Hegemony and Modern Culture

Hegemony and modern culture (TV documentary script) [Shots of banks, shops, people walking down shopping streets Grafton Street, the Mall in Tralee, Oliver Plunket Street in Cork as voice over speaks] “Not since the time of Antonio Gramsci has the notion of hegemony been so relevant in Ireland today. But what is hegemony? [Image of Gramsci] Hegemony is the phrase adopted by Antonio Gramsci from Marx to explain how social structures evolve. [Scenes of Regina Cali prison] Antonio Gramsci was born in Italy in 1891. After university, in deference to the fascist Mussolini ruling government he became involved in left wing activity.
As a result of this he was arrested in 1928. While in the Regina Cali prison he studied the whole idea of hegemony. He wanted to find out why the weaker forces do not fight back, why do they bow down to their oppressors. He adapted the meaning of hegemony. He realized that it is not just concerned with how the ruling classes operate (as Marx had proposed). Gramsci felt that “what was missing was an understanding of the subtle but pervasive forms of ideological control and manipulation that seemed to perpetrate all repressive structures”1.
He also found that the weaker group had their part in it by accepting the ruling class’s authority. This is the kernel that we are concerned with. This is the theory that we are going to apply to modern culture in Ireland today. Not just why modern culture is imposed but what are the subtle manipulations of this culture and also what is our part in acquiescing to them. [Cut to images of Irish legends Cuchulainn, Fionn mac Cumhaill, Deirdre of the sorrows] We used to have a culture rich in language, dance, storytelling, education, generosity and a love of the simpler things in life.

It had evolved from years of myths and legends passed down from generation to generation. We lived by a code of traditions and values. Later we became colonised by England we were robbed of our language and as a result the stories that made up our culture. Nevertheless we fought back until we gained our independence but already serious changes had occurred in our culture- the culture of money had crept in . Yeats commented on it in September 1913 What need you, being come to sense, But fumble in a greasy till And add the halfpence to the pence And prayer to shivering prayer, until
You have dried the marrow from the bone; For men were born to pray and save; Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, It’s with O’Leary in the grave. 3 [Images of cash tills and money] Consumerism has been growing steadily ever since, but its more than consumerism it’s a greed, an insatiable desire, an endless hunger for the next shiny object. The care for our fellow human beings has been replaced by this self propulsion . Recently we have been woken from a glut of consumerism, obsessed by the price of property and handbags and plunged into an abyss of recession. Now is the time to question what happened?
What is our culture? Who are the forces that change it and what is our part in adopting this culture as our own? Firstly what is our culture? Culture is anything that engages us socially. It is the media, television, newspapers, magazines, books, internet, art, music and dance. It is all of these and it is more. It is the way we think, the way we live and the things we believe in. Today in Ireland what is most prevalent is the culture of consumerism. Buoyed by the economic boom that was known as the Celtic tiger consumerism grew and grew. Borrowing increased as sales increased on luxury cars.
Items such as handbags became known as must haves, the prices of houses escalated at an astonishing rate. Consumer spending increased by 36% in the period 1999 to 20042. As a nation we became gripped with a greed for goods. Where did this come from? Everyday we are bombarded with images of products and goods. The average person sees over a hundred ads a day. The media is littered with advertising. Most fashion magazines and television stations are run by the revenue generated by advertising. So we can observe how Gramsci’s theory is working, we are being governed by the media to buy these products.
But what about the other side, why do we comply so easily. Is it because as a colonised state we are easily duped and behave like sheep. There is clearly proof for this . Because consumerism is our new God, we work all hours to acquire more money. Modern life is riddled with apathy. People don’t revolt any more and this is an essential part of Gramsci’s model. In order for a social structure to grow it needs to revolt. We did in the 1920’s when we gained our political freedom so why not again? Because people today are too busy being distracted by the media.
Throughout the media we are shown the perfect way to live, what we need to purchase it, to attain that lifestyle and most importantly what we should be thinking. Open the supplement to The Sunday Times newspaper, not only will it tell you what artists are cool and current it will also give you a meter to what’s hot and not. There is usually a spread on a designer or artist with a photo shoot of their house. The following page has a guide as to where you can purchase items that are similar. We are filling our lives and our homes with products in the hope that they will give us an identity, a look a brand.
But it goes further than this. Behind this cult of consumerism is a need for something stronger, the constant seeking that can never be found. In order for it to fill us it would have to be spiritual. We have made a false God of the media. Looking to it to sustain us, to give us direction and it can’t because it’s not based on spiritual principals. Our increasing lack of faith in Catholism had edged us more towards our readiness to believe in something else, something that makes us feel good, safe, and important. All the things the media claims to do.
Social networking sites convince us we are important, that people are interested in what we say and want to see photos of us. The whole thing is ego based revolving around the church of me. As individuals become more obsessed with themselves, encouraged by the media (‘because we’re worth it’) to buy more products, watch more programmes that reiterate the ideology of Me and read more papers that tell you what to buy, community spirit is wasting away to nothing. In order for us to get any way out of this mess we need to look to Gramsci once again. We need to revolt.
We need to stop consuming for the wrong reasons. We need to think about our purchasing. We need to become consciously aware of what we are doing. We need to start asking questions? Where is my money going? Is it helping communities or causing farmers to lose their farms? Why do they sell Riverock a Coca-cola product instead of Kerry Spring in the college canteen? Because that’s the reality; every time you purchase something you set a chain of events into motion . Now we’re aware of our power there is no going back. We need to start a revolution.
Some trailblazers have already started with Fair-Trade leading the way with putting a conscience into consumerism. In the field of fashion people like Kellie Dalton are paving the way forward for fashion with a conscience. Her work and the work of others at Redress. ie are helping make fashion more ethical. Hopefully with this growth in conscience a sense of community can once return to our shores and this will replace the endless seeking of self in the wrong places. [cue Titles Accompanied with Rage against the Machine “Take the Power Back”]
Sources 1 http://www. nternationalgramscisociety. org 2 HYPERLINK “http://www. davy. ie/content/pubarticles/wmc20070730. pdf” http://www. davy. ie/content/pubarticles/wmc20070730. pdf 3 “September 1913” WB Yeats HYPERLINK “http://www. re-dress. ie/” http://www. re-dress. ie/ Irish Times Magazine, (Saturday Oct 31, 2009) The Sunday Times Style Supplement (Sunday Oct 25th, 2009) Cultural Theory, An Introduction, Philip Smith and Alexander Riley (Blackwell Publishing) pgs 35 – 37 HYPERLINK “http://www. victoryiscertain. com/gramsci” http://www. victoryiscertain. com/gramsci http://links. org. au/node/1260

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