Wildcat Economics The Supramodern Shaking Uncontrollably
we are at war...
critical analysis
commentary
fiction
video
disemboweled poetry
art
street media
the movement
publications
contact
Search DU


Subscribe

Enter your email to receive DU's Dispatches from the Supramodern




Sacrificing Liberty for Enjoyment

By Nico Rahim

If humanity is to have a recognizable future, it cannot be by prolonging the past or present.  If we try to build the third millennium on that basis, we shall fail.  And the price of failure, that is to say, the alternative to a changed society, is darkness.
—Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914-1991

The most difficult obstacle to overcome today is the sense that one is radical or subversive, precisely because this sensibility is so pervasive, even among—or especially among—the most conservative subjects.  In fact, convincing subjects that they are radical has become the primary function of ideology today.
—Todd McGowen, The End of Dissatisfaction?

I have seen the greatest minds of my generation give up on any notion of change.  Apathy and cynicism pervade my generation.  My peers see the fundamental flaws of the current system, profess a cynical understanding of the world, yet believe there is nothing that can be done, falling back on sentiments similar to the famous declaration of Jim Morrison in the late 1960s, “I don’t know what’s gonna happen man, but I wanna have my kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames.”  It is this cynicism that gives my generation its sense of radicality.
           
I am afraid.  I am afraid that I am part of a generation of whose comfort and complete satiation of material needs has made it impossible to see anything other than the status quo being of virtue.  It seems while the majority in prior generations have sought to progress this generation seeks stagnation.  At least this is what you would see if you turned on the radio and TV or pick up a newspaper. To say stagnation is not to signify economics, my generation is far from economically stagnant; we know nothing other than consumption for private interest.  When I say stagnation I mean in terms of social progress, in terms of constructing new ideas, ideas from beyond the horizon of liberal democracy and global capitalism.  Liberal democracy is oxymoronic in multiple ways.  In its current manifestation liberal democracy is far from democratic giving undue liberty to corporations that function much in the way of oligarchic fascist states.

Today, a free market is only free for those in control of capital.  In the liberal democratic state we find ourselves in it is liberty that is actually eroding democracy.  The word liberal is a signifier that no longer signifies the liberty of an individual, but signifies corporate liberty.
           
In this epoch of postmodern global capitalism we are commanded to enjoy ourselves.  We are told we should not sacrifice our enjoyment for anything—enjoyment is our inalienable right—but this has only made us alien the public world around us.  We are also told through advertising and the media—which are one and the same—that enjoyment is found through consumption.  Both the command to enjoy and the paths to the imaginary sources of enjoyment are everywhere—they are inescapable.  On TV, in print, and on the radio waves; on buses, on walls, on floors, on every available public space the commandment of private enjoyment is displayed.  Although this idea of enjoyment may be freely commanded, attainment is far from free.  Today, this imaginary enjoyment is mediated by supply and demand, creating a market value.
           
Every epoch has had a variety of social genre and sub-genre, being constituted of different generations—both young and old—yet each generation is still a multiplicity in and of itself.  No homogeneous mass marching to the same beat.  Within an epoch a generation finds a voice when the many people and peoples who make up a generation share a common motif, like a river whose many simple yet different and intricate sounds combine, creating a uniform rush.
           
To say this generation I mean my peers: the teenagers, twenty-somethings, and those in their early thirties.  No less importantly, my generation consists of people of the same age throughout the world.  This is important because to overthrow global capitalism the revolution cannot be restricted to a specific country or region, but itself must be global.  Secondly, when I say epoch I refer to the present conglomeration of generations that now constitute all subjects of the social order.
           
It is important for me to separate the world’s youth from the older generations, not only because it is the generation I am a part of but because an understanding of the youngest generation of mature intellect is to have an understanding of what future might be.
           
The actions of Cindy Sheehan during the summer of 2005 might have been one of the ultimate examples today of the changing political tides between generations.  It seems as though my generation has very little motivation to take action, there is even very little resistance through passive means.  How did so many children become more conservative than their parents?  What factors are behind Generation Y being more intellectually regressive than the generation of their professors?  I believe the youth of this country oppose the Iraq War and other acts of military and economic imperialism just as much as the mothers, but why are the parents of a generation with a voice while we are tongue-tied?

