Grass roots
In the 'post-truth' world of fake news and filter bubbles, the virtual community is becoming increasingly unreliable. This commentary (like the previous one on 'skill') inevitably brings us back to the subject of technology. That Regionalism has grass root tendencies would seem obvious, but the point we would like to make here is that our communities – in an era of entertainment news, countless disparate information channels – are becoming increasingly fractured. It could be said this began when the culture Industry introduced a specific 'Youth Culture', in the early 1950s, intervening in the relationship between parents and community, and the young; thereby interrupting the transmission of knowledge, and disrupting the continuity of culture. This subject will be explored later, but here we must look at the present day, nearing the end point in this process, as it was described in various texts on social theory.

Today, we have only the appearance of a 'global village'
, perpetuated and reinforced through an international technology-based culture that sometimes gives the impression of a functioning global community – 'one world'. So long as we don't look too closely, or ask too many questions, the facade can be maintained. Our Facebook era, filtered news, works tirelessly however, to ensure that certain questions are not asked. Whole areas of discourse, including many areas of traditional knowledge, are entirely removed, and would be conspicuous by their absence if the public knew they existed, or understood their worth. As simply one other facet of the Culture Industry, the news is curated in much the same way as the content that fills the walls (and spaces) of the institutions of contemporary art. On every level, increasing globalization is presented as the only way forward – the only option – and anything that could contradict or threaten this model is simply excluded.

The political and economic integration required to make the Internationalist's 'one world' vision a reality, however, means the end of local self-determination (as discussed elsewhere). As power is continually stripped from accountable, democratically elected regional authorities (municipal, provincial and national), it is transferred to supra-national organizations and power elites who determine the policies our national governments adopt – sometimes without any pretence of consulting the people they represent. On a local level, the conversation focuses on insignificant details – trivialities and amusement – as most citizens have reduced their involvement to the intermittent, and ever more symbolic, act of voting. (See 'Advanced Capitalism')

The end of sovereign currencies heralds the end of our 'democratic', 'sovereign national governments', and the end of the era of the Nation State; as the Governor of the Bank of England makes clear in his recent book, The End Of Alchemy. This really will be the end of an era; as 'supranational ambitions' are realized, the idea of democracy will recede into the recent past – where, in this age of cultural amnesia, it will be promptly forgotten.

Since life already seems too complicated, the idea that decisions directly affecting our lives are made behind closed doors no longer seems to worry most people – unaware (or unwilling to accept) that the quality of life will diminish further as a result. This has been the trend for the past twenty or thirty years, of course, and the flow of wealth, away from a disengaged middle-class, into the hands of those who are designing this new political and economic system, is only going to accelerate. The public was not consulted (or informed in any way) when national sovereign currencies were replaced by debt-based private currencies. On the surface it appeared as if nothing had happened, but the result of this was that wealth generated by economic expansion could now be redirected, invisibly, into private hands; rather than to the national treasuries, to pay for pensions, health care, education, etc. Taxes that once paid for public services, were then required to service the debt that began to accrue, and as these debts increased, pressure to privatize more concrete public assets grew. Those at the receiving end of this reverse cash flow could now afford to acquire infrastructure – at knockdown prices – from indebted governments; and this process is ongoing.'

The secret privatization of Canada's money (which has made the privatization of all public assets inevitable in time) is a case of 'Taxation Without Representation'[1]; no one asked the taxpayers, who would bear the cost of this policy, if they wanted to give up the country's sovereign money and adopt a costly debt-based currency. Years later hardly anyone knows what happened; debt has become a way of life, and it is no longer questioned. This issue is rarely raised, and is essentially never spoken of by economists, politicians, accountants, the media – all of the people we would expect to inform us of such things. The Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) component of so-called 'free trade deals', whenever mentioned, goes in one ear (of the tax payers who will cover the cost of lawsuits against the Canadian government/people) and out the other. Thus far, international businesses have been making out like bandits. The same for the so-called 'bail-in' bills, that could see the confiscation of funds directly from saver's banks accounts the next time the banks get into trouble (Read Sir. Mervyn Kings assessment of the likelihood of another economic crisis requiring cash infusions for the banks[2], and explore the quiet transition from 'bailouts' to 'bail-ins' - additional material below). Meanwhile, as ever more ingenious ways of reducing the middle-class to poverty are quietly introduced, information networks fill with banal, 'entertainment news', and the public discourse, mirroring this, becomes similarly vacuous.

