The horror show of neo-liberalism continues apace, curdling everything in sight in its endless march to transform the world into a hollow piece of ad copy. We all have a job in dismantling it. But we have to be vigilant. Late capitalism has conquered our self-esteem, our language, and our ways of thinking about the world. Reject the idea of imposter syndrome. Or embrace it. In a hollow, insincere system, there are no frauds, just real people with real feelings and a real sense of disquiet for the managerial styles that strip us of our humanity. Hold that sense of imposterdom close and use it to help navigate this Wild West of corrupted sentiment and meaning, taking what you can along the way in order to dismantle the hellscape of modern life. It’s your only hope. Here’s five tips on how to chip away at neoliberal prosperity from Nathalie Olah, the writer of the new book Steal As Much As You Can: How to Win the Culture Wars in an Age of Austerity.
1. GET A BULLSHIT JOB
Things aren’t going to change while the smart, angry people capable of changing them are mentally compromised by the stress of needing to make rent. We can be Marxists without having to scrape the barrel of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Forget whatever sense of guilt or shame you’ve been made to feel for surviving the market economy. In an era of what the American anthropologist David Graeber has termed “bullshit jobs,” it’s never been easier to exploit corporate stupidity and greed. Do so mercilessly. Use as much of the company time as possible to create work that undermines its pernicious mechanisms. This won’t be possible for everyone, and close observation is a tyranny of low-paid service sector jobs, but for those of you working in the “creative industries,” remember: It’s a dumb-ass cash cow whose only purpose is to be milked.
2. GIVE UP THE GHOST
The legacy media and arts institutions are old and tired, built on an outdated supremacy. Dispense with whatever sense of prestige you once held for the Old White Ways of the world. There is no space for reform. Inequality and bigotry aren’t incidental to the establishment and its arts institutions, universities, and media outlets, but paramount to their sense of elitism and power. Laugh at their repetitive programming—their constant rehashing of the same, dusty arguments and anemic spokespeople. The legacy media and their safe stock of middle-class, never-rock-the-boat authors can’t tell you anything you couldn’t tell yourself in a way that would be ten times funnier and more insightful.*
3. SHOP LOCAL
Use your time and money to shift consumer habits in favor of capitalist detractors. This isn’t an oxymoron. We live in a capitalist system. Not all superheroes wear capes and not all enemies of capitalism walk around without shoes on while shunning smartphones. Our elected representatives in government will help to dismantle the legal and policy frameworks in favor of greater fairness, but we can support them by strangling the cultural institutions that preserve neo-liberalism. Steal the subsidies, subscription revenues, and funding mechanisms of the legacy media and legacy arts institutions that survive on a mythology of outdated prestige and supremacy.** It’s a supremacy rooted in imperialism and imperialist thinking, whose sham tactics peddle a quiet bigotry. Take your business elsewhere and fund the local galleries, publishers, and record labels that exist all around us. Don’t just buy local: read local, look local, live local.
4. TALK IN TONGUES
The corporate world has alienated working-class communities for decades through a complex web of impenetrable speech patterns and jargon. Do the same, scaring and excluding your boss through weird colloquialisms and slang that they will try to keep up with through ever-more frenzied search entries made to urbandictionary.com.
5. EXCAVATE LOST CULTURES
The loss of vernacular culture, bulldozed by neo-liberalism’s sterile whitewashing, would try to create an orphan generation unsure of its own identity and place in history. Create legacy and belonging. Read and share books by obscure working-class authors, and do the same with music and film, while letting it shape the work that you create. In the steady march to supplant the status quo, it will not just be polemics such as this (or lectures or think-tank reports), but a visual language and mode of expression that sits far closer to the lived experience of the majority.