Friday, March 03, 2006

Politics, postmodernism and cool

"Cool" turned up in modern form as a way of describing a type of Jazz. Jazz's imperial phase came with America's post war boom. It embodied the all the contradictions of that period, not least in that it was both "hot" and "cool". Jazz could be agressive and frenetic, sparse and laconic.

Whilst hot disappeared up a cultural and etymological side-road (used only for ogling or car theft), cool has snowballed.

Cool has all the right associations of irony and distance, two key post-modernist concepts. "Cool" is non-judgemental, easy going, not giving a "rat's ass". "Cool" is the ultimate post-modern compliment.

On the otherhand, uncool is sincerity and engagement. Uncool is forming an opinion, causing a fuss, doing something about it!

In the mass media, George Galloway often comes with the appelative "firebrand". It is not a compliment. He is passionate and sincere (and quite erudite). George Galloway is therefore uncool.

As far as mainstream media and politics are concerned, we are at the end of history. Politics is now a turf war for the "radical" centre ground. It's showbusiness for ugly people. It's "American Empire: get used to it".

Anyone standing out against that consensus is usually ignored. If they have the temerity to elbow their way into any kind of mass consciousness they are generally slandered and ridduculed.

Big Brother is a genre busting inversion of "reality-tv", where everything that happens is completely controlled and entirely unreal: a thoroughly post-modern event. As such, George Galloway (however "naive" he might have been) was only going to be singled out for special punishment and riddicule.

In terms of social hegemony, coolness and detachment are something only certain people can afford.

Working people, dealing with work pressures, watching the cost of living, coping with narrowed social, cultural and family lives, cannot afford to detach themselves from social and political issues, at least not in the longrun. But, ideas from above, of individualism, consumerism and so on, have a distorting effect on working class struggle. They teach people to be passive spectators when they should be actors.

Part of the struggle for hegemony should be the struggle against coolness and detachment. Let's have more uncool demos, more uncool strikes and occupations.

2 comments:

Snowball said...

Interesting post. Lets make 'uncool' the new cool.

Roobin said...

He, he, he...