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(disclaimer: I’m not trying to put ALL Baby Boomers into one category by what I write about here. I’ve spoken to a number of Boomers who don’t espouse the views that I describe below; I’m just trying to respond to the loudest description of my generation that I keep hearing repeated over and over by folks who are a generation older than me, and whose standpoints pervade the media, but whom I try to remember aren’t representative of everyone, just as a few of any large group shouldn’t be construed as representative of the entire population.)

I’m getting really tired of hearing folks talk about how my Millennial generation “doesn’t want to work” and “wants everything given to us for free.” Let’s just say there was any truth to that whatsoever.

WHO THE FUCK RAISED US? YOU DID!

So now that that’s clear, let’s discuss some of our supposed values. Millennials apparently don’t seem to want to follow the whole “go to college, get a job, get married, have kids” routine as much as our parents did. Why do you suppose that is?

95% OF YOU ARE DIVORCED.

and

DOING WHAT SOCIETY TOLD YOU TO DO WORKED OUT GREAT FOR YOU, DIDN’T IT?

I’m going to come back to this whole job-hating standpoint that is attached to us. Old fogies are saying their sons and daughters are too lazy to go out and “find a job” by “knocking down doors.”

These older people tell us that trying to do the things that we’re passionate about is “not good enough” and a “waste of time” and “no one makes real money on the internet.”

First off,

THE WORLD IS DIFFERENT NOW, GRANDPA. GET OVER IT. “APPLY ONLINE” IS NOT A REQUEST.

And secondly:

WHERE ARE THE JOBS? YOU PUT A BUNCH OF SCUMBAG PRIVATIZERS AND NEOLIBERALS (DEMS AND GOP) IN POWER WHO OUTSOURCED ALL THE JOBS, MADE BILLIONAIRES RICHER, AND CRUSHED ALL THE UNIONS.

We want things handed to us on a silver platter, without having to work for them.

YOU’RE THE ONES WHO BROUGHT US UP WITH PSEUDO-AFFLUENT CREDIT-BASED MIDDLE-CLASS VALUES THAT SEEMED TO PROVIDE YOU WITH GERMAN CARS AND MARGARITA-MAKERS EVEN THOUGH YOU WERE STILL CONSTANTLY WORRYING ABOUT MONEY AND WHICH WAS ALL A BANK-DESIGNED FARCE AND ULTIMATELY BIT YOU IN THE ASS.

They want to make us feel bad for having no values, goals, or passions, for “never playing outside anymore,” for being soft and flighty and fickle and over-medicated. Never mind that they’re the ones who medicated us, who bought us a million types of screens (on credit) just to distract us. A bigger point is this:

IF YOUR HIPPIE MOVEMENT HADN’T COMPLETELY FAILED TO ACHIEVE CHANGE AND YOU HADN’T ALL SOLD OUT TO THE SYSTEM, MAYBE WE WOULDN’T BE DISENCHANTED AND NIHILISTIC, OR MAYBE WE (AND OUR SPOUSES) WOULDN’T NEED TO COMPROMISE WHAT WE DO BELIEVE IN AND THROW ANY ACTUAL PASSIONS WE DO HAVE DOWN THE TOILET IN ORDER TO GET SOME FULL-TIME SOUL-SUCKING JOB JUST FOR BASIC NECESSITIES (LIKE YOU DID).

As I just hinted, or rather said outright, they want us to get business degrees and other credentials that completely negate our actual interests so that we can “follow in their footsteps.” Well where do those footsteps lead?

CORPORATE MISERY, DIVORCE, WORRYING ABOUT MONEY, HAVING A BIGASS MORTGAGE, STRESS- AND LIFESTYLE-INDUCED ILLNESS, AND FEWER SAFETY NETS SO THEY’LL BE EVEN MORE DEPENDENT ON US.

They think we’re ignorant.

WHO ALLOWED SCHOOLS TO BE DEFUNDED AND PRIVATIZED?

What kind of a world did they create for us?

POOR, POLLUTED, WAR-TORN, VIOLENT, AND RUN BY IGNORANT RACIST PSYCHOPATHS WHO ARE PART OF *THEIR* GENERATION.

