Gente que Cuenta

Regression toward the mean, by Alfredo Behrens

Andy Warhol Atril press e1681495766686
Andy Warhol,
Veinticinco Marilyns coloreadas revisitadas, lámina 29 s/f

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It’s not every day that we read funny news. But I liked the one about the hipster who sued a magazine for publishing a picture of him under the headline “All hipsters look alike”.  We could almost feel the pain of the guy whose identity was damaged until the magazine proved that the photo was not his! In other words, hipsters look so much alike that the subject himself didn’t even realize it wasn’t him.

But there is a bigger problem. The world is getting too much alike. Who knows when it started? But it can’t have been long after Muzak, that indescribable music played in stores as if massaging you to buy more. Nor did the name Muzak have much of an original ring to it, composed, as it was, of the first syllable of music and the last of Kodak!

In the mid-eighties I was teaching at Princeton when a Chinese scientist, from China, rained down on us. One of the first to leave. When the vacation came, we insisted that he rent a car and drive a la Bukowski to Los Angeles. When he came back, he said everything looked the same!  At the time we attributed it to the fact that he had only known roadside motels, which still look much the same.

But the pasteurization of style has accelerated in recent years. When the Berlin Wall came down, two Russian artists wanting to sell their canvases to the Americans, hired a market survey to better understand what Americans would buy. They made some money selling to Americans and repeated the research in several countries until they realized that all the clients wanted very similar canvases: with a mostly blue landscape, with some friendly people and animals. Not what I would buy, but t the painters were selling a lot of those.

The problem is that we are running out of choices. Those who have analysed the photographs of the interiors of Airbnb rental spaces have concluded that there is excessive standardization in their decoration. The fashion is catching on in coffee shops. Architecture is not exempt either. Except for a few well-known buildings, precisely because they are different, the rest looks like a pile of matchsticks, those of the safety variety, all nicely aligned. The same with cars since they were born in the wind tunnel. They all now look blown in the same aerodynamic way. Not to mention their colours, invariably tending toward black.

And what about the people? Look, I am from the time when in Rio de la Prata men wore blue blazers and gray pants. Now it seems that they can’t even afford that, but the point is that all over the world, many of the women who can afford plastic surgery hand their surgeon pictures of Kim Kardashian to proceed.

In other words, year in, and year out, we will see hipsters out there kissing clones of the Kardashian because they have no one else to kiss and be exhausted by it.

A Korean philosopher passed by Porto explaining why. I didn’t read or listen to him because I don’t want to get tired. Tiredness, he is reported to preach, is the new normal in the capitalist world, producing hipsters who think they are free but are nothing more than slaves, condemned to kiss the clones of the Kardashian.

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Alfredo Behrens has a PhD from Cambridge University, teaches strategy and intercultural issues at FIA Business School in São Paulo and at Harvard Business Education.
Some of his books can be purchased on Amazon.

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