Monday, August 29, 2011

Riots and Politics

London and many other cities in England recently went up in flames as young people went into the streets. Ignited by the shooting of a young black man in Tottenham, it became obvious that the cause was actually something greater.  Of the many buildings set aflame by the rioters in London was the PIAS warehouse where the majority of English and Irish independent record labels had their goods.

This a major problem for recording companies who are attempting to create something different.  Maybe the politics of the riots are not as clear as people sticking up for a person wrongly shot by the agents of capital's power.  Considering that the rioters appeared to be mostly youths from decidedly British descent, we need to take a moment before thinking that these riots held any lofty goals at all.  In fact Micael Gira, provocateur from the SWANS, may have hit the nail on the head when he tweeted, and then received criticism for tweeting, "oh wait! i thought anarchy was good! anyway, music should be free, so what's the problem?"   Aside from the irony, Gira calls out the vacuous nature of the rioting.
With a way to channel whatever pent-up repressed frustrations that have a hold on the British youth, the inevitable expressions they will produce will be impotent or worse counter-productive to their cause.

Here in the States, national news was made when a young rapper from Cleveland started a flash-mob at a local shopping mall.
MGK says, "We showed the power of our movement. These kids out here really give a fuck about us, and we really give a fuck about them."  The problem here is that the "movement" is simply centered around selling records.  It is about keeping people in the positions they already inhabit.  It is about reproducing those social structures that give birth to the "art."   So maybe the commentators for FOX News should be overjoyed about the young girls running and screaming in the mall because that's really where they want to be, not organizing for some radical political party. But maybe that's why we need to be scared--the young people, as evidenced by London and Cleveland, aren't organizing for some radical political party.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Is Bono too Radical?

It seems this year’s Glastonbury Festival was controversial even before the first notes rang out.  Mainly, the debate centered on U2 and whether or not they should be headliners.  In the Guardian, Kitty Empire declares them a “safe” band, yet somehow she gives Beyoncé a pass on the “safe” call.  Come on, Beyoncé?  About as far from cutting edge as my son’s collection of lullabies.

Of course, U2 has rightly been called out on tax evasion for moving of part of their empire to the Netherlands, and that’s just part of the political intrigue that Michael Eavis, founder of Glastonbury, hoped for.  Obviously he was hoping for progressive political action, but then we got political intrigue when a Tory MP was found dead in a toilet.  That may be too radical for most.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

We are Rock n Roll Narcissists!!!

Everyone’s a winner.  Everyone gets a trophy. Everyone have a Facebook page.  Everyone has a cell phone.  Everyone gets a turn.  Everyone gets an A.  Every one of us is so into ourselves, we collectively fiddle while the world falls away.  We are a nation of narcissists.

From the on-line DSM-IV:

The symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder revolve around a pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and sense of entitlement. Often individuals feel overly important and will exaggerate achievements and will accept, and often demand, praise and admiration despite worthy achievements.  They may be overwhelmed with fantasies involving unlimited success, power, love, or beauty and feel that they can only be understood by others who are, like them, superior in some aspect of life.

There is a sense of entitlement, of being more deserving than others based solely on their superiority.  These symptoms, however, are a result of an underlying sense of inferiority and are often seen as overcompensation.  Because of this, they are often envious and even angry of others who have more, receive more respect or attention, or otherwise steal away the spotlight.

Of course, narcissism is a boon for late stage capitalism.   After 9-11 the official imperative was to buy.  After Katrina, buy.  After, the tsunami, buy. And what does buying do?  Of course it keeps capital flowing, but it also help us escape from reality—the reality of the “airborne toxic event,” which, as much as it is environmental, is the collapse of our economy.  We may not want to face it, but it looms or more to the point—it has happened.  Could this collapse have been prevented?  Not given our current economic order.  But maybe an alternative way of looking at the world, a different way of creating economic relations may have.  But, our economic age is based upon me getting mine!  Greed is good!  But look at what our greed has gotten us.

And as further proof that we live in a Golden Age of Narcissism, a recent study has shown that the content of our favorite pop music has become over the past 28 years more focused “first-person singular pronouns.”

So as our economy was moving toward deregulation, oligarchic business practices, and unlimited corporate giving in election campaigns—all of which privilege the myth of the individual—our cultural production began to reflect this with songs of me, me, me, me. 

