June 03, 2013
Theodore Dalrymple on the cult and conformism of the graffiti artist Banksy, an avowed “anti-capitalist,” albeit with means:
The most famous of the street artists represented, Banksy… has painted a museum attendant in an old-fashioned uniform sitting near a single framed “picture” consisting only of the word PRICK (or, in another version, ARSE). The first of these versions was sold — though admittedly not by Banksy himself — for about $300,000. He has also produced a print of an auctioneer taking bids for a “picture” that consists of the words I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU MORONS ACTUALLY BUY THIS SHIT. Banksy sold about 1,000 of these prints for $180,000 in total, but they were soon selling at auction for $5,000 apiece. This reminds me of the curious fact that a placebo pill has a placebo effect even if you tell the person taking it that it is only a placebo.
Banksy has guarded his incognito so that it has become, paradoxically, an important part of his identity as well as of his commercial appeal. But according to those who have investigated his life, he seems to have been born in Bristol in 1974. He was privately educated, which suggests family prosperity. From an early age, however, he appears to have suffered not from nostalgie de la boue, for he had never hitherto known la boue, but from envie de la boue, a longing for the depths. This common desire results from two ideological assumptions: that somehow the poor are authentic in a way that other social strata are not; and that prosperity, at least in our society, is something to be ashamed of, the product of social injustice or exploitation. The vulgar language in which Banksy expresses himself, which is probably not native to his original social stratum, is thus a form of expiation for the original sin of having been born to the prosperous and inauthentic.
There’s too much worth quoting so do read in full. Okay, one more:
Banksy painted the words DESIGNATED GRAFFITI AREA in an official-looking way on three whitewashed walls in elegant areas of London, and they were shortly covered with the horrible and idiotic graffiti that usually targets only concrete walls and tunnels. Banksy argues that all public space should be available for self-expression by the people, forgetting that the majority of the people may want to express themselves by leaving elegant blank walls elegantly blank. But then, they are only people, not the people, a crucial distinction in Banksy’s mind.
For more on the subject of graffiti and the thinking of its apologists, see also this.
And a mischievous Zombie ponders where Marxism meets the Tea Party:
The formula to determine how much each employee gets to keep for living expenses is called “the tax code,” and those who contribute to the national product are called “taxpayers.” The managers deciding how the pile is spent are “politicians,” who are chosen every two years in a shareholders’ meeting called an “election.” This system worked pretty well for quite a long time — until recently. It is only within the last few years that something remarkable happened: The number of contributing “taxpayers” in the country for the first time has fallen to approximately 50% of the population. Meanwhile, the number of unemployed, retired, disabled or indigent citizens grew, as did the number of citizens who earned so little in part-time or low-paying jobs that they paid no taxes, as did the number of people labouring in the untaxed underground economy, as did the number of bureaucrats.
The end result of this epochal demographic and economic shift is that for the first time in American history, the people who actually work for a living and contribute to the common good — the “proletariat” in Marx’s version, and the “taxpayers” in ours — no longer control the company. Vote-wise, the scales have tipped in favour on the non-contributors and the bureaucrats, and suddenly they are the ones making the decisions about what to do with our collective gigantic pile of money — while those who actually created the pile through their work and tax contributions have become powerless. It is outrage over this very power shift that spawned the Tea Party, which is essentially a movement of taxpayers angry that they no longer get to determine how their taxes are spent. Historically speaking, the Tea Party movement can be accurately defined as a workers’ revolution.
As usual, feel free to add your own links and snippets in the comments.