Everything was a lie, everything stank, everything stank of lies, everything feigned meaning and happiness and beauty, and yet everything was decaying while nobody acknowledged the fact.
(Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha)
… what is real is you and your friends, your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, and your fears. And we are told no. We’re unimportant, we’re peripheral, get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that, and then you’re a player. You don’t even want to play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world. Where is that at?
(Terrence McKenna, Q&A session of “What Science Forgot”)
Last Tuesday evening, about twenty people met at the Unitarian Hall in Powell River to have a conversation about starting a local media collective. As I’ve discussed in a couple of recent posts, much of this conversation was inspired by the current fragile condition of our local community radio station, CJMP FM.
The people who showed up for this conversation brought a lot of positive energy and creativity with them. Some wanted to talk about keeping CJMP FM on the air. Others, myself among them, were particularly interested in exploring other options made possible by newer technology: blogging, podcasts, vodcasts, mixed media on the internet, etc. The exciting outcome of the evening is that we decided to form a media collective, to continue meeting and working together, and to focus for now on two areas of work:
- Continue to explore ways of keeping community radio alive and well in our region;
- Learn some new skills, starting with podcasting.
There is now a group of people meeting and working on . For , I undertook to learn what I could about podcasting, and to offer that information back to the community in the form of a free ‘teach-in’, by which I mean a workshop of sorts, but one that is more about colleagues exploring a subject cooperatively than it is about an ‘expert’ delivering information to a receptive audience of ‘novices’. If anyone out there is interested in participating in this teach-in, it will be at 7:00 PM on Wednesday May 13 at the Community Resource Centre (4752 Joyce Ave. Powell River), after the monthly Kale Force potluck and conversation. All are welcome.
I’m very excited by the possibility of getting more local people actively creating media of all kinds, especially media which focus on our particular concerns or on the lives of the people who live here. If we can get a functioning community radio station going again, that’ll be great — community radio is designed specifically to give a voice to the people and ideas excluded from commercial radio.
But what excites me most about podcasting and other new internet-based ways of communicating is that there are very low barriers and low costs to getting started and keeping going. This means that it can be done very much in the do-it-yourself spirit of other insurgent media like broadsheet printing, chapbooks, zines, graffiti, and indie film and music. And when something can be done cheaply and easily, it can have, as Frank Zappa used to proudly boast, “no commercial potential”.
In my opinion, the most valuable things in this world have no commercial potential, even though we live in a society which is hellbent on attaching monetary value to everything possible and ignoring what cannot be so valued. A grove of trees at the water’s edge, sheltering birds and other wildlife, adding beauty to the landscape, providing living proof of the miracle of all life… or raw timber to be trucked off to build something flimsy and ugly? A clear and pure stream, home to fish, insects and amphibians which provide food for other creatures, nourishing plants and trees, irrigating farmland and giving drinking water to humans… or something to shove into plastic bottles for a quick buck? Media and human communication for the purpose of giving expression to to their creators and bringing joy to those who experience it… or as a carrier of advertisements and frivolous nonsense?
In each case, there is a way of looking at something and seeing it as an end in itself — or as a means to the fulfillment of the highest human values — and another way of seeing it as a means to some lesser end, as something to be produced or consumed in the interests of making a living. Obviously I am not saying that no one should make a living or that there is no place for commerce; but we live in a time when we are forgetting that there is anything but commerce. Every piece of our world with the least amount of commercial potential has been claimed, colonized, strip-mined, drawn down, and left desolate. The common areas of the natural world have been fenced in, sold off, and converted to money. Forests, lakes, streams, watersheds, air, salmon stocks, soil… all have been commoditized and control over them has been taken away from the people and given over to special interests.
More and more we accept that this is the way things are and should be. More and more we acquiesce in the destruction of meaningful and important parts of our world. We need to hone our skills in pushing back against this. We must train ourselves to see a swindle when one goes down in front of us, and to have the language with which to call it what it is. We need to claim our right to engage in frivolous action leading to no financial gain. We need to commit gratuitous acts of humanity all over the place, and stop listening to the voices in our heads and elsewhere which urge us to play it safe, think of potential corporate sponsors, don’t rock the boat, say what they expect to hear.
Every time we pull a punch we run the risk of forgetting what we really meant to say in the first place. And even to demand the right to create media which are free from extraneous influences sounds somehow subversive. Remember that ‘subversive’ is defined only in contrast to a surrounding mindset or worldview which gathers much of its strength from being able to resist questioning and the harsh glare of attention and critical thinking. Much of what passes for the mindset and worldview of this culture does not bear much scrutiny. That’s precisely why it needs scrutiny. We need to be consumers less, and start becoming producers. Less the victims of pointless and destructive consumerism, and more the creators of a new producerism.
In case you’re thinking that I am advocating art or media with an overt political content, I should be more clear. I don’t really care much about the content of the media we intend to create under the aegis of this media collective. Some people might be drawn to produce works of a more journalistic nature, confronting the myths of our society or taking on the powerful interests. Others might want to record the rushing streams and the wind in the trees. Others might want to talk with the elders of our community to capture and preserve their knowledge, experience, and wisdom. To me, it’s all great. It’s all important. And it’s all vitally needed. More important than the content of our media will be its nature and the conditions under which it is produced:
- complete artistic freedom;
- no deference to interests other than those which the artist/reporter/producer brings to the project;
- as an offering, a gift to our community;
- a commitment to capturing what it is like to be human and alive in this place at this time.
To produce art and document our world under these conditions is already subversive. It will create the aura of genuine authenticity which commercial media and false art lack. Authenticity cannot be manufactured, and people are starting to crave it as a reaction against the artificiality and dead-endedness of our world.
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If you’re interested in being on the contact list for our new (as yet unnamed) media collective, drop me a line.