Revolution has never been more necessary than it is now.  We are past the time for reform. Politically, the right panders to the weak demands of the left.  Just look at the current situation in the US, Democrats are impotent, they have conceded to the Fukuyaman myth of liberal democracy being the “end of history.”  There is very little that differentiates Democrats from Republicans.  Democrats might be more inclined to tax and spend on social programs, but both are equally subject to corporatism that unquestionably supports the neoliberal mechanism.  Democrats may support policy that could slow the polarization between the rich and poor and environmental degradation, but offers nothing to actually reverse the trends.  This problem is not a problem specific to the US.  Within overdeveloped nations there has yet to be a serious political alternative to neoliberal global capitalism since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

It is the affliction of postmodern relativism that has put the global left on its deathbed.  The right has found its universal maxim of global capitalism, but the left continues to eat its own, never allowing itself proceed in a manner of practical construction.  While Derrida’s notion of deconstruction—emphasizing difference and contrast—has fallen out of favor with most leftist intellects, most leftist movements of the last 50 years have deconstructed themselves, hence having no practical construction. 

The left has not yet learned to move beyond postmodernity, even though most have rejected the fundamental constructs of it.  On the other hand, the right has long used this difference and contrast to succor dissenting movements into a space that allows for imaginary difference and contrast.  This can be seen by looking at leftist political, social, and cultural movements since World War II; civil rights, sexual, and environmental movements have only had—at best—modest success precisely because the global capitalist model has provided some sense of imaginary enjoyment, a superficial enjoyment that has lessened the desire to pursue true liberty.

It is an important note, the terms left and right are extremely vague and non-specific, and the usage of the terms does lead to the further polarization of peoples whose state in the global game has much more at stake than simply leftist and rightist policy.  But, for the purposes of this article, the present constructs of left and right will be adequate, and in them I will be rather general, specifying the right as pro-neoliberal global capitalism and the left as a conglomeration of different interests in opposition to global capitalism.  Thus, today, there is no active political left in most overdeveloped nations.

Todd McGowan’s quote given at the beginning of this article is very telling to the situation found in most overdeveloped nations.  Conservative and obedient people find themselves to be radical.  The structure of global capitalism has allowed for any and all difference and contrast that does not pose itself as a threat to its structure, a structure of unrestricted capital flow that ensures an elite few will control capital, thus politics.  This feeling of radicality manifests itself in a variety of ways; one of the more ironic manifestations is in those who consider themselves radically conservative, or radically American, radically French, or radically Dutch.  Nationalism is not completely complementary to global capitalism, but it does give great reason not to develop greater means for justice in distribution of capital.
           
Currently, the United States is engaged in a war with no end.  This so-called “War on Terror” gives only justification to rape and pillage nations and regimes that seek to resist the imperial—neoliberal—will of the United States.  The neo-cons believe we are entering a New American Century; a new world order where American economic superiority is dependent on American military dominance.  From lies about US government involvement in the 9/11 attacks and the invasion Iraq where depleted uranium creates a radioactive wasteland as oil reserves are secured for US corporations.  To a unitary executive who paradoxically demands government oversight into personal lives of every American yet the privatization over everything that is of value to humanity.  This new world order provides no change, only prolonging past imperialist policies with new technology.  

Culture, too, is in great trouble. When I look for original culture from my generation I must look hard.  It is not displayed on the streets or in public spaces, it is hidden in private space for fear of commoditization.  The genuine culture of this generation has been pushed underground, instead of yelling in the streets we are whispering behind closed doors.  

In terms of religion, the path one seeks to interpret the ultimate Real, Malcolm X’s words may best to state where religion stands in any revolutionary movement.  In his speech “The Ballot or the Bullet” Malcolm X said:

It is not our intension to discuss religion. We are going to forget religion.  If we bring up religion we’ll be in an argument, and the best way to keep away from arguments and differences is as I said earlier, put your religion at home, in the closet, keep it in between you and your God, because if it hasn’t done anything more for you than it has, you need to forget it anyway.

So where do we go from here?  How do we develop the power to create this change?  Ahead of us is a daunting task, a seemingly impossible undertaking, which is the only worthwhile action within this epoch.  In the following pages I will attempt to show how this generation must develop a significant voice of resistance and revolution—a cacophony of debate that moves beyond the narrow auspices of liberal democracy, postmodern thought, neoclassical economic theory, and neoliberal policy. 

