I’m sitting on the BART in San Francisco and there are three 20-something-year-olds standing in front of me. One is Black, one is Asian, one is White. One is reading a book on startups, the other listening to his iPod, and the other typing on his iPhone. They are wearing matching shorts: one in salmon, one in teal, one in seersucker. They are all wearing Android watches.
The woman sitting next to me is staring at them. She is in her 50’s, overweight, and wearing a frumpy flowered dress. A classic San Francisco bag lady, she is sane but a little crazy, knew the city before it grew over her, and probably has cats at home.
“Are you guys brothers?” she asks incredulously.
The Beautiful Black man smiles at her from behind his book. “Roommates,” he says to her. “And co-workers,” he adds.
“You look like brothers,” she says back definitively.
The Bag Lady is right. These men, despite being different toned from head to Herschel bag, are identical triplets. They are the New iMan.
When Che Guevara first coined the idea of the New Man in 1965, he was attempting to redefine the idea of the individual in relation to society. He claimed that individual and societal values are harnessed together under socialism, and work in tandem to create a revolutionary state. Guevara’s fundamental point was that no society can experience a full scale revolution without a reorientation of man’s character.
It seems the New iMan is being constructed in the very way that Che Guevara laid out, albeit with a polar opposite values orientation. For Che, the ultimate goal of the New Man was to eliminate alienation and the commodity and harness man’s character to a collective goal of liberation. The New iMan, on the other hand, harnesses the ideas of the individual to the collective goal of capital.
Here’s Che’s polemic mapped to the Brogrammers: These three men are the vanguards of our new society, sporting the gadgets of the new way. Their job is to create the conditions for the masses to join them. Since they serve the iSociety, they will continue designing systems to ensure the mass production of the individual. The revolution, in this case, will reach its zenith when people only listen to music curated to their tastes, watch shows tailored to their preference, and feed on news they already agree with through the creation of the Social Media State.
In our society, Che Guevara and his socialist aspirations have been relegated to Tshirts in the discount bin of history. But regardless of how extreme you consider the characterization of the iSociety and the Social Media State, the question remains: if the New iMan is the prototype of the 21st century man, what values is our society being built on?