Art and Spirit vs. Corporate Dystopia: Can the enemy’s tools be used against it?

In our present greed-fueled, corporate-consumerist global dystopia, it’s common for artists and subcultural or countercultural thinkers to reject the present order not only in principle but in practice. They (we) are so disgusted and discouraged by the socially, culturally, spiritually, and ecologically destructive nature of the all-dominating system that we’re driven to the edge of despair, and we either hold back and participate only enough to scrape by, or else we reject it wholesale by dropping out and “living off the grid,” as it were, inhabiting the margins of the culture and remaining obscure and poor.

Daniel Pinchbeck

Daniel Pinchbeck, the cultural critic and psychedelic philosopher whose 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl is a truly brilliant tour de force that’s worth your time and attention, published an essay last December at his Reality Sandwich website/franchise/gathering place that speaks to this issue in exhilarating and inspiring terms. It’s titled “Business Shamanism,” and in it he advances the position that, yes, the system is corrupt and capsizing and imploding and manifesting an epic fail right before our eyes, and yes, it’s driven by evil motives and an elite cabal of ill-intentioned people in the form of the “masters of the universe,” who aren’t evil Illuminati conspirators but just the plainly visible pullers of the financial-economic levers in the entrenched government-corporate complex. (In other words, they’re much more evil than Illuminati conspirators.)

BUT — and here’s Pinchbeck’s shining thesis — the enlightened solution is not to flee or reject the whole thing but to actively engage it, learning all its features and skills and nuances, and then to skillfully use its own weapons against it.

It’s a long essay, but like Pinchbeck’s above-mentioned book it more than repays the investment of time and attention. Here’s a portion that leaped off the screen at me:

Many people in the communities that I frequent have sought to avoid rather than engage with the power structure, the financial world, on its own terms. They have not entered the playing field where amorality provides leverage to whomever is skilled enough to make use of it: the arena of wealth-creation. Because of an inveterate contempt for dirty money, disdain for the ethical compromises required to make gobs of the stuff, the alienated outsiders of the spiritual and artistic counterculture have tended to forfeit this area to the business class, to their own and society’s detriment.

[…] If your work is important to society, then that society should value it in whatever ways that it chooses to ascribe value. Perhaps you would like to influence and awaken people, to change their way of thought and patterns of behavior? You should realize that most people will find you far more convincing if you are radiating health and abundance, rather than scraping for pennies. They will want to know how you pulled it off, and be more open to what you tell them.

[…] Most importantly, the tools of the corporate world can’t be discarded. They need to be learned and repurposed. Corporations are extremely efficient machines for transforming matter and energy. We are going to need corporate managers, along with all of the skills that corporate managers have mastered, if planetary transformation is going to happen with the necessary speed and efficiency, when we consider the intensity of the ecological crisis, above all.

[…] Although it is necessary to fight against malevolent corporate practices, we want to transmute the corporate form. People will always need beautiful and useful things, and they will always seek out services and learning experiences that benefit their life and their soul. Fulfilling these real needs in a good way is not antithetical to some kind of revolutionary movement. In fact, it needs to be a part of any meaningful movement that arises.

So what do you think? Is the strategy Pinchbeck recommends reasonable, workable, desirable, advisable? Is it a pipe dream? Is he selling out? Personally, I find that it resonates, and resonates deeply.

Image credit: Daniel Pinchbeck, by herwig maurer (herwig maurer) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

About Matt Cardin

Teeming Brain founder and editor Matt Cardin is the author of DARK AWAKENINGS, DIVINATIONS OF THE DEEP, A COURSE IN DEMONIC CREATIVITY: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO THE INNER GENIUS, and the forthcoming TO ROUSE LEVIATHAN. He is also the editor of BORN TO FEAR: INTERVIEWS WITH THOMAS LIGOTTI and the academic encyclopedias MUMMIES AROUND THE WORLD, GHOSTS, SPIRITS, AND PSYCHICS: THE PARANORMAL FROM ALCHEMY TO ZOMBIES, and HORROR LITERATURE THROUGH HISTORY.

Posted on June 9, 2011, in Society & Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I think the challenge here is that as creative people, our motivations are very different from those of the financial and ethical oppressors. I Iike to have nice things, don’t get me wrong, (I really want a new car), but I’m having to learn to be content with my financial situation and seek emotional/spiritual/mental fulfillment elsewhere. Some days it’s a struggle dealing with the fact that I’m in a double-college educated household and our income is sub-par.
    it’s even harder in a culture that values materialism over all else. As Americans, we exist in this dichotomy of ideals where we are taught (both consciously and sub-consciously) to strive for the very things we will likely never have. Want to be cool? Wear these clothes. Want to be happy? Drive this car. Want to feel good about yourself? Weigh this much.
    We are constantly bombarded with the material answers to our desires yet still tend to be left unfulfilled or disappointed.
    What a new dawn it would be if the first thing we decided was to eschew the values that coproate marketing determines will fulfill us and instead take a moment to say “y’know, I don’t need a bigger house, but I would feel awesome if I sold another book.”
    Suddenly we are motivating ourselves instead of being motivated by the commercialism. And suddenly American society would be in chaos because some individuals would be more content with an intangible, and corporate America hasn’t comletely succeeded in packaging and selling the intangible. Yet.
    I agree with Pinchbeck that the best way to fight fire is with fire, and good lessons can be learned from the tactics of corporate America. But capitalism is driven by profit and until we teach ourselves to define ‘profit’ as emotional or spiritual well-being, I think it could be a hard sell.

  2. All is evil. We are living in evil times. People are being played by the system, every damn day, being stupified by it. It´s horrible.

    I think he got a point. We gotta do something. Even if it´s just to damn hard to sense anything closer to ‘winning’.

    Matt, I´m gonna link you in my blog.

    Cheers.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Rafael, and also for the linkage.

      I’ve come to think the all-dominating hellishness of the current all-dominating system is as much a matter of hypnosis as it is a matter of concrete, factual circumstance. The really deep recognition goes beyond recognizing the system for the spiritual-planetary disease that it is, to recognize it as ultimately being a snow job or con job that only exists because we buy into it. I used to feel that the ability to see through it all was actually a curse, because it made me miserable at what I perceived as the hopeless unalterability of the situation. It was like waking up not from the Matrix but in the Matrix, with no possibility of escape. But it’s seeming more and more to me that the very act of seeing through the system actually begins to dissolve the system in hard, practical reality — because it’s all fueled and held together by nothing but delusion to begin with.

      • Wise words, and I quote: “to recognize it as ultimately being a snow job or con job that only exists because we buy into it”

        I appreciate the correspondence. I´m (trying to become) a writer myself, and I cannot tell how much I like the “What it really takes to become a writer” post, along with some others. Right on!

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