Youtube Series Review: Culture in Decline

I was doing some hard core internetting the other night, and after searching for “cultural hegemony” in youtube, I came across a series called Culture in Decline.

I’ve been on this political philosophy kick you see, watching lectures on neo-liberalism, the new-left, globalisation, feminism, the future of journalism in digital technologies (fuck off Kim Williams, you are a corporate pig) and the importance of investigative journalism in contemporary society (marry me John Pilger, you are a treasure) because my sensitive, humanist mind is screaming at me that capitalism is inherently flawed. Whattup Tony Abbot, what even are you.

Remember the Zeitgeist films? There were three of them. I watched the first one, around 2008 I think. It spread like wild fire around the Internet, apparently one of the most downloaded films in the world at that stage. I remember it quickly became the butt of jokes among some of my more cynical friends. Scornful tones artfully crafted from years of selectively devouring Vice magazine, proto-hipsters stuck in selfish individualism, sucking whatever culture they could from decades past, actively apathetic about the realities of global sexual and racial inequality because it just wasn’t cool to give that much of a shit man, wasn’t cool to think about politics like that. Cool. What even is that? How much more destructive can you be to self-actualisation? I’ll write about that another time.

So yeah, the dudes who did the Zeitgeist trilogy created Culture in Decline. At the timing of writing, their channel has 38,381 subscribers. The first episode, posted July 2012, has over 1 million views. The last episode of the season, posted three weeks ago, has 432,193 views.

Culture in Decline follows the same themes as the Zeitgeist trilogy; deconstructing the way that capitalism works, highlighting the way it has turned much of humanity in to slaves to money (and the people who have lots of it), offering thought experiments for a future in which our rapidly advancing technology combined with a deep sense of social justice could inform a more equal and harmonious society, without money and without starvation.

Watching the first and last of the 6 episodes, there were some things that generated vague feelings of repulsion, things that could potentially invite criticism from well practiced cultural cynics: visual clichés, tacky design values, awkward attempts at humour etc… but I found that I was able to forgive those flaws because you know what? Not many people are blessed with a passion for social activism, critical thinking, communication skills AND a higher sense for aesthetics and comedy. In this case- the only example I’ve seen of a coherent, non-cultish attempt to inform the public of a different way of thinking than the mainstream media perpetuates- the first three are most important, and here they are present in spades.

I would posit that the intended audience for this series is all the kids (and not kids) who spend a lot of time in front of their computers, perusing the internet and using it properly. Almost every westerner under the age of about 30 has had the entire recorded history of human knowledge at their fingertips for at least half of their life, certainly the majority under the age of 25. These are the kids who know computers. They are ridiculously fucking adaptable to new technologies. They know Internet. They know a lot more about the world through constant information sharing online than most humans with fulfilling lives outside of a computer screen could ever dream of. Smart kids these days are really, really smart.

And, most importantly, their natural youthful positivity hasn’t been entirely beaten out of them yet. They see the world, see the news, and the smart ones, just like everyone else with a brain, can see that shit ain’t very nice, shit ain’t fair, that something is missing, that the world has not been looked after properly.

If these kids find the Culture in Decline videos, they could conceivably come to realise that there is indeed something more to existence than a world run by money, something no child gets taught to consider in mainstream schooling. This is evidenced in the many comments on each of the videos.

Peter Joseph, the host and creator, speaks with something of a Marxist vocabulary, which has triggered warning sirens amongst those who consider socialist values to be dangerous (or even passé). However, it is a language that arose through necessity, arose to explain the flaws inherent in the status quo; a language easily taken up by those who feel the oppression it describes every time they consider higher education, feel inadequate because of an advertisement, can’t afford long lasting shoes, can’t pay their electricity bill, can’t afford their medical treatment, can’t have a glass of clean drinking water from the tap, can’t find a warm place to sleep each night, and a thousand other worse things related to not being fucking rich that more people are familiar with than those who are not familiar with them.

He’s not trying to convert the youth to communism. It’s not about communism. It’s beyond that. It’s a new way of thinking about the future. This guy is attempting to prove to his viewers that they can and should think outside of their indoctrination, because if we don’t do it now, before money absorbs quickly evolving technologies into a further pursuit of more money, we’ll be totally fucked as a species.

I don’t want to live in that world. Nor do majority of people. But most of us have no idea how fix shit up, because there isn’t much discussion. This series stands to bring people with this mindset together, if those interested can shake off the inevitable ridicule that will come from vocalising their opinions to those who, consciously or not, still perceive the free market as a God. It offers an open minded forum to start working on ideas, learn from and teach each other, make plans to work on a sustainable future outside of capitalism, preparing for its inevitable crumble as its main players start to die off (I’m looking at you Rupert Murdoch).

It’s worth watching this series. It could teach you some stuff. If you agree with its message, then fucking share it, especially amongst younglings and the people who influence their attitudes (parents, teachers etc). If you disagree, then you better have a damn good intelligent explanation for it, because it’s high time that every body stopped thinking that capitalism is impossible to break free from. Because it’s not. It will take decades of work, and many of us won’t live to see the civilisation we instinctively desire, the one that won’t destroy our species in the next few hundred years, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be encouraging its development in the youth who will be creating it. There’s no need for violence, there is no need for ridicule, we just have to be good human beings again.

Watch it here.