The 21st century is saturated with ideology and we barely notice it. That is in fact the whole point anyway. It plagues our subconscious. It exists across all the aspects of our lives from health to education, to music and movies.

Ideology is a “system of ideas” as Gramsci said. It is used as an instrument for hegemony, which is basically cultural dominance of the elite, ruling class. According to Marx and Engels, the ruling class controls the ideas, values, perceptions, etc of the average person. So in short, there is a group of people telling us to live and breathe their values subliminally, and we represent their ideas of culture in our every day lives.

It’s just like when you find yourself in a crowded train and you notice how everyone wears the same thing. We are willing slaves of capitalists; we buy anything they sell most times because it’s “trendy”. Also, because it’s convenient and we have no other choice. This is where ideology gets stronger; when it is the only thing available to us. Even if you feel like you’re that one person who don’t get things because of trends, that in itself may very well be an ideology. Basically, if you think you’re special, think again. This could be associated with Adorno’s “culture industry” where he explains how the media and arts reinforce the demise of individuality.

But how does it spread? One of the agents of ideology is the media, in particular modern magazines.

Their covers, the visuals, and ads tell us what to think, buy, wear, cook, and etc. They repeatedly tell you what’s hot and what’s not, and that gets rooted in our minds. They spread these cultural signals and we absorb them, and subconsciously reflect them in the way we speak, our opinions, our consumption behaviours, and everything else. In other words, our opinions are NOT our opinions.

Another example the magazine reinforces hegemony is through the various beauty ideals we currently have. This ideology is constantly spread across their glossy pages, in the form of thin or curvy women, who are tanned (but not too tanned), with coloured eyes, and etc. In a way, this is an implicit, mind-altering, highly effective form of advertisement for many cosmetic and fashion capitalists. A specific example is to look at where I come from, Malaysia, where the beauty ideal is to be fair. Most local magazines would showcase fair-skinned celebrities with a double-page skin whitening cream ad right next to it.

Even if you are aware of and do not agree with the main ideologies present in whatever society you’re in, you are most likely a minority, and are subjected to it anyway. People like this (I’d like to include myself here) are “Victims of a System” .

But it’s not all bad. It unites people across different backgrounds and cultures. It somehow also allows for acceptance and tolerance. That is the prime 21st century ideology (among many others) in my opinion; to embrace diversity.

 

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