“It’s the end of the world as we know it, I feel fine.” _ R.E.M
The ODO (Oxford Dictionary Online) recently added Twerking, Bitcoin, and Selfie to it’s official record of modern lexicon. Although this isn’t much of a revelation considering the ODO has wandered down this path before by putting words like LOL, emoji, and other such tech born acronyms into its pages. Twerking, Bitcoin, and Selfie are something more complex and culturally specific than petty slang and lazy euphemisms. In that they represent a long well established line denouncing cultural reticence.
Twerking is really just dancing, albeit highly sexualized and not something likely to be accepted at high school dances anytime soon. Not exactly the Electric Slide. Which is the point the Twerker (twerki?) is trying to get across. Look at me, I am different, my ass is fantastic, someone should appreciate it and possibly buy the person attached to it something nice. It is demonstrative and irreconcilable to civilized behavior. In short Twerking is pretty fucking awesome. Put that in the ODO.
Bitcoin is the newest face of progressive economics. It is a face constructed entirely of binary code which scares and confuses almost everyone. The actual hard currency looks like Chuckie Cheese coins and the inventor is a mysterious recluse. The “miners” are nerds with astronomical amounts of computing power. No wonder this is met with skepticism. Yet the sheer force behind it, the brevity of it’s mechanics, the real money up for grabs makes it a concept to be taken seriously.
The lowly Selfie (not my first choice for this article) is probably the laziest and most accessible form of vanity art. Practiced and participated in by everyone able to operate the modern day cell phone. You may have never Twerked or been Twerked on, you may not have any idea what a Bitcoin is but I am damn near certain you have taken a Selfi.
What all three of these have in common is that they are the most current incarnations of very common trends. Another step in the endless forward march away form centralized formality and towards a grassroots establishment of popular culture.
By “centralized formality” I mean big business. Your MTV, Wells Fargo, Disney, and McDonalds. The ideology on which these thing are based, the corporate business model, is unlike any other business. Corporations are not necessarily concerned with their client or customer so much as they are concerned with the content or value of their own product. Because the massive size of the institution itself shapes the market and not the other way around.
Grass-root establishments are a more fluid and community based form of social phenomena. The rules are established in the flow of creation and altered over time organically. Not by a board of shareholders but by the customer acting in their own self interests. A singular choice or decision by unknown, or at the very least, insignificant portion of the contributing community can have pervasive effects throughout the entire entity. Therefore grass-root communities stand as the antithesis to the corporate structure.
What does any of this have to do with Twerking, Bitcoin, and Selfies? All three of these cultural phenomena are grass-root phenomena, born from society itself, not packaged and produced by the corporate world. The reason ass shaking, digital currency, and lazy photography signal a death to formality is because they are our asses shaking, or currency digitizing, our personal photojournalism. It is a seed planted by us for us and cultivated as a community, as a form of expression, a pop culture revolution. Twerking, Bitcoin, and the Selfie are aligned with the significance of dance, economics, and art as wholes. All of these things are true expressions of the human condition. Formality is the attempt to control the human condition. Based on the belief, not without merit, that the human condition is somehow flawed and broken. Perhaps wild and untamed, perhaps self indulgent and wreck less, yes. But the corporate world is too sterile and dehumanizing. Better to be apes in the jungle than monkeys in a cage.
We are shocked by Miley Twerking on public television, Bitcoin sending ripples through the global economic institutions and the selfi becoming a staple of modern photography. When these things were preceded by Elvis gyrating on black and white televisions, stocks revolutionizing wealth, and impressionism forever altering artistic expression. All of these things are grass root enterprises and all were met with the same cultural backlash in their own times
The question is why? I will tell you why. Because it easier to open an account with Big Bank than it is to try and comprehend a algorithmic based community currency, much less use it effectively. It is easier to eat McDonalds than it is to grow yourself a salad. It is easier to call Miley Cyrus a whore than it is to understand post-feminist expressionism. That last one makes me laugh a little. The truth is we are living in the age of connivence. The era of comfort. This era will end. Likely sooner than later. It will be those that are willing to learn now what the future will hold that will hold the reigns to that future.