Want to know what's wrong with kids these days? Good. I'll tell you. In my day, we had a concept known as "selling out." These days, there is new concept, called "selling out." Kids love it!
Almost everyone sells out sooner or later, but it's pretty fucking depressing to see an entire generation of 21 year-olds who should be doing drugs and talking stupidly about The Revolution instead doing drugs and talking stupidly about which brands are Real. Kids these days will argue with you until the weed runs out over whether or not selling out even exists any more.
You fools. Selling out will always exist. The less you believe it exists, the more The Dark Side wins. Kids these days are met with the sellout armies—water bottle-toting "brand ambassadors" lying about wanting to "help" you, the student—as soon as they arrive on campus.
"We are the people who understand what kinds of things the students will be open to," says Alex Stegall, a Carolina junior who recruited about 20 members of her sorority for the American Eagle promotion. "It's marketing for the students, by the students."
Wrong. It's marketing for a corporation, of course. And by the way kids, "marketing" will never be "cool." It is, as a concept, diametrically opposed to coolness. It does not matter if you use the product in question yourself. Your life, and any art you choose to make with it, have a potential that goes far beyond "informing my peers about the new American Eagle items for sale this season." Don't sell yourself short. It's much better to look back one day and be embarrassed about your AdBusters subscription than it is to look down, at your desk, in a marketing agency, where you work, thanks to your enthusiasm as a Campus Brand Ambassador.
Where are the drug dealers, hippies, artistes, musicians, and angry left-wing campus political factions to balance out this bullshit? Kids these days don't have role models. We faceless, ranting, unaccountable bloggers can't do it all ourselves! Kids should be reading Noam Chomsky and listening to KRS-One (early KRS-One, before he started doing the Nike ads) and making angry music about how all the sellouts out there are destroying real music with their money and lies. Instead they're taking their own angry music into a studio run by Converse, which hands out free studio time in exchange for the right to the one thing it can't buy directly: the halo effect of superficially cool young people. Converse invites you to sell out without even getting paid.
On Tuesday in Studio B, a small room, a rapper named Najee the 1 was recording "Elevated," a song about his troubled life that he hoped would be spiritually uplifting. When he could not remember a lyric, his manager, Marat Berenstein, told him to check his iPad.
"We'd like to aim for licensing opportunities," Mr. Berenstein said of the recording. With that in mind, they debated a lyric about marijuana.
"We can't sacrifice the art completely," Najee said.
Mr. Berenstein, 28, whose profile on Google + reads, "I've accepted my position in life as a winner, as a leader, as the example," said he would work only with a brand whose products he and Najee would use. "We all wear Converse," he said. "That's the reason we're here. And if they were here" - referring to Converse executives - "we'd say we love Converse."
It's called being co-opted, and it is what's happening. Wake the fuck up, kids. Don't sell out before you have to. You don't even have any bills to pay yet.
[Image via Roberto_Ventre's Flickr]