Depression (not mine, ours)


I am no expert on depression, at all, but I also note that over the last two decades it has become a more visible topic of discussion in Western circles as well as Southeast Asia – where, deeply distressing to say, the cycle draws in more people in as well. From Kpop and Vpop to bloggers and painters, fashionistas and writers, and the crisis crash bang personas of the overworked academic… Somebody is making a killing from marketing depression as a part of the culture industry. Of course wholesale trading on the personality ‘disorder’ of the difficult artist or the rebel teenager has been around for a long time. Since Dostoevsky and the image of the artist starving in a garret, now it is more psychological, but a similar danger where emulation can lead to disaster. There is an element of this that feeds on mobbing and fandom but it is not all that new – the casualties of previous cult aspects of the culture industries are there to see where social pressures led people into situations that maybe they could not handle in isolation. For example, in the 1960s and 70s, too, the drug consumption of Western pop stars, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones (but not the immortal Keith Richards) and right up to and beyond Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, Sid and Nancy, Kurt Cobain, the pressure on them was often/sometimes mitigated by money, but their recreational drug use was also emulated with disastrous consequences for the many youth who did not get the attention, and doctors, and blood transfusions (yes Keith) that the rich pop stars can command. Their fans are left to work it out alone. Here is a huge problem with the culture industries and ego visibility versus fan inconsequence. Frankly, it is a dark side to many cultural industries. It is rare, but at least more frequent, that some thinkers are beginning to talk of this. Mark Fisher for example, himself suffering a suicide through depression, addressed the problem of depression and alienation in his work and it is exactly this that should be recalled by cultural studies when it elevates the sufferings of the artist above suffering as such. What to say then of Walter Benjamin’s huge impact within the cultural studies field when (also a suicide) he and many others are celebrity cases with little, if any, direct correspondence with everyday depression among those who buy the books marketed in their name. Even where those books have much that is useful for making sense of such things, the unseemly promotion of Mark Fisher as author exceeds and overwhelms the significance of his forthright discussion of depression, anxiety, alienation and the self-destructive consequences of egoism on the left, as opposed to consciousness raising. Sniping and sectarianism go hand in hand here, among the denizens of the caste-dwellers no-one has any direct line on what should be done, but as soon as someone raises their head above the parapet they are shot down, or elevated into irrelevance. In the marketing of Mark Fisher, or on a far grander scale, the reification of Walter Benjamin, I think a chance has been missed because what really can be done with discussion is relevant not only to the music industry or author-ego-tortured artist depression syndrome. What adapting the discussion of fame for all could mean should be on the table. Get the discussion to be about what sort of mental health services and organisation of the general public, the youth and those not readily visible to the pop media celeb glam fashion mags and feeds, get a discussion of how social health can be taken back from the industries of promotion, pharma and corpo-rate me-dia and make it socialise that, rather than the name-brand posturing> Maybe this is mor than to address the very important possibility of taking a step back to see how various cycles are feeding on a dark aspect of ‘the artist’ as tortured soul that belongs to the myth of the emo – emotive, drugged, poverty-stricken, gangster, outside, misfit image. Cool as the dud is, that schtick is only ok for the rich and famous, and really leaves (some) fans in despair since they invariably have less effective access to public or medical support etc. Not only in music, but in any star system – modelling, cinema, theatre, poetry, writers, teachers…


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