"But sometimes we need to turn off our computers and start doing stuff with the people who live in the next street." - Jane Doe argues for a balance between the local, and the connected, cultural landscape.
I want to write something about how Southampton is one of the most vital cities in Britain; but I can’t. In reality it has become another homogenized, identikit high-street town with Primark pavements and the trodden in gum of Tesco and Wetherspoons getting stuck to the bottom of our shoes. As a friend said to me recently: “these days ‘local culture’ means talking about the X-Factor in different accents”.
When I started writing this I was reminded of the 1980s and 1990s when zines became a huge youth phenomenon. Thatcher in the 1980s inspired a huge amount of music, writing and comedy; I had hoped that the pantomime villainy of the Tory government would have done the same thing for our generation. The Internet has meant that this rage (that could be used for forming band,s or stand up comedy, or writing a zine) is often expended via 140 derisive characters, or blogging. As someone who has written 18,744 tweets in less than two years, I’m obviously not criticising this form of communication. But I do think there are other, perhaps better and more organic, ways of utilizing our creativity. The instantaneous nature of blogging means that it is often somewhat thoughtless and requires little to no effort; there isn’t much love or attentiveness.
The 1980s saw a huge outpouring of creative energies, especially when it came to zines. These were often based around a small area or community, and that geographically situated spirit is something I’d love to see emerging again. Similarly, the riot grrrl zines of the 1990s inspired a great D.I.Y. attitude that had direct influence on local scenes and movements. It’s all very well talking to people who have the same favourite band as you, but if they live in South Africa or America the culturally bereft landscape of your hometown is going to remain depressingly blank. Think of Manchester in the 1980s; having your own Johnny Marr knocking on your front doorstep is infinitely better than sitting on Tumblr swapping bootlegs with a stranger in Tennessee.
So, I have a proposal. Let’s stop focusing our energies on the 2D faces of people we only know via screens, and use them instead to make something great in the city we live in. We can utilise social networking and we can swap ideas with creative people across the planet; I think that’s one of the biggest advantages of our modern obsession with the Internet. But sometimes we need to turn off our computers and start doing stuff with the people who live in the next street. Even with a perfect combination of club nights, bands, writing groups, zines, art collectives we probably couldn’t get rid of the Tory government or the multinational business conglomerates that invade our city. But we can really, REALLY piss them off.
Jane Doe is the kind of person Grant Morrison always hoped The Invisibles would create.