Tag Archives: Occupy Movement

Evan and Gordon Talk: Separating Art From Artist

GORDON: Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages, welcome you here to Evan’s Dignity Memorial Art Gallery to view these lovely pictures of houses and flowers and stuff. The artist? Adolf Hitler.

Why, you ask, do we have Hitler’s youthful paintings and sketches? Because tonight we’re going to be talking about separating art from the artist, and whether or not such a thing can be done.

EVAN: To throw out an example, let me refer to the science fiction author Orson Scott Card, a man famous for writing Ender’s Game and for being pretty staunchly opposed to homosexuality in any form.

DC has hired him to pen a new “Adventures of Superman” comic for them, and quite a few stores have decided to boycott this product and not stock them. This being done, of course, as an act of protest.

GORDON: We’re not talking about some latent disapproval of homosexuality people, we’re talking about full blown vitriol on OSC’s part. Here’s a quote from him on the subject:

The dark secret of homosexual society—the one that dares not speak its name—is how many homosexuals first entered into that world through a disturbing seduction or rape or molestation or abuse, and how many of them yearn to get out of the homosexual community and live normally…

OSC straight up declares  in one piece of his, that he will not simply advocate, but will actively engage in the overthrow of the government should it ever attempt to legalize gay marriage:

Regardless of law, marriage has only one definition, and any government that attempts to change it is my mortal enemy. I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage

EVAN: Which is straight-up reprehensible, which I hope you’ll agree with regardless of your personal stance towards the very loaded topic of gay marriage, etc.

GORDON: Absolutely.

EVAN: On a similar note, we have Frank Miller, a legend in the comics industry.

 The guy penned Batman: The Dark Knight, 300, Sin City, and had a marvelous run on Daredevil that really defined the character. The man’s a legend.

He’s also on record for calling members of the Occupy Movement “nothing but a pack of louts, thieves, and rapists, an unruly mob, fed by Woodstock-era nostalgia and putrid false righteousness.”

The Occupy Movement doesn’t have the same hot button status gay marriage does, and it’s arguable that people are less certain about it, but that doesn’t make the things Miller said any less ignorant or wrong.

GORDON: Again, this is true. But we’re not here to list off the artists and creative minds who have maintained ignorant or bigoted positions over the years.We’re here to talk about separating them from their art, and I’m going to submit that one some fundamental level, it can’t be done.

EVAN: Alright, let’s hear why.

GORDON: I’m going to cite Miller’s iconic work The Dark Knight Returns, which has just recently been adapted as an animated film.

It’s not hard to see Miller’s borderline fascist views bleeding through in the book, as he takes pot shots at “reform not punishment” imprisonment, youth (portrayed as violent, stupid, barely comprehensible thugs that even Alex DeLarge would be creeped out by), and even the latest Robin’s parents being portrayed was whiny, drug-addled liberals.

While I doubt Miller was using much restraint, I’m going to submit that the artist is almost always too close to his or her art for her views not to bleed through.

EVAN: So members of Oprah’s book club who read The Education of Little Tree, by former member of the KKK Forrest Carter, should have been able to pick up on his racial sentiments?

GORDON: I said “almost.” Obviously there are exceptions to the rule.

And this isn’t to say that the work itself is to be shunned; I really and truly enjoy Miller’s work, even though he has a goose-stepping, paranoid Islamophobe.

Because of this, in particular.

EVAN: So we shouldn’t let the beliefs of creators affect our enjoyment of their work?

GORDON: I’d hope not. That would preclude me from liking anything done by Dali, any music written by Wagner, and so on and so forth. My issue isn’t with enjoying something a despicable person has made, my issue is with hiring someone you know is despicable.

Would I listen to “Flight of the Valkyries”? Yes. if Wagner was alive today, would I hire that anti-Semite? No way.

EVAN: That’s a really good point. For example, anyone who buys the new “Adventures of Superman” comic will actually be indirectly funding various anti-homosexual movements that Card himself supports. In this case paying money for his product actually results in an action you probably aren’t okay with.

