"Hello-I'm Special: How Individuality Became The New Conformity" by Hal Niedzviecki
for The Corner News
by Michael Bernard
Taking examples from such wide ranging cultural phenomenon as backyard wrestling leagues to "American Idol", from YouTube and Myspace to smorgasbord religion and Rebellion-As-Commerce, "Hello-I'm Special: How Individuality Became The New Conformity" by Hal Niedzviecki picks up right where Tyler Durden's impassioned soliloquies in the movie "Fight Club" left off.
We were, indeed, raised to believe we could do anything and be anything we wanted, living out our dreams of fame and fortune. Reinforced by almost every angle of popular culture, our ideal of becoming a celebrity center of our own personally revolving universe is now as common a yardstick for members of the Digital Generation as bank statements and a house in The Hampton's might have been for our forbearers. While technology has increasingly sped up the cycle of creation (and destruction) of the Popular Culture Myth, the psychological and social ramifications of many of the trends we are in the midst of evolving have not been better analyzed or more clearly articulated. Niedzviecki delves into the subject matter both humorously and very thoroughly, never failing to entertain as he shines the light on the darker corners of the full-extension of our shared cultural mythos.
Niedzviecki is himself a life-long "rebel", whose middle-class and conservative parents fostered a strong individualist streak, and as he approached the age of 30, Niedzviecki found himself wondering what is left to rebel against once individualism has become the overwhelming cultural imperative. An astonishing panorama of the very near future can be seen, and the vision is likely to horrify and amuse in equal amounts. Niedzviecki is tremendously talented with a reputation as one of the wisest and funniest writers working in this often ignored but vitally important field of research. As Sun Lzu's "The Art of War" states--"Know Thyself", and this book has more to teach us about our selves than many of us are ready to accept.