Monday, September 17, 2007

Whose collective memory is it anyway?

ADS, or attention-deficit syndrome, is the metaphorical disease of the age. Just as junk food creates unfit bodies so junk culture produces unfit minds. By consuming it the current generation lays itself weak for exploitation, its minds open for colonisation by commercial and political interests.

What is required is the cultural equivalent of wholefoods, slow food, organic, fair trade, fresh and local nutrition - but what is this? Where are there examples of mind vitamins, spiritual enzymes, emotional minerals, intellectual roughage - brain nutrition?

It comes to something when the utterances of ex-Stone Roses front man Ian Brown seem to be extreme - reference his new album and the interview in this weekend's Guardian Guide.

Looking back, the most dystopian past visions of the future have turned out to be the most accurate, and the most radical ideas have turned out to be the most necessary.

But the flow of mindless mediocrity and short-termism - both short term thinking and short attention span fostering - which the global capitalist system and its politicians have been foisting on us for the last two decades, has produced a generation that barely seems to understand the meaning of words like 'radical' or 'protest'. The recent climate camp at Heathrow, for instance, was attended by around only 1800.

That's why every generation has to keep questioning. Every generation has to understand the status quo and attack it. If it fails to understand, recognise and attack it will be ruthlessly exploited and its life wasted, sucked dry, spat out at the end as a useless husk full of nothing but regrets.

For example, this is why we have a credit crisis now - millions with a massive millstone of debt round their necks that will take a lifetime of pointless, soul-destroying labour to pay off. They seduce you with baubles, get you into debt and then you're hooked into the system.

Kids, don't get into debt! It's a trap! Don't believe marketing and advertising. It should be banned! Question everything. Believe nothing.

Teach yourselves what they don't expect you to know!
But how?

The problem is that each generation has to learn this for themselves. They have to start afresh. They have to reinvent protest.

But the enemies - mainstream history and the status quo - have an excellent inter-generational memory - a version of history. They fill your head with it at school. They fill your head with it in the media. And they have their own vast, extensive archives. They have honed tactics, resources, laws, etc. etc. They therefore have a massive head start.

As a result, normal conventional protest (Live 8, Live Earth, marching against the Iraq war) doesn't stand a chance. It will always be out-propaganda'd, out-manoevered, or beaten into submission. Hence terrorism - the last resort of the powerless.

Because, it's in the nature of opposition that much of what happens from its point of view is undocumented. Therefore there is little inter-generational memory.

For example, I was involved in the Leveller magazine's successor, Monochrome, in the '80s. This lasted about six years and put out bimonthly issues - 10,000 print run - all free - financed by adverstising and the Leveller Graphics studio, itself set-up to pay off the debts of the Leveller Magazine, the most radical mag of the late '70s (its heyday was the ABC (Aubrey, Berry, Campbell) Official Secrets trial of 1979). Some of the covers of this you can see in 'my pics' on my myspace.

Naturally, both journals took inspiration from the Levellers and Diggers, the seventeenth century's give-the-land-to-the-people revolutionaries.

In the sea of history, Monochrome has disappeared without trace, as no one documented it, not even the book about the '80s counterculture media 'No Way To Run a Railroad'. (The same is true of the excellent Vague magazine, featuring Jamie Read, Jon Savage and Tom Vague.) I have a complete set of Monochromes that one day I must digitise.

Now in the '90s I had a conversation with the manager of that excellent band, the Levellers, and established that although they also took inspiration from the original Levellers, they had never heard of the Leveller Magazine or Monochrome. And this was barely a decade later. No inter-generational memory. No foundations, no learning from experience, no sense of tradition.

Most people haven't a clue about the rich and noble tradition of political protest, radical thinking, extreme art, revolutionaries, riots, strikes, working class movements, emancipation struggles, human rights struggles, and more, that has been going on in this country since the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Where do you go to find out about it?

My dream, then, is for an alternative online and perhaps offline college and library, a wiki-style place where all this stuff can be stored and learnt. A resource, a memory, a constantly self-updating treasury of radical history, culture, ideological, methodological, and strategic weaponry.

Who will be its curators and lecturers, its librarians and chancellors?

As Tony Benn once said, you can't trust what you read in their media; you have to have your own.

1 comment:

Matt Buck said...

Great read thank you. Regarding your post about dissent and the history of it in Britain...

> Where do you go to find out about it?

Here are a few links to a nice place to start looking...they are run by a very fine journalist and historian called Mark Crail.