Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category (feed)

The Fall of the Bronze Age and Us

I was watching the Director’s Cut of “Troy” last night, so I soon got interested in reading about the Late Bronze Age.

Right about 1100 BC, all hell broke loose in the Mediterranean: there was massive depopulation & famine, ALL cities were destroyed and burned (not one was left unscathed, and some were burned up to 7 times!), and civilization almost disappeared (we have only small villages with very simple geometric art, while people forgot how to write). So basically, we’re talking about Greece, Asia Minor and Hittites, Israel area and Egypt, all but destroyed. That era is called the “Greek Dark Ages” or “First Dark Ages”, and archaeologists consider these 300 years as much more “dark” than the Dark Ages that followed the fall of the Roman Empire 1500 years later.

Historians give a number of reasons why this happened: raids from the north and from the “sea peoples” (people of different origins got together to pirate), drought and other natural disasters.

Honestly, I think historians got the causes wrong here. Yes, these things happened, but they were not the root of the problem. I believe what happened is rather obvious after a bit of digging among geologists’ information instead: the mines in the Mediterranean ran out of tin!

Tin is a rather rare metal, and without it, they couldn’t forge bronze. Without being able to create bronze, in the Bronze Age, well, you have no Bronze Age anymore. You see, the whole high civilization starting in 3000 BC in the greater area was basing itself on bronze. When that went bust, their trades and economy collapsed. When economy collapsed, massive famine arrived. The ones who survived were trying to kill everybody else to get their hands to a little bit of tin that some might had left.

I base this opinion on the following:

1. There is absolutely no reason to completely burn all cities and kill so many people when you’re simply trying to conquer them. You only burn the cities if you don’t care about the cities, and you only care about what these people had control over that was of little availability: tin.

2. People from completely different nations coming together to pirate (“sea peoples”), only happens when the economy has collapsed. Humans of different origins don’t band together and choose violence, unless there’s no other way. Humanity 101.

And the most damning argument:

3. Iron was known as a metal that could be used by 3200 BC already (pretty much the same time that Bronze was becoming popular). But because it required a special furnace and smelting technique, iron was used very little by blacksmiths. The Bronze Age happened before the Iron Age simply because Bronze was simpler to deal with, not because they didn’t know what iron was.

So, there was no reason for people to switch to iron (especially because we would have to wait many more centuries afterwards to invent steel). And yet, we see a gradual turn from bronze to iron during the Late Bronze Age, despite the practical problems iron had. This to me makes it clear that the people simply ran out of tin, and they were FORCED to *slowly* turn to iron. In the meantime, until they got iron right, the Dark Ages were upon them!

Now, there’s a reason why I’m writing such a post here today.

Think about it for a moment: we have major civilizations that they based their successes on a single metal. When that metal went bust, so did their civilizations. The few who survived, resorted into extreme violence.

Always use History to decode the present and to get a good glimpse of the future.

So, does the above situation remind you of anything? Could this what will happen to us in as few as 50-75 years from now, when our fossil fuels go bust?

We’re in a similar boat, you know: our fossil fuels are going away rapidly, and our solar panel technology is not nearly as effective (the best ones only have 25% efficiency compared to fossil fuels, just like iron was difficult to forge compared to bronze).

Unless Lockheed Martin comes through big time with their announced fusion reactor, we should expect nothing but a similar result: the collapse of our economy, wars over the little bit of oil (and water) that’s left, and a rather Mad Max-like world.

So, I hope I’m gone by that time, and not be re-incarnated for quite a while. 😛

A possible solution for Greece

An open letter to the Greek government:

It’s obvious to me that more preparations should have been done to switch currencies. It’s obvious that the European situation had no remedy, no matter the amount of negotiations that would take place. I believe that the way out of this tomb is to innovate. You can’t use old methods to fix old errors. You need new methods. And technology can provide those.

