Thursday, May 1, 2008

It isn't Over... Yet.

An acquaintance of mine, a certain Seth Eagelfeld, recently wrote an interesting article for his blog entitled Is It Over?, which addressed an issue which most people with a nose for history have at least managed to get a vague sense of, in recent years. Specifically, he lamented what he perceived as the death of progress and originality in American culture, referring briefly to most, if not all facets of that culture.

His editorial began my mind working and here I present the results of my musings; there is a flavour of this in my comments to his post, but I wish to elaborate.

American culture (and I refer here to North American, english culture, generally), or the industry of culture in North America, has changed narrowed its focus since the golden ages of the sixties and seventies and, in doing so it has essentially removed art and beauty and most importantly content from almost every artistic & literary medium available in the mainstream today.

The focus, of course, is profit margins and dollar sums; every year must bring more revenue and satisfying content does not accomplish that - or at least, it doesn't appear to do so. The angle of attack has been, in all appearance, to make consumer culture (culture made for consumption, that is) addictive, in the same way that heroin or nicotine are addictive and with a similar result:

The products sold are disposable and contribute nothing to the growth of intellect or imagination, they are quickly purchased, quickly thrown away and by the time they've made a dull thud at the bottom of the waste-basket the next generation is ready for public consumption and that many more dollars change hands in an arrangement which has become almost entirely one-sided.

The social reasons for this I cannot begin to fathom, although they would undoubtedly make for a fascinating sociological research paper, but the economic reasons are obvious; they are a natural result of the capitalist drive to produce more for less while all the while charging ever more (I respect the value of the market to our society, and the fact that consumers are willing to purchase the refried crap being sold to them does seem to indicate that it isn't entirely without merit, but there is certainly something to be said for the art of less commercial times).

That being said, there is hope in the form of the less popular, less well known bands, artists and writers who - by virtue of being "undiscovered," must work many times as hard to attain even one tenth of the popularity and acclaim of their corporation-backed colleagues. It is in these people that the truth of our society and politics and families can be found; they offer us our real, true culture and it is because of them that people of intellect can, after a fashion, remain sane.

One thing Seth referred to in the link above that strikes me as almost anthropic is that the music and literature we have from decades and centuries ago is almost all of a quality that modern artists cannot hope to match in their lifetimes; it could well be that a sort of historical natural selection has already killed and weeded out all the unpleasant swill from ages past that people of that generation saw with the same uncompromising, critical eye that Seth himself uses to view the products of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

1 comment:

marsha said...

I'm going to read Seth's post now but first I want to say that It isn't over and the fact that the two of you care about this perceived death of originality in culture is proof in and of itself. We need to make the distinction between popular, rapidly consumable culture and the art that you are seeking. It is out there - you just have to wade through a lot of mud before you get to it. But the journey and the discovery is wherein the beauty lies, not in something that you can obtain so readily.