That doesn’t mean that you couldn’t read his comic and think, “Huh, that is a great take on the Last Son of Krypton,” which is entirely likely since he really is a great writer. His art isn’t necessarily affected by his beliefs, but your buying his art supports them, in a roundabout way.

It’s a metaphor for rejection

GORDON: Despite the counter-arguments in DC’s favor, the simple truth of the matter is people aren’t going to be boycotting these books simply because they’re angry at Card- they were angry at him before- they’re also angry at DC for not having the basic decency to not go into business with a raging homophobe.

EVAN: No matter how good a writer, or any other kind of artist, is, there will always be another who approaches them in talent who doesn’t espouse the negative views that they do. The fact of the matter is that DC has other options.

But going back to the topic at large, we confirmed earlier, in a way, that knowing about an artist’s beliefs after you’ve already appreciated and enjoyed their work shouldn’t rob you of that. If I see a painting and think it’s quite lovely, then find out Hitler painted it, that doesn’t suddenly cause it to become hideous in my eyes. At least, it shouldn’t.

GORDON: And because of the pressure we the audience can put on companies to ensure that bigots and nutcases aren’t given a platform, we should try to keep the artist and their work tied together.

EVAN: Voting with our wallets, which should really be done in every area of our lives [buying ethically produced products, high quality entertainment, etc.].

GORDON: Kinda thrown off by the fact that some wallets are thicker than others. But such is Capitalism. Overthrow the bourgeois. Down with the system.

EVAN: But that is a topic for another day. One that I may or not be hopping on, simply due to a lack of knowledge on the matter.

And it’s also about time we wrapped things up.

GORDON: I submit that next week we discuss poverty, as more and more of the nation (and world) slips into it.

EVAN: And I think that we should talk about Gordon never seems to win these polls.

Ha! Just kidding. We could maybe talk about . . . eh . . . yeah, I got nothing. I’m gonna open up my spot to be viewer submitted, just to see what ideas you have in mind.

GORDON: How gracious of you. Perhaps you’ll even close us out here?

EVAN: Thanks, as usual, for tuning in. If you have anything you want to tell us in general, feel free to email us at culturewarreporters@gmail.com, we’re always happy to hear from you.

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Culture, Not Criteria

Earlier today Evan sent me a link to a documentary on YouTube dealing with the subject of “hacktivists,” or more specifically, the rise of internet mischief and mayhem group “Anonymous.” For the most part, the movie was decent enough, though of course it wasn’t without its own agenda and a there are a few misconceptions resulting from that. But this post isn’t going to be a review. Rather, it’s going to launch off from an interesting phenomena I saw throughout the documentary- and that was the way people talked about Anonymous.

See, whenever people talk about the group, they usually have to veer off into a parenthetical speech where they try to explain just exactly who these guys are, and how at the same time they can be anybody, because anybody can be “Anonymous.” The end result is that they wind up sounding like a paranoid schizophrenic or conspiracy theorist, and the explanation itself doesn’t sound all that believable. After all, how can any individual or group take on the mantle and conduct whatever hacking or pranking or ranting they do against their enemies without some leadership? How do they do anything if they have no demands or agenda?

The problem here (and elsewhere, but we’ll get to that in a minute) is that a completely wrong lens is being used to look at the group. People are looking for structure or goals- the two things that usually define any collection of people, and that’s where it falls apart. Anonymous isn’t a group, it’s an idea. It’s a culture.

Now that sounds strange, but bear with me here.

What’s a conservative?

You probably have an image in your head right now. You can probably tell me what a conservative would think about a certain issue, or how he or she would act in a certain scenario, or the general value system one might have, but if I really pushed you for criteria, my guess is that you wouldn’t be able to give me one. After all- there are varying ideas of “conservatism,” and no real defined boundaries. You’ll find conservatives who state that the “religious extremists” have a skewed view of conservative values, and those same extremists offer the exact same criticism of those wimpy fiscal conservatives. Regardless of the specifics, once you stand back, both groups do fit neatly into the category of “conservative.”

Now apply the same general lens to Anonymous.

