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  • Andy Valeri; Big Beef Productions

The Role of Art & Culture In Making Change

['Bank of York'; Analog Photo by John K.] I’m very much inspired by those whose words and art (and artful use of words) have helped guide and shape our world, and served to move it forward, even just a bit, on this ever (r)evolutionary path that we call humanity and civilization.

Culture isn’t subservient to political power and change. It is very often the substrate from which *all* socio-political change comes. The catalyst from which it is inspired and enabled.

The health of a nation’s culture is the health of a nation. Art and artists are the canary in the societal coal mine. There is no free society, and thus free people, when there is no free artistic and cultural expression and communication. For art is an ultimate form of human communication, in that it is the most individual of expression that communicates in the most universal of ways.

It’s All Happening joins along with the likes of Around The Fringe as another flag bearer for the Cultural Liberation Front - another volunteer for that Army of Cool against the forces of Evil Uncool.

If this endeavor can provide even some small element of connection to any ears and hearts, some awareness and respite from the madness, some kind of lifeline to collective sanity, than it will have served a useful purpose.

Here I’ll defer to some insights shared by journalist Patrick Lawrence regarding the power and importance of culture in the ongoing effort for those forces of cool. Or as Ringo would remind us, the power of Peace and Love, to transcend and overcome those forces of UnCool…

[As Rudolf Rocker argued in his ‘Nationalism and Culture’], absolutist regimes are especially intolerant of authentic culture. In history they are given to destroying all forms of culture in the name of one or another kind of national unity. This is necessary for the continued exercise of power. 

The great empires, Rocker points out, are often fertile sites of high culture. “But let us not deceive ourselves,” Rocker writes:

“The high art we may associate with empires is typically the residue of previous times. Autocracies and imperial regimes are in the business of destroying culture, not cultivating it.” 

This means, if I read Rocker correctly, that in late-imperial phases all cultural institutions must be made to serve the state. Universities, museums, media, the important industrial sectors — we can count all these as cultural entities and note the cases wherein they are required to reflect the state’s ideology and conform to its dictates.  

Language, an important cultural artifact, becomes a contentious question in this context. If language arises from the community that comes to speak it, the state determines to control and manipulate language so as to enlist communities in the state’s cause, the cause of nationalism and power.

Rocker, let us not forget, was an anarchist and so had it in for the state and any kind of nationalist ideology a state may conjure and enforce. Even if one has little interest in anarchism (as I do not), I don’t see that this devalues by an iota all that Rocker has to tell us about ourselves, especially but not only now, by way of the core confrontation between state power and culture that he delineates throughout history……..  

We learn from this occasion that the censorship regime with which we are now required to live is about more than eliminating or banning speech. Silence is only one of its objectives. It is as much concerned with controlling what it is permissible to say and what the language we speak must mean. 

It is a hop-skip to being told what we are allowed to think……..

We are all under attack, this being the case, not only those who are censored or otherwise singled out for punishment or banishment. This is everyone’s confrontation with power. Reading Rocker helps us understand the magnitude of this encounter. 

“What I keep coming back to is the thought that none of us were [sic] raised or prepared to live in an Insane World,” a reader who goes by Roundball Shaman wrote in the comment thread of a recent column. “There is only one way to deal with insanity. Stay sane ourselves.”

It is a start, under the circumstances. [Patrick Lawrence; "Gaza & Confronting Power"]

Here’s to staying sane in a world where sometimes too much is happening, where there is too much insanity, too much dark power being wielded. Too much money dictating too much control, and too many in fear.

Here’s to more music being the antidote.

**[Note that when Rudolf Rocker refers to the ‘state,' that can easily be argued to reference the corporation in today’s manifestations of ruling power, just as much if not more so than what we termed state power over a century ago.]

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