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The Commodore Shoots: 12/8/08

Nikon FM10 Nikkor 35-70mm f/3.5-4.8 lens

ISO 400

Fort Greene Park, with model Chelsey and Walt Whitman

Independence and Morality

Listen to this on the way to work!

MP3 File

The question of morality and being a better individual.

With so many vices at our disposal and their proliferation more accepted, it is difficult for even the most dedicated of young urban philosopher to withstand the assault. We laugh in the spectacle of celebrity debauchery, and subconsciously mimic their behavior. So the question is this: Will a purge of unessential social crutches like consumer electronics allow us to see clearly the truth of morality and reason? If we shun high definition television, step away from 24/7 computer engagement, and shock people with an inability to immediately communicate with us—are we left with an essential self who is independent, and therefore morally righteous? To quote Cicero's Discussion at Tusculum, “The whole point of morality is its independence.” I think we would be hard pressed to say that we are independent, in any sort of way, from what we are provided in our consumer culture. An example:

“So say you go about this whole getting rid of your cell phone thing. Say we go to meet up for a movie and I'm on the 2nd floor and you're on the first. I can't call you and find out where you are. And we don't see the movie just because you didn't have a cell phone.”

This was the argument a colleague of mine used against my renunciation of cell phone use. In his thinking, the necessity of cell phones illustrated the very point I intend to make—we cannot be happy people when we rely on inanimate objects. Somehow, sometime, we lost our ability to navigate our social lives without mobile phones. I would submit that the further we go down this path, the more we distance ourselves from being able to be happy people. Epictetus remarked, “If it's freedom you seek, then wish nothing and shun nothing that depends on others, or you will always be a helpless slave.”

To me, freedom is happiness. Cell phones rot that freedom.

When our social lives depend on these abstract devices that serve no real purpose other than to muddle what should be no more complicated than, “Meet me at 9:00 in front of the theater I will be outside,” we jeopardize our own happiness and independence.

It's happening already: Independence from these machines is unthinkable. And that's if we voluntary remove ourselves from its grasp. What then if an individual is expectantly removed? Say you're road tripping through the Utah mountains at 2am and your GPS cuts outs. Do you know how to read a map? Is there even one in the car?

Morality is Independence. Independence is happiness. Cell phones are not.

Simply put, by The Commodore

On Sneakerheads and Hypebeasts

A dedicated cult of street oriented fashionista's pile into a boutique shoe store in a hip part of town. Nostalgic t-shirts with references to the hip-hop culture of yesteryear, usually with a disposition to more gangster oriented artists line the clothing racks. An Asian, a white guy with tattoo's, and a brotha stand around disengaged. These are the owners and their arrogance is warranted. Like Nino Brown said, “They'll be loyal customers, if not, fuck it, it'll be like in beiruit, they'll be live in hostages.”

And hostages they are.

Slaves to their appetite. Duped into thinking they're asserting their individuality by purchasing the latest sneaker. To some degree, within their smaller groups of friends they might actually achieve that desired individuality. But with their skateboards and dunks, a council of advertising executes applaud one another on once again making the fringe counter-culture, a bankable asset.

So what do we do about these blatant attempts to cash in on our desires to be individuals? Let us look to Thomas More's hypothetical perfect society "Utopia". The children from an early age are given gaudy baubles and trinkets as playthings. The idea being they will naturally outgrow a desire for them. Similar to how we give up our G.I. Joe action figures or Sonic the Hedgehog doll you cried over in front of KB Toys, only to have your mother refuse to buy it, but elaborately deceive you by giving it to you in the morning as a present. Why would she do that?

How do we Vaccinate against empty products pandering to our genuine hopes and dreams? Here's what the Utopian did for their children:

"They gather do not look for them...when they have found some by chance...they use them to deck out their infants, who are boastful and proud of such gems in their earliest childhood but, as they get a little older and notice that such trinkets are worn only by children, they become ashamed of them of their own accord and, with no urging from their parents, they give them up just as our children discard their baubles, necklaces, and dolls when they grow up."

In our world though, this already occurs and it does not work. Adults dress like children, and children emulate the shallow role models they see on TV. Still, the logic of More's argument is sound. It simply needs a modern reinterpretation. How can Thomas More's logic of devaluing trivial commodities apply? Solution: Give Scholars, Educators, and Civil Servants our Trinkets.

Our putrid society values these superfluous items and the moral bankruptcy of our celebrities. So giving a criminal like, Suge Knight, diamond studded sneakers or making urinals out of gold would just amuse the unvaccinated masses.

The modern solution then, is to give these trivialities to the people who don't get the respect they deserve. Twelve year olds aspire to be like the rappers on MTV and bimbos on The Hills because of the (fabricated) decadent lifestyle they purport to live. Give the people who deserve the attention these gaudy trinkets. For example, if college Professors started wearing hi-top Nikes one of two things would happen:

1. Students consider these counter-culture items suddenly “uncool.” Nike readjusts and goes after another fringe trend. Rinse, repeat.

2. Students, seeing their custodian of knowledge dressing like media celebrities, shift their aspirational energies to being like people of societal worth.

It's a win win situation. Win win.

- The Commodore