What’s “Anonymous”? It’s not a group with an ideology- it’s an ideology with a group, or rather, a whole bunch of groups. Consensus isn’t made through secretive discussion boards or by a clandestine collective of angry computer-geeks. Consensus isn’t made at all- actions simply stem from a general set of perspectives and ideas (the most major of which is freedom of speech and opposition to censorship) held by the adherents. Anonymous doesn’t exist as a coherent, structured group anymore than any culture or subculture exists as a coherent, structured group. Sure you’ve got your major players, and you’ve got various projects or movements within, but at the end of the day, there’s no list of demands, just a set of values.

The reason I bring this up is that this kind of organic organization is becoming more and more prevalent in our culture, the most notable example perhaps being the “Occupy Movement.” Critics of the movement, in its early days, continually parroted the protest of “But what do they want?“- the issue with that being that there was no, and never could be, any list of demands. Occupy wasn’t a structured or unified group- it was, like Anonymous is, a culture. A massive number of people sharing (and developing) certain common perspectives and values and then taking actions based on those views (those actions further developing those views, and so on ad infinitum). Trying to get demands out of Occupy protestors would’ve been about as fruitful as trying to get demands out of conservatives. You’re going to get conflicting specifics, even if there is a general set of guiding principles.

And of course, there are others out there. Though there’s no real term or name for it yet, there’s a rising “Manly” culture, comprised of elements of survivalists, masculinists, and guys who debate each other on-line about how to build porches and properly maintain classic muscle cars. Now I can’t claim to know the origin of this- perhaps it’s partly a reaction against our increasing dependence on technology, perhaps it stems from our powerlessness in a time of political and economic hardship- but either way, it is a growing culture based in principals of independence, self-sufficiency, self-control.

On the other side of the spectrum, there’s the general philosophies and ideas of the trans-humanists, futurists, utopians, geeks, nerds, and people who worship the ground Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson walk on. Those who view technology as being the solution to most, if not all, human ills, and eagerly await the day when you can get a free jet-pack when you go in for your cancer vaccine.

Now why bring any of this up?

Because it’s important.

We’re currently breaking away from the liberal/conservative paradigm, and we’re going to need to understand what else is out there. This isn’t to say that we’ve only had conservative and liberal cultures- that simply isn’t true. But we can’t deny that there has been, over the past decade, developments of new value-systems which are really neither here nor there. New and alternative views for what the world ought to be, and how you ought to be in it. Over the course of the next few weeks, I’ll be focusing on dissecting these various concepts, so be sure to stop by next Monday for my examination of “Manly” culture.

Evan and Gordon Talk: The Greatest Flaw of This Generation [Continued]

EVAN: Last week Gordon and I discussed the greatest flaw of this generation, and discussed apathy, laziness, entitlement, and creative bankruptcy. Deciding that we had much more to work with, Gordon left us with this question last week, which heads this continuation of the topic:

““Do we want to be good, or do we just want to look good?”

GORDON: I’m not entirely sure I can come up with any swift dismissal of this possibility, I mean- look at the world we live in. Do we believe in being environmentally and socially conscious? Absolutely. But to what extent? I mean, we’ll chuck our soda cans in the recycling, but are we gonna picket Monsanto?

Are we really just observing these “little” things because they’re expected of us? Do we actually care one way or another?

EVAN: As far as recycling goes, we do that in Canada because it’s the law. Looking good only has so much to do with it.

If we want to go with the example of, say, giving a few dollars towards an environmental organization [or maybe because the fundraiser was cute], that works a little more maybe. It at least contrasts with picketing/protesting. I think we care, but maybe not enough? That’s if we’re quantifying “care” now by the actions that it results in.

GORDON: Is it, perhaps, that we’re cynical? Do we as a generation ultimately despair of the effectiveness of any method of change? Is the reason we’re unable to really go the distance when it comes to our causes because we think it’s all just in vain?

EVAN: Do we think it’s all futile? I mean, we’re certainly led to believe that to some extent. To focus on environmentalism, the extent of the destruction to this earth is growing ever closer to irreversible, and we’re made aware of this.