So what the fuck are they blaming us for? Where’s the humility? Where’s the shame? I’d like to hear one, JUST ONE, Baby Boomer say something along the lines of, “Gee, ya’ll got kinda fucked over by us.”

So you’re angry with us? You’re disappointed with us?

BIG FUCKIN’ DEAL. I’M A DAMNED ADULT NOW AND YOUR ANGER DOESN’T MEAN SHIT. I’M ANGRY TOO, LESS ABOUT YOUR STUPID MINDSET AND MORE ABOUT HOW FUCKED UP THIS WORLD IS, AND SOON MY GENERATION WILL CONTROL THE ENTIRE COUNTRY, LIKE IT OR NOT.

If that scares the shit out of you, you might try changing how you interact with us.

And no I’m not “playing the victim.”

I’M TRYING TO HAVE MY STANDPOINT UNDERSTOOD AND ACKNOWLEDGED SO THAT I CAN MOVE PAST MY PERSONAL BULLSHIT AND START CLEANING UP THIS CLUSTERFUCK THAT YOU CREATED AND TAKE NO FUCKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR!!!!!

Is that so much to ask? You better be nicer to us. We’re getting sick of hearing about it.

My Room

I’ve always been a big fan of my bedroom. It’s got everything I need to be productive, to relax, to study, to sleep, to be myself. Everything is up very high to accommodate my height. I have my desk with its computer and printer, and I have my bookshelves with the thousand books that used to be a million, but which I’ve pared down and now comprise only the most meaningful, the most trusty. I have my bureau, which is very tall, with a mirror on top of it. I have my bed where I sleep well.

My floor has its little mat that I put my feet on when I get out of bed in the morning. I bought that mat over ten years ago. I have my small tables and one or two chairs in my room; I do many different things in here. In addition to what I mention above, I can make sound recordings in here. I can make video recordings in here too. I can write up a storm about whatever is on my mind. I could even lie down on the floor and exercise in here, if I wanted to.

There are pictures of my family above my desk. There’s a drawing an artist friend of mine did for my 25th birthday on the wall next to it. I have my Greek flag, my human muscular system chart, my academic and professional diplomas. A little ways over is my record collection and record player. It is fairly extensive, beautiful, and heavy.

My room is my little world in which I am at the center, creating and building everything that seemingly exists. It is organized for me, by me, for the benefit of me. I wish everyone had a room like this one.

A rock band union would rule, but a good start would be the truth:

Orlando Culture Shock

Ryan Pemberton

Last night, Orlando promoter Ryan Pemberton posted a rant about bands paying for play. I say rant. Yet, I found his Facebook post very informative. So informative I think more people need to read it. School these suckas, bro.

Don't Pay for PlayUPDATE: This damned thing done went viral!  Recently, Mr. Pemberton has received many Facebook requests. Ryan and I are in Orlando.  Peter Kissane from Germantown, Wisconsin alerted Ryan to another sneaky game promoters pull with bands. It’s almost the same as pay to play.  Yet, this is an updated version of it.  Let’s go back to school, kiddies!

Don't Pay for Play 2

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Basically

image

I work at a gym and recently a young man came in wearing this t-shirt:

nike unfair shirt

 

Thinking that perhaps I had encountered another member of the anti-sweatshop labor community (though being also confused by the shirt), I asked him, “Hey brother, what’s the deal with that shirt?” He said, “What do you mean?” I took a deep breath and thought to myself, “Mark, it’s your first week working here. Do you really want to bust out labor politics to a customer at your workplace?” So what I said was, “I thought it may have something to do with Nike using sweatshop labor.” I guess my answer to myself was “sure.”

He said, “Um, well as far as I know, it’s like some people are so good at their sport that they have an unfair advantage, that’s what it’s talking about.” I said, “oh, that’s very interesting, I can see that being a good marketing angle.” A little restraint never killed anyone. “Fantastic,” I continued. “My name’s Mark, by the way.” “Kevin,” he replied. “Good to meet you, Kevin. You have a great workout, aight?”

He nodded and scurried off, his brow furrowed but a little smile on his face, as if to say, “as long as I can walk away right now, we’re all good here.”