Most of the people we would expect to inform us of such things are oddly silent. Artists, who used to speak out on such issues in days gone by, remain silent today, in the belief that they can no longer effect change (see Robert Hughe's comments on this); or, worse, that is not the artist's role. The history of artists bringing about positive change in the world is no longer discussed by our cultural institutions, and thus, the idea that we should be talking about such issues seems mildly ridiculous. Whether those artists who remain silent are complicit, as Baudrillard seems to suggest in his Conspiracy Of Art, we can not know; it is more likely, I would suggest, that those who might feel inclined to speak out and advocate for change, simply don't believe anyone will listen to them. In the post modern age, this may well be true.

The London Regionalist artist Greg Curnoe told us that our politicians were selling us out; he stencilled his messages onto his paintings, in fact. Did anyone listen? Maybe, but certainly no one was able to change things, even as the biggest 'sell out' of the public by its elected representatives – the privatization of the Canadian dollar – took place in complete secrecy at that time. So maybe it is only the naive artists who would still suggest artists might make change, those who believe that this time (given a few decades hindsight) the public may be inspired to support their artists, and work together with them for change.

Like the Agora of ancient Greece, where people met face-to-face and discussed real issues – issues directly related to the well being of society – the old way is probably still the best way. When Neil Postman described his 'peek-a-boo' world of entertainment based, decontextualized news (in Amusing Ourselves to Death), he apparently never imagined customizable news, or popular news, where 'likes' and 'hits' (like Facebook, or Bing's 'popular now carousel') would determine the content. In our hyper-subjective, relativistic world, our own collective worldview shapes (and continually reinforces) the picture we have of the world – whether this view is correct or completely misguided, is irrelevant.

Postman did understand the distraction factor however, and the fact that this new media would immediately fill with mostly irrelevant content. He quoted Thoreau, who, commenting on the prospect of connecting Maine and Texas with 'magnetic telegraph', suggested that the 'first news that will leak through into the broad flapping ear of America will be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.' This seems to be proven correct; Princess Adelaide being a celebrity of her day. Until the next random 'news' event is injected into the feed (fake or otherwise), titillating sound bites – the salacious, sensational and trivial – will provide a continuous distraction. This information is not presented to inform, of course, as Postman suggests; it is designed merely to amuse – as the word, quite literally means, to separate the individual from his or her muse and stifle creative independent thought. As stated in Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment:

'The stunting of the mass-media consumer’s powers of imagination and spontaneity does not have to be traced back to any psychological mechanisms; he must ascribe the loss of those attributes to the objective nature of the products themselves...'

What constitutes 'news', Postman tells us, is the information we receive upon which we might act. Most of the information presented as news today leaves the listener/viewer feeling momentarily informed, and there is a certain feeling of comfort and well-being in this, but more often, Walter Lippmann suggests, the population simply feels 'bewildered' by the complexity of it all. Over time, because of a lack of in-depth coverage by the media, a contextual deficit grows; in this environment, momentary distraction is all that the news can be – drawing our attention in time for the next commercial break.

In a system of this kind, the news becomes a string of sensational media events, about which, it appears, the individual can do nothing. Given the limitation of serious news programs, it must be assumed that the audience already has sufficient background information to extrapolate a reasonably accurate picture of the world. This is the role of education and culture, and yet both appear to have failed.

Our entertainment-based culture, in conjunction with job oriented and/or highly specialized education, leaves huge gaps in basic information required for a democratic system to function effectively; this, it turns out, may well be intentional. As books such as Walter Lippmann's Public Opinion reveal, quite clearly, that the ruling elite felt the general public was neither intelligent enough, nor informed enough, to make important decisions. Works such as this, therefore, set out to explain (for those who might care to read them) how public opinion could be influenced without the public realizing it had been manipulated, through all manner of cultural products and programs. Edward Bernays' 1928 work, Propaganda, in particular, is essential reading. Adorno and Horkheimer, in their 1944 Dialectic of Enlightenment, dealt largely with sound film, but Bernays had recognized this at least a decade and a half earlier:

'The American motion picture is the greatest unconscious carrier of propaganda in the world today. It is a great distributor of ideas and opinions'

Speaking of film and television, the most important channels for the delivery of mass- culture, Theodor Adorno writes, in The Culture industry:

'People give their approval to mass culture because they know or suspect that this is where they are taught the mores they will surely need as their passport in the monopolized life.'