I know that printing a new currency would be difficult, and even more difficult would be to build trust. I’d suggest this: No actual printing of new currency. Make everything electronic. I’m NOT talking about bitcoin (which isn’t modernized in principle, as Mr Varoufakis has pointed out). I’m talking about people paying with credit cards (for large amounts) and smartphones using NFC (Near Field Communication) for up to 20 drachma (I’m assuming a parity with the Euro, at least in the beginning). Regarding notes, these can be in euros (since they’re already out there circulating anyway).

People WILL trust this new form of paying because of the same reason people in the States prefer to use credit cards: they don’t see the money, so they feel that they didn’t pay much for the goods. It’s a psychological trick. In fact, the NFC trick, where you simply touch your phone to pay a micro-payment up to 20 drachma/euro, is even more painless. People will use that, even if for convenience. Most people already have Android smartphones in Greece, and one can buy such a phone for 100 Euros today (Archos brand). Within a few months, people will be using this new system, and they will even like it. They won’t even realize that there was a change in currency. Overtime, all the euros will end up in banks, especially if you offer them a sweet buy-back program.

Now, regarding corruption in Greece: Since all businesses and micropayments in shops would have to happen via NFC/cards, it would be very unlikely that people will be able to not pay their taxes. In fact, the taxes could be calculated automatically in such a system. Who needs an accountant (that most people can’t even afford), when the system takes care of that for you?

And regarding the rest kind of corruption (e.g. fakellaki, rousfetia etc), since everyone would now have these smartphones, they should be fully supported by law to RECORD every chat they have with civil servants, taxi drivers, doctors, police etc etc. And I don’t mean just audio recording, but full video recording. Who ever doesn’t accept the new kind of currency, or wants “extra”, they should be admitted to court, given the video proof. Russia does the same with the dash cams for car insurance purposes. It works.

I would like to re-iterate: you have an old Europe in new lipstick, and an old style financial problem (debt). The problems Greece has are not novel, they are in fact the status quo throughout history. So in order to go around these problems, you need the tools of today, not old tactics of the yesteryear (be it diplomacy, negotiations, politics). It needs swift action, and mobilization of technology.

Regarding Chauvinism

It rubs me the wrong way when people say “I’m proud that the XYZ place exists in my country” (e.g. a monument, or a natural place). Why would anyone be “proud” for something they had nothing to do with, is beyond me. For example, why would you be proud if Parthenon, or Santorini is in Greece, for example? You had nothing to do with either the building of the Parthenon, nor the volcano that created the Santorini island.

The correct vocabulary would be “I’m happy to live close by to such a place”. Anything more than that, is chauvinism at worse, or stupidity at best.

Regarding Rampage Shootings

I wasn’t going to write why I believe these atrocities like the school shooting today happen all the time, *primarily* in the USA, but after some friends asked me to go ahead, and after seeing this thread on Reddit, I realized that my opinion might be shared with others too, and not be so outlandish after all. So in danger of alienating some of my readers, here is my theory.

First off, it’s not guns to blame. Guns are simply a tool in such cases. Making guns illegal would be useless to combat the causes, because the people who would want to use guns, they’ll find ways to acquire them. With the huge gun industry in the USA, incriminating or controlling gun ownership would be like trying to cut people off corn and corn fields. Good luck with that. Sure, regulating them will help, but it won’t treat the cause.

In my opinion, there are two driving reasons why these individuals jump the shark and start killing others en mass:

1. Artificial Societal Rules and Capitalism

The Western world (and especially the ultra-capitalistic USA) is living a lie. We are not meant to live the kind of lives we do today. As this very nice documentary put it, we’re running modern software on 50,000 year old hardware designs (our bodies). We haven’t evolved yet to be living in these conditions. So both the pressure to succeed as an individual in things that don’t truly matter (e.g. “becoming a successful professional and make money”), and the constant bullying and critique from the surrounding society for those who don’t play with the rules, is taking its toll. Most of us are burrying these feelings, others become bullies, and others just go on rampage, shooting people to get back to the society at large. It’s not random that most of the time they go and kill randomly.

