Monday, October 12, 2009

My discursive comments on Karl Marx and Stuart Hall

Media and the question of the public. My discursive comments on Karl Marx and Stuart Hall, revolution, culture, codes, encoding and decoding, signifiers, the knowledge of the elite, the privileged creating a dominant meaning, sell a product and the masses buy it. Swaying the masses by assuming that they know what is right, just, and best for their viewers, and then leading the masses with a dominant cultural order towards chaos? Marx says something like this, “Man succumbs to work, rules, and materialism. There life is not altered by consciousness but consciousness is determined by life.”

People must understand codes and context of a message to receive it, realize, comprehend for it to then take effect. People can also be manipulated, seduced and led to slaughter if they are not careful.

These are thoughts that I have in response to the readings. Fragmented statements from the reading that ring true as signs of our times. Circular loops, in communication, in history, in culture, yet there is productions, distribution and then reproduction, upheaval, then renewal of our society.

It appears we are going through a period of inversion as Marx puts it. I like this concept. I like the idea of flipping things around and turning them inside out. This is how I work with art. I try things one way, then invert, flip it and try it another way. Try it inside out. This works for me. It is like the pendulum swinging one way and then going the polar opposite, except this time it is flipping right over.

We are in an age, where a shift is occurring, where capitalism has been dominant but it is being questioned. The sheep are getting wise. We have followed, like sheep, the American dream, of owning things, houses, cars, retirements plans, stuff…We have fallen into a trap of the American way like American Beauty. We have witnessed the rise and are now seeing the decline of this way of thought. We bought into this false dream. Now it is crumbling. It’s time to invert again. The American dream owned us and we became the slave of it. It’s time to invert.

I have an image that speaks volumes about the current state of capitalism. As I am reading Marx and I drive down my street. I see this house that is going up for auction as a result of foreclosure. There is a sign in the front of the house. It says Capitalism Did This, Here is the image:

Michael Moore’s movie says it all. I think of Marx and this idea of ownership. I think how we are sucked into the idea of capitalism and it has backfired. Here is a tangible example of capitalism gone wrong. People keep taking the sign down in the yard at this house on our street. They don’t want to see it. It is a painful reminder. I like the sign. I think it should remain standing. It is a reminder of what could happen to each of us. It is a wake up call.

I think Marx is talking about Communism as the order of the working class where common man becomes aware that he is being dominated by the bourgeois (fooled). Once aware, man rises up, asks questions with a social voice and questions our cultural norms. When the common man is the majority, the group creates a new voice, a new language, a new code, we hold agreement, and speak a common language and revolt against what is seen as injustice from those who hold power, property, wealth, and control. We make a change.

The problem with this is that there is always someone that wants power, control, and dominance. When someone perceives that they know what is good or best for someone else, then they impose a code, speak a language of control and hold it over others. Then a culture is formed, and power is welded. Sheep/man follow what they perceive is right and acceptable and flock together, even if it is right off a cliff such as that of capitalism.

With communication, and television as spoken about in Stuart Hall’s piece, the coders or producers, discerns what they think is the audience, what the audience will “perceive, reason, internalize, make a behavioral modification and act on as a result.”

In the Bible there was an event similar to this change. People found the Way. In Acts, everyone joined together, had a common code, sold everything, pooled the money together, shared the wealth, helped everyone, and live a peaceful unified life. There was an inversion in that awakening.

Really, no one owns anything. God rules all. For man, he may hold a deed and pass it on to his children. But man lives a very short moment in time, like a blade of grass, and then the land goes to someone else. It is really a circular game.

I think life, like language and discourse, have levels of understanding. Some think deeper than others. No matter how deep you may go to understand it, no matter how much you may think about something, and try to figure things out, it still remains a code, a chain of discourse that goes on and on and on…


venes said...

'there is always someone that wants power, control, and dominance'... somehow I think we like our tyrants as well, somebody who will tell us what to do, since we are afraid of saying what we think (or see).

annisleung said...

I really enjoy your post, and admit that the American dream of owning things makes us fall into a trap of having debts and loans. The so-called "dream" has a price to pay. If the American dream owned us like you said, that means the debts owned us. Then we became the slave of debts.

I would like to share one of my favorite Bible verses, Proverbs 22:7 "The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender."

KEHS said...

You should check out Dean Terry's film, "Subdivided." It's about how America has become a quilt of cookie-cutter subdivisions. The trend of building "McMansions" play a big role in this, but it's an interesting commentary on how everyone has bought into this idea that we've got to have the biggest and best yet we still end up with the exact same thing.

John Kay said...

I like your linking of sheep (which Marx mentions a few times but in different ways), people, and capitalism. Dr. Parry tweeted about a new Bible in which conservative editors delete the parts of the Bible that don’t go along with their views: they probably removed your Acts 4:32 reference (“Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.”)

It’s amazing that you found that sign: how appropriate to this reading. But it seems hypocritical of Michael Moore to make a film against capitalism and then reap the profits that the capitalistic entertainment industry made possible.

Anonymous said...

Without a doubt, certain people and entities have taken advantage of capitalism -- at the expense of millions of others. However, I would hardly say that capitalism is entirely to blame. I wonder how much art, how many inventions and ideas would not be here today if individuals didn't have the motivation of money. That might sound cold, but even Rembrandt painted and etched to put food on the table, and even he got caught up in battles of ownership over his prints. Capitalism is by no means perfect, but I think a blanket statement that it is entirely bad misses the mark.

kristalbrook said...

I've been thinking about this a lot. People in the US and Europe may be questioning capitalism, other parts of the world are experiencing its benefits for the first time. China and India have growing a middle class with the ability to consume just like us westerners. The center of power that has been in the US since the end of WWII is moving eastward. While we may feel marginalized there's a dynamic new populace that just got to move into the margins.

Gary said...

You can tell from the number of comments that you post has stirred up some thought. Here's mine: Capitalism isn't to blame. All forms of economic sustenance have their strengths and weaknesses. Do we have greater freedom in a capitalist system? I don't think so. We are indeed beholden to many things, be it possessions or taxes. Even though I've been dumped on more than one occasion by the "capitalist system," I still consider it the best system to live with. But what I refuse to do is let capitalistic ideals -- the insistent push for consumption -- define me. I'm not what I own or buy. Those who do define themselves by such criteria are at fault, not capitalism.