It seemed odd to have the word “unfair” written on a shirt made by a company so increasingly reputed to abuse its workers. So I did a little research. One of the first and only hits on Google to come up when I searched for “nike unfair shirt” was a tweet by Playfair2012, evidently a UK-based workers’ rights group concerned with the London Games, that read,

#Nike “UNFAIR” branded t-shirts tell the truth about how garment workers are treated. It’s time for Nike to play fair.

It featured the same photo I have provided above. The weirdest thing about it is that it serves as an ad for Nike almost as much as a criticism; was PlayFair actually saying Nike’s intention with the shirt was to acknowledge “the truth”? Probably not, of course. But the rhetoric of the tweet suggests the following: that Nike knows it behaves unfairly towards it workers, and now it’s time for them to act on that awareness.

Rather than the unfairness of its work conditions, what is Nike trying to imply by its use of “Unfair”? As Kevin mentioned above, the idea is that some people are better at things—in this case, sports—than others. Nike wants its potential customers to ask themselves this question: “*Are* some people better than others? Or is it just that they *believe* they are better? Is betterness determined by believing in yourself?” The answer, being yes, then is intended to lead that person to the “how” of the equation. “So *how* do I believe in myself more?”

It’s a good question: how *do* we demonstrate belief in ourselves? By being confident! By showing everyone else that we don’t care what they think of us, by working hard and “faking it til we make it,” and then once we have it, flaunting it.

And what demonstrates confidence? “The apparel doth make the man”! Of course, the jump that Nike wants you to make is that owning a Nike shirt might in some way symbolize your belief in yourself. And then, BECAUSE I believe in myself—of which ownership of this shirt is an expression—I can BECOME one of the “better” people who make life/sports unfair for everyone else! Soon, the word “unfair” will refer to how wearing Nike clothing—and the insane uptick in personal confidence and initiative it creates—gives the wearer an Unfair Advantage in the same way that being bigger, stronger, faster, or leaner can give you an advantage in sports (even though strength is cultivated over years of work and a shirt is purchased in a single afternoon).

Naturally, none of the thought processes I describe above are meant to taken literally as cognizant thoughts. For most of us, purchasing comes down to two things:

A) Does it function the way I want it to?

B) Do I like it (in terms of style/appearance)?

As for A), Nike is a well-known brand of fitness apparel with a huge list of professional sports endorsees and one of the most recognized logos in history. Obviously, the functionality of their products is a given based on their reputation; otherwise, they would not be so successful. Right? (I am, of course, speaking in the reasonable voice of the average thinker). And B)? Well, Nike simply wants you to think, “Yes, I like it,” and to buy the shirt. But what is it you like? What is the “style” they are selling you? The style is the idea that, by getting you to admit that life is unfair, and that unfairness is the result of not believing in yourself, Nike is nice enough as a company to provide you with the means of demonstrating belief in yourself  to such an extent that you have an unfair advantage, and now you yourself must be labeled “Unfair.”

In a 2001 article for CorpWatch, Alicia Rebensdorf describes how companies like Nike and others attempt, with some success, to repurpose the rhetoric of social justice movements aimed at them, to redirect the attention of the consumer away from the claims of a marginal and mercurial anti-corporate minority and towards the entrenched corporate authority figure. As FairPlay2012 above seems to suggest, companies such as Nike can win back their consumers’ credibility by appearing to “own” their shortcomings.

But the real purpose, bigger than asserting “ownership” over claims of foul play (and in part, conceding their validity), is valuable enough to justify any hypothetical cost. Such companies hope to undermine and co-opt the entire idea of social justice, to tie it to the oh-so-marketable state of “coolness,” and to then market themselves as “coolness you can buy,” which engenders buying the product and actively *consuming* it, and deriving a positive feeling and effect from doing so. The idea that it is somehow cooler to eschew the corporate exploiters, to *deprive* yourself of material pleasures, and to say and do negative things about corporations and society, are suddenly cast in a light of ridicule.