This voice must not be based within academia, electoral politics, boardrooms and think tanks—although all of those are necessary.  The base must be cultural, artistic, poetic, and self-expressive, while not being relegated to the faulty economic paradigms of the past and present.

The progressive political and cultural movements of the past and present have failed because they had not set their scope beyond the horizon of global capitalism and corporate hegemony.  Because of this, every associated artistic and cultural movement has been absorbed into the current social order giving docile and obedient subjects a feeling of being radical and subversive.

The word revolution is often said within the society without meaning, a signifier that has lost its signified.  We hear the word stated often in contemporary culture, from Mos Def and Talib Kweli’s first LP Black Star and other socially conscious artists, to those seeking change on college campuses throughout the overdeveloped world.  Not only are those who call for revolution are in the vast minority, they say it with little intension of taking practical steps to achieve it. As a member of Dead Prez—the most outspoken thus unheard voice of dissidence—stated in the song “Police State,” “Many are headed for one conclusion, niggaz ain’t ready for revolution.”  Well, why the fuck not?

The symptoms and constructs of the society of commended enjoyment is best articulated in Todd McGowan’s book The End of Dissatisfaction: Jacques Lacan and the Emerging Society of Enjoyment.  In the book McGowan outlines the symptoms of this commanded enjoyment, which include a decline in parental authority, cynicism, apathy, a missing public world, and an increase in incivility, aggressiveness, and violence.  He sees the pre-global capitalist society being one of prohibition, of sacrificing one’s satisfaction for a greater social bond. 
           
Unfortunately, the current society of commended enjoyment seems to be a product of not only global capitalism, but from postmodern thought and progressive social movements that have positioned themselves within the horizon of global capitalism.  From the beatniks and hippies, to counter-culture punks and environmentalists, every legitimate gain has backfired giving only more power to the global capitalist status quo.
           
To understand how a possible revolutionary movement can succeed, we must first understand how the previous progressive movements have failed precisely because they limited themselves to the guise of global capitalism.  Progressive movements have almost always sought to create more justice in society, to free people from exploitation and the repression of individual freedoms.  The Lacanian triad, Imaginary—Symbolic—Real, helps exposes how these progressive movements sought liberty in the Symbolic yet settled for enjoyment on the Imaginary. 
           
Slavoj Zizek used the Lacanian triad in Iraq: The Borrowed Kettle to assess the United States motives for war.  He wrote:

What, then, was the real motive for going to war? Strangely, there were, in effect, three: (1) a sincere ideological belief that the USA was bringing democracy and prosperity to another nation; (2) the urge brutally to assert and demonstrate unconditional US hegemony; (3) control of Iraq’s oil reserves...They relate to each other like the ISR triad mentioned above: the Imaginary of democratic ideology, the Symbolic of political hegemony, the Real of the economy...

I do not fully support Zizek’s materialist view of the Real, where he states the Real is the economy, for it supports an anthrocentric idea of the Real, seeing the Real as being a human construct.  But, for the purposes of argument I will follow the rhetorical structure set forth by Zizek’s interpretation of the Lacanian triad.
           
Understanding that ideology, fantasy, and private enjoyment function on the Imaginary; law, politics, language, and social constructs function on the Symbolic; and raw materials of humans, natural resources, and built capital functions on the Real; is essential to understand how a revolutionary movement can take shape and achieves real results.  This is a practical interpretation of the Real, in truth; the Real is that which is unspeakable, that which is beyond the constructs of human thought, language, and intellect. 
           
Regardless of the mainstream media being dominated by pro-neoliberal propaganda and information that complements the status quo, there is much room for difference and contrast.  This is one reason why liberal democracy has outlasted Soviet Communism and other capital structures.  Within liberal democracy a few may control the Real, thus capital remains firmly in the grip of the ruling elite, but, there is room for dissidence within the Symbolic and the Imaginary, which was not the case within totalitarian regimes of the past.
           
