Late Capitalism

Shatter Unnecessary Comfort Zones

Antonio Maurice Daniels

Certain aspects of our day require planning and adhering to a routine.  We do, however, have many opportunities to experience the joy of life that comes from unrestricted spontaneity.  When people are beholden to comfort zones, their lives are dominated by routinization; that is, a highly regimented and scheduled life that acquiesces to the dictates of late capitalism.  Life devoid of spontaneity is mundane and uninteresting.  Although people should not go out and do things that are immature, one needs to benefit from occasional adventures.  Don’t allow your comfort zones to limit who you are and what you can become.

About three years ago, I had one of the most exciting experiences of my life: I went kayaking.  As someone who cannot swim, the thought of kayaking is something I would have never imagined I would do.  One of my best friends, Dr. Renaldo Blocker, convinced me to go kayaking, although I was opposed at first.  Even though I knew there were some potential risks associated with kayaking, I did not allow those risks to prevent me from having a truly fun adventure.  Dr. Blocker, a mutual friend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and I went kayaking on Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin.  We all had a great time.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

From this experience, I gained a deeper appreciation for the power one obtains from conquering something he fears.  I learned that when one focuses more on meeting a challenge instead of surrendering to it, he can overlook the fear related to the challenge and simply embrace the pure bliss of the moment.

It was such a wonderful day to go kayaking that summer in Madison, Wisconsin, considering it was a really hot day but the coolness of the lake assuaged the sun’s impact.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

Develop a passion for learning something new every week and doing something you’ve never done each month.  When you shatter your unnecessary comfort zones, you can discover strength, resolve, confidence, skills, knowledge, and much more you never recognized you had.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Think Beyond the Present

Life is full of noise.  Although many people can be productive when they are surrounded by noise, and many people enjoy lots of noise, try to find some quiet time for yourself each day to reflect on yourself and your future.  Far too many people situated in the postmodern epoch are not thinking beyond the present.  In Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson contends that ephemeral thinking is a dominant characteristic of the postmodern moment.  In The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change, David Harvey agrees with Fredric Jameson that ephemeral thought is a central characteristic of postmodernity.  While one should certainly have solemn concern about what’s going on in his or her life in the present, this should not hinder him or her from thinking about and planning for the future.

Don’t simply let your present conditions and circumstances defeat your vision for where you want to be in the future.  If you have set high aspirations for the future, then you need to find some quiet time each day to reflect on how much progress you’re making toward meeting those goals.  You need to think about solutions to your present conditions and circumstances that are hindering or that could be hindering you from reaching your goals.  Think about the things you’re investing your time in right now and resolve whether the things you’re investing your time in are conducive to moving you closer to meeting your goals.

Even if people begin to wonder why they cannot find and contact you at certain periods of the day, don’t worry about this.  Effectively planning for the future will require you to get away from it all for periods of time.  If you can only find about 15 minutes a day of quiet time, use this time wisely to reflect on yourself and your future.  You will be amazed at how much can be accomplished by just reflecting and focusing on your future for just 15 minutes a day.

During the quiet time that you’re engaged in planning for your future, always have something to write with available.  This can be pen and paper or a laptop.  It’s vital to capture your thoughts in written form.  Too many people do a whole lot of talking about what they want to do and what’s going to happen to them in their future, but they have not developed a thoughtful written plan to help lead them to achieving their aspirations.

If you’re really serious about your dreams and aspirations, you will create a written plan that contains the thought, research, and knowledge necessary to progress you toward making your dreams a reality.  Yes, you must think about aspirations and discuss them with others, but you must inevitably construct a well-thought written plan for those aspirations to be taken seriously and for them to be achieved.

Yes, life is saturated with noise but find ways to escape the noise to plan for your future.  Just because things are not working in your favor right now does not mean that they are going to continue to not work in your favor—unless you just give up on your goals!  You may have to make changes to your goals and the details of your written plan, but you should never give up on your dreams.  Don’t let any person or thing keep you from accomplishing your goals.

References

Harvey, D. (1990). The condition of postmodernity: An enquiry into the origins of cultural change. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Jameson, F. (1991). Postmodernism or, the cultural logic of late capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Longing for Ideas and Creativity in Inception

On yesterday, I had the great fortune to go watch Inception. Without a doubt, Inception is my second favorite film. My favorite film is A Beautiful Mind. As I reflect on what makes Inception such a great film, I have resolved that I do not have the time and space in this article to explain it to you. This article will not be a plot summary of the film. What I have decided to do in this article is discuss one of the dominant themes that emerge from Inception. This film reveals a serious longing for offering ideas and believing in ideas. In this article, I elect not to focus on the film per se but focus on a discussion of the longing for ideas that the film champions.

It seems that in virtually every space in American life there is a dearth of real ideas being offered. People do not have a willingness to offer ideas that will engender alternatives to the status quo. In Postmodernism or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Fredric Jameson posits that true scholars and intellectuals offer alternatives to the status quo, even alternatives to our capitalist reality. Although people can talk about how beautifully written Inception is (and I certainly don’t disagree), the power of the film lies in its ability to inform us about what is needed to provide authentic alternatives to the status quo: a hunger for ideas and a value of creativity.

I contend that it is more vital to examine Inception’s critique of our waning value and commitment to ideas and creativity than it is for us to simply look at how beautifully written the film is. There are numerous films that are beautifully written that are harmful to disadvantaged populations, women, racial and ethnic minorities, and members of the LGBT community, so just speaking about how beautifully written it is places the film in the same category with films of this poisonous type.

I would highly recommend that all teachers, administrators, and students watch this film because it is sure to spark in you a renewed commitment to exploration, discovery, ideas, and creativity. This masterpiece, Inception, could not have been birthed without the hunger and thirst for creativity and ideas of those who are responsible for manufacturing it. When the Bush administration was considering immigration reform policy, Inception would have been a nice film for them to have closely engaged with. When the Obama administration was considering healthcare reform, Inception would have called them to explore innovative ways to ameliorate healthcare in America.

The educative value of the film for average Americans is it not only calls them to pursue ideas and creativity, but also gives them special insights into Freudian ideas about the mind, especially the subconscious/unconscious mind. The film is one that is easy enough for the average American to follow if he or she is willing to pay close attention to what’s going on, but it is also sophisticated enough to satisfy the deepest thinkers among us.

Fredric Jameson argues that postmodernism (the historical epoch in which we reside) celebrates fragmentation. A classic postmodern film, therefore, will feature a significant amount of fragmentation without any real purpose. In Inception, the fragmentation has a clear purpose: to let the viewer know that he or she can put all of the pieces together by finding his or her “home,” a home of ideas—where creativity and the generation of ideas is welcomed, encouraged, and supported. Jameson contends that people must engage in “cognitive mapping,” that is, concatenating one fragment with another to produce a totality—a whole that makes sense. This film is quite useful in providing us with an opportunity to engage in a healthy exercise in Jamesonian cognitive mapping.

Again, I encourage people to move beyond simply praising the writing that produced the film and move to more specific aspects about Inception that make it a great film—by doing this, you will really make a contribution to the discourse about the film. We know that the writing is great in the film—this is why the film has been such a success at the theatre, but we need to know specifically why the film is so great. I have heard and read too many praises of the film’s writing. The film is too great to reduce it to simple slaps on the metaphorical butt. Inception is certainly a film that evinces the importance of ideas and creativity.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison