we are all individuals
in another case of random net synchronicity, two articles once again connected in my brain today. a pitchfork media review of the excepter album begins with a simplified summary of chaos theory. the article says, "if you put a thousand people on a deserted island, they'll turn into a society. it might seem hard to predict what they'd do for more than a very short period at a time, but if you graph their behavior, they start to look pretty orderly." though the writer was bringing this up in relation to excepter's chaotic noise-rock, it can be applied to a lot of underground music and culture.
meanwhile, in a popmatters book review, the same sort of theory comes into play in regards to individuality, especially as pushed in modern western society. there are a plethora of "you are unique" messages being promoted in mass media, especially in advertising. the irony is, there are only a few avenues we're being told we can take towards this alleged individuality. as the review summarizes, "when pop culture appears to be in decline, those who control it seeks to redefine it by shuffling it over to a 'special' market in a bid to reclaim its tentative hold over our collective interest." such as when major labels open up "indie" boutique labels and sign small bands to retain their underground credibility, while making sure they're the ones to make a profit. i have nothing against major labels per se, i just don't see the need for the posing.
this kind of thing is touched on in the book no logo: the branding of the anti-brand, the creation of the "antihero". even the fact that that term exists is a signal something's slightly wrong with it. in the same way, i've always thought having a unifying symbol for anarchy is contradictory.
as the author of hello i'm special asks, "if i'm a rebel sanctioned by society, encouraged by my parents, and cheered on by hallmark, what is left to rebel against?"
underground music and culture (or some facsimile thereof), is sold as a way to set oneself apart from the crowd. however, the very ideas of individuality and mass production are diametrically opposed. if people are wearing the same kinds of clothes and chanting the same sort of slogans, they're just creating a new pattern, or more likely, simply falling into another preexisting one. even those who don't follow the more obvious "alternative" trends, supposedly carving their own paths, eventually reveal traits similar to one another. the order inherent in chaos begins to take over and patterns emerge between seemingly unrelated "individuals".
i suppose it's a good thing that disparate people can share some common ground. but doing it under the auspices of a repressive society, while simultaneously pretending to act outside of that society's rules, just seems like a big and unnecessary farce. which, sadly, all of us are complicit in.
the title of this post is from one of the more clever moments in monty python's life of brian, which is much funnier than anything you just read.