Originally published on the SWORG SWILL LISTSERV on December 14, 1998
It was a Ginsberg quote: "The Beat Movement was never meant to be a rebellion. It was meant to bring in a new consciousness. The middle-class, who were rebelling against Mother Nature by destroying her ecologically, made us out to be rebellious." And also, when remarking on how Laura Miller had trashed his "Grammatron" in the NYTBR, Mark Amerika complained that she had set up a "false binary" and "unnecessary either/or oppositions", and then proposed that we simply open our minds to a variety of styles and possibilities within any given framework. So to answer your question, allow me to say that I too am weary of this plethora of binary constructs that attack the imagination in exactly the same way the media controls operate. In the US, the race issue is always put to the people in binary form, but everybody knows (except those on the hot button payroll) the issue is both simultaneously more simple and more complex than it's presented in the media, but the media elite and the political hacks milk the same anachronistic cow day after day, and very little ever changes except we continue to lose perspective with this increasing concentration of the THEM VERSUS THEM dichotomy.
Michael Crash writesI'm with you on thisit has always been a quite useful method of control to set up artificial binary conflicts to keep people angry at each other and to keep them blind to the true problemsBurroughs always stated that in order to truly challenge a system you have to move outside the constructs of language which is grounded in the binary system of controlof course this also leaves out most people who are unable or unwilling to approach a work such as the Burroughs booksso where should we go? I think a very effective means of challenging systems is to attack the discourse upon which they restlanguage for me is the key to powernot just spoken or written dictum, but also the language of images that are broadcast and plastered everywhere.
Levi-Strauss pointed out how in primitive myths the mispronounciation of words and the misuse of language were considered to be very dangerous and very powerful methods of disrupting the system and the coded language that they used as their base of understanding, and power. Is this not even more true todaywhen it seems that we are ever so more dependent on words and images to define our perceptions?
What power is there in producing transgressive materials that seek to wreck havoc on the codes of the dominant culture? I don't know to any degree of clarity, but I wonder if the many people who have pointed out that when we engage in straight binary resistance to the system we are only reinforcing that system, I wonder if they have a pointthat is to say, that in resisting the dominant culture straight on we help them to define themselves and to point at easily recognizable, definable, and soon to be specularized deviants who can be set up as the new boogeyman. I know I'm rambling a bit herebut what do you all think?
Gabriel wroteIt's a blood given that corporate giants and political hacks are ruthless whores. It's in their ideological DNA. But why should that stop anyone with enough guts and stamina to be different, to risk it all, to tear down the walls of a slum, and build afresh, a new way of thinking; no matter how we cut the ideological cake trailblazers can't afford to be whiners (see Henry Miller's Cosmological Eye). Of course everyone wants to be the hot new thing, if only to themselves, and if they fail, they usually become grumpy old whiners accusing the system of foul play.
But then Cobain and Steinbeck chose very different paths to avoid the pains of their success. Ghandi could have been a very rich man, he declined. What's wrong with making money, if one spends it well. Bill Gates is a jolly liar as his testimony before the US Department of Justice in his anti-trust litigation is proving, but he has frequently said that he doesn't believe in leaving amassed fortunes to heirs. If he spent enough millions on truly changing the landscape of certain depressed areas, why would not his taxations of those peoples and organizations that COULD afford it, be forgivable.
You see, there are so many complex choices presented to us, but we stumble around and usually end up either goofing along picking up a few addictions which insult our biology and agenda for happiness, or else we opt into nosing the grindstone a slave to production so that we also pick up a few addictions that insult our biology and agenda for happiness.
The key, as a few savvy Greeks agreed, was moderation in all things. But few of us (and I'm one of 'em, unfortunately) can't learn to implement moderation in our lives because we are ruled by addictive personalties, and as Tolstoy (modernized) put it, it does us no good to beat ourselves up over one addiction only to have another two or three rush in to take its place. Whether we're talking substance abuse, laziness, addiction to work, sex, well hell, you know what I mean, it's all the same problem child within us.
I don't mean lay down one's intellectual arms and join the enemy, but simply to accept the challenge of David & Goliath, forge partnerships, or lessen one's sights at directly competing, but more often than not merely supplementing the bullies, by carving out a solid niche from which we embark upon that brave, new world, regardless of who is watching, who is following, or who gives a flying carpet ride one way or the other.
Books? Yes, more books are being published than ever before, but are we any closer to changing the world, if indeed that is the stated goal of the persuaders?
Crash writesniche carving is a very good method of slicing into mediated realms (hey Manus, I'm starting to sound like one of those video game players) and setting up zones of operation (much like Gabriel has started here).
Gabriel wroteWriters have never had more freedom (despite all the Internet porn busts stinking up the coffeehouse) in history. Recall Voltaire, Rousseau, running for their lives, hiding in exile, poverty, and scorn save the intellectual and financial graces of the few. We artists (if indeed we are artists, and not simply poseurs seeking escape from responsibility) in the west now have such an accelerated vision of freedom, we think we are living in especially perilous times, and in the supertechnological superpolitical sense we perhaps are, but we have also never been more free to express ourselves (no artist was born guarateed fame, riches, or readers).
