Chris Arkenberg ( @chris23 ) from the Institute for the Future posted this to his Twitter feed the other day:
“The enclosure of the commons by sociopathic corporate elites ensures conversion of inherent value into manufactured scarcity.”
As I read this I thought about a post I had seen earlier. Frank Chimero wrote a post called Holiday containing his ruminations on the often unrewarding life of a designer. Chris lead me to reflect a bit more on this issue in light of corporations ‘encircling’ the commons and manufacturing scarcity, in this case scarcity of meaning. It made me realize our aesthetic value, and the power that it holds, is also being encircled. Orpheus played such as to seduce the gods themselves, the cathedrals and temples brought down the spirit of divinity for the masses to reflect on. What’s that Pepsi logo doing for you? Had any moments of sublimity with that one?
Folks who oppose abortion rights like to bring out the argument “What if Bach was aborted…” What if Bach was consigned to write crappy commercial jingles or produce the next Lady Gaga album?
Someone might say “Well that Lady Gaga album sounds nice…” Really? Does it? Or are we so lost in the forest of consumerism that we can’t hear the hollow drums of societal collapse pounding in our ears. While Lady Gaga is flouncing about giving her call of freedom we’ve got some serious issues at hand. I don’t think freedom in fashion is going to do much when the tensions between the West and Iran finally lead to conflict. Something tells me those Afghani civilians getting blitzed by unmanned drones aren’t too worried about whether or not they have the right to gussy up in Bowie drag and get their freak on.
Look at a Kurdish Sufi ritual. Is that music there to justify a fashion statement? No, the beat of those drums reflects the movement of life, the dancers become one with the movement of constellations and society is held together by the shared breath of their heart sung prayers. Lady Gaga, as an admited corporate brand device, is actively manufacturing a scarcity of meaning in our society. For all the freedom she claims to foster with her act, what she fosters is a vacant hole where a real message could be housed. This isn’t about hating pop music, this is about the responsibility of the creative class.
In the U.S. we’ve got racist militias grabbing guns to take on narco armies strong enough to kill gubenatorial candidates with impunity. La Familia Michoacán is laying the decapitated heads of their enemies out as a sign for more. And guess what…they believe in magic. They know the real power of the creative class. The leader of La Familia, Nazario Moreno Gonzalez, known as El Mas Loco, or the Craziest One, wrote a spiritual manual for his followers. He’s not dancing around in glam drag, he’s running a violent force that reaches all the way up to Chicago.
Disenchantment is a sociological idea that Max Weber worked with, and when I read something like Frank’s post on his disenchantment with being a designer I look at it in a societal way. This isn’t just a matter of being “disenchanted” on a personal level, Frank’s post points me to how disenchanted the whole sloppy world has become. “What’s the point of design?” Frank asks. Magic my friend! The whole point is magic.
It’s a bunch of slack minded executives who’ve made creative folks think that their output is simply to beautify a cheap marketing scheme. People talk about how beautiful the designs are in the caves of Lascaux. Those cave paintings weren’t there to decorate the walls. The term caveman is a fictitious term, there were never any cavemen. Our ancestors weren’t living in caves. The cave is a place of initiation. Go to any traditional culture and look for cave dwellers. If you find someone living in a cave it’s going to be a shaman or a monastic.
Those cave paintings weren’t the equivalent of cheap reproductions you pick up at Ikea to give the room some dubious class, those were painted to aid the hunt. The real hunt, for direct sustenance, sustenance not off put by capital where you re-buy your labor with interest so you can head to the 7-11 for some doritos and a coke.
While the creative class in the West is relegated to the socially acceptable version of designing tags for Heroin packets, we’re teetering on the verge of a complete cultural transformation. Forget the BP spill, forget the burgeon tensions in the Middle East, the narco armies in Mexico, forget every drop of weaponized Uranium floating around on the black market, even our positive progress is reaching a point that some serious thinking is in order.
Our scientists and technicians are building things that require deep thought before we put them into play. The Singularity sounds stupid to every reasonably minded, well adapted, citizen. It sounds stupid because genius is not reasonable, nor well adapted, genius is the spark of change. A key note speech at the World Future Society’s annual convention brought to light some of ethical and practical concerns that the Singularity raises. The ethical implications of smart drugs, Artificial Intelligence, surveillance, cybernetics, life extension technologies and all of the other developments that define the Singularity movement need to be better understood. The surprising political ramifications that came out of the development of nuclear weapons shows us that this kind of technological advance is best accompanied by serious thought.
In a situation like this why are our creative thinkers being wasted on designing websites for businesses?
Can we at least get a couple of the best and brightest to work on a project or two that will help guide our limping society back into shape before the whole thing blows up in our face? We need some cave paintings for the hunt, our hunters are ill equipped and someone’s been fattening them up with potato chips.