The DSM-IV also states that “Treatment for this disorder is very rarely sought.”  Of course, not!  Our economic system is based upon this pathogenic individualism called narcissism!  It makes me feel special!!!  I’m a winner.  I get a trophy for fiddling.  I’m on Facebook. 

The question is will you friend me?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Click "Like" to Save U2

I ran across an interesting article on the Irish web-site, today. The article highlights how much money U2 have recently made on Facebook. Apparently U2 owns 1.5% of Facebook, which doesn’t seem like a lot until you realize how much that time sucking web-site is worth. Last year, 1.5% of Facebook cost U2 $210 million. Today that 1.5% is worth $750 million! It’s good to be U2. The article also mentions that u2 made out pretty well having invested in Palm, which has been purchased by HP.

What is fascinating is that few artists have the ability to invest like U2, but when an artist can, maybe those artists are able to tap into, and thus help to move society in ways that their music cannot. I doubt that any of U2 music, up to this point at least, has in anyway influenced Facebook. But I have no doubt that their money has.

So what can we learn from this? Maybe investing in ideas that are positive (not that Facebook is positive!) is a way to create change in the world. Obviously there are socially conscious investing groups out there and there seems to be a trend with those types of funds growing.

The problem becomes can fundamental change happen quickly by working within the system? Given our recent track record—I’d say the answer is no. But maybe investing in a responsible way, is the least we can do. I wonder what the Rolling Stones’ portfolio looks like?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

iTune$ and the Beatle$

When Apple announced the Beatles were coming to iTunes, my first reaction was “Who the hell cares?” Let’s face it, if you were into the Beatles you purchased the box set, the USB apple, and you’ve been to Vegas for the neutered Cirque de Soleil trip. Until the Beatles discovered drugs, they were a singles band. So iTunes and the Beatles are a perfect fit. By marketing to singles, iTunes has destroyed the concept of the album by allowing non-single tracks to be downloaded. Of course, this is only an issue if you care about the album as an artistic artifact. Something tells me that Steve Jobs' main concern isn't art. In fact the announcement was met in the NY Times by an article on the third page of the Business section!

In the end business is all this announcement means, more business for Apple, more more cash for the Beatles, more time until EMI goes bankrupt, and more consumers duped into buying the same old music over and over again.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Kanye Hearts BP

It’s been five years of empty rhetoric and promises since Katrina, and our recent experience with the latest man-made disaster, courtesy of our friends at BP and Minerals Management, seems to be delivering more of the same. At least after Katrina, the world seemed to be focused on helping, which included “A Concert for Hurricane Relief.”

If you didn’t know who Kanye West was before “A Concert for Hurricane Relief,” and most people didn’t, you knew who he was afterwards. It was during this telethon that West blurted out that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” If nothing else, that statement got the conversation moving about why was the government response was so slow. Suddenly West became a political figure. And although the veracity of his statement has not necessarily been disproven, the real reason the government couldn’t react probably had more to do with our misguided efforts in “the war on terror,” “the war on drugs,” “the war on (fill-in-the-blank-with-whatever-politically-motivated-issue-will-get-you-reelected-and-bring-in-money to-your-reelection-campaign-fund).” It wasn’t that Bush didn’t care about black people, its that the government doesn’t care about any people.

The government, which is continually being extolled by the right-wing to be run more like a business, is increasingly focused on the bottom-line, which is what businesses do. And more so than ever before, or wars on this and that, are actually run by private businesses, with profits going to private individuals, at a cost unknown to the US government! Now, with the BP debacle and the fact that they were “in charge” of the clean-up, we can see that big business and government coexist hand-in-hand to maximize profit at the expense of people.

Although there has been a little here and there from musicians, actors, and srtists, about the BP spill, obviously it has garnered the attention that Katrina did. After all, it was easy to point the blame after Katrina. Bush may not care about black people, but Kanye West like to support the international petro cartels, driving an $800,000 car and cracking up a slightly less expensive one.

So in the midst of another disaster that is affecting the lives of blacks and whites along the Gulf Coast, where is Kanye West to speak out against government and business injustice and incompetence?

He’s busy making records with Justin Bieber. However, what is the message of this song by the spokesperson for the oppressed? To quote another rap group that held true to their message, Public Enemy:

You singers are spineless
As you sing your senseless songs to the mindless
Your general subject love is minimal
Its sex for profit

So in the nation’s time of need, Kanye has aligned himself with the government and BP, watching out for his bottom line. Maybe it's hammer time?