We interpret a variety of signs in many ways in our country. What one logo says to one person can mean something totally different to another. Nearly every aspect of our society, our lifestyles, and our decisions can be picked apart. When we dissect what is in front of us, we can see what hides beneath. We can realize that most of what we do can be analyzed in subjective ways. We as humans are a unique creature in many ways. We are one of only a few species that has the luxury to operate in a way that is not constantly focused on survival. Because of that I would argue that we are the only species whose actions have underlying meaning to them—that is, we consciously and subconsciously do things to illicit actions from our peers in subtle ways. A tree obviously cannot decide where to go or how to grow. Its life is dictated by the basic elements that make it grow, thus rendering it incapable of acting in a way that is not solely for survival. Below are a two analyses of humans, logos, and culture. One is a semiotic analysis of a man in a coffee shop on a rainy afternoon. Another is more of a critique on American society. Picking apart the small details in front us, allows us to view the labyrinth of the unsaid and the overlooked. Enjoy.
The Man in the Red Shirt
The red clothed shirt with yellow faded lettering that spells out “Marines.” The lettering has deteriorated exclusively in the regions of the man’s shoulder blades; signifying the possibility that he carries a backpack quite often. The backpack is probably of the camping variety given the amount of wear and the location of the wearing. However, let’s consider the coloring of the shirt itself. The red shirt, selected by the US military branch, may harken back to the tales of pirates. Fables of pirates wearing red to hide bloody wounds and possible injuries. The word marine itself suggests an aquatic way of life—which is interesting because they hardly ever fight on the water nowadays, which is the job of the navy. The yellow lettering is interesting. It is a flat color, with no glossy finish. There is a bit of a gold tone to the yellow—signifying a royal or “golden” way of life. The man has long shaggy hair. Based on his appearance and the number of necklaces he has chosen to wear, one may conclude that he probably got the shirt second hand. The shagginess of his attire and hygiene suggests that he is not a remember of the technology class—those who work in office buildings at desks with glowing screens and buzzing florescent lights. He seems to have rejected mainstream society in favor of one that vaguely counters it. He does have an Under Armor hat; which may signify that he, in fact, earned his Marines shirt. This is stated because those who choose to wear Under Armor accessories seem to fit into a general category that honors structure, discipline and conformity. He is sitting directly in front of a window allowing him to gaze upon the wet passersby; drifting between attention to his task and daydream. The bottoms of his pants are rolled, either to keep them off of the wet ground or to keep them out of a bike’s gears. He owns actual headphones, representing that he cares about the audio quality of the content that is disseminated from them. But it also says something about the man’s status. He is not a mere hitchhiker passing through the area on limited money. He can afford the luxury of having an expensive pair of headphones—an unnecessary thing given the fact that most people with smart phones are given a free pair when they purchase their device. The man as a whole can represent a certain part of society that is ambiguous in its morals and values. It is interesting to see a long haired man in Arcata, CA wearing a Marines shirt. It shows how we as a society have come to accept the military, and their dress ware, as a part of everyday trends. We have accepted the fact that out of one side of our mouths we can condemn the military for their horrendous actions overseas—that have gone on continuously in Iraq and Afghanistan for the past 17 years—and out of the other we can accept their logos, messaging, and prints into the culture of an eclectic, new-age hippy, town on the North Coast of California. It should be noted that I am not saying that we should not support those soldiers returning from areas of conflict. What I am saying is, we should not accept the dissemination of messages from an institution that oppresses people the world over.
This next piece is a critique of American society and culture in our current times.
We live in a society that is continually escaping any sort of grasp with reality. Those in power are increasing disconnected with their constituents; and their constituents accept the fact that their leaders are doing as they please. All around America there is failing infrastructure, dirty water, and poor schooling. Yet our government decides to spend money on military endeavors, tax cuts to those who do not need them, and push a false narrative that Social Darwinism is what is popular and acceptable to a majority of the population. All the public does look on and shrug, if they pay attention at all. We know that our politicians are lying to us, but what can we do when the systems are set up in a way to ensure that interests of a few are what runs our society. It is hard to pay attention this small revolution that is taking place before our eyes. I am guilty of apathy myself at times because we live in a world that is being dominated by a duality of screens. One that sits in our hands and the other that sits in front of us. Both entertain, and both are increasing used at the same time. But only one of them can track our every move, while the other sits and collects dust. Only one of them has an addictive power over us—designed and engineered to operate as such—that commands our attention. A screen that is full of lights, clicks and sounds. All distracting us from the slow downfall. Wealth inequality has started to become embarrassingly prevalent in our rural areas. A homeless population continues to grow and all the answer seems to be is to conduct more studies on how to best deal with the “situation.” It is as if the “dream” has died, and instead we live in a society where no one believes in anything other than themselves, because that is what we have been told is important. The tracking from one of our screens continually shows us what we want to see. And this screen, or machine rather, that has come to literally run our society—tweets from our president announcing a bevy of orders. So, we are continually bombarded with information that continues to suit our own vision of ourselves. It reinforces the information bubble that surrounds us and it leaves society with a confused vision of the future. It is a future where we can barely see what is in store for us. We see the politicians make decisions, but we rarely reap the benefits of those decisions. We know that we are being lied to, but still accept it because we know not what to turn to. We play along and pretend that it is fine, because we cannot imagine an attainable alternative. So, we accept and normalize what is happening around us at a hyper-paced speed. We have entered into a stage of hypernormalisation where the obscure and abnormal is accepted and explained, as if it were meant to happen.