Monday, 3 November 2008

Mainstream v. Bakhtin

I know, I know, I'm supposed to be working or bedding. I don't care.

I read this on a random blog I'll likely not link to, to prevent embarassment. She was complaining that goth/punk was becoming cool, which meant that her style was being encroached upon and it was harder to be original. People who were previously calling her a poseur (what a poser word, by the way, with the French spelling and the heavy North American pronounciation of POE-zer; I always write it 'poser,' as I say it, unless I'm quoting someone) are now wearing black nail polish and calling her a poseur. A blog-friend commented, saying the following:

"ha haha! i'm glad i'm not in school any longer.. we don't have hot topic here in norway, but still goth/emo is appearing everywhere, and even really regular mainstream shops are selling stuff with skulls and studded belts etc. you're right about it getting harder and harder to appear original. it's not just the goth style, but all sorts of alternative styles that is being incorporated into the mainstream. it's mainstream to be original haha arrghh.."

Yeah, no kidding. Have you read Bakhtin? Actually, I can likely assume that you haven't. What Bakhtin said, well before either of these girls first gasped in the outside air, let alone painted their nails black, is that heterglossic languages (including symbols, styles, wardrobes, etc.; today we'd just say sub-culture, or "alternative style," a la the blogger above) will eventually either become part of the mass of unitary languages or die out, as new heteroglossic languages are born. Remember the hippies? What happened to them? They became mainstream and therefore stopped being 'real' hippies. What about the 'swingers' of the 20s? They look naive to us now, and that's because they became the norm themselves. Bohemians? Let's go way back... secularists? rationalists? Protestants? Christians? Pharisaic Judaism? Same thing. First, an alternative culture. Then, part of the mainstream. It ALWAYS happens--death or assimilation. Thus we hear goth's dying groans, punk's middle-aged posturing; thus we can anticipate indie's imminent demise (because what is indie but repackaged hippism?--and let me assure you, indie is pretty packaged by now). Anti-consumerism is sold under the brand of Roger Moore, of Fight Club (what irony there, Brad Pitt selling anti-consumerism), of Chomsky (and this is the real irony, as Chomsky fits into his own scheme of the limits of discourse!). When we see this clearly before us, we see then that the only way to be 'original,' to have our 'own' style, is to not care at all about what style we are in the first place, or even having a unified style, or even thinking about styles at all. Only by transcending the very notion of style can we have one of our own. As many have said before me, including C. S. Lewis, originality comes only as a by-product to the pursuit of truth. We can achieve it only by not caring if we do.

I hope that you can all join in me in my pursuit for such liberation.

1 comment:

Jon Wong said...

2 interesting posts! One after the other too! I was typing a response but found it got WAY too long. I will respond directly on my blog. I'm just writing here to let you know I'm writing a response on my blog and that I think this is interesting.

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