Friday, January 09, 2009

Interestingly, the expression “there is a policeman in all our heads” (and he must be destroyed, or some such) was the old hippy argument against the repressive rules and feelings of guilt and responsibility that kept you tied to the work ethic and being a good citizen. He must be vanquished, he restricts access to pleasure, or at least he condemns us to pleasure and holds us away from jouissance, but in terms of the postmodern superego, whose injunction is (at least according to Zizek) “Enjoy!” then the policeman starts to look more like a friend, actually, more like a subversive.

Equally interestingly if you thought about who, critically, had done the best job of promoting music as a form of ecstatic transport and access to jouissance it would be Simon. There is a distinction, I admit, between being overwhelmed/swept up in a particular musical event/song/moment etc and a culture in which we are all overwhelmed at every moment (and it must be even more draining if you’re a critic and actually have to do it for a living rather than a blogging civilian) but the question kind of remains whether our current imperative to enjoy and the sheer mind-numbing/evacuating superfluity of material, isn’t in some ways a social analogue of the kinds of pleasures that Simon was initially seeking out. An inundation too vast for the mind to hold onto.

Morely’s positive, poptomist vision of it is of the individual sensuously adrift in an endless warm flow of sound and vision. But for the rest of us , who may at some point have entertained other hopes, the problem is, I suppose, that this questing after jouissance was always supposed to have broader social consequences, a little bit like the old “if everyone got on one their would be no war, man” argument. Surely a society in which everyone listens to MBV (or whatever) must be a better place. Surely exposure to these kinds of coruscating left-field art forms must transform the subjectivities of those exposed to them. The hippy ethos that social transformation starts with individual transformation, first free yourself!

If destroying the policeman once looked like the political gesture, then perhaps reconstructing him is the current task.
Or more probably it’s not about the tackling the policeman in your head at all, but the policeman outside your door.

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