I have been really interested in this idea of dissent over the past year. With all of the issues that our country (and world) face right now (Bush, Iraq, global warming…I could go on…), I have wondered why a real revolution has not taken place in this country. During the 60’s, people were rising up against the war and civil rights and people had to take notice. Now…these “special-interest” problems seem to be just another news story. Is it apathy? Or, is it something else? After reading The Rebel Sell, Hip: The History, and a short article called Why Johnny Can’t Dissent, I realize that there is no counterculture to fight the machine because the counterculture IS the machine. In this day and age, you can make your voice heard because there are products and services that are tailored to YOU. It is very easy to be an individual and to do the things you want to do because we have freedom to do so much. “The man” is not keeping you down because “the man” now makes it easy for you to be a puppy-loving, Precious Moments-collecting, Harley-riding, vegan who plays in a Bon Jovi cover band. It is tough to dissent when you “feel” as though your voice is being heard, and you are able to do the things you want to do. And our government and corporations are laughing all the way to the bank because our contentment with the system means they aren’t being challenged to make things better. As Frank and Weiland further describe in Why Johnny Can’t Dissent:
The structure and thinking of American business have changed enormously in the years since our popular conceptions of its problems and abuses were formulated. In the meantime the mad frothings and jolly apolitical revolt of Beat, despite their vast popularity and insurgent air, have become powerless against a new regime that, one suspects, few of Beat’s present-day admirers and practitioners feel any need to study or understand. Today that beautiful countercultural idea, endorsed now by everyone from the surviving Beats to shampoo manufacturers, is more the official doctrine of corporate America than it is a program of resistance. What we understand as “dissent” does not subvert, does not challenge, does not even question the cultural faiths of Western business. What David Rieff wrote of the revolutionary pretensions of multiculturalism is equally true of the countercultural idea: “The more one reads in academic multiculturalist journals and in business publications, and the more one contrasts the speeches of CEOs and the speeches of noted multiculturalist academics, the more one is struck by the similarities in the way they view the world.” What’s happened is not co-optation or appropriation, but a simple and direct confluence of interest.
So, what does this mean? I think in this day and age the only way to be really counterculture is to become part of the machine and make your voice be heard. Our governments and corporations need citizens with morals and values who are willing to fight for what is right…not fight for the bottom line. Any battles against the system can not be won outside of the system. They must be fought from within…easier said than done.
When I was in Los Angeles recently and saw the Takashi Murakami exhibit, I read the blurb they had put on the wall about the exhibit. While it might not necessarily reflect someone fighting against the machine within the machine, it does show that it is possible to be true to yourself as well as part of the system at the same time.
The concept of copyright itself holds an exalted position within Murakami’s practice, rooted in the acknowledgment of his work as simultaneously representing a deeply personal expression and a corporate, legal, and commercial entity.