2. Inhuman Nutrition and Mental Illness

This second point is the one that most people do not consider as a real point, but in my opinion it’s almost as important as the first point. Research in the ’80s shown that tribes of hunter & gatherers had very little schizophrenia or other mental illnesses (I highly suggest you check out this book too, by distinguished schizophrenia researcher E. Fuller Torrey). In contrast, half the Western world (especially in the US) is in med drugs. Kids these days are starting getting prescription drugs at the age of 6. We are NOT stable, normal people. We do NOT function properly — almost none of us in the Western civilization is! Except the societal pressure as outlined above, the second aspect is the kind of food we’re eating. The Western diet is a POISON diet, that’s why we have so many “diseases of civilization” that don’t appear in hunter & gatherer communities. The diet in the US is the most industrialized in the world, hence the various incidents mostly happening there. Poison your body, and you will poison your brain. After cutting down all grains when I went Paleo 15 months ago (and especially after going Paleo-ketogenic for a few months), I saw a huge change in my mental psyche: no anxiety anymore, situational depression was lifted, ADD lifted. I became less argumentative, less “difficult”. Even my sexual behavior changed, to the better (and this proves that this was a deep change). My creativity found new heights (I could never put my brain together before to do the kind of collage I do today). I would highly suggest you read the articles on this blog, by psychiatrist Emily Deans, and possibly do a search about various mental illnesses (and how these were lifted by cutting down the poison that is all grains, excessive sugars, vegetable oils, and legumes) at Nutrition plays a way bigger role to mental illness than you think it is. We all think of mental illnesses as “bad luck” or “bad genes”, or “just craziness”, but it’s more closely related to Neolithic nutrition (that we haven’t evolved with) than we thought it ever was. Especially if you’re missing enough D3, and omega-3 in your diet (ratio to Omega-6 should be 1:2 or 1:3), expect mental havoc. Add on top of that environmental toxins and urbanization, and boom! With enough mental instability, some jump the shark and go shoot people.

As long as AT LEAST #2 is not fixed somehow (#1 can only be fixed via societal maturation and rapid, natural or not, evolution — which will take a few more thousand years), expect more such rampage killings in the future. So don’t sound so surprised the next time it happens and you start tweeting “Oh, my God, blah blah blah”. It’s very sad indeed, it’s a truly terrible thing. But it IS going to happen. Again, and again, and again.

Why modern philosophy fails today

So I was reading a bit of philosophy recently (a bit of Alain Badiou and Sartre). Since I’m not a native English speaker it was hard to read, but I think I pulled through for most of it. Regardless, the “language” and altered definitions these modern philosophers use is unnecessarily complex in my opinion. It’s like linguistic masturbation, showing off to other philosophers who would read their books.

And then it occurred to me.

See, I’m Greek. I’m used to the idea of Socrates walking down to the Athenian Agora and starting talking to strangers. Presenting them with questions, with riddles, with thoughts they never thought possible. Diogenes was always my favorite philosopher because he was a no-shit guy. He had some ideas, and he lived by them, and showed others how to live a good life too.

To me, that’s the real worth of a philosopher. A philosopher for me is not different than what one would consider a “holy man” who talks to, and freely advises strangers in the streets or other settings. But in this case, instead of spreading religion, he spreads knowledge, opens minds, and instigates progress. He’s the Initiator.

Instead, what we have today is these academic types who speak a language that no one understands. The public doesn’t understand them, plain and simple. This is a crime in my opinion. It’s a major disservice to 2700 years of philosophy. So what kind of philosophy is this today? Only for those who pay to learn about it in these private colleges of ours? It’s like their language is so complex on purpose. When was the last time that Badiou hosted a FREE summer camp for example? He’s a communist after all, but I’ve never heard of him do anything for the “community”.

And let me go a step further. When was the last time that a philosopher walked down the mall, sat down with a sign saying that he’s available for any type of conversation, and awaited people to come to him? I’ve never seen any philosopher doing this neither I heard of anyone doing this, and yet this is the DEFAULT behavior I’d expect from a philosopher. A philosopher doesn’t have to become a missionary man or join a humanitarian cause in order to do “good”. Or write books that are more difficult to decipher than Chinese knots. The philosopher can do good by changing his society directly around him by opening their minds. When this happens, the “good” will automatically propagate like wildfire.

