Monday, April 14, 2008

Who You Are?

Flashback to the time during your childhood when you proudly wore a t-shirt with your favourite band on it, sought out a pair of kicks that only you and a close circle o like - minded addicts knew about. What about when you first heard a particular genre of music. It may have been uncool to your peers, but it rocked your world. It allowed you to forget all the superfluous directions from teachers, parents, authority-figures, advertisers and so on. Albeit, even if it was for just a few hours allow yourself to be taken over by the soundtrack to the years when you weren’t quite an adult but far from a child.

Gone are the days when your subculture (at least you were convinced it were) was something original, rebellious, distinct, raw, brash. A way of life that you took part in, solely because you could identify with the success of your idols (whether in the street or in the mainstream) and all they and the art form they partook in represented. Take any major teenage subculture, hobby, form of popular music of the past twenty odd years – whether punk, heavy metal, graffiti, hip hop, skateboarding, house music, they have all been exploited to sell goods. The trend watchers take whatever movement has some sort of underlying sense of integrity, strip of it of it’s original meaning and then market as something 'cool', 'exciting', 'daring', when really what that culture that once seemed so pure has just been manipulated, pre-packaged, wrung till it’s last drop of life and then spat out and abandoned, only to have the next so called 'trend' (whatever the cool merchants deemed was so popular amongst the kids these days), go through the same cycle.

To be blunt, sneaker and clothing companies never wanted to be associated with a “ghetto” subculture till they saw how desired their garments were by impoverished kids, and even then a handful of luxury brands want nothing to do with successful rappers who don’t fit the clean-cut stereotypes their brand perpetuates and endorse. That’s just one example, in brief how can you forget when head-bangers were seriously uncool (no signs of the rip off faded, mass marketed, cheaply designed fashion unauthentic retro band homages of today), skateboarding was hated by the metal heads, writers, punks and the homeboys at your local Westfield shopping complex, not to mention the jocks and every authority figure you could think of. As for graffiti, it was the scourge of society, a sign that lawlessness was rampant and that the youth had no respect for anyone, anything, they were a generation whose morals had gone to hell.

Well if you believed what you see on billboards, in magazine advertisements and on television commercials, skateboarding is so cool, graffiti is acceptable and hip hop is summarised by material wealth and it’s all so chic, great, acceptable? Oh, how times have changed? Hardly, the truth is no matter what the culture, the ones that live for it will always be doing what they do, regardless of the stigma attached to it, in the mainstreams consciousness. You can’t identify with something truly if there is no connection between whatever culture you engage in and what it means to you. It’s a free world yes, but really if you think that engaging in a subculture and its affiliated clothing, style that is currently “hot” in the marketers eyes will provide some glint of happiness in your life, you are bound to remain unfulfilled, empty and always craving more.

My point is corporations aren’t interested in culture being a unifying force for its participants. They are interested in money, that’s all. So all the mixed messages your exposed to on a day to day basis in a world where advertising is all around us -on the billboards we walk past, on the television screens we tune out watching when we crash on the couch after work, throughout our email accounts, all over social networking sites and video sharing sites, it is easy to become overwhelmed by how inadequate we are constantly being told we are if we’re not wearing, drinking, driving, engaging in whatever activities featured in the advertisement onslaught we are subjected to during out daily movements. Brand name clothing, obscure trainers, good wines, fast cars…. – we all desire the finer things in life. The trick is realising that no amount of material items can solely define you as a person. It is not what you own but it’s what you make of one life that you have that counts. Far from suggesting laziness, complacency or a nostalgic spaced out hippy lifestyle. It is the determination to succeed at whatever it is that drives you in life through hard work, passion and the buildings of skills relevant to the goals you are working towards There is nothing worse than sacrificing or putting a lid on your interest’s, only to become another sheep in the herd breaking your back to keep up with what’s deemed cool by companies who have their sights set on making a profit and market saturation.

Here is where the punch of this rant comes in, the really cool thing about all the creative, beautiful renegades creating art in whatever shape, way or form currently is that rather than be only sucked in by the culmination of overly, photo-shopped, retouched up, unobtainable images they’re bombarded with on a daily basis, they’ve taken these and through manipulation and their own ideas, opinions and urges they’ve created something original, subversive, often controversial but most of all exciting, lasting and thought provoking. thanks to technology and individuals tired of operating in a corporate dog eat dog hierarchy, the rulebook documenting how we operate as individuals in society, what we consume and the control that multinationals have over us is being torn up and rewritten, one page at a time. We live in an exciting time. A time when for most of us, are only limited by self-doubt, excuses and keeping up with those at the forefront of our celebrity obsessed culture. Keep on grinding, keep on striving, cause if you devote enough energy to what it is you believe in, what you live for, then who knows what may happen.

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