RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Wednesday, February 28

SONG OF THE DAY: Rhinestone Cowboy (kudzu'd)

Authenticity in a consumer culture is always gonna be impossible to nail down. Fake ass people who practice the same persona for long enough eventually appear to be authentic as opposed to the folks they cribbed from in the first place. Nostalgia for old fabricated bullshit starts to seem more real than the current fabricated bullshit, and it all just gets all mixed up and around in the bins of shit you’re expected to sift through to consume, that authenticity is completely lost and somewhat irrelevant.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what is a person’s culture, especially in some place like America where most of the population is not from there historically. Most of us have had most of what would be our historical culture lost in the process of assimilation to American life, and few of us speak the same language as our ancestors 4 or 5 generations back. So what is our culture now? On the surface, by design, it seems to be what we buy into, or consume. American culture, on that superficial level, is big trucks, spacious houses with engineered landscapes, giving the appearance of rural but not too far off giant clusters of box stores where we can restock our identity with convenient ease. But let’s be real, that’s not a culture so much as a lack of culture. Culture is what we practice, regularly, and yeah, it can seem like by that definition, the big trucks and suburban lifestyle is still our American culture. But culture also should have some lasting value, into the future. And just buying shit has no lasting value… it’s a constant struggle against the high and low tides of economic factors to maintain that bullshit.
I’ve been thinking of culture as what I practice, but in two directions – past and future. So whatever I practice regularly is my culture, and it reverberates as far forward into the future as I practiced it regularly into the past. That means, so like I’m learning banjo now (very early stages lol). But also, I had kin who came out the mountains to Amelia County back in the 1930s or ‘40s, who brought bluegrass music with them to Southside Virginia. So it’s in my familial history. But my dad didn’t play, nor did my grandfather (who I never met). But the folks before them did, extensively, so that practice maybe echoed forward to me, maybe not. But the more I practice it, the more I can connect with that practice, and carry it forward. Maybe. It might die because I find it too frustrating, who knows?
But also with writing haiku, I’ve practiced that super extensively, on daily basis even, for upwards of at least 20 years now. That’s an extensive practice. It’s part of my being, and everywhere in my life (and mind). As an individual, that’s part of my culture, but being I’m the first in my family to do that, it’s not really my culture… yet. But the events I’ve created, and sharing my practice with others has led others to practice it as well, and it spreads that culture of writing haiku. It moves from familial cultural activity to communal one instead. But I’ve put a lot of life into that, and I’d say it’s part of my identity, at least to others. (I remember when I got to do workshops in the old Richmond City Jail, and one time I showed up and one of the women students who was incarcerated, as we all stood on the line waiting for entry into the classroom, saw me and exclaimed, “Hey! It’s Haiku Guy!” The personal practice I had shared had become my identity to her.)
I say all this, because as a kid, there was a lot of country music spinning on the turntable. But it was mostly outlaw shit, and pop country was seen as weak and not relevant to our fucked up rural life. You never would’ve heard my pops playing John Denver or Glen Campbell. But 40  years later, as rural America is more suburbanized, and Wal-Mart Supercenters touch down every 40 miles or so across the vanishing country landscape, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” feels nostalgic, for a simpler time. Or “Rhinestone Cowboy”, seems less like the embracing of materialistic bullshit urban culture that it did when I was a kid (under the influence of paternal thinking) and almost like a cry against that very world. But also, I’m applying the filters of time on it from today. And slowing it down (as I am wont to do) just adds that extra layer of fucked – “Where hustle’s the name of the game… and nice guys get washed away like snow in the rain.”
Now, strangely enough, a rhinestone jacketed dude strumming guitar would feel more authentic than the big truck driven to Costco to fill up on La Croix 12-packs. Except the rhinestone jacketed guy might just be the young adult sign of the Costco visitor, with a scraggly fu manchu mustache, cosplaying country in a different way than his dad. It’s impossible to tell, unless you get to know somebody, to see if what they’re showing as an identity is what they’re actually practicing as a culture. I don’t necessarily have time for that all the time, so I’ve been extending benefit of the doubt a lot more often lately (no time for drama), but also, the eyes always give it away to a certain extent. You can tell how real somebody is by looking in their eyes. I think. But I could be full of shit.

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