Aaron and Unterkultur

"We champion subculture, we believe authority should be challenged, but at the same time, are the two contradictory?"
There are two ways this subculture problem could be approached.
  1. Subculture supposes a standard against which we and our things are measured, a sort of underlying authority which causes the existence of "authorities" in the first place, really just figures who approach norms and manipulate structures properly.
  2. By setting up a subculture that is perhaps even non-normative or non-authoritiative, there is the initial act of setting it up which is authoritative, even authorial. This setting it up and then later venerating it, sets us up as standards to be listened to, even if the standard we're being listened to about is non-normative. In practical terms, this probably means that we become the norms that shape the subculture and its implicit authorities.
But are they contradictory? No, I don't think so. Maybe they're naive. But they're also effective. Maybe subculture isn't the right word, communities is a little bit idiotic, parties is best. Parties get started and people go on to them. In some cases, they only started because we told everyone how great they were going to be, and so they came and made it great. There are authorities, but they're aesthetic ones: "I like that guy or girl, they are entertaining or funny or pleasing, this combination of people or this place or this music or the person I appear to be in this environment, they're all pleasing or more pleasing than the alternative."

At the same time, I think we should be careful about "believing authority should be challenged." In order to not be worried about potential authority seeping into our parties, we have to set them up as the goal, the purpose of the things. It starts to seem like we would only challenge authority if it led to better parties and meeting better and more aesthetically quality people. I think this is exactly the right sort of attitude! It's my firm conclusion that the only reason to ever give a shit about politics or wars or injustice or authority is if it produces little communities that are terrific. If somebody tells me about how much they don't like authority, that's a signal that maybe they aren't an asshole in all these ways that people who like authority are. It means I won't have to have arguments I'm tired of. It means they'll tolerate my own variants of being opposed to authority without getting angry and spoiling the nice party by taking offense at something horrible I said about America. A lot of the people I like have these attitudes, so I connect them, but it's more than that. There's a bond over a common enemy, probably some similar complaint or injustice. There's something to talk about when the party starts to lull, or you're feeling uncomfortable, "Yeah, that President, he's a real peice of shit, did you hear about this new shitty thing," the same way people talk about sports or the things they did during the day. If we're getting specific, and I am, the way in which you are anti-authority, that is, I am anti-authority in the way of a twenty-something white kid in south Minneapolis, well you're going to have tastes in common, films and music, activities. You're going to have some common lifestyle that you wouldn't share with those fucking embarrassing old people who come and talk complete shit at every anti-war rally you ever went to.

Maybe this isn't really my attitude and I'm going to some kind of extreme to answer the question, but it's a mode of thinking that seems more and more clear to me.


Anonymous said...

Yes, parties. But what about guys like Steve?:


Anonymous said...

But doesn't a party of say, friends- dudes, hipsters, anti-authoritarians breed complacency? We don't have to worry about establishing, in a sense, another norm- but more so of a lack of a challenge.

Being a tribalist in some regards myself- I promote the idea of surrounding yourself with those you choose and letting the rest of the word follow suit- but wouldn't that just reek of boredom after a while? A circuit, because its certainly not as exciting as a racket, of yes-men?

I find your points and questions within questions very interesting- but I'm going to ask myself, do I thrive on counter-culture because IT IS what IS IN stark opposition to what IT IS or IS IN- or along the lines of a party, because its setting you up to have more fun? Would any of us, we- you champion being the underdog, allowing what any of us, we, you consider in our rights and ways to be a better way of outlook and existence to forever stay in the shadows and in a way be a crutch- or would us, we, you- hell, even me- given the chance- make it THE culture?

I have given up a long time ago on forgetting "culture" as a evolutionary barrier, mostly because I don't understand what all of that means anyway- but!- if you could rule, and I'm sure you do- but RULE, would you not, just to keep it sub-hip-indie-counter, or would you embrace the opportunity to turn the tables? Fly YOUR flag for once?

Does subculture thrive because people just want to be different, to just counteract what it takes to be normal- or is it because people want to just rock the boat, rattle some chains- or is it because that is the way it should be- bide their time- slink and sleuth until its time for the world to see it shine?

Different strokes for different folks I guess. Fuck community yes, but its getting boring over here.

Anonymous said...

The real challenge is TO challenge, its too easy these days to be challenged. Like the challenge of what it takes to challenge.

and with all pre-fixes aside: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c8an2XZ3MU

IlllllllllllllI said...

I think you raise two questions in a couple of different glances; first a question about the insectuous or recursive quality of a subculture itself, that turning only on something like anti-authoritarianism is going to be a flimsy community, a party in the way a protest is a party, boring, trite, self-satisfied. The second, is a question of how essential the "sub" is to subculture, are these really only exercises between persons or is there something left afterward, does it infest, persist, engender something in the larger culture, perhaps one day moving from the "marginal practice", to steal a phrase, to the epistemic norm or the style of the entire culture.

I think these are related. The point about the flat or flimy culture is absolutely right. If it's merely anti-authority, if it has only the single source, or if, as in your example of the hipsters, the paradigm characters are overly defined, the rules required to join this or that tribe are too rigid or require too specific an initial investment that conditions further trajectories. I think this is an argument for making sure that the organization of these tribes, I think that's the right word, are robust, thick, open-ended. Or maybe it's an argument for being wary of any forms which require such a strong identification with one or two archetypes. Or for an aesthetics that takes pleasure in communities that can retain variation while establishing identities.

This composition, however, is crucially minor. Essentially even. Tribalism, or polytheism or whatever this idea can be called, is always going to reject the ability to control everything, because however plural the everything is, it's always oh so much more boring. There are the charlatans, the Christians or the Scientists or the Utilitarians, who oppose authority because of a sincere desire to overtake and usurp, but while these are robust, they're ugly. Maybe I will confess to wanting to see all the dominant structures burn up in a big fucking fire, and maybe I will confess to wanting to have started that fire, but I hope it gets replaced by something else flammable. Or gets replaced by something that is really terrible, but gives to its anti-authoritarian opposition a delightful tone, like Reagan in the 80's.

The last sentiment, if I can assume you are all one person, is interesting. I'm not sure where it goes, on which side it lands. Genuine commitment to challenging might require that we shift our focus too far away from using these ideas as tones and strains to produce general noises. Maybe we require these overreaches to erase the knowledge or awareness that it's all just bullshitting to spend time with our friends who are made cooler and more friendly by these events. That's the part I'm having trouble with, how to think about this as something other than tricking myself. As it happens now, I usually join in any political activity if I'm asked. I allow myself to fall, with abandon, into political moods, Obama, for instance, opposition to Prop. 8, and do something about them. I unsuccessfully stop caring every now and then, cutting off politics as a news source, or viewing it as a sporting event where my team is up or down. Maybe it's not even possible to take such an attitude, that we might always have to fall back into these unreflective angers in order to keep ourselves from become abstracted theory-beings. Are we really so gargantuan that we can script ourselves like characters?

Aa said...

;P / LOL