Saturday, June 23, 2007

Identity Lost

Gadabout has noticed that the individualities of the states has been lost, or nearly so. After driving up and down the east coast, through Canada, and west to Detroit, it seems everywhere looks the same. Home Depots, MacDonald’s, 7-11, Olive Garden, Shell Oil and Chevrolet stand tall and greet you as you exit the highway. America, once held together with multiple fabrics of value and belief systems, baseball and free trade has now added corporate structures to our collective personalities. Barriers and aged distinctions that just 50 years ago would uniquely define someone from Pittsburg as compared to another from Hartford have eroded with time, television, and efficient corporate structures.

A Kroger grocery store in Pittsburg is nearly identical to one in Hartford. They will sell the same foods, offer similar benefits to their employees, train employees using the same rule book and so forth. After time, all Kroger employees communicate using corporate buzzwords, transfer to other locations as they climb the corporate ladder and lose some of their hometown uniqueness along the way. If one is to be a success in America, then in most circumstances one must move throughout America to effectively assimilate into corporate molds. All of this corporate influence has stirred our disparate personalities into a regressive shade of tasteless grey.

It is not just the corporations, and I am not suggesting that any of blending is necessarily a bad thing—it simply is what it is. Our government has increased in size and scope and behaves much like its cousin, the corporation. We identify with individual bureaucracies much like corporations. Some are good and some are evil. Wal-Mart is evil, and Apple Computers is good. The Department of Education is good, and the Department of Energy is evil. The FBI is secretive and first rate, but DOT is a group of bumbling idiots. You get the idea.

I am guessing that our national personality has been shifting and evolving since the beginning and that many professional scientists and educators have been studying these trends for years. What I am noting to all of you is that in my lifetime the shifting and blending has accelerated. Dialects have attenuated, centers of commerce have lost traces of individuality once reflective of a geographic locale, and all radio and television programming and advertisements are identical. Yes, differences between regions and states remain and all individuality has not been lost, but the gap is narrowing. It is a bit eerie, to be sure.

And all of these blending trends are not stopping at the boarders. The world is trending towards centers of likenesses at a rapid rate. Ask the travelers; they’ll tell you of a world blending into one. The airline pilots, international bankers, military types, international relief organizations will tell stories of watching Survivor on the television while drinking a Coke and eating a Quarter Pounder with cheese while conducting business in Europe and Asia.

Gadabout believes that as our far-reaching corporate and governmental tentacles continue to reach out and touch globally, that these blending trends will continue. What the world will resemble is a mystery to me, but I am certain that it will be less distinctive than it is today. Observe and take notes.


Anonymous said...

America is where you choose to find it. If you want to go "corporate", then stay at a Marriott or Holiday Inn. If you want "Americana", stay at a bed and breakfast. I agree that corporations are expansive and indeed they want name recognition to coincide with a positive experience with their product, but today you can still choose another route if you are looking for character. Don't go looking for "identity" when yoy buy a product with Sony, RCA, Panasonic, or even Ford on the label. Look into corporate america where people interact (local restaurants, motels, hair dressers, dry cleaners, etc.) Identity still exists in the service industry. WE are conditioned to gravitate toward the names we know and trust, but there is still a wedge of authentic americana in many places. You have to trust in your fellow americans to provide what you are looking for instead of going with the known source.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a bunch of crap.