In my previous life as a poet, I wrote a poem entitled Heroes, the narrator asking where had they gone to, the punks, mods, hippies, rockers, disco dolls. And the like. The poem I transformed to song and it was improved because during the recording I improvised and ad-libbed a few rather inspired lines. The tone, or timbre, were also perfect – a denigrating sneer. My acoustic guitar-playing capacity amounted to nil, but the overall performance was satisfactory.
As for the painting, we face this Colossus of a building, a Leviathan of a Corporation, and the man depicted has paused before reaching the large dark entrance door; whatever his choice, Last Rebel is the Corporation, the Brand, the Lifestyle. For one, rebellion has long been comodified: from rock & rock to rap, the money is in the merchandise, the collective experience, not the music. Secondly, the true rebels founded the company, laid the foundations to create the colossus, the monster’s appetite allayed by greed: more cash, larger market share, buying out or crushing competitors, the stuff of daily financial headlines.
Their stock in trade is rebellion against the status quo. Were everything fine and good, nothing would ever be improved, invented, changed. We take things for granted, are averse to change, enjoy our routines, are pleased to sit quietly after a day’s work watching TV, or reading a bestselling book, but these rebels, these upstart entrepreneurs don’t sit still. Not one second. They are dreaming, scheming, schmoozing, toying with ideas, gizmos, conventional thinking so as to find a way to get you to dig into your pockets to buy that product or service which you don’t really need.
Open your cupboards – full. Closet? Packed. Desk? Cluttered with PCs, pen drives, flash cards, DVDs – remember those? And we won’t even go into the garage or attic where we have boxes and crates of video and audio cassettes, old skis, skates, roller blades, city bikes and mountain bikes, and a whole lot more.
Quite frankly, I have been fooled into buying stuff I don’t need, but I can safely say I have a lot less junk than most people. And I will include books too, just to assure you I won’t distinguish between high and low culture, hi- and lo-tech.
Last Rebel is making itself richer, me poorer, and the more we buy, the higher they rise in social status, the greater their economic power, while ours diminishes day after day. Pardon me – mine does. And plenty of people, too.
We conform. We settle down. We don’t want to change. Change might mean disaster. But the Colossus grows ever-more powerful, its scope wider, broader, deeper, and it governs. It governs, and we are governed, pleased with feeding in crumbs, and left alone on the Sabbath.
But all this is fine and good. We can choose and we can decide. We are responsible, sentient beings with a capacity for thought and foresight. We regularly make investments with our limited resources in time, energy, affections, cash.
Long ago, wanting to be a writer, a poet, I chose to cut back. I needed time, a lot of time to write a novel, plays, poems, and I could not afford regular job; granted, I taught for over 25 years, but not usually on a full-time basis, leaving me plenty of time to writing.
Of course this meant less money, but there were increasingly less things I wanted to buy or do: going to bars, ristos, movies, for starters. Walking, running, swimming, cycling are free. As is talking, but outside a tiny circle of friends and relatives, this past year, since reneging The Word, writing, and turnedbinward upon myself, imploded and started to paint, I speak to very few people. Though married, sometimes it feels like I open my mouth only to eat, sip tea, answer direct questions, fail to respond to a phone ringing. It can wait.
I work quietly at home listening to a radio I bought 27 years ago, using wood panels that are far cheaper than canvas.I re-read books, mostly thick classics from Ancient, English, Russian and French Literature, and walk to wherever it is I have to go when, of course, I do have to go anywhere outside the house past the gate. And in emergencies, I do have a large motorcycle.
The Last Rebel, like Government, Bureaucrac tax and bill collectors are at the door, on the phone, in bulletins, emails, ubiquitous. I stand, ineffectual brush at the ready against intruders: strangers who come calling because they want something from you.
And I say: Sorry, not interested, and turn away from the Last Rebels.
Unless… unless….hey, wanna buy a painting?
ln the end, success is an act of rebellion, success in your own terms, large or small, known or unknown. When the painting is right, you feel it, you know. And little else matters.
And a propos of paintings, the little man depicted owns the building.