Anyone who knows anything about my personal life knows I've never been about materialism. Most of my clothes are five or six years old if not older. My vehicle is 15 years old. Still, myself and my truck look and operate as well if not better than any of you mired in debt behind those things. And, I'm not throwing shade at you and your car payment(s). I'm happy for you. I'm just clarifying that those things don't really appeal to me anymore. For the most part, they never did. And, they never will. So, my point about the difference in the bikes isn't about focusing on the difference in value between them. My point is that it astounds me how much people don't know how to pay attention to anything in this society. The fact that the only thing people's minds permit them to process is the color of the bikes says a lot. For one, it says that for the most part, they only see color also with a whole lot of other things too.
Practically everyday, as I ride my bike around town, someone stops me, some people I know, others I don't, to ask me why I'm locking up a JUMP bike. That they see me on it all the time and how expensive it must be for me to rent it continuously. As I sat on a restaurant patio eating dinner one night, with my bike locked to a parking meter about six feet from me, I even observed one young woman stand next to my bike for several moments searching for a JUMP bike bar code to scan with her phone so she could "rent" my bike. I said nothing to her because I wanted to observe how long it would take her to realize my bike isn't a JUMP bike. After about 60 seconds of trying to find the bar code, I think she finally realized why she was having so much trouble.
A lot of people will fail to see the issue I'm presenting here. I would guess that approximately 75% of the people walking around out here aren't really paying attention to much beyond what's happening in their personal lives. And the extent to which they pay attention to anything outside of themselves reflects how much they believe everything/anything impacts their personal life. To those people who live like that, they may think I'm just bringing up a very small issue and making a mountain out of it.
This discussion is interesting to me because I have lived the last almost 40 years in a virtual state of security every second I'm awake. The one positive that results from the multiple incidents of racist violence I encountered as a child is those traumatic experiences taught me how to learn how to take care of myself and a major portion of that is being alert at all times. The young African I've been mentoring just couldn't get over it last night when he attempted to sneak up on me at the coffee shop and I was fully aware of his presence before he reached me. That's just how many of us have to live our lives. Women/non-men, LGBTQ persons, and colonized people understand what I'm talking about. But, my alertness doesn't just extend to security issues. I try to stay tuned to what's happening in the world. Since I'm a fighter against injustice, I have to make that commitment to stay informed and I believe its that political education focus that has fed into the security consciousness and every other type of consciousness that exists in my life.
Lots of people "people watch", but for me, much of that is observing people's social patterns. This is extremely interesting to me because I operate on the proposition that we don't think for ourselves in this society. Our thoughts are programmed into us 24/7 by the massive propaganda machine known as the capitalist system. This is the only explanation that answers why styles can change by the minute, but they will be duplicated by people all over the world. Dances will be duplicated. Fashion. Speech, etc. And, the people duplicating will never see and/or meet the persons who originated the specific concept so if you think for yourself, how are you learning about all of these things? The correct answer, not the answer that appeases our fragile egos, but the correct answer, is that we receive nonstop remote control messages that tell us if we wear this we will be cool. If we drive this car we will be acceptable. If we use this soap we will not stink. And this is the backward process from which we go from day to day. Its an extremely superficial process. And, its the same superficial process that explains why when I introduce myself as "Ahjamu" (Ah jaa moo), 70% of the time, people's response is "John?" Its not about making fun of people. Its not even about me caring about them not hearing my name properly, although I take extra time to pronounce it slowly and clearly. Its about studying how people are programmed to respond to everything through filters established by this capitalist system. Colonized people, women, etc., are trained, as are white men, to interpret the world through the vision of European/Judeo/Christian/patriarchal/white supremacist glasses. Everything from how we see certain communities, lifestyles, neighborhoods, cultures, etc., is shaped by this vision. And, the fact people cannot tell the difference between two bicycles that beyond their external color bear absolutely no resemblance to one another is simply a manifestation of how much we are programmed to operate on auto pilot.
The auto pilot that makes it hard for people to see the difference in the bikes is the same auto pilot that makes it hard for people to see the difference in people's experiences. Like the bikes, to many people, the lives of colonized people, LGBTQ people, is pretty much the same experience as European men. From a programmed external perspective, this vision becomes reality, even for many non-white men.
We can address the problem with the bikes because doing so will help us prepare to address a lot of more important questions. If we all agree to really focus on paying better attention to things (of course coupled with that necessary organized political education process that we just can't go without), maybe we can start learning to really and truly think for ourselves. We can break this programming. We can stop the dumbing down process and we can (in the process) start seeing the world in a completely different light. A light where we can actually change it for the better. Maybe then, when we do write about much more important things like debating Robert Mugabe's legacy, we will have the tools to make strong independent analysis, independent of that fed into us by our very enemies.