Also published on Wordpress.
I still refuse to call myself a big fan of Progressive Rock. I have yet to listen to the works of every legendary Prog Rock band. My knowledge of the genre is still minuscule. But, I know that I am overwhelmed by it. I know about how robust intellectualism and virtuoso mastery of instruments are the non-negotiable prerequisites for its musicians. That’s why I was thrilled to find a BBC documentary titled ‘Prog Rock Britannia’.
For me, it was deeply compact. It concisely retold the chronicle of the wonderfully bizarre genre from start to finish. From the startling emergence to its disgraceful downfall. Oh and about the downfall…
According to the documentary, the cause of its demise was related to the public perception. Prog Rock had been regarded as another form of elitism that dismiss the everyday life of common people. When financial crisis struck Britain in the 1970’s, the distaste finally climaxed. It was no longer socially acceptable to love Prog Rock. It was finally proven how the genre did not represent the people while the more pop ones did.
Yeah, about that…
Prog Rock disgusted them because it encouraged intellectualism and higher artistic appreciation, not because of its supposed elitism. If elitism was indeed the reason, they would not have chosen pop music, an inherently escapist genre that discourages any forms of contemplation, as the music of the people.
In his article Popular culture: a useful notion?, Willem Frijhoff laid out six dimensions of pop culture, one of them is it being everyday culture. Even before I read the article, I already had that thought in mind. Pop culture is what the common people instinctively embrace… and that is it.
We often do not realise how culture is something that we preach and does not always practice. In many cases, a culture represents a society’s loudly-expressed ideals approved by the Establishment, not the actual day-to-day practice of the ordinary people.
If a culture is always the photographic representation of a society, sexually conservative societies would not have high rates of teenage pregnancies, sexual assaults and STDs. Self-proclaimed free societies would not have politicians that advocate violation of freedom. I’d love to call out specific countries. But, I am already going too far on a tangent.
Anyway, I don’t mind pop culture. I genuinely understand why it is loved by many. In fact, I find it to be mentally relieving at times. But, pretending that it represents who we are is extremely dishonest. We should always remember pop culture’s main purpose: pushing escapism.
Pop culture’s idea of entertainment involves abducting us from our loathsome earthly existence to a world of bewitching illusions. That’s nice, isn’t it? If we want a culture to represent us, pick one that can’t even be bothered to allude to reality. Never pick ones that encourage contemplation. Ever.
A disclaimer: when I said pop culture, I was referring to the low-quality kind. There are times when pop culture works successfully combine both escapism and contemplative depth. The Golden Girls is one good example, with frequent social commentaries and occasional emotional moments. Anyway…
If you hate the highbrow because you hate intellectualism and artistry, just say it! Don’t say that your hatred is motivated by genuine anti-elitism when it isn’t. Using such pretext makes you a fraud. Nobody with sane state of mind would want to be one…
Wait, maybe you want to be one. Maybe you are one of those pathetic nobodies who believe life is all about others’ superficial recognition. You will do anything to be the so-called voice of the common people. Fondling your fragile ego is more important than being truthful.
Either that or you just from cognitive dissonance. Maybe you genuinely believe pop culture is not escapist, never was and never will be. You believe intellectualism and artistry are escapism in its purest, unadulterated form. You’re unable to acknowledge your defective mental clarity.
This anti-highbrow sentiment is hypocritical and self-defeating. You exclude anything that you consider highbrow and anyone who embrace it. But then, you exclude. You are committing exclusion. Your efforts to combat elitism ends up creating another form of elitism, where the lowbrow is the only acceptable norms. As I said, hypocritical and self-defeating.
What’s the point of this article? Well, first of all, writing insults is fun for me. Second, I believe our expressions of distaste for certain things should be properly constructed. Our attempts to appeal to the masses should be based on sincerity, not pandering and deceit. Our reasoning should also be sound and coherent; always reconsider every single one of our thoughts. Critical thinking is undeniably arduous. But, it is possible to do and worth the efforts.
Note about the referenced article:
I initially wanted to make a complete citation of Willem Frijhoff’s article. The problem is I forget where I got the article from. I did find a Dutch academic also named Willem Frijhoff. But, his area of specialisation is history and there was no indication that he ever dealt with pop culture studies. Academic studies can be interdisciplinary in nature which still makes me wonder if he is the Willem Frijhoff I am looking for.