Would socialism KILL cool clothes??
A JAWNZ-POLITICS special featuring Yung Chomsky
If yr reading Blackbird Spyplane — the most virtuous + aesthetically refined newsletter in the game — then by definition 1) U care deeply about yr brothers & sisters across Earth & want to help build more equitable societies where we uplift the vulnerable & protect the environment and 2) U f**k heavy with fire jawnz.
BUT maybe sometimes u wonder if these 2 positions are at odds … in moments of hard-hitting introspection u might ask yrself: “Is it contradictory — hypocritical, even — for me to COP POPPING JOINTS WITH SUCH PANACHE while simultaneously loathing an economic system in which working ppl are immiserated and the social safety-net is shredded, just so swaggerless billionaire CLOWNS & their POLITRICKAL henchmen can amass obscene wealth to spend on corny s**t??
We’ve heard versions of this question from friends, readers, and — since we are the no. 1 newsletter for “unbeatable soul-searching” — our own internal monologues. We wanted to talk thru it with a bona fide Anticapitalist Jawnz Enthusiast, so the other day we put in a call to Yung Chomsky. YC is the producer of the smash-hit podcast TrueAnon and a very funny “left Twitter” dude who not only reps for Democratic Socialism but also gets off these classic-menswear fit-pics like it’s NOTHING…
Blackbird Spyplane: Let’s get straight 2 the heart of the matter — is it hypocritical to criticize capitalism as a moral obscenity while also dropping STACKS APLENTY on head-to-toe fire jawnz??
Yung Chomsky: “I’d say there’s absolutely a contradiction between loving jawns and hating capitalism, because capitalism is characterized by contradictions, but I don’t think there’s a hypocrisy. We need to understand that living under capitalism means living with contradictions, and trying to twist ourselves into knots to argue otherwise is a loser’s game. It’s like that famous Matt Bors cartoon about wanting to “improve society somewhat” — there’s no living outside of capitalism, so, like, you could try to go off the grid and make your own clothes and try not to participate at all in exploitation, which would be rad, props to you, but most people aren’t there.
“But let’s dig into the argument. Maybe someone thinks that aesthetics are inherently frivolous and superficial. I always go back to the slogan ‘Bread and Roses’ — this longtime socialist rallying cry that says, We’re not just about bare, meager survivalism: We all need bread, but we also all deserve roses, meaning beauty and joy, whether that comes from art or music or love or clothing. Those are all valid expressions of creativity and the human spirit. So, 5 years ago, I wasn’t into fashion — I expressed myself more through music. Now I see the validity in expressing myself through the things I wear. And who knows, 5 years from now I might be really into dance and sculpture.”
Blackbird Spyplane: I guess that unlike dance, fashion can feel more compromised because it’s something we encounter primarily as a consumer product, rather than a “pure artistic expression”…
Yung Chomsky: “Right, there’s this other argument where people say fashion is bad because you’re participating in consumerism — that’s a much more complicated argument, and that’s where we start to deal with the thornier realm of contradictions. The simple answer is, We can’t help it. We’re born into this world and this society and we’re trying to improve it, but we can’t exist outside of it, so our only effective weapon is solidarity and organization and trying to dismantle the systems of exploitation that we can’t just choose to avoid completely.
“But it’s tricky because we’re so saturated with messaging and so bombarded with advertising that, as much as any of us wants to think, ‘Oh I’m a critical thinker, I forge my own path,’ it’s that cliché of the fish that can’t see the water it’s swimming in. I have to shout out this BBC documentary, Century of the Self, by Adam Curtis. (Link to watch it for free below.) He’s pretty well-known in left circles, he made Hypernormalisation, and this is his 4-part documentary about the use of psychological techniques in the field of public relations, and how that field came to be.”
A still from Century of the Self, about how U.S. businesses (and the CIA) worked with a Public Relations dude steeped in Freudian psychology to create the modern consumer-class as a strategy for social control…
Blackbird Spyplane: Century of the Self is a must watch, and it’s true — if yr the type to build yr identity around what jawnz u cop, it will leave u feeling a little shook about that…
Yung Chomsky: “It gave me a lot to chew on, because I have a lot of friends who are jawnz-heads and I admire their ability to talk about style and dissect outfits, but it gets thornier when you start pulling back to questions of, ‘Why do I want this? What is it in my soul that’s telling me that I need this or desire this?’ There’s a chicken-and-the-egg thing of, Am I expressing something about myself or was this desire placed in me by marketers who want to create demand for product and keep the engine of capitalism running?”
