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There is a story that needs to be told

Working Class Whole

There is a story that needs to be told. A song that needs to be sung and heard. An experience that needs to be shared. A paradigm that needs to be expressed and represented and that is the paradigm of common people, the worldview of everyday working-class people. This perspective stems from their lives and experiences, and with them comes a history, a culture, and a set of values of their own. A history, a culture, and a set of values that have been, to at least some degree, stifled, diluted, co-opted, and/or manipulated over the years- decades even! 

The cultural values, beliefs, and perspectives of common, working-class people have been dominated by those of a privileged ruling class in recent decades. This is best understood as hegemony: “the cultural domination of a society by a ruling class which imposes or inculcates its ideas, values, etc., thereby ensuring acceptance of the status quo by other classes.”

While hegemony is certainly multi-faceted and very much rooted in civil and economic institutions, the easiest place to observe this is in our mass media. Whether it’s in the form of entertainment or information, whether it’s the top 40 hits of the summer, a number one best-seller, or the evening news, media is where we can best see a portrayal of society’s cultural values, ideas, and what its prevailing ‘common-sense’ is. The hegemony or status quo of countries like the United States is one that upholds capitalism and the interests of the 1%, in which affluence and consumerism are embraced and so-called ‘titans of industry’ like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are placed on a pedestal. 

Moreover, 90% of the media is controlled by 6 media companies (mainly Disney, Time Warner, News Corp., Viacom, and CBS). All of which are multi-billion-dollar, privately-owned corporations. If we just look at the music industry, almost 80% of it is controlled by just THREE labels: Sony BMG, Warner Music Group, and Universal Music Group. 

With so much of print, video, and audio media controlled and owned by private corporations, it’s no surprise that the values and ideals of the capitalist class have dominated the perceptions, narratives, and mores of our society, and with this overwhelming influence a set of politics and ethics have been disseminated amongst the general population. A set of politics and ethics (whether in liberal or conservative forms) that serve the interests of the upper-class, and not those of common people and the working-class. 

How many magazines or reality TV shows do we see promote materialism and consumerism? How many popstars do we see flaunt their wealth and bourgeois lifestyle? Even those of the humblest origins, forget their lower/working-class roots and glorify their rags-to-riches transformation from exploited to exploiter, leaving most of their working-class compatriots behind. We might see a charity or superficial cause promoted here or there, but how often do we see artists in the mainstream champion class consciousness or working-class pride? Outside of punk rock, not often if at all. No wonder so many people are focused on emulating the near unattainable lifestyles of the upper class, even going so far as to identify with them even despite being so removed and different from the bourgeois idols they fawn over. 

Media is a crucial means of communicating ideas and information, the curation of which creates a narrative that goes on to influence public discourse and perception, which then goes on to influence political policy and decision making. Thus, whoever controls the media, influences the politics of a society. Given this, the working-class needs to control their own media, because through media (whether it’s music, film, news broadcast, etc.) the working-classes must be able to tell their history, share their perspectives, and assert their values, politics, and ethos. Perhaps the ethos that best embodies the values and spirit of the working-class is the DIY ethos. 

The DIY ethos is an ethos born out of necessity, from an environment where there is no access to conventional means. DIY is one of the few things that inherently gives common people the fruit of their labor and with direct control over it. Regardless if it is recording music, sewing your clothes, or writing a zine, DIY requires work and dedication, and with this comes a set of ethics. The DIY ethos values authenticity, self-reliance, and supporting one another in the DIY community. Unlike the conventional “industry” approach which fosters one-sided dependency and conformity to the standards of the elite, the DIY ethos empowers people to be self-governing, to choose their own standards, to be master over their own reality. It liberates individuals from abiding by the norms of the status quo, in that they can be true to themselves and present themselves as the artists that they want to be rather than what society tells them to be. DIY flies in the face of the bourgeois values and rat-race mentality pushed by the mainstream media.

The spirit of both the working-class and the DIY ethos ultimately fosters community and supporting one another, because without solidarity DIY and working-class communities often fall apart. This is why people who live by this ethos do not do things solely for personal gain or selfishness. If someone is in need, we help them to stand up and in turn they help us to find our own footing, rather than acting out of pure self-interest.

Humanity would undoubtedly be better off if the DIY ethos was the universal norm, as opposed to the code of ethics that dominant present day society. A value system that upholds selfishness, petty egoism, and exploitation. It is because of this, that we as working-class people and believers of the DIY ethos, must not only carve out a niche for ourselves, but eventually become the new hegemony. No, this doesn’t mean selling out with the hopes of working within the existing mainstream status quo, it means we must take it over, piece by piece, and become the new mainstream, the new hegemony.

With a working-class, DIY hegemony, not only are the true interests of common people prioritized, but our DIY values will be championed instead. Imagine if pop-stars and public figures championed class consciousness, working-class pride, actually standing for something, and giving back to their community instead of worldly materialism and an out of touch way of life. Just how much better off would we all be if our society had icons like Joe Strummer or Pauline Black instead of Cardi B or Tekashi 6ix9ine? If society ceased to worship pretty faces and cutthroat capitalists, and instead celebrated the everyday working heroes within our community? I think anyone reading this already knows which world they would rather live in. The time has come for common people and the DIY ethos to rise up and take what is rightfully ours, and to sing the song that has been silenced for far too long. Working people and artists of the world, let your roar be heard!!!!  

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