I would honestly sit down with such a person to discuss stuff, from ethics to art, to whatever. And in fact, I’ve done something similar once. In 2000, when I was still living in the UK, there was a (Catholic, I believe) monk in the High Street of Guildford (the town I was living at the time). He was sitting in the middle of the closed-down and busy-by-shoppers street, having a second chair next to him, with a sign saying that he’s available to talk. The time was 4 PM, it was almost night (November) and he was ready to pack and leave. I sat down with him and we talked. He did indeed help me (loneliness was my problem at the time), even if I wasn’t particular religious. He was a really smart guy! At the end, I asked him how many others sat with him that day. His reply: “you were the only one”.

Update: Translated to Greek.

The tragedy that is “The City”

I’ve lived in 5 countries so far in my life, and in a variety of places (tiny villages, towns, bigger towns, cities, bigger cities, mega-cities). The places I liked it best at were villages, towns, and small cities (up to ~25k people).

I have a problem with big or mega-cities. A big city stops being a home, and instead it becomes a storage unit for human beings. Floor after floor, crammed in a dusty apartment with no yard, and only a few (over-crowded on weekends) parks to call “nature”. Life in a big city is by definition a routine: wake up, get the bus or drive to work, come back, watch TV, sleep, repeat. Everything looks artificial: the billboard ads, the sky with no stars at night, the countless cars on the street. Most humans resemble flocks of ants waiting for a green light to play Frog, while the rest live on the streets hoping for some change. This situation has a detrimental effect overtime in the human condition. People lose track of what’s important, and they become apathetic shadows of themselves. Violence then erupts at every corner. People still evolve, but they lose authenticity.

Sure, a big City provides big shops, exhibitions & events, entertainment. It all sounds exciting, no doubt, but in reality it’s more an addiction than anything else. Running on a puppy field with a kite, or having a picnic near the water, is more appealing to me than shopping. Storming a local art shop is also more interesting to me than a big art exhibition, because I’m always on the look out of new, revolutionary points of view though art, rather than admiring 100 year old points of view that someone else labelled them “classics”. Art is supposed to look forward, and it can equally happen in a small town, or a big city. It’s just that the art industry today doesn’t look there for talents.

New York Times Square at Night” by Werner Kunz. Licensed under the CC BY-SA-NC 2.0.

Having lived at my dad’s mountainous village for a few years (400 inhabitants in the 1960s, but only 150 left when I lived there in the ’80s, about 50 today), I got a good idea of what community really means. Sharing your milk, yogurt, eggs, vegetables with your neighbors. Knowing absolutely everyone there, and helping out when they are in need. Even on a town (like the one my family currently lives in Greece), the same feeling of community remains, albeit reduced in intensity. At the village I was among care-free, happy people, bosses of themselves. Even the ones who left for other cities or countries, still go back there as often as possible, and keep in touch with “home” via the village’s newspaper. Interestingly, the village was self-governed in many respects, nearly free of external state influences. Finally, houses are built far apart, as they all have land around them, but they’re still close enough: just 1-2 minutes of walk. The perfect ratio to both feel you’re with others, but also have the space you need to breath.

As with everything, there are some negative points living in such a commune, the biggest one being the unending gossip (everyone about everyone), and the lack of intellectuals. However, it doesn’t have to be this way anymore. When I lived there in the ’80s, most people only had 6 years of schooling on their belt at the time. But today this is not the case. In fact, I would expect the truly smart people to immigrate to such a place. Tele-commuting is a possibility these days for example, for many professions. And robots should soon free up the rest of the professions.

Mountain life” by John and Melanie Kotsopoulos. Licensed under the CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Unfortunately, today’s people try to connect with one another by getting physically closer to as many people as possible, by moving to a big city, but that’s a misguided approach. True connection only happens when people are free of multiple fake identity layers, and this can only happen in a relaxed and pure environment where humanity thrives.