Lets put it this way: Symbolic liberty means access to the capital of the Real, something that global capitalism will not stand for.  Everyone has access to the Symbolic, and many search for avenues to liberty within it, through means of speech, electoral politics, law, etc.  But, liberal democratic global capitalism has erected an iron curtain around capital and the political—thus symbolic—avenues to attain capital.  Imaginary enjoyment has appeased the desire of those seeking Symbolic liberty.  Global capitalism has used postmodern ideology of difference and contrast—complimented by the loss of interpretation that has ensued since the onset of postmodernity—to keep unsatisfied subjects chasing their tails within the Symbolic and Imaginary.
           
This is precisely why progressive and leftist movements have failed; they seek gain within the Symbolic and the Imaginary, never attacking the structure that needs to be torn down.  For all practical purposes leftist and progressive movements in the overdeveloped world since WWII have always positioned themselves within the scope of global capitalism, within that which controls the Real.  The loss of interpretation, which many state is a symptom of our postmodern condition, is the result of this positioning, aside from the ruling circles; very few have taken liberal democratic global capitalism as the object—the end of history—yet progressive and leftist movements have not positioned themselves outside of global capitalism.  This loss of space has created a loss of interpretation. 
           
Most academics and intellectuals have yet to make this connection.  We see this where Frederick James wrote in Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism:

this latest mutation in space—postmodern hyperspace—has finally succeeded in transcending the capacities of the individual human body to locate itself, to organize its immediate surroundings perceptually, and cognitively to map its position in a mappable external world.

The inability to create any cognitive mapping is quite obvious; nearly all subjects have tired to locate their individual sovereignty as well as social equality within a space that provides no Real room for both.  The discussion needs to move beyond the confines of postmodern liberal democratic global capitalism, with that things will become clear and interpretable.
           
Before I proceed it is necessary for me to reiterate, progressive movements have had very significant gains that I do not want to undermine.  The feminist movement gave women the right to vote, greater acceptance in the workplace, and the right to choose.  The civil rights movement saw the end of state sponsored segregation and overt racist policy.  But today, in the epoch of commanded enjoyment, the real gains made by these movements have been undermined.  In the realm of the Image people can find enjoyment of the empowered women and racial equality, but when looking at decision makers and politicians we realize that this is not the case, minority groups and working people have no control of the material Real.

It must be said that through the course of history it had been nearly impossible for a generation of young adults (young adults is to say the arbitrary ages of 18 to 30) to gain any power whatsoever through the development of a significant voice until the post-WWII era of this century.  It was not until the student population rose throughout the West in the 1950’s and 1960’s that youth were able to develop a powerful voice.   
           
For youthful dissatisfaction gaining a significant voice in the pre WWII epoch we must look at the avant-garde.  The avant-garde always considers itself to be at the forefront of any cultural movement, hence the term avant-garde.  But the avant-garde does not organically create culture to give it to the populous as gifts from a pretentious Santa Claus; their function is often the initial articulator of anti-establishment and revolutionary sentiments held by the populous.  We see this throughout the early 20th century with specific avant-garde movements under auspices of modernism, movements such as futurism, Dadaism, surrealism, and other obscure –isms whose names are insignificant to the purposes of this article.
           
While these movements were often conceptually profound and through interpretation offer many significant insights into the human condition of their situation, politically they were either impotent or disastrous.  Futurism, which centered in post World War I Italy, placed heavy optimism and faith in technological advancement to remedy the problems of society.  It was its nationalistic nature that allowed it to easily become a tool for Mussolini’s fascist propaganda.
           
Dadaism was a reaction to the imperialist and inhuman nature of World War I, which exposed the bankruptcy of all bourgeois values.  If World War I showed the grotesque ass of bourgeois society, Dadaism sought not solace in its smiling face but rejected the body completely.  This meant a renunciation of art, literature, and normal modes of communication.  While Dadaism might have been complementary with European and American socialist movements, its influence was smothered by European fascism on one side of the Atlantic and American social democracy on the other, which sought to reform bourgeois life, and not to radically break from it.
           
Surrealism was and continues to be the most popular of the avant-garde movements of the early half of the 20th century.  Just look in any college dorm room and you are bound to see at least one Dali painting.  Surrealism, with its absurd yet fantastic images did not alienate the spectator like most other forms of modernist art, but enticed the spectator to make conscious connections within the unconscious mind.  Because of its very nature surrealism was bound to be an intellectual novelty rather than a social rallying point.
           
