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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Victims of Globalization

Kennard/Phillips, Photomontage, 2005 (appeared in: Art & Agenda: Political Art & Activism, by Silke Krohn, published by Die Gestalten Verlag 2011)

Victims of Globalization
Topics in Contemporary Visual Culture

David Stanley Aponte
September 2009

In “The Violence of the Global,” Jean Baudrillard says that “Any culture that universalizes loses its singularity and dies.” I believe that the values and essence of the human spirit are being stamped out and homogenized into a generic pulp of conformity. Globalization impedes the progress of humanity but promotes the illusion that progress has been reached. In reality humanity is de-evolving and will extinguish itself. The universal is disappearing, according to Buadrillard, and the sense of value no longer drives our actions. People act as if they are taking some sort of drug that distracts them from their own inhumane acts. Instead of taking responsibility for personal or national actions that promote globalization, people continue to consume and live their comfortable lives. The only opposition people show are those that safely keep them from being marginalized, because globalization eliminates or pushes away any anomalies to the borderland. 

In order to function in a culture that pursues the agenda of globalization, we need to embrace a certain sense of consumerism. We may oppose to certain things that our government is doing, we still must take part in the globalized society. Theoretically, if everyone banded together and objected, the system could be shut down, but it is safer to stay at home. It is easy to complain about the atrocities of the American oligarchy and still participate as a good consumer. Ideology does not matter. Everyone contributes to the strength of the globalizing force that is the U.S.

Television and the controlled media system creates the spectacle that advances globalization through advertising. Programs lowers entertainment to the lowest common denominator much like profound universal “truths” have been distilled to slogans. Nothing outstanding can exist in this system.
Baudrillard says “discrimation and exclusion are not accidental consequences; they are part of the very logic of globalization.” With globalization, anything eccentric is pushed to the borders and something homogenized owns the middle ground. In the same way that gentrification will push all the “undesirable” elements of society like the poor, ill, old, and ugly move to the edges. And then they are moved again.

This happens in the art world. Artists who have not conformed to the spectacle and commodity of current marketable trends in art world suffer because of their individuality. Once they die, they are often conformed to the art world and become the flavor of the day. A retrospective of their work is held and they are honored. “It is paradoxical to make a retrospective survey of a work which never intended to be prospective.” (The Ecstasy of Communication by Baudrillard)

Another way that globalization pushes aside the nonconformist is in the way that pop culture synthesizes the lowest common denominator of musical expression that people will buy. A band is engineered and reaches out to the masses. Musicians can be exploited and reduced to something easily digested by the populace. John Cage has made music that is impossible to push into the mold of globalized culture. His randomness cannot be successfully blended and homogenized and put on MTV. 

The violence of the global eliminates criticism. After the terrorism of September 11, no one could criticize the actions of the U.S. without vilification. No allowance was made for anyone who thought that the U.S. may have been responsible for the violence against it. In fact, those people would be profiled and labeled as a terrorist-sympathizer, much like the so-called Communists during the McCarthy era. Certainly artwork that criticized the war was unpopular for some time after the terrorist act.

There is no room in globalization for anomalies. Due to globalization, genuine activism has been hidden by the lack of true journalism, since media is globalized and detests the eccentricity of protest. Even when a half million people protest the war, the media downgrades the numbers. Violence in protest will not receive the proper media attention. Globalization has killed the activist. This is the violence of the global.

Baudrillard says that singularities, extreme acts, can stop the system of globalization. I disagree with this. The terrorism of September 11 assisted the forces of globalization as furthered by the Bush administration, more than it crippled that power. It gave the administration an excuse to send troops into Afghanistan and Iraq and strengthened the forces of Globalization. It caused torture to be normalized. It diluted values. 

Filippo Minelli, Contradictions, 2010, Brescia Italy (appeared in: Art & Agenda: Political Art & Activism, by Silke Krohn, published by Die Gestalten Verlag 2011)