Social norms begone

I’m not very complicit with most social norms. If you see me be, then I’m probably faking it. For one, I always speak my mind with bone-breaking honesty, and this usually puts me in trouble. But that’s the most conventional example of what’s going on in my head.

Consider that I find that clothes are a waste of time when the weather is hot. No, I do not subscribe to the “nudist” ideology because that has an organized, political connotation behind it. Instead, I just find clothes impractical during summer. Why do I have to wear something when the sun is so hot? I guess I don’t find the human nude body gross, and people who do, are probably too far removed from their own nature. But that’s their problem, not mine. Why do I have to live with their golden standard of appearance?

Also, having to dress up in fashion in order to fit in is a major turn off. Well, I don’t really fit in, and I kind of like it this way. I also never use make-up (apart maybe some lip-gloss every blue moon). I’m not into clownship.

Another problem I have is with greetings. I don’t mind saying “hi”, I think that’s a very good conversation starter. But I have a problem with “happy new year”, “merry Christmas”, “happy birthday” etc. I mean, really, do we ever wish “have a bad new year” to our fellow man? Not really. So I don’t understand why we have to keep affirming such wishes separately to all we know. It feels like a renewal of a contract to me, for something so human that shouldn’t require a contract in the first place. It should be the default.

Other things that I hate: weddings. I wrote more in depth about it here, and what I consider a good alternative to them.

Table manners are not always genuine either. I prefer to enjoy food with the kind of people whose their fingers are full of oil while munching on a bone, rather than to have to dress up and try to figure out which utensil is for which purpose, while some imposter human next to me is trying to use a knife and a fork with a fucking quail.

I don’t always use my hands to eat, but when I do, it’s because I just roasted a goat!

Regarding workplace norms, I hate them equally. The dry professionalism in office and store jobs that feels like you’re talking to robots, or the office politics. Recently I read that a hospital banned its staff from wearing vibrams, and that’s just sad. In my opinion, as long as certain clothes don’t get in the way of performing the work, then staff should be free to wear anything they want. Or nothing at all.

I guess the thing that pisses me off the most is the wall people have built around them. They try to make a good impression to others by hiding their true self, just so they don’t get misunderstood and become outcasts. At the end, it’s the “lies” we perform to others daily that makes our society inhumane. No one has a clear idea who’s who, and when there’s this natural mistrust brewing, then paranoia is running the game, and when that happens, humanity is nothing but lost.

Social media, texting, and Chomsky

I really like Noam Chomsky. He’s a very kind and understanding man, full of humanity (we had a brief conversation via email recently). His opinions, and the way he tackles problems make sense to me. Well, most of the time.

He recently went ahead to say that Twitter, SMS and other forms of social media are shallow forms of communication. He has a good point when he says that complex, mega-thoughts can’t be expressed through these means of communication. I’m sure that he feels that we say too much via these mediums, but without saying anything of importance at all. But I believe that he only sees half of the picture, not because he’s too old to understand the Internet, but because he’s too entangled in his own profession where big thoughts and ideas are the bread & butter of his whole existence. He sees the big picture about everything, but not the casual details of the picture, because he’s looking from 10,000 ft high.

The kind of communication Chomsky advocates for (books, essays, possibly art) is the right medium for big ideas. But we don’t always want to philosophize all day long. Sometimes we just want to vent out or say we’re happy, or share some quick knowledge, experience, or fact. In our daily lives, outside the web, we mostly have this kind of small-talk rather than discussing Kant or Foucault (well, most of us at least). In our lives there’s usually time designated for philosophy or science or religion or whatever else, and there’s time designated for small-talk. So why shouldn’t we be able to move part of this very-human communication online and share with more people?