Understanding how the avant-garde functions is significant when trying to understand how a generation actualizes power through the development of a dominant voice.  The voice of the avant-garde was silenced in the United States after World War II, and was silenced in Europe not long after the student-worker uprising in Paris, May 1968.  The last avant-garde movement whose uncompromising voice led to significant cultural power was the Situationist International of Europe (specifically Paris) of the late 1950’s and 1960’s.  While they remain obscure, they may be the most significant avant-garde movement of the 20th century.

The years following World War II were the “Golden Age” of Keynesian social democratic economies in the US and Western Europe.  But, there was a fundamental difference in the voices of the post-war generations in Europe and the US.  In Europe there was a heavy sentiment of pessimism following a half-century of chaos, war, and destruction; the existential notion of life’s absurdity became hugely influential because of the populous’ ability to relate to it.  While on the other side of the Atlantic optimism in the American Dream was never stronger.  The US emerged as the world’s dominant military and economy only rivaled by the USSR’s socialist experiment gone oppressively wrong. 
           
The newly married and suburbanized post WWII generation had its defiant Beatniks in the early 1950’s, but it was also a time of racial segregation and the beginning of modern gentrification, the antithesis of anything homogeneous.  The social movements of the 1960’s had its roots in the not so comfortable classes of the baby booming 1950’s.

The Beatniks were America’s anti-avant-garde avant-garde, living the life of Dionysian ascetics with a paradoxical pensive spontaneity that sent shivers down the spines of the “normal” Leave it to Beaver dispositions of the time.  Allen Ginsburg’s reading of “Howl,” immortalized in Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums, was the spark that ignited the torrent of unrest in the white middle-class.  In the very first line of “Howl” we see Ginsberg’s unrest with his generation when he wrote, “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked.”  His brutal, yet eloquent commentary on the state of American life was the catalyst needed to spark the unrest of the 1960s.
           
The baby boomers of the early 1960’s brought on a social and racial consciousness not seen since the early quarter of the 20th century.  To say that the 1960’s were just about sex and drugs is to undermine the true volition of the times.  It was a time when state sponsored segregation officially ended with constitutional amendments against it.  Profound statements were a near daily occurrence throughout the sixties, almost every person living felt that the world was on the verge of revolution.  People felt that the power structure throughout the overdeveloped world was shifting.  The government and media of countries throughout the world felt the weight of millions of voices expressing dissidence.
           
From the naturalist hippies, mod rich kids, and Black Panthers to psychedelics, marijuana, and free sex, the particulars between the many movements, groups, and genres differed, but the universal goal was the same: more personal freedom to live by one’s own maxims.  This universal goal manifested itself in a variety of ways.  The resistance to the Vietnam War where thousands of American youth were handed a death sentence in the government’s imperialist pursuit; a women’s right to abortion and greater female sexual freedom; greater acceptance of alternative sexualities, and the civil rights movement—the largest and most powerful area—with Blacks demanding racial equality.      
           
“True compassion,” Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out, “is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”  Unfortunately, the edifice was not restructured it was only slightly reorganized.  Allowing all that was fought for to become just another exploit of the repressive capitalist order.  Pre-global capitalist society was one of prohibition.  To prohibit is to limit, and to limit is to create order, whether the order be in terms of class, race, gender or sexual norms.  The movements of the 1960s saw this order as repressive and sought to free itself of the imposed limits.
           
As stated before, capitalism allows for difference and contrast in the Imaginary, and to some degree on the Symbolic.  This difference and contrast manifested itself in consumerism, there is a market for everything, from natural and organic food to processed artificial food, to Disney cartoons and shit-fetish videos, if there is a demand, then there is a supply.  But what real gains have been made when there is still a lack of access to the Real?  Sure there are self made capitalists, but their access to the Real has been made through the laws of the existing order, and has been made on the backs of many who will see very few gains within the current order.
           
The Situationist International was the West’s last prolific avant-garde group, they may not have achieved any of their goals, for many of them were that of utopian fantasy, they were in fact extremely influential in bringing together both students and workers for a common cause, something that has not been accomplished since.  They were also one of the only groups that sought to gain control of the Real; they sought to topple the capitalist order while not falling into Soviet totalitarianism.  In the end they failed for their popular base accepted enjoyment of the Imaginary and meager gains in the Symbolic order, rather than liberating the Real.
           