Blackbird Spyplane: I want to talk about the fear bred into Americans that nice things wouldn’t get made under socialism — that innovation and good design and people putting their hearts & souls into making dope s**t are all functions of unfettered free-market competition …
Yung Chomsky: “Yeah, there’s a lot of ways to address that. The big-picture answer is, that myth comes from the Cold War mindset — from anti Soviet Union propaganda, which wasn’t made up out of whole cloth, because the Soviet Union didn’t have the best consumer goods, so that became synonymous with the ‘failures of socialism.’ Whereas in a capitalist society we have this idea of ‘freedom’ as being one-to-one with ‘consumption,’ which is insane — we are free to choose between 20 different shampoo brands. Who gives a f**k? And of course you can find graphics where there’s 20 different brands and they’re all owned by Nestle. So that’s what our vision of freedom really boils down to — 20 brands owned by one huge corporation.
Blackbird Spyplane: Arc’teryx (above left) designs state-of-the-art dope s**t in Vancouver, where the government runs supervised drug-use facilities and gives people free healthcare. Our Legacy (above right) gets off ginormous slapper after ginormous slapper in Stockholm, where ppl enjoy free healthcare & social housing. COINCIDENCE??
Yung Chomsky: “There was a study in Finland earlier this year, where they did a Universal Basic Income pilot program, and it showed that when people have their basic needs met they not only feel a lot happier and experience less depression but they also continue to create and produce. Think about it: If you’re struggling to keep a roof over your head or to buy medication or care for a sick family member, what possible space do you have in your life for ‘innovation,’ for creativity?
“Stephen Jay Gould said something on the subject of IQ — he was talking about how it’s a very flawed measurement and he said, like, I’m less interested in the shape and size of Alfred Einstein’s brain than in the millions of people who had a similar intelligence who toiled in the fields and died there unrecognized.
“We can connect that back to fashion: Think about all the talent and brilliance that in our current system just goes to waste because so many people are struggling to get by, and they’ve got nothing left at end of the day, because they’re working 3 minimum-wage jobs or taking care of aged relatives or ill siblings — think about what we could unlock if we gave all these people access to the abundance of resources that, right now, we allow a few people to hoard.”
Greatest American Band of All Time Rage Against the Machine got off major anticapitalist slappers NOT ONLY in the stu but also when it came to these fits
Blackbird Spyplane: Given the myth that socialism = dull & drab, do u think there’s a duty on the jawnz-enthusiast left to FLEX ON THESE HERBS & LOOK FLY AS F**K?
Yung Chomsky: “I mean, I certainly think that would help — good design is always gonna be helpful when it comes to communicating ideas and winning people over.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Some people argue that it’s possible to do politics THROUGH jawnz — that we can create a better society by copping “sustainably,” copping from minority-owned brands, copping from places that donate to bail-funds, etc. There’s obviously something to this, but it can feel like a bit of a trap to the degree that it frames individual consumer choices as our best avenue for social change.
Yung Chomsky: “So, I don’t think the ultimate goal should be to create a more-diverse ruling class. It should be to dismantle the ruling class. Now, anything that results in a direct donation to a bail fund or something like that, that’s great. And it’s good to buy union-made when you can and to never cross picket lines. But we’re not going to consume our way to a better society.
“This brings us to the cliché of ‘There’s no ethical consumption under capitalism.’ Some people take that as a nihilistic argument that thinking about consumer choices doesn’t matter. I don’t agree with that, but I don’t think we should look at our consumer choices as a substitute for organizing, which, as the working class — and I use that phrase in the broadest conception, meaning people who make a wage and don’t own a massive amount of capital — our weapon is organization and solidarity and coming together and withholding our labor. That’s what gets things done.”
Blackbird Spyplane: Finally, this is first and foremost a newsletter about dope under-the-radar joints—what r some deeper-cut brands yr checking for these days?
Yung Chomsky: “I just recently copped a rugby from Rowing Blazers and I really like it. I also have a rugby I like from this brand Columbia Knit. They’re up in Portland, Oregon, and they’re affordable, made in the USA — they’ve got a real janky, ‘90s-looking website, & they’re a great under-the-radar spot for rugbies.”
-Yung Chomsky is on Twitter here
-TrueAnon is on Apple Podcasts here
-You can watch Adam Curtis’s “Century of the Self” for free here
-Check out Vanessa A. Bee’s dope Current Affairs essay on “Innovation Under Socialism”
-The charmingly janky Columbia Knit factory webstore is here
-Rowing Blazers’ site is here
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Definitely something that's been on my mind a ton lately. Really enjoyed the post! Thanks
I want more of this! What are some good starting resources / texts about socialism / democratic socialism? This is a very strong post thank you BBSP