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Saturday, June 18, 2011

On Conformism and Hegemony


My Mom turned me on to Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself", when I was around 4th grade
(Uncle Walt)...I was getting in trouble at school for habitually wearing a baseball
cap....for some reason this was a "Serious Offense"...( I now know that it had to do with
the ridicule and teasing I suffered as a result of my ears(Fly away))
I had already been deep into Tolkien, and Homer, Bullfinch and even Asimov...but this
was something new...and Profound.
A celebration of the Individual, and exegesis on what it means to be a Free Human
Being...a True American.
How very different from everything else, that had come before!
Here was at least one person who was saying, eloquently, that it was not only our
Sacred Right to be was Our Duty....that it was quintessentially American to
be a Strange Duck.
Quoting Leaves of Grass, and especially Thoreau's Civil Disobedience (which followed
soon after Uncle Walt) had almost no effect on the Principal...indeed, he visably bristled
at such sentiments. It began to dawn on me that school was all about something else
besides was, primarily it turns out, all about Conformity...molding Young
Minds into docile followers of Authority.
Something, Native to Me, Rebelled at this early time, Inarticulate and Murky.
Over the next 5-6 years, my reading and research and experiences confirmed this
Rebellion.Jefferson, Einstein, Da Vinci ,Joseph Campbell, the Beats...all extolled the
Virtues of being One's Own Person....of following One's Own Mind and Reasoning.
Reading about the 60's and 70's...the Music, and Zeitgeist...all confirmed my growing
suspicion, that Conformism and Deferment to Authority, were not the Essence of Being
Human...especially an American Human.
I didn't realise it till much later, but this flew in the face of Reagan's Morning in
America...The Conservative Revolution...the Pendulum swinging to the Right, and
sticking there...
I became perpetual Resistance to Authority and Conformism. The more
the Powers that Be (school administration,etc) pushed, attempted to hammer me into
the approved mold, the more I Rebelled. Later, it was Cops...and Bosses.
Who were these people to Dictate how I should be?!
And how utterly different from the Ideals and, indeed, Morality that I derived from my
independent study. What would Jefferson do...if faced with a quasigovernmental
Authority who insisted that I cut my hair?
The answer is obvious to whomever reads what that man wrote...he would Rebel,
Around this time, I determined that what we had been taught about "drugs" was largely
False...and I was beginning to realise that much else that we were expected to believe,
implicitly and without reflection, was almost Total Bullshit.
It flew in the face of what the Founders and many of our culture's most esteemed writers
and philosophers had actually said and believed and advocated.
What a realisation!
All is Bullshit!
Our "Civilisation" is built on a foundation of Lies and Hypiocrisy and Double Standards!
I am only now, 25 years later, able to articulate my reaction to this phenomenon.
I have been using the phrase "Cultural Hegemony" for a couple of years, now. I recently
learned that an Italian Marxist (Gramsci) coined it. The usual thing is for folks to
assume that this means that I am a Marxist, and believe everything Gramsci believed.

This is due to the very Cultural Hegemony that I'm talking about!
We are "supposed" to accept the Conventional "Wisdom"...without reflection. Any
deviation is to be this case, as Marxist, Socialist, Communist...indeed,
Unamerican. The Manichean, Black/White Dichotomy, operative here, lumps us into
opposing camps, whether it makes any sense, or not. There is, even, an Orwellian
Doublethink at's not necessary that it "Make Sense" or stand up to Scrutiny...we
are not supposed to Want to Scrutinise it! It is implied, in the Rhetoric and Actions of the
PTB that such scrutiny is inherently Bad...Unamerican. No Nuance will be tolerated...all
is Black and White...if one sees and acknowledges Grey, one is dangerous. Further, the
very existence of a PTB is held to be so fantastic , that any talk of such things will be
seen as evidence of mental illness! Speak of the "Establishment", or the Dominant
Culture, and aspersions are cast...reflexively..."Commie" "Hippie", etc...all synonyms for
How far from Jefferson's Ideal we have come!
We have gotten farther from it, every year, since...
Pluralism, not Hegemony...Individualism, not what is needed...indeed, it
is more important, now, in this age of Economic and Environmental "Disruption", and
the Resource Depletion that accompanies them, than ever.
The Monism, the Enforced Conformism, of the Machine must be resisted, if the human
Race, let alone the American Republic, is to survive. New ways of doing things must be
tried, even if (especially if) they fail. The Old Ways have brought us to ruin....and the
Machine (or PTB, or "Establishment" Culture), while resisting any meaningful change,
will nevertheless be forced to Economics, and by Nature, Herself.
By resisting change, the Machine is only making things worse.
There is a Mindless Reflexiveness at work , here.
As I've alluded to, I consider the Machine, our "Civilisation" as a sort of Organism. This
Organism doesn't want to be Challenged...there is a lot of evidence that it's
Foundational Assumptions cannot withstand Scrutiny...hence, TINA (There Is No
Alternative)(see; Maggie Thatcher)...
We are all but forbidden , certainly discouraged, from contemplating
Alternatives...(see;Cuba, and the History of the CIA)...there is a Great , Troubling Fear,
that any Contemplation of Alternative Modes of Living in the World, will cause Rational
Folks to abandon the Paradigm. And there is good reason for this Fear. The Paradigm,
it becomes clearer, is Counterproductive and Unsustainable.
What becomes of those Individuals and Institutions, that are the Machine, when they
are opened to Scrutiny...and are found to be Wanting? The Machine Paradigm enjoys a
sort of Secular Religious contradictory as that sounds.
Consider the long clash between Religion and Science...the same thing is operative,
here. We have our various Inquisitions...our Secular Christ Militant...our Secular
Crusades...From AntiCommie Hysteria to the War on Drugs to the War on Terror to the
War on Sexuality...TeaPeople as Defenders of the Faith...Glenn Beck, or Ronald
Reagan, as Pope Innocent....Corporate "Capitalism" and Cultural Hegemony as the
One True Faith!
....and those who are courageous enough to Think, "Outside the Box", as the Heritics,

Infidel("choice-makers", "Faithless"(!))...

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