As I predicted, and secretly kind of hoped, there was a reaction to my posting an article from MTV on key23. So let's bring this one out, because it's something worth discussing, at least according to the responses which blossomed to my post in my private journal to the same effect.
To be honest, I don't know how to paint it clearer than I did with the title, but here goes.
The Matrix is a perfect place to begin. (At least the first movie. The rest of the series is just plain stupid.) It is, among other things, a parable about waking up to the cogs of the machine we are a part of, fighting the man, and on and on.
Wake up, Neo. Zak De La Rocha wasn't 'fighting the man' when he made his ending credit soundtrack royalties. It's what he did with that potential energy that counts. (Hookers? A small island for 'his people' and 'their culture,' where everyone sings in falsetto about oppression?)
All you read and
Wear or see and
Hear on tv
Is a product
Begging for your
You know it, I know it. But so many of us selfer-awarer-than-thou-comma-dumbasses,
Word on the street is, the poorer you are, the cooler you are.
This is where I do a 180. I don't buy it, anymore.
All of the punk/underground/occult/counter-culture has been co-opted by the straight shooters the moment the shtick became profiteable. When all an idealogy really boils down to is an easy to replicate aesthetic, how could they not?
Myself? I just want to get my work out there to people, and eat at the end of the day. I'd shoot myself in the face if I was driving an Asten Martin, but I'm sipping on a pretty good 2004 Riesling right now, and I prefer it to Pabst Blue Ribbon, thank you very much.
From where I'm seeing this go down, if you get into a culture counter-culture dialectic, where you're against this easy to categorize thing, you're an easy target, culturally speaking. You'll wind up the dancing puppet on the end of someone's string unless you lock yourself in a cave or become such an intolerable misanthrope that even the Warren Ellis fans don't write you any more. Marketers are wiley as fuck. They are paid to be.
Back a step. The second psychadelic culture gained a certain momentum, Madison avenue chewed it up and spit it out in 7up ads.
After the genuine scene blew up, people with money saw a way to make more. When Myspace was used by enough people, Fox bought it for "a lot" of money. (Granted, Myspace makes me want to gouge my eyes out with tweasers and gargle sulferic acid, but that's beside the point.)
When people bought those hip clothes to 'make a statement,' whose pockets were they lining? If popularity, self definition within trends, or corporate affiliation is something to be avoided at all costs, so far as I can tell you're as stuck in that game as if it is your only modus operandi.
Of course MTVs programming is vapid and retarded, and it's incredibly depressing that the market has supported their move towards increasing herculean atrocities upon humanity. But if I had a way to use that colossus to my own ends... I'd do it without batting an eye. And keep on going.
You want to call MTVs programming vapid? Make Something Better. I know you can do it. But you're going to have to sweat blood. It's easier to throw stones. (I've watched people on internet communities lob mud for years, one of my favorite being the "armchair magickian" which is generally lobbed back and forth between two people who probably check their email more frequently than most crack addicts get a fix.)
Personally, I don't eat off of the street cred afforded by being a 'counter culture figure' who 'never sold out.' That idea is completely meaningless, it just inverts the 'cool game' so now you're cool to the extent you self depreciate.
The problem is when we work for 'Invisible Masters' at the heads of corporations, who serve cross purposes. If we in the 'counter-culture' were a little more prone to organize and accomplish and a little less prone to argue, we might recognize that your labor can serve another master. Yourself.
Now how do we make it profiteable? That's most of our Achilles heel. Because I don't know a single person who can do everything well, and this is the reason we have to work together towards common goals and split the booty accordingly, or wallow in our meaningless flame wars and postures of signifigance.
I do have a suggestion, though it's only preliminary:
When any counter culture gets big enough, it gets co-opted by a "Major." If there is any value in a "counterculture" it is in an ideology which cannot be replicated, cannot be sold. So I would suggest this: make a schtick. Make it huge. Sell it off to the highest bidder.
And use that to build something wonderful.