In addition to the orchestrated cultural manipulation, in this 'poststructural' environment where all things are relative, objective reality is deemed naive, didactic, and even dangerous. Here, meaning becomes fugitive at best, and the ideas of cause and effect, continuity, and history, become irrelevant. Because of this, we have the condition described by Herbert Marcuse, in his One-Dimensional Man, in which the public does not (perhaps cannot) see beneath the surface. Thus the public response will be predictable, as the great majority will latch onto the first (and what appears to be the most obvious) explanation for a given event – as presented by the media. Reality, in this world, is the construct of our media; a product of the 'electronic environment', as McLuhan writes. Former New York Times reporter, Chris Hedges, more scathingly, refers to this as the 'electronic hallucination'.

So long as this precarious, 'unconscious civilization' persists (to quote John Raulston Saul) – and our sketchy economic system, and our over-taxed environment, do not entirely collapse – the facade of functionality might be sustained for a time. But even the most unconscious citizen, in this superficial, self-absorbed culture, is now beginning to question its viability.

The global model, 'the integrated economic and political structure',[3] is failing; and as the managers of this 'one world' system, ratchet up their attempts to consolidate control of this system, everyday people are being drawn back to smaller, more localized models. Farmers markets are growing in popularity, and on a cultural front, the independent art venues must do the same, if Regional culture (and, more importantly, the alternatives Regionalism represents) is not to be swept away in a flood of homogenous internationalist culture. It seems laughable that such humble grass roots projects might, again, become civil society's best hope for the future, but only in such venues will you hear alternatives discussed and, more importantly, put into practice.

The point is often made, that in our present 'global debt-based' economy, only one economic model is considered acceptable.[4] The idea that there is no practical alternative is consistently reinforced, through the media and through the officially sanctioned internationalist culture of our day. A system-generated pseudo avant garde 'movement', 'The Altermodern', presents the same idea as political figures around the world, and clearly illustrates that art in the official sphere, politics and economics, are fully-integrated, and indeed, as Baurillard stated, complicit:

'A new modernity is emerging, reconfigured to an age of globalisation – understood in its economic, political and cultural aspects: an altermodern culture ... Artists are now starting from a globalised state of culture'[5]

This is to say, of course, there is no alternative and that the subject is no longer open for debate. Even artists now, if they are to be accepted by the system, must repeat and reinforce the doctrine of Globalization. Regionalists disagree, and make the case that in any system, diversity is essential; furthermore, we point to those alternatives. A system in which other points of view are not heard, and other models not allowed, is a form of authoritarianism. The point is made with particular clarity in The Corporation, and Migrations, that this is a defining characteristic of fascist states. Only if venues for independent art and open public discourse are able to grow and flourish, and are supported to this end by the public, will alternate voices and ideas be heard. At the same time, the system by which internationalist ideology is propagated and promoted – a network of influential, international cultural institutions – must also be taken back by the people, for the people.


1   'Taxation Without Representation' (see below)
2   The End of Alchemy (see below)
3   Memoirs - pg 405 (immediately below)
4   Statements made in The Corporation (documentary)and in Migrations (see below)
5   'Altermodern Manifesto' - Nicolas Bourriaud (Tate Modern)
    Also see: "Teeth-grittingly awful"

The Impact Of Science on Society – Bertrand Russell
The Culture Industry – Theodor Adorno
The Dialectic Of Enlightenment – Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer
One-Dimensional Man – Herbert Marcuse
Public Opinion – Walter Lippmann
Propaganda – Edward Bernays
Memoirs – David Rockefeller
The Conspiracy Of Art – Jean Baudrillard
Amusing Ourselves To Death – Neil Postman
The CorporationMark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott, and Joel Bakan
Migrations: Humanity in TransitionSebastião Salgado
The End Of Alchemy: Money, Banking, And The Future Of The Global Economy
Sir. Mervyn King
The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World
– Iain McGilchrist
'Taxation Without Representation'
'Taxation Without Representation' investopedia
'Taxation Without Representation' wikipedia
'Introduction of a Bail-In Regime' McMillan
'Canadian Bank Bail-In' Huffington Post
'Update On Canada's Bail-In Regime' Osler

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