As far as documentaries and the like go, however, we are told over and over that what we do does indeed matter. Being conscious about how we spend our money and that sort of thing.

GORDON: That’s what we’re told, but then again, the creators of such documentaries are overwhelmingly members of older generations.

Look at the Occupy Movement, for example.

People were there from all demographics, but more than anyone else it was the youth- our generation. Despite massive popularity, that venture ultimately met its death under the boot heels of riot cops and a fog of pepper spray.

It’s been about a year since it all started, and the situation is the same, yet there’s really no push for any resurrection of the movement or even for any major protest at all. Have we given up? We’re all the same people- we have all the same drives and values- have we simply despaired of peaceful protest?

EVAN: It’s funny you should say that, since just yesterday former protesters gathered in a park in Toronto to call attention to the movement that happened a year ago.

That aside, maybe you can explain what exactly happened as the movement petered out. It’s somewhat well-known that the weather was a large contributor to those occupying various streets and cities, but what else led to its collapse. Was it simply fatigue?

GORDON: I’d blame massive crackdowns on the part of the mayors of the occupied cities- let’s not forget that mayor Jean Quan pretty much turned Oakland into a warzone. Injured a protesting war vet so badly most folks thought he was going to become the first casualty of the movement (he pulled through, fortunately).

EVAN: This sort of all falls back to a point I made in relation to apathy our first attempt at this topic. That people care, but simply don’t feel like stepping outside their comfort zones. I realize that this may seem like a ludicrous thing to say in the face of the Occupy Movement, but I feel that the vast majority of youth, our generation, don’t want to do what it takes.

They, we, value comfort too much.

GORDON: I’m gonna have to second that theory.

I remember back when I was in college, going door-to-door trying to get students to boycott various unethical companies [Coca-Cola, Nike] doing business on campus. I was amazed at how many people would nod their heads and smile and agree with each and every word out of my mouth until I called on ’em to stop buying those companies’ products.

Guts. We got none. Difficulty with the concept of actual sacrifice, you know?

EVAN: And the refreshing taste of Coca-Cola is the very basest of comforts. If we can’t part with a caffeinated beverage we’re into, then what can we do?

I’ve joined in your personal boycott of the company, and although it can be a little difficult, it’s certainly nothing compared to being beaten by batons as I march on Parliament.

GORDON: Is that it then? Are our values just skewed ever so slightly in favor of immediate gratification? Do we prefer keeping our skulls in once piece over bread and freedom?

EVAN: History would say: yes. At least until things reach a certain point. Until we realize that being comfortable doesn’t outweigh what we put up with to get that comfort.

GORDON:  So what’s the word for this?

EVAN: To put it simply would be “laziness,” and we both know it’s more than that.

GORDON: “Over-Attachment,” perhaps?

EVAN: “Comfort-Loving”?

GORDON: “Hesitation”? “Looking back towards Sodom”?

EVAN: Looking back towards Sodom assumes that they’re actually doing something.

GORDON: It’s a fear- a very specific kind of fear. The kind where you “choke” just before doing something major.

EVAN: I’m going to say there’s probably something in French or German for that, but since we’re writing this in English we’re pretty limited in our options.

GORDON: Can we make one up?

EVAN: Heh. I don’t see why not.

How about . . . “Statusquophilia.”

GORDON: “Fluxophobia”?

EVAN: Haha, I like how we went different directions with our Greek roots.

GORDON: As do I. Shall we have the readers vote?

EVAN: Sounds good to me, and we should be wrapping things up anyway. Want to summarize how we got here?

GORDON: Ultimately, o readers, it all comes down to this. The great and terrible flaw of our generation- from what we’ve discussed- is not a sin of commission. We are not entitled, we are not lazy, we are not without our values. Our fault is in what we lack the guts to be good, the balls to be bad. In short, the unwillingness to part with what we have for the chance to attain something more. We’re trapped in a dance with the devil we know.

EVAN: Vote for the terminology you like more. “Statusquophilia,” meaning a love for things as they are, or “Fluxophobia,” meaning, in this case, a fear of sacrifice.

