This week at Anarcho-Pop, I’m going to explore a slightly different avenue. Next week will be back to normal, looking at the new ABC show Last Resort, which sees the crew of a nuclear submarine defy orders from the U.S. government to bomb Pakistan, only to find itself an enemy of the state they swore allegiance to.
I had three realizations this week, one of them being personal. Let me preface this by saying that I am a massive Coheed and Cambria fan. For those who are unfamiliar, Coheed is a prog-metal-rock-all-rolled-into-one band hailing from New York. The band just released their first half of a double album, entitled The Afterman: Ascension on Tuesday.
As I said, I am just in love with this band, dating back to 2005, and when the opportunity arose to purchase the special edition of the album, I immediately did so. As this week drew nearer, the band released a statement saying that the deluxe editions would be delayed by a week or so, to insure that the quality of the product was worth the price we all paid ($65). To help ease the inconvenience, the band would release the nine tracks, along with the nine demos the deluxe edition provided, on Sunday night at midnight, a full 24 hours before the rest of the world would be able to purchase the album (which was Tuesday, October 9th).
I was perfectly fine with this arrangement, and appreciate the band being honest with their intentions. Too many bands these days have an impersonal relationship with their fans, in my opinion. So Sunday night came, and at around 11pm I began to really get excited. Of course, the trouble started. We were informed soon thereafter that the material would be released at midnight Pacific Time, and since I live in Missouri, that would be 2am. I was a bit put off, but this wasn’t the end of the world or anything, so I went to sleep before midnight and set my alarm for 2. After waking up, I raced to the computer like a child on Christmas morning. I eagerly downloaded the .zip file attached to their website, and when I opened it, I saw the nine tracks that made up The Afterman: Ascension. There were, however, no demos attached.
As I listened to the album (which I had already heard through various leaks, but not at this quality), I also sat on the official Coheed and Cambria forum, Cobalt and Calcium. Yes, I’m a pestering fan boy, if you hadn’t already figured it out. I inquired about where the demo tracks were, as I was eager to listen to them as well. Keep in mind that I had to be at work at 9am the next morning, and I’m not really one to be up this late anyways, so I was undoubtedly crankier than normal. The response I got from other forum member seemed to echo this: “Why are you complaining? They just gave you nine tracks. Sometimes fans can be so ungrateful”. I continued to argue for a bit more, just trying to clarify that the band clearly said they would be available at midnight, and they weren’t there. After being berated a bit more, I called it a night and went to sleep, still quite annoyed.
I remain a consumer whore. Despite my pleas for an anarchist society free of the capitalist-consumer notion of “I need this here now god damn it”, I remain a victim (and a perpetrator) of these traits that has helped to divide the West for over two hundred years.
I felt quite embarrassed. As a person who works at a large retail company, I am used to people getting upset at what I feel are the most ridiculous reasons. It’s literally my job on a daily basis to fix the problems people have when trying to find clothes and home accessories. Yet as I sat on my couch in the middle of the night, I became one of those people, clawing for material goods that will not solve my problems.
And so with this realization, I now must remind myself to relax when it comes to my consumer life. I have a pretty great life when I factor in the basic necessities I take for granted, as well as the people in my life that genuinely love me, despite my flaws. As an anarchist, I believe sincerely that these are the things we should celebrate. If I had the enthusiasm for these items as I did for new Coheed and Cambria music, perhaps the consumer culture embedded within me will continue to deteriorate.
As much of a little prick as I was last night, I still maintain that the band neglected our relationship where they have the vast majority of control. I’ve since cooled off, as I found out that, in the midst of preparing to release their album and everything that goes along with it, they simply forgot to upload those particular files, and did so six hours later.
But the band-fan relationship is an interesting example of how power structures work outside of coercive relationships. Certainly, Coheed and Cambria has never used force to make me part of their fan base; I enjoy and relate to their music, so I have continued to listen. But within our relationship, they genuinely have more power than I do. Is this fair, and in an anarchist society, is this type of relationship allowed to exist? Hell, how would the music industry be reformatted to fit our egalitarian ideals? Could a Coheed and Cambria ever find success? I’ve never really thought about it much, to be honest. What is equally an important question is how to stop exploitation by lesser bands than Coheed (yes, I’m being partial), that would use their relationship with fans to exploit them in a negative sense? An example of this today would be Johnny Craig, the former lead singer of Dance Gavin Dance who used his relationship with fans to promote a twitter scam, where he was pretending to sell Macbooks, collecting $600-800 each time. There is no doubt that these victims only went along because of the persona they believed in. Can anarchism promise a difference it can deliver?
This isn’t any particularly new revelation, but the experience further entrenched just how difficult changing culture can be. Take my wife for example: she’s basically apolitical and really doesn’t care much for any of the things I enjoy learning about when it comes to anarchism. What reasoning does she have to morph her mindset into this intellectual endeavor that, quite frankly, can be extremely dense with little payoff.
We face an unlikely uphill battle, comrades. I don’t say this to be a detractor of the cause, but rather to provide a realistic expectation. There seems to be two general options that can potentially allow an anarchist society to flourish: culture change and violence. I reject the latter option, so I am constantly asking myself how an entire community can sustain these types of values. It has been done before, to varying degrees, but it certainly has not had the staying power of a state (perhaps because it refused to use force).
Anyways, this is the end of this week’s rant. I hope you all are well, and if you get the chance to listen to Coheed and Cambria, do so.