In the case of “Unfair,” not only is it “coolness you can buy,” but ability, talent, and hard work, to make yourself “unfair” to play against. The irony is that America possesses so much financial power throughout the world in part because of the neoimperialistic practices—such as worker exploitation—that Nike uses to keep costs down. In having corporations who do business like Nike, America *does*, in fact, make it unfair for much of the rest of the world, who, through poor work conditions and bad pay, are denied the freedom to ever believe in themselves. If they did, it would only be a matter of time before these workers forcibly removed the elite members of their often impoverished societies from power, who allow them, time and time again, to be exploited for the benefit of the richest country on earth, only to be told that “life is unfair, get used to it.”

Although he didn't actually say this. But it's interesting that we would falsely attribute something so defensive of the status quo to the richest man on earth.

Although he didn’t actually say this. But it’s interesting that we would falsely attribute something so defensive of the status quo to the richest man on earth.

Several weeks prior to her wedding, my friend Thea asked me to write something about love to read during the ceremony. I waited until two days prior to really give it the old college try. From the wedding that a noted political analyst called “the reddest wedding I’ve ever seen,” (“red” meaning having to do with Communism, in this context), here’s what I came up with.

***

Wedding Speech of Mark Ludas to Justin and Thea at their Wedding

July 26, 2014

When two people meet each other for the first time, it is usually pretty clear whether they will get along well with each other. There is a meeting of the minds, an overlapping sense of humor, a shared interest or two in one or two similar activities. Sometimes there is a strong physical element and sometimes that shows up later. Perhaps there are some similar experiences to be shared and bonded over, as though cut from the same cloth. There can be tension, disagreement, but usually this breeds interest, fascination. And the desire to see more of each other is the most telling of signs that, indeed, yes, these two people get along well with each other.

After some time passes, some earnest words are exchanged, a few long walks around the yard and many shared ideas, it becomes clear that these two not only get along with each other, but care about each other. The well-being of one is repetitiously occurring to the other, and vice versa. A bond starts to form, and time spent apart is considered time wasted, or at least misspent. Each person’s wealth of knowledge and experiences is considered just that: a wealth, because it adds both quality and quantity to one’s own. Where before there was one mind, now there are two, and those two minds combine to form ideas, thoughts, feelings, that could not have existed while the two minds lay apart.

Soon, the time before having met the other person starts to seem, again, like time misspent, or at least incomplete. Dreams and ambitions start to bear a common theme: the presence of one another. And not just her presence, but her centrality, her necessity, to everything he considers his future. And not just his voice, habits, or tendernesses, but his very existence…to everything she considers…existence. I use the pronouns He and She, referring of course to these two, but it could be anyone to anyone, for that is how important human beings can be to one another, to understand that the substance of my life is diminished without you, the substance of the entire world and all the good I hope to do in it, my freedom, my agency, my abilities and willingness to use them, last of all my happiness, because I don’t love you for the happiness you give me now; rather, I love you for the happiness that I will one day feel, of being able to one day look back on my life, some years from now, and know that we did all we could, and we did it together. For it is only when people have loved each other that anything good ever came out of this world, and in having your love, your guidance, your sanity, I know I did all the good that I could for this world, for this life that we are both now lucky enough to have been born into.

Ah, luck. Ten fingers and ten toes, full use of our faculties, basic intelligence, the ability to avoid starving or imprisonment, as it turns out (pause), the ability to work and feel some semblance of security of the self. Are these signs of a superior character? No. They are pure, stumbling luck, signifying only some vestige of a fragile socioeconomic order. But what is not luck? What *is*, perhaps, a sign of good character? *Feelings*, and following them, with conviction, with passion, and sticking to them no matter what people say, no matter what catastrophes “fate,” and fate is just another word for society, put in your way. Character is knowing you love someone and loving them anyway. Sure, it is luck that brings two people together, but it is character that keeps them together, to form a society of their own.

And that is what love is, genuineness of feeling. For there were rarely two people I have ever met who believed what they believe with such seriousness, such certainty, and such solidarity as Thea and Justin. I’m only excited for them to see what comes from their union, what kind of life they’re going to make for themselves, what kind of theories they come up with, in large part because I know it will be uniquely theirs, as will the many good things they have yet to accomplish in this life. So I want to say I’m so very glad to be here today to see this incredible thing happening, it gives me a lot of hope. Congratulations and thank you. Lots of love.