Sure, tweeting that your “carrot cake came out delicious and everyone at home enjoyed it” is not a big idea, and it can be perceived as “shallow”. But it also expresses the little happy things in life, offering a window into people’s lives. When I read a random book I don’t know if the author is happy or not, I don’t know if he’s happily married or not, or if he has mortgage to pay. Most of the time I don’t need to know. But for people I feel closest to, I do want to know more. It doesn’t make me visit my friends less just because I got their update online and I know they’re doing good, it just gives me a piece of mind instead that they’re ok. It makes communication feel two-way, rather than the one-way kind we get from books. Not everything in life has to be about science, philosophy, or math.

More over, Twitter has been a major micro-blog to co-ordinate political movements and report on big ideas too. It gives a voice to people who can’t always use complex words or write books. It’s the democratization of communication, and from all these 6 billion people out there, at least some of them have something interesting to say or report on, even if it has to be squeezed at 140 characters.

There is of course the other side of the coin, where we have kids texting 100 SMS per day, which is of course not only excessive, but also indeed damaging, and a waste of time and money. But then again there are trash books too out there (like these stupid romantic novels with vampires in them, ugh). So we should not get too disappointed about new technologies, it’s how we use them, they’re not inherently good or bad. I can’t wait for the time we would be able to transmit thoughts or feelings to others! Hopefully at more than 140 bytes of thought per message! 😉

I personally don’t use SMS (I may be sending about 5 SMS texts per year overall), I do very few phone calls (which is why I’m still on pay-as-you-go), but I do use Twitter and my personal blog extensively. I don’t have the hots for Facebook, MySpace, or Google Plus though, I find them too cluttered & messy — I like direct simplicity, which is why Twitter won me over. I’ve written in the past that I use my blog as a therapeutic method, it’s kind of my shrink (which is why I also write a lot of very personal things here). It has worked wonders for me, so this new world order about communication can’t be all that bad.

The Effects of Pure, Unadulterated Art

The text below was meant as a comment reply to my friend Glenn, but I think the subject warrants its own blog post:

Art becomes problematic when money is the object, because in order to make money, the artist must “comply” with the mainstream pop culture & limits of the time. Wild experimentation would result in a financial disaster, so no risks are taken. But it’s that experimentation that propels both art & our world forward. See, if you do pop music exactly because it’s easily consumable, and because you want to make a buck, then no, what you do, is not art. It’s a product.

My previous article was meant to go against the powerful mechanisms of capital and power in particular, who would manufacture “art” in order to sell to the masses, rather than because it’s good art. Just today I was reading this, where 6 media giants (in cahoots), get to decide 90% of the entertainment that gets served to the population. This is not just money we’re talking about here, but it’s POWER. When you control that much of the art people use, then you control these people, plain and simple.

That’s why I mostly listen to bedroom pop these days. 90% of my music experience is music written by young people in their bedrooms, who give their music for free (usually, but not always), and self-publish mostly via Bandcamp. These artists don’t even offer a picture of their faces to accompany their albums or their Tumblr blogs, while these one-man projects are usually hidden behind a pseudonym. In other words, this is 100% antithetic to what mainstream show business are. Plus, this kind of “chillwave” music speaks to me volumes about our situation today, about how we feel, or how we want to feel, rather than a sterile Katy Perry or a Lady Gaga song would ever be able to do so.

Regarding video we are still in the dawn of true indie video. Good cameras have just become to become affordable. For video, it’s like we live in 2003, in terms of computer music tool availability. Consider that chillwave took off in 2009. So by 2018 or so, I think we should be having amazing short films or other artistic videos, mostly for free on Vimeo. Sure, we already do have some (e.g. Matthew Brown’s work), just not as many.

I mean, just like with bedroom pop, I expect that artistic indie video will go to a different direction, to a new dawn of cinematic experience where the aesthetics, senses and emotions get 10x higher than in a normal narrative movie — for those who can “decode” the style. Chillwave was never about competing with mainstream pop, instead the Internet-sprouted genre was surprisingly current, and much more emotional: I listen to “Skin” by FiveNG for example, and I get transcended like I’m on a voodoo ritual. I listen to Washed Out’s “You & I“, and I get so fucking horny, that no other music ever managed to do so. I listen to “New Theory” by Washed Out, and my eyes fill up with tears with nostalgia about a place and time that was, but never really was. No other kind of mainstream music, ever, was able to do this to me. Maybe it helps that I’m a synesthete, I don’t know. Or maybe it’s because I give music a chance to open up to me. But since this hasn’t happen with any other genre or mainstream art before, I do give the credit for these high emotions and thoughts they inflict on me to the very fact that bedroom pop was created by real humans for a multiplicity of reasons (but all these reasons were pure), and not by an established capital power encouraging the masses to simply consume and obey.

