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//Why I do not like pop culture// Mike Urbaniak

Why I do not like pop culture Mike Urbaniak

I am an old thirty-year-old. I do not know anything anymore, I no longer follow. To this very day I am not really sure (I swear!) who exactly a hipster is. I do not recognise our beloved country’s pop starlets whose faces adorn the big sheets (called ‘large format outdoor advertising’) that obscure every inch of architecture in Poland. I look for shelter in the National Opera, but even there, in the arch-Polish Halka by Stanislaw Moniuszko directed by Natalia Korczakowska, nothing is humming at the top, because there are no fir trees and no top. They have been replaced by an enormous skateboard ramp. How should I live, Mr. Prime Minister?

One of my friends, as queer as Lukrecja from Witkowski’s Lubiewo, often tells me, ‘Don’t worry, love, we will rent a tenement house in Krakow and all our sisters will move in and in the summer we will be sitting outside on the balcony, wearing wide-brimmed hats and talking about real art, and we will be happy’. This vision of my close future lifts my spirits. It makes me happy even to think of it.

Culture, pop culture, lifestyle? What does it all mean? Where to draw the line? Has everything become ‘pop’? It makes me sad and frustrated. I see rubbish everywhere. And the worse, the better; the more pop-ular. The mayor of Warsaw, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, withdraws more and more money from the city’s art institutions (there is a recession, they say) and gives it to the organisers of a disco-polo concert. She could as well go on stage herself and sing I Am Crazy, the Boys’ biggest hit. Everyone is sliding into madness. Serious media shrink their cultural departments (or just shut them down altogether) and the jumble, baptised as ‘lifestyle’, is growing.

I hate mass culture because usually it has no ambition (and please, do not throw pop art, Warhol and Rusch in my face, because this is a whole different story) and does not produce any added value, especially in Poland. Pop culture changed music into pop sham, literature into harlequins, the press into tabloids, and soap opera is the most popular opera. Nothing that the masses like could have any value. Am I right? Yes? No? Does it sound too much like class segregation? Maybe. Despite what they say, high culture is not for everyone (please excuse me, ‘Krytyka Polityczna’ and the new ‘Przekroj’). And it has nothing to do with social or economic status. Most of the people who listen the 2nd programme of the Polish Radio live in small towns and have a modest salary. For them, the radio is a window that opens towards the world, whereas the ordinary Pole chooses to look through the windows of an ultra-Catholic station, Radio Maryja. Well, in that case I prefer to draw the curtains.

My dislike for pop culture is also due to sheer resentment. I am just jealous of everything it has: the PR, the efficiency, the budget, the ease with which it reproduces itself by budding. Unwittingly, I have become Max Scheler’s fox. I wave my red tail in disbelief because I know that there will always be enough money to organise a Maryla Rodowicz concert and never enough to buy books for the town’s library or help Krzysztof Warlikowski to construct his New Theatre. No money for the Museum of Modern Art, no, no, no! Because who would benefit? Some small group of people? And pop culture is killing us, me, as some would say, softly.

Mike Urbaniak (1981) – cultural journalist, editor-in-chief of the ‘WAW’ magazine and co-host in Kultura w wielkim miescie [Culture and the City] on the 2nd channel of the Polish Radio. Author of the blog ‘Mike and the City’ at NaTemat.pl and weekly columns at e-teatr.pl