I just remember, and still know, the feeling of thinking, “If I could just make a film, my genius would finally get out,” as though my distinct vision is so bold and vivid and demanding that it requires film—“the liveliest art”—to be fully realized. My first screenplay, “Paranoia,” was like that; brash and distinct, violently individualistic in its intentions, it was written in such a way that the camera would intentionally be visible in every shot, shockingly, invasively, capturing the horror of the life in which we live. Although I did sign up a director and a cinematographer, “Paranoia” was never shot, mainly because shooting movies is difficult.

But getting back to these days: recently I’ve been hooked on this Bjork song “Bachelorette” from the album Homogenic. It is a brilliant, immersive “emotional landscape,” to use Bjork’s words from another song, caked in briny, swirling orchestration like a magnificent whirlpool, dragging its victims down towards a dark ocean floor. Yet, it is a “song” like any other, short and structured and one of many. Only “eccentricity” can capture the ideas of some well-known visionaries, true, but not the outright mania required to avoid “songs” altogether and seek some completely new structure, some new system. It would seem manic indeed—quite irrational—to do so, because no one [but the avant-garde] would listen, understand, and buy. Although merely “eschewing the conventional” isn’t adequate for an unconventional and “unique” soul like Bjork, a complete and vast break with the extant systems and methods of expression would be too far.

Why must such “genius” cleave to “music” or “film” at all? True expression along these lines of originality—a “visionary” line—should reject all prevalent forms of expression and stop trying to “innovate” in such realms as painting and film where “everything has been done.” Even if the “new” field is somewhat derivative—like writing a novel on a stretched canvas and calling it a work of visual art—it is logical to assume that true originality, and therefore greater expressive fulfillment, would be more possible within such invented fields rather than the ones we see everywhere and from which most modern advertising techniques derive (see French New Wave). But most artists possess a desire to connect, to exercise their social instinct, to be seen and “recognized” in the Hegelian sense, i.e. that unless and until you recognize me and what I am doing, I have no personhood. And without that recognition, there would be a loss of feeling, for it is believed by these artists that art is based on feelings, and feelings exist for other people and cannot be only beheld by the emoter. To attempt to do so would create mental instability, whether from lack of recognition or just from being “bottled up,” and remaining unexpressed (same thing?).

So it is our society of affirmation and social validation (i.e. self-affirmation is impossible; teachers, bosses, friends and families exist to affirm our existence and performance: “Remember, George, no man is a failure who has friends” says Capra, admittedly) that creates this aspect of genius. Or that emphasizes it. It is believed that genius is original; but Edison- or Jobs-style genius is originality based on human need, which is not original; it is derived.

Is Bjork a genius? Or rather, sticking with our subject, am/was I?

There was a time when it seemed liked if I could simply harness the “total” or “complete” expression of my artistic vision, then “success” would be essentially guaranteed based on that vision’s ability to “change the world.” “Changing the world” is what people get recognized for, a lot. My mistake, perhaps, has been reliance on conventional forms of expression, and on a conventional idea of success. The obvious solution would have been to incorporate some aspects of human need fulfillment into the conventional art forms that I clung to. My third and yet unfinished novel, “Mere Love,” was going to be that. Instead of being exploratory, it would be linear. Instead of depicting deeply flawed characters who never learned and never progressed, its character would learn and change and mature. Instead of having an indeterminate number of “acts,” it would have three acts. I learned about all of these conventions from books and classes that teach people “how to write” and how to “succeed” at it. You have to give the people what they need in order for them to purchase something.

Instead of a having a spiritual or philosophical crisis, the main character would have material one, an “event,” that he has to deal with. That event was the death of his father, which I based on the long, slow death of my own, and is the reason I never finished “Mere Love.” Maybe I couldn’t handle “reality” enough to write about it; readers want true-to-life struggles, something they can relate to. Who can’t empathize with the concept of the loss of a parent? It’s practically universal. And universality is needed. But I couldn’t “hack” it, so I did not succeed. I couldn’t give the people what they need.

