Hawks Eye: Pop Culture And Cool: Volume 1
Amongst the gazillion books and piles of information I’m absorbing, is the newly published and entertaining book, ‘Don’t Even Think About It: How Our Brains Are Wired To Ignore Climate Change’, by George Marshall. The chapter where he visits the Shell building is hilarious. He speaks to all the people you’d expect a clever writer would: scientists, psychologists, a full totem of people highly qualified to comment and give insight.
So, deep breath, I essentially come from the world of pop culture. The opposite world where the Gods and Queens have names like Kardashian, Karl Lagerfeld, K-Pop and Marc Jacobs. It’s all about consuming twinkly things. The only complex chemical compound we can name is MDMA. I spent four years seated at the edge of runways concerned with describing skirts and trousers a hundred different ways. So, just for the kicks, and as I work my way through Marshall’s book, I thought I’d add some thoughts to see what comes out.
In homage to Marshall’s book and an old compilation series of British pop, let’s call this little list, ‘Now That’s What I Call Not Thinking About It: Volume 1’
The Empathy Gap
When I say lack of empathy, what I also mean is lack of knowledge. And time. ‘Making it’ today means Kanye money, he’s set the bar high plus slapped a ‘win at all costs’ sticker on it so breaking to think about what you’re doing when you follow his plan is for the weak. He thinks he’s fighting for equality but, essentially, he and all his friends are unwittingly poster boys for the oil men by advocating extreme consumerism without pause for thought.
Don’t hate the player hate the game? Well, if the game is capitalism then, says author Jon Ronson during a TED talk, “there’s definitely evidence that capitalism at its most ruthless rewards psychopathic behavior”. Like I said, no empathy, just binary thinking, win or lose, me or you in a time where survival depends on discovering “us” – see Hurricane Katrina. You’re taking us all down boys; there are other options. Collective thinking is for the white and/or privileged? I’d love to interview Rev. Yearwood from the HipHop Caucus (pictured) to hear his take on this. Also, those researching ‘energy poverty’ which explores this.
If Beyoncé, Kendall Jenner and Cara Delevingne had it explained in basic terms what the Six Degrees are, and the time-frame, they’d be on the phone to Bill McKibben, the HipHop Caucus or Naomi Klein to ask, what can we do? Nobody knows what the Six Degrees are, I didn’t, and that key gap between those who have this knowledge and those who don’t is huge.
Cool is Dead
Climate think-tanks talk about involving the cool kids. Example: how can we make caring about the planet cool? Well, acting for the planet or juicing carrots means loving yourself. Whereas being cool, wearing black leather jackets and smoking toxins is, at its very essence, all about disliking yourself. Cool kids don’t care about anything, that’s what makes them cool, duh. Cool kids drive gas guzzling whips that look good, fuck the planet. A lot of kids think it’s punk rock to say, we’re all going to die so why bother; we’re a shit species anyway and deserve to burn. Cool kids, like the original cool kid, James Dean, find it hard to look into the mirror and say, I love you, without tearing up. There’s a complicated pain and confusion going on there. Donnie Darko, the tragic teen; The Velvet Underground aching junkies; the posturing gang-bangers, or even just ex-Strokes lead singer, Julian Casablancas, saying he left New York because he couldn’t stand all the white people brunching. Brunch was born from wanting a hearty breakfast after partying til dawn, he would have done that a zillion times. Self-hatred recoils from words like earthy and compassion. It’s a subject worth thinking about further…
Long Live Shame!
And this brings me to the one thing that governs cool and popular cultures alike – shame. Stepping out of the cool comfort zone and onto the streets to march for the planet somehow feels really embarrassing. If Spike Jonze joined a climate march and explained in real time how awkward it made him feel, we might have more insight but right now it’s an odd mystery. Climate marches are just about asking governments to rule against pumping gunk into the sky, that is literally ALL. Yet the mob and most peer groups point fingers of shame.
Pop culture feels embarrassed by the actions of activists, heck it feels embarrassed by the word activism! Make a DIY sign and start shouting about the earth and corporations? Too embarrassing. The next book by Jon Ronson is all about shame, I look forward to reading what he unveils because at the end of the day, if we’re choosing to be policed by this entity called shame, what is that actually about?!
Sex In The City is a fossil fuel
The next and reportedly final movie installment of Sex In The City is on the cards. The tv series is still sharp and funny but what’s dated is the headspace. Living to consume. Living to gain your identity from external motifs like a post-code, a man, a baby, a handbag – the cause of urban malaise. This, and exactly this, is marching us all into the furnace. Come on dollies, you’re not idiots, wake up. When you understand that governments need to put carbon laws into place right now then the attitudes of these women becomes flabby and done. Last century. Their New York interns, however, will be on the next climate marches because they’ve watched ‘Do The Math’ via 350.org and they know what’s up.
The Science Gap.
I, like the majority of people, studied science until sixteen years of age. If the masses are inexplicably swayed or unsure in the face of solid scientific proof, it’s because we’re so far away from remembering how science works and scientific facts made. You just grow up and forget. Half of us were also asleep during our science classes! In popular culture the phrase ‘scientific fact’ can be said but it’s not implicitly understood that it means, let’s say, meteorology departments who’ve collected and recorded minute datas for decades, and it’s from here, accumulated mega-data, where patterns emerge which give ‘facts’. Maybe we just need reminding in basic, illustrated terms how these facts are physically made.