Sunday, October 29, 2006

Book Review: Kalle Lasn, "Culture Jam" (New York, NY: Quill, 1999)

Kalle Lasn is the publisher of Adbusters magazine and founder of the Adbusters Media Foundation, Powershift Advertising Agency, and the Culture Jammers Network. He lives in Vancouver, Canada.

What It's About
This book sets out to demythologize brand “America” which we have created and perpetuated through institutions and the mass media, and which we have bought into in such a way that is not only detrimental to our culture and identity as human beings, but also in a way that negatively affects the global community. This book is reassurance that life in America doesn’t have to be one big consumer binge, but by combating cynicism, “We can change the world” (xi):
I'm not trying to sanitize America. The world I'm proposing isn't some watered-down, politically correct place. It's wilder and more interesting than your world in every way. It's open TV airwaves where meme wars, not ratings wars, are fought every day. It's radical democracy--people telling governments and corporations what to do instead of the other way around. It's empowered citizens deciding for themselves what's 'cool'--not a society of consumer drones suckling at the corporate teat... What I'm saying is that the American dream isn't working anymore, so let's face that reality and start building a new one (167-8).

Lasn divides this call to reclaim our lives and culture “to restore their original authenticity” into four main sections: Autumn, Winter, Spring, and Summer (181). In Autumn, he explains what is happening to us now i.e. what we have become as the result of allowing media and corporations to run our lives. Winter then goes on to explain the roots of this problem, and how we have allowed what we have created to rule over us. In Spring, we get to see how we can begin to subvert and change the systems, and in Summer, we see the tangible results of “demarketing” and other strategies in order to “[construct] a spontaneous new way of life” and to experience true freedom (215).

I want to be a culture jammer… but for Jesus. This book expresses many of the themes and principles that Jesus embodied during his ministry—confronting powers, empowering normal people, and trying to get people to experience life as it was intended. However, Lasn does not mention faith as the driving force behind all of his “rage.” Without God in all of this, it seems like he wants just a different version of the American dream, but that just seems as hopeless to me as the old version he wants to change. Is a little spontaneity in your life the only thing that is worth doing all of this for? If that’s the case then I should just start my own Fight Club. This book reminded me of that movie, but of course this book is a much more peaceful response to the anomie of society. But without Christ it’s just as empty. So how do we use these tactics and still remain faithful to the Gospel?


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