Fashion as the Boomer Sacrament
Being preoccupied with fashion, always aiming to keep up with its ever shifting trends, used to be regarded as a frivolous attitude; “the thrill of seeking out delight” (Gerald Gould), a self-indulgent, vainglorious tendency of people who care too much about status and approval.
The thrilling side of novelty ensures there’s a hideous aspect to it as well. In order to grip your attention, it has to shock you in some way. In order to shock you, it must be irreverent and transgressive of some aesthetic norm (good proportions are familiar and familiarity is the enemy of the ‘brand new’) , while at the same time satiating some burning desire; think of the grotesque botox lips, the bum lift, tight licra or the flared pants and hair styles of the 60s and 70s. Like porn or junk food, as soon as fashion satiates the primary urge that made it appealing, it becomes disgusting. After it’s become ‘dated’ and ‘out of fashion’, almost everyone can clearly see its ugly aspects (something which myself, as off-modern, could see from the beginning).
Boomers, unlike younger socialites, seem to regard fashion with superstitious piety. They follow the social disruptions brought about by tech trends or political activism with fervour and devotion. Installing the new update that just dropped is not frivolous and superficial, nor is it regarded as a self-interested attempt to stay relevant and gain clout. It is the new epiphany of the god of the Future; the providential message from beyond which we must internalise in order to discern the language of Progress.
If the new ‘current thing’ is distasteful or even comically absurd, this sacramental attitude prevents the boomers from realising it. The myth of progress seems to inhibit the brain area responsible for aesthetic judgment.
Boomers are clumsy with tech; there is always a distance between themselves and the tech gadgets they interact with. It seems that this very distance contributes to the sacramental attitude I described above. Not really knowing how a thing works allows them to romanticise it. I don’t mean to be offensive. As the tools of our current technocracy continue to shapeshift, we will all become ‘boomers’ eventually; with AI maybe sooner than anticipated. The Boomer clumsiness is deeper than a mere lack of know how. Yes, it might have taken them longer to become comfortable with the mouse and keyboard, or to be able to quickly navigate Windows and Internet Browsers. But eventually they overcame the initial obstacles; and there were, of course, those who had been proficient computer users since their youth.
The Boomer clumsiness with tech is spiritual. They can fully understand how a thing works, without getting what that thing is; the patterns of being it generates; the types of interactions it tends to encourage. Its symbolic shape, so to speak.
Take Facebook, for instance. Everyone realises that what this thing is differs from its interface. The interface is the friendly persona – allowing people to connect with family, birthday reminders, cosy, wholesome interactions etc. The true nature of Facebook is invisible, but we all feel it. And even though it’s hard to fully name the [demon] egregore, in 2024 we can at least agree in hindsight that Facebook is completely different from what it pretended to be and what we thought it was in 2010. You do not need a complex grasp of power politics or some all-encompassing theory to understand a normie-tier documentary like ‘The Social Dilemma’.
“Things are not what they seem, kids. Facebook is selling your info to third parties, it is not a friendly place – in fact, the algorithm is antagonising, polarising and manipulating people.” And I don’t even have to invoke its CIA origins to understand this reality. This thing which collects your freely given personal info is something other than the cosy persona it puts forward. You can explain it as intentional or as an unforeseen consequence; but you must know by now that Facebook is an abomination, that you need not treat it as some serious forum of intellectual debate or some neutral news platform. Least of all a cosy family space. And if nothing else, you can at least notice that Fashion (which you devoutly revere) has already moved on and declared Facebook cringe and passé. Younger generations fry their brains on Instagram and TikTok nowadays.
Yet none of this can shake the boomer’s benevolent, optimistic attitude towards an abominable thing like Facebook. This is the distance I cannot comprehend. He never seems to sense what the thing is and what it really does to people. He insists on projecting sacramental notions to it. We, other generations, sense the negative aspects to differing degrees; even if we are influencers or avid users, we tend to be disgusted with that side of ourselves; at least we see it for what it is – a cheap thrill facilitated by clever Pavlovian mechanisms which make it incredibly addictive. It also doesn’t help than no one dares to take the first step and put the phone in their pocket. But the Boomer insists on the Messianic role of the Zuckerborg. He insists it’s all ‘Progress’, all good, wholesome and edifying, as long as you CHOOSE to use it for GOOD. And you can clearly see that, just as every other age group, Boomers aren’t immune to the bad sides of tech. The perfidious gaslighting and manipulation affects them just as everyone else. The atomisation, the draining of attention, the shrinking of the ability to really think, the shrinking of one’s aesthetic taste – it’s all affecting them.
I don’t have a proper ending for this; nor do I feel the urge to identify a deeper cause for the Boomer’s religious attitude towards tech. It is what it is.