To make it more visual: mainstream pop is like eating donuts. Full of corn syrup and wheat flour, among other additives, fried in PUFA oil. You eat some, your insulin spikes, and an hour later you need more because that’s what sugar does to you! You end up fat, sick, and dead inside. You become a slave of the system, of a chain of events that only stop when you die. True music instead is like eating a steak with a mix of veggies as a side. It’s a less interesting proposition at first, but it provides true nutrition, and after a while, this “real food” is the only food you eat, but you don’t necessarily “crave”, because craving itself is a symptom of the metabolic syndrome.

So similarly to music, I don’t expect this new kind of video art to try and compete with Avatar or Star Wars, but instead, be truly different. We live in the dawn of a new kind of filmmaking, which is truly impressionistic in nature. The people who will have their brains and eyes open, will feast on it. The rest, they can stay slaves of the powers of capital, who mostly serve pedestrian love war-stories. Good luck to them.

Artistic freedom, and why capitalism is a necessary evil

I was reading recently that:
1. Art is never pure when it’s created for money or fame.
2. Art is influenced by the state of power (capital, church, aristocrats etc).
3. Popular art mirrors the average brain capacity of the society of its time.

I must say that I agree with all these points, but I believe that we are currently living in a unique point of time in our history, where at least two of the three points above aren’t necessarily true anymore.

In the olden days, a piece of art would most likely exist only if some patron paid for it. Also, the kind of art that was created was highly influenced by the power of the time: medieval art was purely church-influenced, Renaissance and classical period was influenced by the aristocrats or the intellectuals, and today, the capitalistic market decides the type of art we consume.

Look at Hollywood movies for example, or popular music: the traits between the different works are more alike than different. You watch a Steve Carell comedy, or a Ben Stiller one, and the technical construction of the movie, along the “morals” served to the audience, are exactly the same. You listen to Gaga or Rihanna, and their “vibe” is the same. And if Hollywood or the music labels have an agenda (as The Guardian recently claimed), this can easily influence the sheep masses towards a specific mindset or opinion.

However, what about this “new” music, and this new kind of “film” appearing on sites like Bandcamp, Vimeo, or SoundCloud? These aren’t created for money but for love (they are offered completely for free), and they do not serve the agenda of capital. I’m talking about underground indie bands, usually recording in their bedrooms, using their computers. And I’m also talking about that other crop of artists, who use their dSLRs to make photographic or video art in a completely different way than what the mainstream audience is accustomed to. There are some of these pieces online that, in my opinion, rival professional works in quality. Speaking for myself, 90% of the music I listen to these days is downloaded from Bandcamp, for free. It sounds fresh, and current, not like a canned, formulaic piece of crap, which is how 99% of the mainstream and even “popular indie” music is. These bands don’t get mentioned by the Rolling Stone magazine, not even the king of indie music, Pitchfork, but mostly from much smaller blogs — which are also run for love and not for profit.

We must consider how we got here though, mostly within the last 10 years. How an 18 year old kid was able to put together an EP and give it away for free, without a label behind him, a producer, or a sound engineer. And the answer to this is this: through the commoditization of technology. Buying a $400 laptop, a $150 synthesizer, and then using the free version of Reaper, and countless free VST plugins & samples, is enough to create something magical and new — should the talent is present (technical expertise is usually patched together with knowledge acquired at forums or tutorials online, also for free). Similarly in the photography and video world, when the first affordable large-sensor dSLRs came around, and later HD video became fast-enough to edit, we got countless amazing pieces of works. Look on FlickR for example, or for video, check Vimeo’s Matthew Brown, or Charlie McCarthy.

