6.7.17

"Building The House" - Walden Comic


I've just finished reading Ken Goffman's excellent book "Counterculture Through The Ages".

It's really sharpened an appreciation that my fundamental interests in music stem from its ability, between 1956 and 1996, to function as a locus for counter-cultural impulses. Miraculously Goffman, for someone not primarily a music critic, zones in on precisely the movers and genres at which it makes sense to talk in terms of Counterculture.

In short: Be-bop, Rock'n'Roll circa 1956, The Beatles and The Stones, Bobby Dylan, San Francisco Acid Rock, the Ann Arbor of The Stooges and MC5, Tropicalia, Glam Rock (yes!), Punk, Public Enemy and NWA and Acid House (quoting local authority Simon Reynolds...)

What did he miss? Not much: Fela Kuti, the radical Roots Reggae of the seventies, Krautrock, No Wave, and Ardkore. Those were the other institutionally problematic musics.

Published in 2004 one gets the sense that Goffman half imagines that this ferment would continue apace. Actually what has happened is the countercultural impulse evacuated the middle-ground entirely. The music business abandoned the field. Instead radicalism and revolt became horrifically polarised and driven out of the domain of normality. From the self-inflicted personal traumas of self-harm and suicide to the political insanity of terrorism. It's possible such disparate political events as Brexit, the rise of Corbyn, Trump and Macron are an influx of the abandoned impulses once again entering from stage left and right.

I have to ask myself why someone like myself - a middle-aged, public-school educated, property-owning capitalist would be slightly interested in something like the counterculture? On the face of it it seems profoundly hypocritical, perhaps a hankering after some kind of rebel frisson? In answer to myself I have to reflect that my upbringing and childhood experiences with authority (parents, school and the state) have forever poisoned me against it. And certainly to my detriment; it would be much easier to play the game and replicate the same structures.

My dislike towards the left has certainly got its roots in the same antipathy to authority, to quote Henry Thoreau from Civil Disobedience and other essays (a quote often misattributed to Thomas Jefferson):
“I believe,—“That government is best which governs not at all;” and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.” 
You can't square that with the nanny-state and big government. It genuinely baffles me why people believe a Socialist government is the answer to anything.

A large part of the Goffman book is dedicated to the Transcendentalists, especially Emerson and, my hero Henry David Thoreau. I read Thoreau's "Walden" in 1997 and loved it so much I took great care to make a comic of a section of it. It's a great subject for a comic, and I believe someone in 2008 subsequently made a comic of the whole book. The same solipsistic structural dynamic exists in the original text and the form of comics. Much like blogging too I guess. Never been seen publicly before!