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, 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