The words of John Gray from his book Straw Dogs may best sum up the Situationist’s resonance of through the ages:

[The Situationists believed that] Life had been turned into a show, which even those who staged the play could not escape.  The most radical movements of revolt quickly became part of the act.  In familiar irony, that is exactly what happened to the Situationists.  Their ideas soon became just one more commodity in the cultural supermarket.

“Ours is the best effort so far toward getting out of the twentieth century,” wrote an anonymous Situationist in 1964.  We are now out of the twentieth century and the efforts of the Situationist have had little to no political resonance.  Guy Debord might have said, “Our time no longer needs to draft poetic agendas; rather, it needs to execute them,” but all that is left of his effort are is poetic agendas and a small history of failed attempts of execution.
           
The 1960s had its successes; the universal goal of freedom to live by one’s own maxims was realized, but that is only because the change in ideology greater allowed for the privatization of life over the socialization of life, the ultimate goal of capitalism.  There was no fundamental change.  The status quo did not change, it only grew as it became more accepting. Yet, the time is significant because it shows how a generation can actualize the power readily available, yet unused by most generations, and how the power can become distorted and slippery when it is actualized.
           
The movements of the sixties rolled into the seventies through their own inertia but slowly fragmented and broke apart as the prominent leaders had either been killed or compromised their selves to the extent that they became hacks.  It seems that the former revolutionary youth diverted their energy into the self serving usage of their newly allowed freedom to enjoy one’s self.  Private enjoyment became paramount to social duty.  We see this through the discos, cocaine, and group sex that the media has made seem so prominent of the time.
           
Through the rise and the fall disco, stood its antithesis strengthening its roots in the earth before allowing its branches to stretch toward the sky.  Punk rock was flourishing before anyone knew exactly what it was.  Initially punk rock and other genres of anti-establishment culture were very scary to the status quo.  It not only manifested itself from the disillusioned youth searching for identity beyond consumerism, it acted as a rallying point and gave a genuine identity to many more youths who had the same sense with no way of expressing it.  If organized correctly and given proper political direction a tremendously volatile situation would have been created and the ideology of anti-consumerism might have been able to usurp power from consumerism as the dominant ideology.
           
           
But, this would not stand and action was taken against it.  Instead of renouncing and demonizing punk rock and the like, it was embraced and given a market.  Through commoditization the genuine culture underwent a process of subverted distillation with the opposing ideology being filtered out as well as other elements that wouldn’t suit the establishment.  Through this process the counter culture became a part of the consumer culture, it is even now a brand name. 
           
Through the market culture the counter culture is sanitized and made benign, so not to have a profound ideological affect on the consumer.  This process has happen many times before and will likely continue many more times into the future.  We can see the same happened with jazz, blues, and early forms of rock n’ roll, in these cases the culture was sanitized with bleach burning black to white, more palatable for fragile white sensibilities.  Then again the brightest stars always shine through as we see with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Billy Holiday, the list goes on, but on too long for me to name all.
           
This is not about totally destroying the market economy, for the market does have many positive affects on people of all classes.  It is about not sacrificing culture for consumerism.  The superstructure that the market functions within—global capitalism—must be destroyed, not the market itself.
           
My generation, the current youth whose whole lives have been under the rule of global capitalism and corporate interests, are on one hand the most apathetic yet on the other hand are in many ways the most angry.  We see outbursts of this anger in events like the shooting in Columbine High School, and other shooting around to the country.  We see this anger diverted into mosh pits where the status quo has found a socially safe arena where the “disgruntle” youth can vent to wannabe punk performers screaming about how sad they have been since their girlfriend left them.  This bourgeois suburban anger is significant, but what about the anger coming from the ghettos, from areas in the US where mortality rates are similar to those found in the third world.
           