All art that is allowed to be commercially successful does so because it fulfills “established” human needs; it is unoriginal in form and essential content and caters to the same themes (love, death, war, self-sacrifice, family values, other ideologies), and forges a “human condition,” which is merely the “universally” dominant (i.e. repeating) themes in popular art that appear again and again because they are perceived to fulfill some human need, some basic human emotion, and in effect, to “recognize” it and with it the consumer. This is the comfort of popular art forms and their dominant ideological content: to validate and legitimize the needs of the consumer, and to tell that consumer, “it’s okay you feel that way,” whether about the ache of a broken heart, the importance of war, the desire to be and look “cool” like in hip action comedy films, or the desire to kill someone who gets in your way as you exercise your “individuality.”

{Aside: I am not completely contemptuous of the concept of “the human condition,” because I realize that there are experiences we all share to some extent. It would be inhumane to deny that all people are susceptible to suffering, loss, misery, et cetera, or that these experiences don’t “unite” us in some form. The distinction I am trying to make is similar to that which exists between the two types of nationalism: one type is the “nationalism” in the sense of Che Guevara’s call, “Patria ou Muerte,” where one believes that the attributes of one’s country are essential to it, outside of the authority of any oppressive state apparatus or another, and in fact those apparatuses are to be overthrown in order to restore those essential attributes that they have eroded. Whereas the “human condition” I describe above is akin to the other form of nationalism, the proto-fascist type, where a preconceived notion of a nation is perpetuated to justify certain oppressive conditions such as war abroad, racist policy at home, and the general destruction of civil liberties in the name of “national security.” The good forms of both “the human condition” and “nationalism” derive from the individual and shared experiences of human beings and in so doing preserve both individuality and community consciousness; the bad forms of “the human condition” and “nationalism” are manufactured and sold by authority figures (the media, and the state, respectively), and attempt to repress these tendencies.}

“True artists” who hope to change the artistic landscape are lost within this cultural dynamic, where art must fulfill some perceived human need—possess some use-value—just like any other commodity. And these artists are tricked into using conventional means of expression—writing, painting, drawing, filmmaking, photography, sculpture, music, dance, et cetera—to try to “change the world,” when in reality the last thing people want—and will pay money for—is to have their world changed. On the whole, they want their world reinforced, recognized, “related to.” And these “true artists” grow frustrated with themselves and believe themselves a failure, as I did and do.

The alienation of the true artists who seek to change the world with art results in the state of art under capitalism whereby, to paraphrase Adorno, the media, the press, and the other instruments and venues of communication—by which the arts are proliferated and made “successful”—are indeed just another business, which is used as justification for the “commercial” rubbish they deliberately produce. Anyone aiming to disassemble, deplete, or destroy the current social order—i.e. to “change the world”—has no hope of doing so in the popular arts if fame (i.e. mass recognition) and a decent paycheck are to be the ends. Foreseeing “failure” as an artist results in art being forsaken as a career and replaced with a dayjob or something peripheral to the arts themselves, e.g. a writer becomes a book editor, a painter becomes a gallery manager, a filmmaker becomes a camera operator, a dancer becomes a dance teacher, and so on. And the arts stay more or less the same, more “true artists” being born every day, who perceive that the world needs to be changed, and who will try to do it with artistic weapons that remain perpetually pointed at themselves, having been engineered that way.

The solution, then, is not for artists to withdraw into the world of feelings, but to learn about and attack those attributes of the world that make it in need of change, and to do so with all means at our disposal: high arts, low arts, new arts, old arts. Movies, TV, radio, visual arts, music, dance, drama, and everything in between. Make art as I described above, completely devoid of any connection to “accepted” media that defies and rejects all demands of fulfilling human need, to the best of your ability. OR, use conventional means, and specifically cultivate humanity’s unmet need to do something, to fight for good. Use that as the cardinal need that your work fulfills. Depict the world alternatively as it is—unjust, war torn, in the midst of inexorable change—and as it should be. Choose a target and blast it out of the water as best you can, in the voice that is the target of YOUR target. Want to end racism, sexism, homophobia, oppression and consumerism? Learn about and try to speak in the voice of the oppressed, and empower others to do so (but don’t culturally appropriate or resort to stereotypes. That’s bad). Don’t do it for money, don’t do it to be loved by everyone (but expect appreciation from the people you give voice to, assuming you do it well); do it because the world needs it. It doesn’t need you; it needs change. That is the role of the arts: not the celebration of the individual genius and the successful commoditization of her art, but of our ability to recognize injustice and attack it, and to validate people’s need to attack it also.

