The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'mark dery'
Cultural critic Mark Dery has written a series of articles recounting growing up in the 1970s "Jesus Freak" movement (i.e., hippie-influenced grass-roots Christianity), finding it subsumed by the more authoritarian grown-ups' churches and then drifting away from Christianity altogether and finding a new messiah in David Bowie. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). As one can expect from Dery, it's full of substance, from Bowie's explorations in mysticism to similarities between Ziggy Stardust and resurrected messiah figures in religion and mythology.
Not One Damn Dime Day, a proposed boycott of all consumer spending, was perhaps one of the most poorly thought out and piss-weak ideas for an alleged political protest ever; and Mark Dery tears it a new one, in style:
First, the whole business reeks of bobo sanctimony and cultural elitism. Any member of the Adbusters-reading, Supersize Me-watching leisure class who honestly believes she can Stick It to the Man by keeping her dimes firmly in her hand-knitted Guatemalan rucksack, right beside her manically underlined copy of Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance, is unlikely to be seen rolling a 55-gallon drum of Miracle Whip out of Wal-Mart or rejoicing in fried offal at the local McDonald's. The NOMDD demographic consists largely, if not entirely, of inconspicuous consumers. It is axiomatic, at this late date, that the higher a certain sort of overeducated, deeply principled American climbs on the socioeconomic ladder, the more likely he is to camouflage his status and laminate his common-man credentials with the appearance (at least) of a virtuous proletarianism. This, after all, is America, where none of the children are above average. Our deep-dyed populism demands that all poll respondents, whether homeless or richer than God or Gates, insist they are "middle class."
Not One Damn Dime Day, and its cousins like Buy Nothing Day, are, according to Dery, symptomatic of a deeper malaise in the American left: a popular association of progressive ideals with asceticism, self-denial and a guilty, puritanical joylessness.
Ensuring that you're synonymous, in the public mind, with hair shirt-wearing self-denial and granitic humorlessness (think Kerry, Gore, Dukakis...) is not likely to win the hearts and minds of Middle Americans, most of whom shrink from things like the NOMDD Day because they sound like the political equivalent of the gray, gluten-free, sugar-free, fun-free snack foods drearily gummed by vegans and other humorectomy sufferers. A mass boycott that mandates total self-denial and, by default, sentences the participant to house arrest in order to avoid spending a plugged nickel, let alone a thin dime, is a mass boycott doomed to failure.
Too long have the censorious, humor-impaired wings of the left--the Dworkinite penis-is-a-weapon paleoconservative wing of feminism; the beige, Organization Man policy wonks; the excruciatingly earnest shoot-your-TV neo-Luddites--been the left's public face. We need an Xtreme Makeover. More profoundly, we need to stop embracing the politics of denial and withdrawal. Show me a sharp-tongued left-wing critique, built on notions of social justice and economic democracy that resonate with the common man yet, at the same time, embraces the Coneyesque cheap thrills and vulgarian pleasures of junk culture, and I'll show you a battleplan for handing the right's self-appointed morals czars their heads.
(I'm wondering: could this be a legacy of America's Puritan heritage? Could the fact that the American colonies were founded by zealous, gratification-denying idealists have formed not only the religious streak in the American right but the crusading tendencies and anti-materialism of American progressive movements throughout history?)