I believe Popular Culture is finally coming of age.
Up until the late 19th century, gaining and cultivating knowledge was limited to very small sectors of society. In western civilization (not unlike in other parts of the world), nobility and upper stratifications of societies had much easier (if not exclusive) access to sources and resources of knowledge such as universities & books, the clergy & bibles, teachers and books for reading, writing & math than the masses as especially evidenced in feudalistic societies which included chattel slavery.
Western societies were built upon this principle…a handful of people with knowledge and power versus the masses of unknowing laborers who had little to no power but were granted a subsistence existence to serve them and their needs. Some of the greatest revolutions were fought because of the significant expansion of knowledge into less privileged communities and groups whether it was The Thirty Years’ War (the European continental war between the exclusive Catholics and the much more universal Lutherans, Protestants and Huguenot), the Age of Enlightenment culminating in the French Revolution or the rise and spread of Marxism and its various forms as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution. In short, where and whenever the power base became too corrupt and significant suffering of the masses reached a threshold, knowledge in its various forms ranging from traditional literacy to more advanced bases and skills became the real weapons against the ruling class. Conversely, one can draw direct and significant correlations between societal advancement & well-being and increased egalitarianism in civilizations with broad literacy and more open access to advanced knowledge and subject matter.
As a result of and to counteract the rise of literacy in the masses as well as to defend the power base of the status quo, the limitation of advanced and specific knowledge that further cemented the power base has been either withheld from groups not designated to share in power or manipulated to marginalize groups from ever acquiring such knowledge pertinent to their advancement. These are our times. In the 20th century and in the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution, increased levels of literacy and knowledge of significant subject matter within the masses were necessary for the industries of our new world. Power, however, has remained rested in the same hands… Power structures have sought recourse and entrenchment in knowledge manipulation, the re-creation and evolvement of intergenerational poverty mechanisms (functional and subject illiteracy gave way to segregation which has given way to the commodification of economic, educational and social opportunity by race, class & zip codes) as well as through outright “state-sanctioned” physical and economic violence that is being demonstrated on a daily basis in the United States.
As the world courses through the Information/Digital Age and increasingly benefits from over two decades of world wide web phenomena, the power base is discovering that it cannot control the spread of knowledge. Commonplace technological advancements increasingly make the world smaller and bring communities one has never had the pleasure of physically making an acquaintance with to our smart phones, televisions, movie and computer screens and, thus, into our minds… Audio and visual media outlets are being used with increasing dynamism and success by empathic and knowledge-sharing groups. They are now becoming intractable in their ability to significantly function to the benefit of communities despite obfuscation tools such as Fox News and multifarious tabloids. They are, thus, incessantly and successfully whittling away at the current status quo.
Five or six years ago, I came to a significant realization while researching various topics, ranging from climate change to the commodification of opportunity structures to the need for new societal well-being measures (GDP vs new social progress indicators) to poverty’s effects on children’s brains on the neurological level which I call the “light switches” effect. All of the tremendous amount of research and data out there that was being handed down and around in scientific communities would sometimes make it to governmental and non-governmental organizations but seldom to a mass media outlet. Pertinent and significant knowledge, developments and conclusions were being screened out and “silenced” doing not only researchers but humanity a great disservice. Significant books were being written and were only fleshed out in very small circles. I thought then, “What if all of this data and research could make it into the hands of ARTists of every ilk and they functioned as transformative links to society at large…?”
I have since been ceaselessly amazed to see certain topics and issues dear to me and our communities be not only raised and addressed by important figures in our popular culture but, in some instances, contribute to the resolution of gross injustices that have been carried out upon us. I have seen athletes and recording ARTists effectively raising awareness and creating alongside visual ARTists, print media and academic ARTists to cease the injustices suffocating us all. I am grateful for the synergies that are continuously arising and collaborations that are bearing unprecedented fruit. These synergies are working against history and Standard Operating Procedures that have been created and used to blatantly as well as, subversively, thwart real and significant change. Although these are very painful times, I am looking forward to observing the continued expansion of already existing synergies and the co-creation of others which seek to educate and expand knowledge within our populations at large via Popular Culture. It is so desperately needed.
I would like to leave you with a few of my personal favorite films and shows. They have already resonated within various communities and have shown the positive effects of the educational and informative role Popular Culture can play:
Disclaimer: I cannot in any way choose significant works from recording ARTists. I deliberated for hours and songs just kept coming! There have been and are way too many out there to do justice which shows how truly important they have been!!