People are more than welcome to think that my article “We Weren’t Born This Way” criticism of Lady GaGa’s new single Born This Way is one of “worst” things, or even thee worst thing they’ve read on the topic. I’m more than happy to try and answer any and all public criticism I come across when I can find the time. For those who’ve commented on the post itself, I’ve tried to answer questions and criticisms as best as I could. I’ve also responded to people privately and taken note of other public criticism that I still had to respond to in some way. In doing so I’ve noticed a particular type of cultural apologism that I wanted to address. It seems to be quite common, so I figured it deserved at least a short post.
Gregory White (@GregKills) runs the blog Auditory Love, a music blog based out of Calgary. According to White, my article is one of the “worst” he’s read on the topic of GaGa’s new song. Fair enough. The reason? I, along with others, are taking the song too seriously, that I am “over-analyzing every single word”. White’s website 23-word blog description includes, among other things, that he’s a “Gaga en†husias†. Hallelujah.”
This isn’t very particular to White, nor is Lady GaGa the only artist with a gaggle of fanatical fans who go into a craze whenever they come out with a new single or album. This phenomenon is very widespread. Capitalism, in its push to commodify every aspect of our lives, tends to estrange us from the very culture we participate in, reducing our participation, as social subjects, to an alienated form: that of the wage slave, the cultural spectator, the cultural consumer. We feel like we are a part of the culture from which we are deeply alienated, we feel attacked when people bring up the slightest criticism of that culture.
Moreover and despite the fact that we are alienated from the very culture whose existence rests on our active support, capitalism turns us into the fiercest of apologists for the mythologies which uphold our own oppression and exploitation. People like White most often see no contradiction between claiming that many people are taking GaGa’s song “too seriously” and “over-analyzing every single word/movement” and his pseudo-religious support of GaGa (“Gaga en†husias†. Hallelujah.”) in in the form of dismissal of serious analysis and post after post after 3-500 word post of uncritical GaGa apologism.
With GaGa using racialised terms like “orient” and “chola” in her songs, or doing an publicity campaign for the anti-gay, anti-union, anti-immigrant Target Corporation, people who have even the slightest progressive inclinations should seriously reconsider continuing the constant apologism for her music – and the products that public figures try to sell us more generally (remember that Lady GaGa is part of a business, and that some of her concert tickets can cost you the cool, anti-poor price of $178 a piece). Rather we should take a critical stance towards the culture that serves to uphold our own oppression and exploitation. Our liberation is infinitely more important than any one artist or song – and music under socialism will undoubtedly be much better anyway.
As I’ve tried to make crystal clear, this isn’t about White or any of the other people who responded critically (or sarcastically: “Dude I’ve always said being queer is like hating brown people[.] Now I have proof, check it.“) to my article, or to other forms of cultural critique put forward by progressives. Rather this type of apologism is structural - it is built into the system, it is a necessary result of the setup of modern capitalist hegemony. Without such intellectual apologists for the ideology which supports the capitalist order, capitalism couldn’t survive. But just because this isn’t about this or that individual action, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t combat apologism and liberalism wherever it rears its ugly head. We should. People can resist participating in apologism if they understand how it operates in our society.
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“…the Social-Democrat [Socialist]’s ideal should not be the trade union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalise all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat”. - “Trade-Unionist Politics and Social-Democratic[Socialist] Politics: The Working Class As Vanguard Fighter for Democracy” in What Is To Be Done?: Burning Questions of Our Movement by V. I. Lenin
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