GORDON: For next week’s topic, we’ve got: Zombies- Are We Beating a Dead Horse At This Point?

EVAN: Or what is going on with all the wars on television? I’m referring to programs like “Storage Wars” and the like. Real wars are happening, I realize this.

GORDON: And with that, people of the interwebs, we are out of time- make sure to vote for your preferred word as well as the topic for next week, and be sure to check out our new “Fame/Shame Day” feature!

Evan and Gordon Talk: The Greatest Flaw of This Generation

GORDON: Ladies and gentlemen- this is your captain speaking. After some unavoidable delays we will finally be taking off into our mid-week discussion. Our topic for today is “What’s the greatest flaw of this generation?”(This generation being those born in the late 80s to mid 90s: “The Millennials,” “Generation I”, “Gen Y”- call us what you will).

EVAN: As I mentioned in the news update, we scrapped our conversation last night, largely because it became cyclical. To be more specific, we ended up going back and forth between apathy and cowardice, with one leading back to the other and so on.

GORDON: But let’s widen the picture a bit. While apathy is the go-to criticism many have, also up there for our generation’s flaws is our alleged “sense of entitlement.” Thoughts?

EVAN: If we’re still going with your incredibly broad age range, then yes, I definitely think that a lot of kids these days feel a sense of entitlement. It’s just the norm now to have wireless internet, a phone, the latest iGadget, etc. They’re just expected, the new given.

GORDON: Is that fair, though? I mean- haven’t we assumed that phones, indoor toilets, and electricity are “the norm” since they were first invented?

EVAN: To a point, though, some of what you listed are basic necessities. I’d argue that indoor plumbing is considered much more standard than an iPad.

GORDON: This is true, but I don’t think our generation- barring the handful of people who actually do feel entitled- views the iPad or any specific item as being “standard”- it’s the interconnection that’s the norm, as well as the expectations for new technology.

I mean, back in the day you didn’t need light bulbs. But if they’re mass produced, and safer than gas-lamps, then it just stands to reason that we’d eventually come to expect them.

But of course technology’s only one element. what about the idea that this generation is “entitled” in the sense that they get to “find themselves” or “focus on their art” or whatever hipster euphemism is being used to say “part-time employed”?

EVAN: Do I think that people feel they deserve the right to do more than just hit the ground running after college, get right down to the ol’ nine-to-five? I mean, yeah.

But I think this brings up a point I made yesterday about the “where” of our question. In France the age of retirement is 62 and that’s just expected. There are different standards depending on where you live in the world.

GORDON: This is true. I mean, each and every one of us would be considered spoiled brats if we jumped back a hundred years or so.

EVAN: Oh, no doubt. Especially you with your freakishly smooth hands.

GORDON: So would YOU say that the whole “entitlement” criticism stands?

And I use gloves. I refuse to be put down because I take better care of myself.

EVAN: You say that every time, but they’re still as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

GORDON: That means they’re working, and I’ll further have you know that I have a big ol’ scar in my right hand in the shape of a number “7.” But back to the issue-

It doesn’t seem like the “entitlement” bit sticks. Could we be classified as “lazy,” perhaps? The warped and stunted half-humans resulting from government dependence and the welfare state?

EVAN: Well, we discussed “laziness” last night specifically in the context of wanting to change what is clearly a broken system, but is what we’re talking about a general laziness? People just expecting to be spoon-fed?

GORDON: That’s the question. I recall a Cracked.com article in which the author kicked things off by apologizing for helping perpetuate the myth that a college education was a guarantee for a good job. Are we “lazy” in having had the expectation- as most of us had?

EVAN: Well, depending on who you ask, college is hard. In a way, I guess we expect that the hard work we put into maintaining a good GPA, et cetera, will result in finding employment once we’re out in the real world. Which, as I can attest to, is clearly not the case.

GORDON: So is that laziness then? Entitlement mentality?

EVAN: I don’t think that doing hard work and expecting a reward is laziness. That’s like someone working the fields and then being called a layabout because he expected crops to grow. A shaky comparison, I realize.

GORDON: Works for me. And I agree.