James Campbell

Dear Mr Izzard and all the other English contributors to the recent “Let’s stay together” video,

I am English and live in England. When I woke up to the real prospect of Scotland voting to leave the UK in September, like you and like many other English people, I felt an emotional twinge. I felt indignant with Scots who supported independence. So I followed both campaigns on the internet and got up to speed with the political issues that the referendum is about. I was won over fairly quickly to the “Yes” side. And so, I want to challenge the arguments put forward by you and your colleagues in your video of 15 July.

1. You describe the UK as a “family”.

Families are not always healthy. Even if they are, children grow up and leave home with their parents’ blessing. The Yes campaign has set out many reasons why…

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Be Somebody!

Movies, TV shows, and popular music all inspire us to want to “be somebody,” but in order to “be somebody” on that scale—in order to be a fast-talking Austin Powers government spy, Jack Bauer-type cop agent, or Beck/Bjork-style rock star—we have to accept society as it is and become its agent, an agent of society as it is, of the status quo. We must reflect its values, whitewash its failings, and invigorate its masses with more of the same.

To suggest that fighting comedic villains, countering “terrorism,” or acting cool and artsy is not enough for a public cultural figure to do, and rather she should be protesting some unjust aspect of society, is to expose oneself to criticisms like, “not EVERYTHING needs to be about politics!” The implication of this critique is that the figure in question would not herself be famous if she fixated on political issues or opined openly about injustice. Rather, she must remain focused on the key issues that drive sales: love, conquering bad guys, and “carrying on” in the face of how tough life is.

Life is tough, no questions there. But is it enough for artists to tell people to just put their heads down and power through it—look for love, hope for wealth and prosperity, and “fuck b****es”—rather than to try to spread some awareness of how things became “tough”? Once in a blue moon, in an Oscar acceptance speech for example, a famous person of color will speak openly about the struggles that she faced on her way to success. Yet, she works for the American film industry, the greatest propaganda machine in the world, that gave us Mickey Rooney’s character in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” countless African-American and Native American stereotypes, “sissy” targets of homophobic ridicule, evil Arabs in “Aladdin,” “Rules of Engagement,” and “True Lies,” racist whitewashing in “The Help,” religious fundamentalism in “Passion of the Christ,” consent-manufacturing for war “Casablanca” and “Hunt for Red October,” violence against women in countless action movies, and innumerable other messages and agendas that pertain to the reason an African-American winning an Oscar in America is such a triumph and such an innovation.

Is it, then, the purpose of “being somebody,” once one reaches a place of cultural influence, to *then* point out the inequities of that culture in such a way as to affect them? So let me get this straight: I’m supposed to use any and all connections with agents, friends-of-friends, and behind-the-scenes folks I can conjure in order to break into showbiz, to start in TV commercials or soap operas or jingles or to appear on commercial radio, to create a publicity blitz among press connections big and small, to pay a horde of people—agents, recording engineers, publicists, plastic surgeons, photographers, personal trainers, relaxation experts, clothing retail outlets, et cetera—a lot of money, and attract and maintain lucrative contracts from studios and record companies, ONLY to eventually come out and say that all of those mechanisms of achieving success are corrupt and morally bankrupt? If I’m going to do that and be cast out of the conformist inner circle, then what was all the work for? You can’t essentially model yourself after the oppressors if you hope to overthrow them.

Granted, if all famous people did it, things might change. But the stakes on achieving success on the scale of a Russell Brand (who is not exactly Tom Cruise in terms of household nameyness) are too great to expect people who have ultimately benefited greatly from that system to publicly come out against it. “I worked TOO LONG and TOO HARD to say that what I did either took TOO LONG or was TOO HARD!” If it was easy for the individual to possess a voice with the power of Hollywood, no one would do it. But that would mean something much bigger. In such a society, people would possess the power to be heard and affect culture without the billions of dollars that fund Hollywood and showbiz in general. The means of mass communication would be controlled, not by “the mass media,” but by the people. Everyone could “be somebody,” by virtue of being part of a society that values everybody, not just those who allow the system to suck them dry.