Despite my own yearning to burst out of my skin to trumpet the last charge on a world corrupted by its own sense of infallibility whether originating from the right or the left, capitalism or marxism, I am convicted by my own sense of limitation, not always imposed from the outside, but often enough a consequence of my own choices, and those of my genetic bearing. How can I blame someone else for that?
Crash writesyes, more books than ever are being publishedbut what kind of booksi have no problem with the consumption of brain candyas Manus knows when I just told him about Joe Lansdale's thrillers. But there is no need to legally pursue dangerous writers or artists anymorebecausethey are drowned out in the flood of product that dominates the market. And who is controlling what is published? What books are advertisedopen up any advertisement for a book store and peruse what is put before consumerswalk through your Barnes and Nobles, your Borders?
In the 1960s there were more than a hundred substantial publishers in NYC alone. By 1980 there were only 70; by 1995 the number had dropped down to 15, and presently, through further merging there is only 5! Major publishers and these subsequential others are also tied in with the producers of other mass mediums. Now I don't mean to sound like I'm crying that the sky is falling downbut this must be disturbing in some way.
True, the market is flooded with books like never before (as well as other forms of info) but what are these texts? Of course once again this is also a benefit to us and others who seek difference. As the mainstream producers continue to narrow their fields of interest and seek to the common denominator it opens up the possibility for very viable and strong niches of operation for smaller more specialized organizationsso perhaps this is a mixed blessing. Are we ourselves cultivating some form of sub-cultural capitalas we are all thinking on these dayswhat is our true goals in these effortsdo we intend to do something to challenge the hierarchal stratification of societythe mind-numbing mediatized conformity?
Gabriel wroteAgain Crash, when I look around these here parts I don't see this world as one straitjacketed by conformity (although I surely hear and read a lot of noise to the contrary). In the greater populations (putting aside the corporate merger trend which is just the opposite than what is happening in the de-centralized neighborhoods and streets, but I guess we have Debord to explain this cause and effect to us). I nevertheless see cat fights and dog bones between warring factions along every corridor as soldiers of each faction scrawl hard lines of demarcation to help solidify a turf. Bias to difficult, damn near impossible to extricate from the common mind.
*Your Australia may be very different from my America, but when I see a group of folks working and playing in harmony I marvel at how the group has conformed to an ideal so often missing on the street, in the universities, on certain ballclubs, in art snot piss fights, no one simply content to be different hanging on the same street corner or intellectual counterpoint but everyone bucking for superiority status.
Competition ain't dead, and if competition is not dead, how can we also be lost on the mind-numbing mediatized comformity rap? And racial conflicts with their wealth of metaphors are the easiest to exploit. Debord had it right when he said the Spectacle tosses out two opposite claims and watches the skirmish in glee, knowing that the debate will roll on forever while the social structure remains the same. Superiority, that's what straw leaders are after.
That ain't just a white man thing anymore, if it ever was (and I doubt that very seriously, the Euros just won a few wars at a strategic time in history, have gained and lost as a result). I know I'm guilty of thinking no one is my superior, and will fight like mad to prove how wrong I can be. The point is, the stratification of society is just something we're going to have to accept because it is a rather natural phenomenon despite its excesses and inherent unfairness. I agree with Matthew's proclamation of a couple of posts back:
As for "sub-cultural capital", methinks I'd like to see some elaboration on the concept. I'm not sure what you're suggesting. And since I've ranted enough today I'd rather not go barking down a cold trail.
Crash writesI don't knowi see a lot more conformity than you domaybe it's because I view the system (in the US) as encouraging a cultivated form of difference and that its ability to immediately suck up and spit out a clean, sanitized version of anything that may challenge its operationsa simplified example would be punk's howl of rageshort time of challengefear from the populaceby 1977 we see punk fashion on fashion runways, London newspapers printing articles on how punks are just part of the family, punk is cleaned, sanitized and marketeddead before it gets startedit is now just another acceptable means of conforming, albeit leaving the troubled youth a bit of dignity in believing that they may in some way be giving some challenge to the system that they feel has excluded them.
As for sub-cultural capitalit was an off-hand remark actually questioning my own purposes or intents since I believe we must question ourselvesand tossed out to everyone elsewondering if I may not be somehow cultivating a form of sub-cultural capital, a sanitized and safe form of alternative "cultural capital" (cultural capital cultivated artistic and intellectual capabilities that leads to your being valued by elites).
As I said just questioning my own intentI have a very good friend from eastern Europe who understands resistance to a system in a way that I never could, having grownup in the states where, although they will and do kill people for the wrong reasons, it's not quite as harrowing and prevalent as the former soviet system)she constantly keeps me on my toes about some of my *resistance* stances and leads me to question my intent (or as I think she may see it my overly romantic, overly idealistic views). So I guess this was a moment of self-doubt on my part. What do we see as the problem that we should be devoting our attentions towe seem to be attempting to come up with plans of attack without really thinking upon what we want to change or what we could best effect with our efforts.
