Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mike Gralla "Cheerful Robots"

Mike Gralla
American People II
Professor Mattson

“ ‘Cheerful Robots’ [and what C. Wright Mills really felt about society]”

Many of C. Wright Mills' ideas, which were considered radical in his time, are now taken for granted in the present.  A term coined by Mills, "power elite" defined as “a small group of people who control a disproportionate amount of wealth.” ended up in Mills being ostracized by conservatives and liberals.  But that was in the past and ironically the term is widely used today by the mainstream media.  In the article by C. Wright Mills titled “Cheerful Robots,” Americans during the 1950s were “Cheerful Robots.”  In the following excerpt from the article you can start to understand the perspective ob Mills.

“Americans during the 1950s were stuck on the idea of perfection.  They wanted to live the perfect life.  Americans lived in cookie-cutter houses, had nuclear families, and were happy all the time.  At least that's what they longed for. There were few differences from one family to another on the surface.  Most Americans worked hard to maintain their happy, perfect images.  They were all the same.” (C. Wright Mills, “Cheerful Robots”)

This view of American society by mills is not too far-fetched.  If you really examine what he is describing he is actually pretty astute.  Whether you refer to the elite as the "establishment," the "power structure" or the "top 1-percenters," the American people understand that this concentration of power undermines democracy.  The lines between Democracy and financial-tyranny in this country has seemed to grow slimmer which also has given credit to Mills points.

“The husband worked while the wife stayed home and did domestic work.   The house they lived in was in a neighborhood along with other houses that looked the same.  Inside the house were all kinds of appliances and material things to make them "happy."  Outside of the house were nice cars sitting in the driveway when they husband returned home from a hard day of work.  If there was any unhappiness or imperfection, Americans did not let it show.” (C. Wright Mills, “Cheerful Robots”)

Hiding what is really going on, not “showing true colors,” or living a life of double-sided secrecy all seemed to relate to 1950’s American society as a whole.  Look at Happy Days.  Sure it is just a TV show, but it was based on the model of American society at the time.  And it is not much different today, possibly even worse.  Houses full of electronics and smart phones, gigantic TVs and cutting-edge technology simply used for playing the best video games.  It is true that Mills was often seen as a "Marxist thinker" because of the emphasis he put on social classes and their roles in historical progress, and attempting to keep a somewhat Marxist social theory alive.  But C. Wright Mills rebelled against conventional thinking and sought his own theories and beliefs, many of which have proven valid, and not so radical, as time passed. 

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