The Cultural Steam
For far too long people have stood on the sidelines, watching as culture turned to steam. It is entirely acceptable for great work to go unnoticed. It is acceptable because people who are supposed to be doing a job don’t care, are too lazy to even respond to an email. Let’s take one industry: publishing. Writers can’t be arsed to write well, publishers can’t be arsed to support new talent or spend money on talent, journalists can’t be arsed to support new presses by writing features or reviews and writers understand that only backed work sells, only when your best mate is head editor, or when you’re in the right club, so they can’t be arsed to write etc. People are too tired and depressed to do anything because they’ve learnt how the world works, or stumbles along drunk and hazy. The answer is: leave it, forget it, turn your back and embrace anything that pays the bills, that brings in the hits and guarantees mass market participation.
Go and have a casual read of your favourite newspaper. You’ll see it full of hit-makers, a promotion of gossip above all else. Go into your nearest bookshop, if there is still one around. You’ll see it pregnant with biographies of the latest celebrity who’s famous for living or for dating a sex doll. Big heavy shiny hardcovers with smiley faces on them. 32% off. On the shelf, somewhere in the corner of the shop, you might find a dusty copy of a half-decent novel. But not in the big shops, oh no, you have to bribe them first; take the managers out to dinner, buy them expensive underwear.
Facebook has turned taste into just one heartless button. Through the flick and touch of a smartphone screen you like a cat stretched out over a keyboard, you like Mozart, you like a guy farting into a camera, you like cakes, McDonald’s, Dostoyevsky. Everything is the same. Everything is liked. Nothing is hated, loved, passionately and wholeheartedly supported. You support new talent by clicking like. You share them. You email them. Only takes a moment. Culture is now swiped, clicked, instantly forgotten. Everything is the same. Everything is liked. And writers wonder why they’re not making enough money from writing, why they’re having to do extra jobs to get by. How do you compete with so much stuff that’s being swiped, liked and emailed? So much free content.
Content is the new buzzword. Music, film, books are content. To fill up your meaningless life, to cheer you up at the weekend, to get you through that boring commute to work. Content to fill up the void of having wanted to do something with your life – why couldn’t you be a celebrity? Why? You’re stuck at £15 an hour and the best thing you can do is forget it by getting pissed every Friday and Saturday night. At least you’re alive, though, at least you have a job. Be thankful.
I’ve worked for companies who would sell anything for a profit margin. There was no shame in this disgusting activity. The bosses had to survive and survive well. Consumers, after all, aren’t that bright; they just want their products force-fed to them. The workers from these companies could happily enjoy their Christmas party after spending the rest of the year ripping off consumers. Culture = profit margin.
So it comes down to money. Again. And comfort. And money which equals comfort. The edge is blunted by money, by greed, by comparing yourself to the neighbour. I can say that I’m proud of what’s been achieved with Honest. We’ve stood by every single book we’ve published, not as a product, but as an actual individual creative work. And we’ve respected our authors as human beings as well as creators. Don’t ask me about our profit margin.
Merry Christmas, everybody. Don’t forget to like, share and comment.