woolworths. As the images of the clothes, and the clothes themselves also, slide down the societal pecking order their opulence diminishes as do their prices. Their practicality is gradually enhanced as they trend down the line towards wholly practical at the bottom, and their levels of outlandishness reciprocally decrease. The Dime shop serving girls cannot afford the bucks to look ‘funny’ and would not understand clothes as kitsch ‘art’ either.
This sequencing in a societally downwards trend is planned and done deliberately so as to get maximum cash returns from a Season’s clothes. It follows fairly predictable sets of patterns which oddly enough work by themselves in society automatically, more or less.
‘Everyone in their place and a place for everyone’
The Web is of course The Place, if any, where this rigidly constraining, in part self-incarcerating, systematisation in the shape and direction of our societies, is best to be challenged and broken down. It is the single place in modern life where Custom Messages are able to ‘get through’; where ‘spanners can be thrown into the works’. The Place where people of any rank or class are able to say what they feel and speak their own thoughts for themselves. The Web is where new and better organisations can be and where they are being established and nurtured (Bitcoin, Crowd sourcing, Creative Commons).
And this is why the law – and the governments and businesses behind it – are trying to close The Web down – I don’t mean shut it – I mean grab control – shanghai us – put us back in our box – whatever you call it – put the lid back on.
So along with the criminals the politicals were rounded up also and sent to slave labour camps in the USSR (see Solzhenitsyn’s ‘The Gulag Archipelago’). Likewise the same tactic is being used by our masters to load into one big bag labelled ‘Wreckers: Beware!’ the guys who scam, and who hack to rob cash, who slander in malice, and plant viruses with schadenfreude – to bag up all these criminals up in the very same bag, and under the same label, as you and me; who want merely justice, love, peace, truth, concord, happiness and kindness to one another.
And who want a better life than the ones facades of hype and falsity feed like foison to people as though beasts; and which entrap us in our dependencies on a convinced need to emulate where we are led to understand real life is played out