Gabriel wroteElitism based on phony distinctions is a major problem, but hucksterism is its whoring stepsister. They hate each other, plot behind each other's arched back, spit in each other's intellectual food, kick each other's namby ankles, and attempt to steal each other's cultural graces without even bothering to shed its skin until it's absolutely forced upon them. Both exist across every social and economical class. Both breed mistrust and greed. Acknowledging their relationship to each other however they will bond together to thwart any and all those who stand in their way, that is to say, the vocal non-elitists and the few trailblazers committed to absolute (not to be confused with pre-conceived) integrity.
How do we attack this world of theirs, if we declare ourselves enemies of elitism and hucksterism, you ask? We must practice a more honest implemented form of warfare in putting our own personal spins on the solution, that is, we must know who and what we are, playing the humble idiot if we must, the loud-mouthed brute if we dare, but always, always keeping to the mark when it comes to personal honesty (read Henry Miller, enemies hate it when you've already laid all your own dirty laundry on the table, and they can't hose you with it in an ambush) and candor (without the elitism & hucksterism, we must define these values next) but I am still nagged by something Manus wrote:
Gabriel wrotemy visceral response to this outlook is negative running contrary to my hypothetical Boy Scout nature, but I reluctantly agree with the whole of Matt's statement, so I guess I am still fomenting the idea of caustic abruptness (as Landry will testify I'm no rookie rabblerouser) as it is magnified in relationship to my sensibilities concerning false elitism and hucksterism in the SWORG groupthink arena. But I still think the whole concern is rather premature since we have mucho mucho work to do in the chainthinking section of the site particularly since, uh, wait a minute, uh since, in fact, no one but Manus is privy to those earlier discussions which initially brought him into the Scenewash Project. Truth is I'm aware of no one but he who has actually signed onto anything but the SWORG-talk list, and believe me I'm far too jaded with past failed collaborations to presume ANYTHING about who is committed to what at present.
Crash writesI like your ideas on what we need to doas far as moving past the abuses of huckesterisma and elitism. And I truly believe in the need to hone and develop a true system of personal honestynothing could be higher on my listbecause I believe that is the key in my development and that it is also vital in my dealing with others (both my personal honesty and hopefully theirs). As for other efforts that are need here on the websiteyou are correct in your statement that I haven't contributed to the Scenewash Projectbecause
I hope that this is not a problem, but you must understand the situation that I'm in and that while willing to contribute to "our thing" I must keep a check on the very real concerns of food and shelter.
Gabriel wrotewell, Crash, like the tagline goes, think globally, act locally, the cutting edge shimmers, and so drifts the echo, the pitter patter of dangling lost feet...
Here's an example of what I mean about pinning the "tale" on the donkey, getting at the root of one's individual or collective desires in the seemingly vain attempt at rewriting the rulebook of human life on earth. Like much that passes for wit in the spam-o-world, these few lines exemplify a certain notion about human conceptuality, methinks I agree with the ebb and flow, flim and flam, now and then of this humorous anecdote, a mundane work of pure genius because it works on the bitter impact of male sexuality and displays precisely why man in all his glorious self-service is shamefully self-conflicted, context-impaired, and tragically unfit to judge for himself much less for others the reach, unintended consequences, or formulaic global distinctions required to further methodologies as complex as those required to "install" freedom and liberty for all, as if one were merely ordering Chinese takeout for a family of four. Read on...
So again I am prompted to ask, "What does a would-be worldchanging revolutionary like you or I desire in terms of a workable liberty for all? I hear plenty about injustice and those conflicting wills to power that we loudly boo at every turn of the screw, but I hear almost nothing about this brave, new world we all supposedly desire in our heart of hearts. Even when I do hear of some shimmering off the wall ploy, like Bob Black's "Zerowork, All Play" anthem to futurism now, in a solar system where the 2nd law of thermodynamics rules with an atomic fist, I see an all or nothing approach rather fetching in aspiration but far too reaching in terms of practicality or desirability, especially when much of the labor required to oppose entropy is merely camouflaged as play in a falsifying language, much like political correctness operates today."
Gabriel wroteSipping Samson agonistes, I agree to a tee, hey Crash, you've arrived! We're obviously challenging the obvious, the purpose, strata, conformity of rice pudding in the lower provinces, then we'll move on to the next pile of rubble. Rejoice, pick up your blanket and walk!
Crash writesI seek the chance to develop a community with others who are seeking change and are willing to go about it. I'm sorry if my situation is not exactly key for mass involvement, but as I stated above I will contribute in any manner that I can. Hopefully this is enough. If not so be itbut thanks for the encouragement Gabriel and keep me posted. Decemberwhat a pissy time of year...