Now you yourself have accused us all of being creatively bankrupt. Could that be our major flaw? That we don’t make- we remix?

EVAN: I guess it depends on how we’re working this whole “greatest flaw of our generation” angle. The trend to rehash, remix, et cetera came about recently, but I’m not sure it’s because of us. Or is the question in regards to this day and age we’re in, and not those growing up in it?

GORDON: No, I mean us as an age-group, and that does pretty much answer the question right there. We are, for the most part, not the ones who are making the films and TV shows and music (give or take) of our time- that’s those who came before us.

EVAN: Exactly. Which is why we’re getting stuff like He-Man and Thundercats reboots, because those who were kids in the 80’s have a crippling nostalgia. Music is different, of course, but TV and movies are definitely controlled by the generation before us.

Okay, how about this. Maybe the flaw is our hellish appetite to be entertained.

GORDON: Ooh- interesting take. Expound, by all means.

EVAN: I mean, you’ve talked about the bilge that’s on television countless times. Do you know what we’ve been reduced to? A musical chairs gameshow called “Oh Sit!”

Are we so bored that we’ll watch people play “extreme musical chairs” for an hour?

GORDON: I had no idea that existed. But surely this isn’t the first time in history that TV’s been crap. Or radio, or books, or music, or anything. Think of the “Penny Dreadfuls” back in the Victorian era- little, cheap trashy pulp-fiction novels made for mass consumption. Is that any worse than what we have today? Seems like the bilge is the same- it’s just the media that’ve changed.

EVAN: It may be the same, but it’s being produced at a frantic pace. That change, at least, has to be important.

GORDON: That speaks less to our appetites and more to our efficiency.

EVAN: I’d say that it has just as much to do with our appetites, judging by the content of what’s put out.

GORDON: We’re almost out of time, so let’s hit up some other key issues:

Apathy. As we said before, apathy tends to be the go-to criticism, at least, one of the major ones when it comes to our generation, and I think this is one of the easiest to put to rest. The Occupy Movement, environmentalism, increasing number of social movements, increasing global awareness- you name it. We’re strides ahead of the past couple generations. Heck, I’d go so far as to say we’re the most involved generation since the 60s and early 70s.

Well we’re out of time, and still of plenty of ground to cover- so rather than sloppily close up, we’ll be continuing our discussion next week with a question about hipster morality: “Do we want to be good, or do we just want to look good?” If you have any suggestions or recommendations for topics, don’t hesitate to shoot us a comment.

EVAN: Thanks for reading, and remember that CWR now updates every single weekday. I’ll see you tomorrow in our first ever “Fame Day” post!

Is Batman a Fascist?

Earlier today, I came across this article over at Kasama and I felt that the subject material was topical enough for me to put the difficult issue of violence in media (which I had promised to write on earlier this week) on the back burner.

Is Batman a Fascist?

It’s not the first time the question has come up regarding superheros- in fact, it’s the idea has been around for a while, but with the popularity of Nolan’s trilogy, the debate has again found itself in the mainstream- or at least, as mainstream as comics get.

Of course you could approach this whole debate with some skepticism- with every major event, there’s always some stylishly iconoclastic deviation, like the argument that the Civil War wasn’t actually about slavery, or the like. The critique of superheroes as being responsible for supervillains (see the “escalation” conversation at the end of Batman Begins) could be argued to be the latest soapbox for contrarians. That said, it can’t be denied that the arguments against Batman have some really solid points (just look at anything on him over at Cracked.com)

Let me break the argument down to it’s basic points:

  • Batman is just an out-of-touch, or straight up disturbed, rich kid who uses his wealth to nurse pathological guilt over his parent’s death. Had he been poor, he probably would’ve wound up being the kind of petty criminal Batman typically takes out.
  • Batman’s very existence creates a cycle of escalation- in response to his extreme vigilantism, extreme criminality is created.
  • Batman acts outside the law, respecting no privacy, due process, or legal rights of any kind. He uses force to try to create a world compliant with his own personal morality.

That’s all pretty hard to argue with, but I’m going to try it anyways. Continue reading