December 16, 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On I ventured from my small declining city in farmland to the cheerless suburbs for some Christmas shopping. I wasn't immune to the consumerist spirit of Barnes and Noble. Items that I would typically ignore or mock were oddly appealing. They were potential gifts. As gifts they promised a momentary escape from profit and loss, supply and demand. Even though they lied, I couldn't help but believe them. The day after Christmas, they will have lost their potential as gifts. Sinking back down into the swamp of over-production, they will have become bargains. So much extra and unwanted stuff, they will slide into overstock and only a week or two after the New Year turn into trash. One series of such items features the motto from WWII Britain, "Keep calm and carry on." There is a "keep calm" calendar. There are mugs, tshirts, shopping bags, refrigerator magnents, and mobile phone cases repeating the injunction. Why are we so enjoined? To say that the slogan traveled from the UK where it was an ironic and affectionate nod to the Queen and British resolve mistakes geneaology for explanation. Lots of things travel through communicative capitalism's meme flows. Not all of them get their own mugs and calendars. I think the call to "keep calm" is everywhere because we are in a crisis, over the edge, living the end and one step from total panic and chaos (for a slightly different demographic the analogous meme is YOLO). It repeats a British slogan because the...

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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