Just look at the words of 2Pac, Ice Cube, and most other gansta rap of the early 1990s.  The violence was not about uncivilized niggaz on the street, but about life when scouring for the scrapes of bourgeois society.  The global capitalism gave these individuals and avenue for fame and fortune, and in turn has given millions of youth visions Imaginary success transcending their socio-economic situation through an art form that compliments the status quo.  Hip-hop is a voice, it is a strong voice, but ask anyone who has made it in that game, hip-hop is not run by the artists.  Imagery of the American dream is now pushed through hip-hop, but it is this imagery that needs to be renounced.  You can hustle for a few bucks, but how many become comfortable and live a life without fear of incarceration from it.  Ghetto culture needs control of capital; the poor in the US and around the world need command of capital that controls their lives.  Since gansta rap grew in popularity over a decade ago, there has been little to no gains made in low-income urban society.  While the voices of the poor and oppressed have gained popularity there has been no benefit for most communities where these voices arise, only an imaginary dream, for those who often do not have much more than their dreams.
           
Many have found their niches within the culture industry that give them a sense of being alternative and a part of a counter culture.  I myself can be seen as guilty of this, a man in my early twenties whose favorite activities require a board underfoot and whose favorite music falls within the sub-genres of indie hip-hop and indie rock.  There is even less that is radical about the former than the latter. 
           
Although I may receive genuine enjoyment from surfing or snowboarding those activities themselves are benign and complimentary to the social order.  If anything these sports and most others considered extreme and alternative are actually much more bourgeois than baseball or basketball.  In terms of socio-economic participation these extreme sports have more similarities to golf than anything else.  Snowboarding and surfing require capital investments of more the $500-1000, not to mention lift tickets and costs of travel.  While a new basketball can be purchased for $20 dollars and basketball courts are still apart of dwindling public space.  Yet when marketed basketball is shown as being more a part of the status quo than snowboarding or surfing.
           
Independent music does create more space for resistance than so-called alternative sports.  Independent music often functions outside of the corporate media complex receiving little to no corporate media attention.  At risk of going back on what I said earlier, that there is little genuine culture in my generation, independent and underground music, film and art are the last strongholds of culture.  Artistic self-expression and liberty is essential for all, and must no be forgotten or undermined by any revolutionary movement.  But, supporting independent art and media is significant; it alone does not make one revolutionary or radical.
           
Many who have found their counter-culture niches, have stopped there, feeling there is nothing that can be done to reverse the trend of repression and oppression under the global capitalist order.  McGowan sees postmodern society all too often falling back on cynicism as a way to deal with the problems they see in the world around them.  Throughout modernity cynicism has never had more appeal in the Western world than it now does, and it is precisely this cynicism that has proliferated political and social apathy.
           
McGowan says of the cynic and the appeal of cynicism:

Above all, the cynic wants to avoid being naïve, being one of the duped, especially when it comes to the Other’s enjoyment.  In response to the imperative to enjoy, the cynic refuses to allow any site of potential enjoyment to remain unknown, and this refusal is precisely what makes cynicism such a popular attitude in the society of commanded enjoyment.

He goes on the state why cynicism is such a detrimental attitude for one to take up, “All of the cynic’s knowledge does not help the cynic escape the determinations of the symbolic order: the cynic remains a perfectly obedient and docile subject.”
           
The political apathy resulting from the dominance of cynicism is obvious when one looks at voting trends over the last 40 years. While many see the social movements of the 1960’s as a great leap forward, it created much political apathy.   
           
It is necessary for this generation to renounce the superficial enjoyment that has pervaded our lives; to understand that just because one has the liberty to buy and sell does not mean one possesses true liberty within the social order.  Over the past half-century progressive movements have sublimated their drive toward liberty within the social order to enjoyment on the Imaginary.  This sublimation is far from sublime. 
           
The present is always the paramount of history, it is the product of all that has come before and the factor of what will come to be.  Humanity is not static; it changes and evolves throughout the years.  Through technological innovation and the arrival of new social and political phenomena, through the arithmetic of ideas and peoples, new situations arise where the now current ideas and criticisms will be rendered archaic and obsolete.
           
In this situation, the dawn of supra-modernity, the old guard must be torn down and in its place a dynamic system must be erected, one that leaves little trace of itself, to respect the environment and authentic human dignity. Personal interests are unique to personal situations yet the economic paradigm that constructs a significant part of personal situation is obsolete, they may be practiced in our reality but their premises are not based in reality.
           
We are not of one voice, we are a cacophony of many, we welcome debate and distain war.  Harmony is not hegemony, nor is it imposed stability.  We the children must tame the lion and allow it to die a peaceful death before it consumes its children and dies of its own excesses. 

 

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.