Let’s all be spotted hawks

OwnerIQ sez,

This video explains what they mean.

Compare those people and the way they define themselves—as products (a BMW, an iPad)—to the way Walt Whitman defined himself, just before Industry won the Industrial Revolution:

I know I am solid and sound.
To me the converging objects of the universe
perpetually flow.
All are written to me,
and I must get what the writing means.
I know I am deathless.
I know this orbit of mine cannot be swept
by a carpenter’s compass,

I know that I am august,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself
or be understood.
I see that the elementary laws never apologize.

My foothold is tenoned and mortised in granite.
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time.

It is time to explain myself. Let us stand up.

I am an acme of things accomplished,
and I an encloser of things to be.
Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me.
Afar down I see the huge first Nothing,
the vapor from the nostrils of death.
I know I was even there.
I waited unseen and always.
And slept while God carried me
through the lethargic mist.
And took my time.

Long I was hugged close. Long and long.
Infinite have been the preparations for me.
Faithful and friendly the arms that have helped me.

Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing
like cheerful boatmen;
For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings.
They sent influences to look after what was to hold me.

Before I was born out of my mother
generations guided me.
My embryo has never been torpid.
Nothing could overlay it.
For it the nebula cohered to an orb.
The long slow strata piled to rest it on.
Vast vegetables gave it substance.
Monstrous animals transported it in their mouths
and deposited it with care.

All forces have been steadily employed
to complete and delight me.
Now I stand on this spot with my soul.

I know that I have the best of time and space.
And that I was never measured, and never will be measured.

I’m sure he owned more stuff than “a rainproof coat, good shoes and a staff cut from the wood.” But hey, maybe not. But whatever he had, what he did mattered more. Here’s what he does for each of us:

Each man and woman of you I lead upon a knoll.
My left hand hooks you about the waist,
My right hand points to landscapes and continents,
and a plain public road.

Not I, nor any one else can travel that road for you.
You must travel it for yourself.

It is not far. It is within reach.
Perhaps you have been on it since you were born
and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere on water and on land.

Shoulder your duds, and I will mine,
and let us hasten forth.

If you tire, give me both burdens and rest the chuff of your hand on my hip.
And in due time you shall repay the same service to me.

Long enough have you dreamed contemptible dreams.
Now I wash the gum from your eyes.
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life.

Long have you timidly waited,
holding a plank by the shore.
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, and rise again,
and nod to me and shout,
and laughingly dash your hair.

I am the teacher of athletes.
He that by me spreads a wider breast than my own
proves the width of my own.
He most honors my style
who learns under it to destroy the teacher.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then. I contradict myself.
I am large. I contain multitudes.

I concentrate toward them that are nigh.
I wait on the door-slab.

Who has done his day’s work
and will soonest be through with his supper?
Who wishes to walk with me.

The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me.
He complains of my gab and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed. I too am untranslatable.
I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

I submit that wild and free customers are far more potent participants in the marketplace than “consumers” of “brands.”

You know, like this:

The time has come to choose your species. If you’re just what you own, you’re veal.



  1. akammer’s avatar

    It’s sad that the video you link to at the top exists. But as this excellent piece by Rob Horning lays out, even people nominally opposed to this way of thinking are more embroiled in it than we may appreciate.

    The whole infrastructure of sharing on facebook or twitter for example builds off of some desire to accumulate cultural capital through association with more or less legitimate symbols/acquaintances. Maybe Whitman or a link to an academic talk appears more authentic than BMW to the kind of people you’d want the respect of. But actually escaping this process of conspicuous consumption is hard, because for the kind of attention people crave, community norms no longer do the job. We have substituted more and more market signals as symbols for evaluating people’s worth. Perhaps this has always happened to some extent, but social networks certainly create the impression that it’s reached a fever pitch.

  2. Steve’s avatar

    akammer as you suggest it’s true about the video link. As for sharing on facebook or twitter, this has opened up a whole new world for a lot of people, whether it is business, consumers or even for socializing.

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    akammer, thanks for the Ron Hornung link.

    While I am sure that identification with brands is expressed differently through social media than it was in the decades when mainstream media ruled alone, I’m not sure the nature of the whole phenomenon is any different than it was when Naomi Klein published No Logo more than eleven years ago.

    Social networks today are themselves fashion to some degree. Which means they will pass.

  4. David Scott Williams’s avatar

    I think that the desire to amass social capital does exist on sites such as Facebook and Twitter … It has opened up a new viewport into a pre-existing, and potentially awkward world of “getting with the crowd”. It has also worked to get groups of potentially connected people together, so that they can be marketed to..

    Email newsletters from corporations that used to spam my Inbox have been replaced with “Like us on Facebook and get 5$ off coupon” messages.. And some of the privacies you share in order to participate in this marketing are things such as “Your pictures, your friend’s pictures …” .. etc… to me it seems like spam + harvest your friends, instead of just spam…

    There are plenty who wish to keep up with the Joneses .. The rest of us just want to keep up, and live a meaningful life.

  5. julien’s avatar

    you just made my day.

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