In other words, there was a certain “democratization” that occurred in the current “fascism” of capitalism, via means of technology. I personally do not believe that such a commoditization of technology can happen in a strictly communistic state today. If USSR is an example, its art sucked pretty bad for the most part, and it was scarce to find anyway. While they had rad space satellites, technological innovation for the masses was not common either, and its citizens became poorer than before at the very end. Bedroom-pop (“Chillwave”), or “Vimeo-style filmmaking” would never exist in such an environment — at least not in the incarnation of communism USSR had.

This is not to say that capitalism is great either. Capitalism mass-produces art, thus having to average its radical elements to the IQ of the average consumer (making it mostly crap). What is called “pop sensibility” is simply an average barometer of the society’s needs or intelligence, expressed through pop-art. Make your art smarter, the masses can’t follow it anymore, and you will be called a “hipster”. Make it dumber, and you will be called “old”. There’s definitely a balance to be found, for those who crave to please the masses. Personally, I am not an avid promoter of “popularizing” (aka dumbing-down) art or science, just so people can follow your truth, or buy your record/movie. If the art is radical, then it’s the consumers who must do the effort to understand these new concepts. If they are not willing to do the effort, then they’re passive sheep, dragging everyone else down too. Passive sheep never get to run a company, or a country. They just consume for the sake of consuming. This doesn’t mean that I want art to be experimental/inaccessible all the time. I just believe that it has to be “edgy-enough” so it pushes people to make an effort to understand it.

Additionally, capitalism promotes the diminishing of ethics among the citizens — a heavy cost, no doubt. You can’t “make it” in a capitalistic environment by playing nice. I personally favor a somewhat socialist system, something in between of various popular ideologies: if so many people are fanatics for completely different political and economical ideologies, then where all these ideologies meet, it must be the sweet spot. Πάν μέτρον άριστον, the ancient Greeks used to say.

For now though, for better or worse, accessible technology does thrive in this capitalistic environment we live in. Technology might become the catalyst that could reset this diminishing of ethics. Some examples: freedom of information on the internet, future robot workers, machines that make food out of thin air, cybernetics and alteration of functions in the brain, etc. Such advancements can have a paramount effect on any political or economical system.

So my theory is that while capitalism has many negative effects, its very nature of producing “stuff” for the Market, some of these “products” end up fixing back some of capitalism’s bad points. In our case at hand, the electronics industry & market provided the tools to kill off the Music Industry, an Industry that ran on capital without a shred of love for art. Nothing happened on purpose of course, but it did happen as a natural consequence of our advancement. And it makes me happy that it happened. Because art should be free in order to re-affirm its pureness. And for the kinds of art that still require high amounts of capital to exist (e.g. a $200mil Pixar movie, or a large statue), technology eventually will get there to provide affordable solutions.

I know that some people will say that I put too much faith in technology, which itself can be manipulated to do “bad” as it can do “good”, but I believe that when technology is accessible by the common citizen, for every “bad” guy, there’s a “good” one too. For every computer virus that exists, there’s a wikipedia article too.

It all balances out most of the time, but it usually gets worse before it gets better. I truly believe that society is a living thing. It grows, it makes mistakes, it matures. Our society is not the same as the one of 10 years, or 100, or 1000 ago. You can’t force a population to suddenly become altruists for example, or to not break some law — instead, the society must learn right from wrong on its own. In 1000 years, or in 10,000 years from now, our society as a whole might be ready for some form of “utopia”. But in order to learn and get there, it has to suffer first. Capitalism is simply just a small part in this suffering-and-learning evolution. It’s just what we have right now, but I don’t believe capitalism will be with us forever.

Going back to art and society, for me, art is not just an aesthetic pleasure, but also a way to break new ground, to initiate more progress in many different directions. The faster we progress, the faster we will find our “utopia” (even if we have to get bruised in the process). We just have to keep pushing the envelop. Every. Single. Day.